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Zoning Does Matter: Townhouses, or A Tower?

~ Hearing Jan. 14 on Univ. Pl./B’way Rezoning Proposal

It has recently been reported that the two-story duplex co-op apartments at 8 Charles Lane/151-157 Charles Street are being marketed for sale and redevelopment. What’s so noteworthy, however, is that as a result of a rezoning which GVSHP proposed and fought for, instead of the site being marketed as home to a potential new tower, which the old zoning would have allowed, it is being touted as a site for a potential new house, row of townhouses, or small apartment building.

The old zoning for this site had no height limits, and allowed a very high density of new development. In fact, this site had the same zoning as Bowlmor Lanes on University Place currently has, where a 308 ft. tall tower is planned under the existing zoning.

But in 2005 as part of a campaign spearheaded by GVSHP to “Save the Far West Village,” we were able to convince the City to rezone this site and much of the rest of the Far West Village, in this case, putting in place some of the most restrictive zoning anywhere in Manhattan. So whereas under the old zoning thousands of square feet of air rights could have been transferred to the site, and a tall tower erected, under the new zoning, most of the site only allows a development with three times the number of square feet as the size of the zoning lot (i.e. a 3 story building if the development rises straight up over the entire footprint), with streetwalls of no more than 40 to 60 feet high, and a maximum height of no more than 70 feet after setbacks.

This shows that zoning matters. That’s why GVSHP fights so hard for good “contextual” rezonings in our neighborhoods, to prevent out-of-character and out-of-scale new development. It’s why after years of enormous high-rise dorms being built along the 3rd and 4th Avenue corridors in the East Village, a new residential development at 3rd Avenue and 12th Street built under contextual zoning GVSHP proposed and successfully fought for in 2010 fits the scale and character of the surrounding neighborhood. Or why when plans were recently announced for the redevelopment of a building at 3rd Avenue and 10th Street, in the same “contextual” rezoning area, the plans were for a 1-2 story addition to the existing building. Under the old zoning, tall new towers would have been not only allowed but encouraged on both sites, and hotel or dormitory development favored over the planned residential development, which is reinforced by the new zoning.
Over the last ten years, GVSHP has helped secure “contextual” rezonings of nearly one hundred blocks of our neighborhood. But we still have a long way to go.

Areas like the South Village and the University Place/Broadway corridors do not have contextual zoning, and thus encourage tall, out-of-scale towers like the 308 ft. tall tower planned for the Bowlmor Site at University Place and 12th Street.
GVSHP has been working with local residents and elected officials to promulgate contextual rezoning proposals for the University Place/Broadway corridors that would prevent this kind of inappropriate development. After much support was expressed for these ideas at our standing room-only Town Hall meeting in December, we will be appearing before the Community Board #2 Land Use Committee next Wednesday, January 14th at 6:30 pm (location TBD) to present our plan and seek the Community Board’s endorsement. If you care about protecting this area from overdevelopment, I strongly urge you to attend to show your support (as soon as