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Thread: Downtown's New Population Boom

  1. #1

    Default Downtown's New Population Boom

    Downtown Express

    Downtown’s new population boom

    By Elizabeth O’Brien

    The Downtown population will skyrocket over the next few years, if development progresses as planned and builders continue to take advantage of government incentives for post-9/11 revitalization.

    Lower Manhattan was the city’s fastest growing neighborhood in the city before the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to the Dept. of City Planning. While many residents were displaced in the aftermath of the attacks, occupancy has since rebounded, with rates exceeding their pre-9/11 levels in some places.

    And many more residents are on the way.

    “The positive side of this growth is that people recognize it’s a great place to live— we must be doing something right — the negative side is we want to keep it a good place to live” by making sure that services keep up with the influx, said Madelyn Wils, chairperson of Community Board 1.

    The board has tracked the number of residential units currently planned or under construction below Canal St. There are at least 8,173 such units, both new construction and conversions, in development, according to the board’s study. This comes on top of the nearly 5,000 units built after the year 2000 census and already occupied.

    The boom in Lower Manhattan residential construction stands in sharp contrast to the weakened commercial real estate market. Currently, there is a 30 percent vacancy rate among buildings 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the World Financial Center, compared with a three percent residential vacancy rate at Battery Park City.

    This isn’t the first time that Downtown has watched the residential market expand amid stalled commercial activity.

    “Basically, we’re back in the cycle we were in in the mid-90s,” said Shirley Jaffe, vice president for economic development for the Downtown Alliance, which runs a business improvement district.

    In the mid-90s, then Mayor Rudy Giuliani organized the 421-g program to help create a 24-hour community in the Financial District. Under this program, which is still in effect, Downtown commercial buildings that are converted to residences qualify for property tax breaks that last 14 years.

    Of the 11 buildings in the Seaport and Financial District with residential construction pending, more than half are conversions, according to Judy Duffy, assistant district manager for Community Board 1. This includes 29 floors of the Woolworth building, which developer Steven Witkoff plans to turn into luxury housing, according to the city’s Housing Development Corporation.

    Witkoff is one of many developers who have applied for Liberty Bonds, a federal financing incentive designed to spur Lower Manhattan growth after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Congress allocated up to $8 billion of these project-revenue bonds, with $1.6 billion of that amount designated for residential rental projects.

    Liberty Bonds have been widely credited with jump-starting market-rate housing construction in Lower Manhattan. Currently, city and state officials have approved at least $430 million in Liberty Bond financing for residential use, with projects totaling more than that amount currently under consideration.

    So what does all this activity mean?

    For starters, in 2005 the population south of Canal St. could increase by 75 percent since its last official count at the 2000 census. According to the census, there were 32,114 people living within the boundaries of Community Board 1, which is, roughly speaking, south of Canal and Pearl Sts., excluding those living on Governors Island. That represented more than a 40 percent increase, the highest of any area in the city.

    The 13,002 units either built or slated for construction in the area since 2000 represent roughly 24,700 people, according to standards used by City Planning.

    Wils said she recently showed the C.B. 1 study to officials at the Department of City Planning, the Economic Development Corporation, and the department of Housing Preservation and Development. It took them by surprise, Wils said.

    “It didn’t seem to me that anyone had any records that were similar in nature,” Wils said.

    Wils and other residents say the city should anticipate the growing pains that the community is sure to face in the coming years. With all the promotion of Downtown as a residential destination, the city has neglected to address the quality of life concerns that will undoubtedly accompany the housing boom, many say.

    “Too bad we can’t go to sleep for 10 years and wake up and have it done,” said Duffy of C.B. 1.

    She said the three biggest needs to accommodate the growing population are schools, better retail and food shopping and park space improvements.

    Duffy and others have expressed concern about the constant construction that residents will face as the trade center site is rebuilt and nearby residential projects take shape. In particular, residents have protested the development planned for the city-owned lot known as 5C, located behind P.S. 234 and bounded by Chambers, West, and Warren Sts. One of the buildings planned for the site is designed at 8 stories, and the other at 40, with 551 residential units between them. Developer Scott Resnick requested Liberty Bond financing for the 5C project, which many feel is out of context with the neighborhood.

    There is also a large building planned for site 5B, across Warren St. from P.S. 234. The city engaged a developer to build a 600-ft. commercial tower, although residents fear those plans could be scrapped in favor of another resiential building.

    In addition to the scale of the project, residents worry that it and other developments will further strain the resources of P.S. 234. The top-ranked public school is already over capacity, said outgoing principal Anna Switzer. She estimated that in September there could be some 700 students enrolled in the school, which has a capacity of 585.

    “We are so desperate to have yet another classroom,” said Switzer, who described efforts to convert a resource room and office space into a classroom for the fall. “We’re really at the edge and we need a solution.”

    Wils said that the board has been discussing short and long-term possibilities for alleviating school over-crowding with officials from the Department of Education and other city agencies, but she said she could not comment on the substance of the talks. The community board compiled its detailed study at the request of the School Construction Authority, which the board had approached about adding new schools to the area, Wils said.

    “If we want more schools, we have to prove it,” Wils said.

    Margie Feinberg, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, said that it was too early to say what plans the department might make to add new schools Downtown. The department’s five-year capital plan, to be released this fall, might indicate more about school construction in the area, Feinberg said.

    Overall, local community School District 2, which includes P.S. 234, operates at 83 percent capacity, according to figures released by the Department of Education. At 111 percent capacity, District 24 in Queens is the city’s most crowded.

    Along with new schools, Wils said that residents must push for enough police, fire, and sanitation services to serve the ballooning population. In addition, Lower Manhattan residents say they would welcome a few good supermarkets. Wils said that she thought Tribeca could support a specialty food store now, even before more residents flood the area. Duffy said that she would like to see a major supermarket and other retail stores come to her neighborhood.

    “I do my shopping in New Jersey and I see half of my neighbors there,” said Duffy, who lives in Tribeca and refuses to shop at the big local grocery chain.

    And many residents of the northern end of Battery Park City would like a supermarket of their own.

    “It’s too bad there aren’t many more stores around,” said Abby Latour, 33, who moved to northern Battery Park City from London in April with her two young daughters and her husband.

    Like many Battery Park City residents, Latour uses FreshDirect, an online grocery service. She said that the area’s many attractions made up for the inconvenience of not having a neighborhood grocery store.

    Tim Carey, president and C.E.O. of the Battery Park City Authority, said that if a supermarket were to come to the northern part of Battery Park City, a likely spot would be on sites 18 or 19B, which are both located on North End Avenue between Murray and Warren Sts. The authority is currently in development discussions on both sites and expects construction to begin next year.

    Carey believes that Battery Park City can easily accommodate the roughly 6,000 new residents expected to move in by 2005 – which will represent a 66 percent population increase.

    “We’ve got a better mix of public and private property than most suburban areas,” Carey said, noting that 55 percent of Battery Park City is devoted to public parks or roads.

    Becky Clarke agrees. Clarke, 26, moved to Gateway Plaza in February of 2002 from Long Island, before the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation began its residential grant program. Carey and others have credited this incentive with stabilizing and reviving the Lower Manhattan housing market after the trade center disaster.

    Clarke echoed the thoughts of many when she said that Battery Park City has the best of both worlds: “It’s gorgeous down here. It’s relaxing. You’re in the city but you’re not.”

    Even as they make room for new neighbors, residents would like to keep it that way.

  2. #2

    Default Downtown's New Population Boom

    “We’ve got a better mix of public and private property than most suburban areas,” Carey said, noting that 55 percent of Battery Park City is devoted to public parks or roads.
    Le Corbusier would be so happy.

  3. #3

    Default Downtown's New Population Boom

    Becky is delusional.

  4. #4

    Default Downtown's New Population Boom

    Only in NY do you get what is, as Vinoly said, a highrise, gated, suburban community.

  5. #5
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    New York City


    April 15, 2005

    Baby Strollers and Supermarkets Push Into the Financial District


    As the government and the private sector have spent the last three and a half years wringing their hands over the future of Lower Manhattan, a quiet residential revolution has unfolded all around them.

    There are now more than 30,000 residents living south of Chambers Street, up from an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 in the months before Sept. 11, according to real estate experts. More than 9,000 former office units in the area have been converted into apartments, a third of them since 2001 alone. New residential buildings - unheard of a few years ago - are going up near the World Trade Center site, bringing with them expensive gyms, new schools and restaurants.

    And the transformation can be measured in more human ways than cold numbers. On the streets that surround City Hall - not so long ago home only to the sort of urban pioneers who could live without nearby groceries - baby sitters push $700 strollers past dingy bars into luxury buildings.

    In perhaps the most telling sign yet for the area, Whole Foods has signed a lease on Warren Street, proving that wherever luxury co-op owners ultimately choose to reside, Medjool dates and organic tomatoes will follow.

    No one, of course, is yet predicting that Lower Manhattan as a business and civic center is becoming obsolete; it remains the third-largest commercial district in the country, following Midtown Manhattan and the Loop in Chicago. But the residential real estate surge is driving the momentum of the Lower Manhattan market in ways not seen in 50 years.

    While downtown had its adventurous homesteaders in the 1980's, and office conversions were further encouraged by city tax incentives in 1995, the most recent residential explosion far surpasses both of those spurts of growth, with the city's population now exploring frontiers once regarded as odd or unworkable.

    The figures for downtown residents include those living in Battery Park City, although the rise in the area's population in recent years has occurred outside that giant complex.

    The rise in residents in the financial district has also happened in stark contrast to downtown's struggle with attracting, and keeping, commercial real estate tenants. While asking rents for commercial space have hovered around $31 per square foot a year for the last few years in the area - far below Midtown's $59 a square foot - co-op prices in the financial district have climbed 50 percent since 2001, with condo prices averaging about $557 per square foot, according to the real estate consultant Miller Samuel Inc.

    "None of us are surprised about what happened in the commercial sense downtown after 9/11," said Mary Ann Tighe, vice chairwoman of Insignia/ESG, the real estate company.

    "However, we never anticipated that downtown would reinvent itself and its character would change."

    Timothy Ryan, an insurance underwriter interviewed near his apartment on Broadway and Rector Street with his 19-month-old daughter, said he was afraid the secret was out. "This is a phenomenal place to live," he said. "People are figuring out that it is pretty cool down here. You almost don't want it to change even more because it is already getting overpopulated."

    A mixed-use, 24-hour Lower Manhattan has been the vision of many urban planners and government officials for years.

    But there are some who fear that the area could tip too far in the residential direction, as officials and builders work to sort out the future of the former World Trade Center site.

    The first reconstructed office building at the site has yet to find a tenant, and Goldman, Sachs & Company announced last week that it had suspended plans to build a 40-story, $2 billion headquarters near the site, although it may now be reconsidering.

    Citigroup, the city's largest private employer, and other companies have shifted jobs out of the precinct.

    "We were among the advocates and catalysts for residential development in Lower Manhattan long before Sept. 11," said Carl Weisbrod, the president of the Alliance for Downtown New York.

    "But it is important for us to remember that the goal here is to have a pre-eminent business district that thrives as a commercial center. It is important to strike and have a balance of commercial and residential activity."

    The Bloomberg administration is cobbling together a package of incentives to lure more companies to Lower Manhattan.

    "I think we are coming to the point of reaching an appropriate balance of commercial and residential in Lower Manhattan," said Daniel L. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development. "We have to monitor very carefully what happens to that balance."

    But in many ways, the flourishing of residential life in Lower Manhattan is simply a return to the past. Prior to the 1950's, the area enjoyed three centuries of street life that was a mix of residents and various businesses, said Robert D. Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association.

    "This was true from the 17th century through the 1960's," Mr. Yaro said. "Then, we developed this monoculture financial center south of City Hall, where nobody lives there, there was no diversity of industry mix."

    However, in recent years, as a population boom in the city created an even more desperate need for housing, and as prices have soared throughout the city, Lower Manhattan has been explored by residents with new vigor. A Liberty bond program created after Sept. 11 to encourage residential development also contributed to the increase. There was also a grant program for reduced rent for downtown residents.

    At the same time, the future of downtown's commercial market is much more uncertain.

    "I would have predicted two years ago that improvements down there would have gone more quickly," Alexander Garvin, the former chief planner for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, said of the effort at ground zero and the surrounding area.

    A spokeswoman for the corporation, though, said that while some delays had occurred in planning and financial aspects of the former trade center site, "development is not stalled."

    Several other business leaders - who did not want their names attached to their criticisms for fear of alienating the mayor - said that City Hall had focused so much on the future of the West Side of Manhattan that too little had been done to advertise the value of downtown.

    Jennifer Falk, a spokeswoman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said numerous officials and business leaders "can attest to the fact that this administration has been working tirelessly to address the needs of Lower Manhattan."

    But as commercial development continues, much of it may now be geared as much toward residents and people who work downtown. Suellen Epstein, who has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years - "We were hiding back then," she said of the old days. "Most of us were not supposed to be living there." - has seen a complete shift in the children's gym she has run on Murray Street since the 1970's.

    "Back then, I filled up with residents from West Village and SoHo and Brooklyn Heights," she said. "Now I would say 90 percent are local kids. It has gotten very dense down here with strollers on the street that were never seen before, lots of dogs and lots of children. It is great for businesses like me."

  6. #6
    Forum Veteran
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Garden City, LI


    I wasn't sure if this is the best place for this, but it makes sense...

    L.M.D.C. releases money report

    By Josh Rogers

    The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. released guidelines Wednesday for spending its remaining $750 million or so to help Downtown — disappointing at least a few agency critics who were hopeful the corporation was becoming more open to considering projects such as job training and 9/11-related heath ailments and emotional problems.

    City Councilmember Alan Gerson said it was “disgusting” that the L.M.D.C. was not considering “operational funding” for projects when there was still people in need of mental health care because of the attacks. He was pleased to hear that a public forum was scheduled for April 27 but he said in addition, L.M.D.C. officials should meet and negotiate with local elected officials about the best way to spend the rest of the federal money approved to help Downtown rebuild.

    In separate telephone interviews, Gerson and David Dyssegaard Kallick of the Fiscal Policy Institute said L.M.D.C. money should also be used for job training.

    Joanna Rose, the development corporation’s spokesperson, said the public has a chance to change the priorities. “It’s a draft document,” she said. “We are looking for community comments.”

    It is still not known how much of the remaining money will be used for the W.T.C. site although officials have previously said it is likely to be several hundred million dollars. L.M.D.C. board member Roland Betts and Kevin Rampe, agency president, have left open the possibility that some of the money, which is in the federal Community Development Block Grant program, could be used for infrastructure to support the private offices at the W.T.C. The report continues to leave open that possibility, although Dep. Mayor Daniel Doctoroff, who has influence over half the state-city’s agency board, and some advocates have criticized using any of the money for office space.

    The report says the L.M.D.C. board’s priorities for the money are the World Trade Center memorial and cultural center, W.T.C. site infrastructure, a rail link to the Long Island Rail Road and J.F.K. Airport, Lower Manhattan revitalization projects and “planned high-impact, large-scale off-site initiatives.”

    One of those initiatives, Greenwich Street South, was well received at a Community Board 1 meeting Tuesday night. The plan, which would require up to $125 million in L.M.D.C. money to cover some of the costs, would deck over the entrance to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and would add park space, a commuter bus garage and create a safe East-West walkway in an area dominated and obstructed by the tunnel, a parking garage and Route 9A (West St.).

    “You basically have to run for your life when you get near the tunnel area,” said Bill Love, a board member who lives in the south part of Battery Park City and walks through the area to work every day. Under the plan, a curving pedestrian bridge would be built over West St. near Third Pl. leading to a curving pathway through a park to the Rector St. 1,9 and N,R subway stations.

    Walking toward Battery Pak City the sloped “park would take you up to a pedestrian bridge,” said architect Claire Weisz who worked on the plan with H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture. The bridge would replace the temporary bridge at Rector St. and officials said they thought it would still be close enough to B.P.C.’s largest housing complex, Gateway Plaza, to still be convenient for those residents.

    The 90-foot garage would have an automatic stacking device for buses, and drivers would be able to retrieve vehicles in about three minutes. On weekends, the garage could serve tourist buses visiting the W.T.C. memorial. An additional acre of open space that could be used for tennis courts would be over the garage, said Weisz. The plan includes extending Morris St. and Edgar St. to Battery Park City.

    Five development sites near Greenwich, West, Edgar and Morris Sts. would be used for about 2.6 million square feet of residential development and would provide hundreds of millions of dollars to help finance the project. The $125 million L.M.D.C. component would help pay for the garage.

    Councilmember Gerson, in a report he sent to the L.M.D.C. last fall, recommended using some of the money for a bus-parking garage. Most of the eight-acre area is owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

    Madelyn Wils, former chairperson of C.B. 1 and a development corporation board member, told her former colleagues the Greenwich St. plan was a worthwhile project.

    New view of the walk toward Battery Park City near Morris St.

    She said there have been preliminary discussions with the M.T.A. about buying the garage it owns. “The M.T.A. won’t want to be a property owner, they will want to sell this property,” Wils said.

    Part of the garage will have to be demolished but officials hope to retain 1200 – 2000 car spots in the new plan. Wils said only about 600 spaces are used regularly now.

    Catherine Hughes was particularly pleased to hear the buses would no longer be seen or smelled if the plan were done.

    “If you stand there for 60 seconds on a summer day you feel completely covered in grit,” she said. When she wants to go to B..P.C., She often walks out of her way for safety reasons.

    She said her top priorities for spending the L.M.D.C. money are Greenwich St. South, improving the East River bikeway/walkway, Park Row improvements in Chinatown and money to help the Borough of Manhattan Community College clean Fiterman Hall, which was badly damaged and contaminated by the collapse of the W.T.C. buildings.

    Other projects under consideration include $70 million to build the Tribeca section of the Hudson River Park, a cultural center in Chinatown, a community center, and money to help smaller arts and community groups.

    Stefan Pryor, L.M.D.C. senior vice president, said agency studies of improving the Fulton St. area have had to be revised and are not ready to be released. He said 9/11-related transportation money could legally be shifted to street projects such as Greenwich St. and Park Row, but that was not very likely since most of the money has been allocated, and that even if the $900 million being saved for a possible West St. tunnel is not used, the rail link would probably be a higher priority.

    Fiscal Policy’s Kallick said some of the off-site plans have merit but he is concerned too much of the money will go to “nice environments for upper middle class people.” He wants more to go to preserve and build affordable housing Downtown, a frequently voiced concern.

    He said he was dismayed the rail link is listed as a L.M.D.C. priority when that has not scored well in public polls and forums. Link proponents say the $6 billion project will spur office development and create all kinds of jobs – a priority of Kallick and other advocates.

    Many details of the public forum at the Customs House at One Bowling Green have not been released yet, but Kallick hopes the L.M.D.C. board will attend and the public will have a chance to learn the costs of the competing projects and be able to vote on spending priorities.

    In a press release issued in conjunction with the report, L.M.D.C. officials cited the large number of public hearings the agency has had since its formation at the end of 2001.

    “There has been lots of public meetings on the design and very few opportunities for public input about the remaining funds,” said Kallick,

    The agency held a series of residential workshops about priorities in the summer of 2003.

    “From our inception we have continuously turned to the public for their input and the release of this draft plan demonstrates our ongoing commitment to ensuring that everyone affected by the attacks of Sept. 11th has a chance to have his or her voice heard,” John Whitehead, L.M.D.C. chairperson said in a statement.

    The L.M.D.C. plans to have the report available at by April 14 and will be taking written comments through May 1.
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  7. #7


    Hmmm--I wonder how much a guy could rent a 1 bedroom there for....

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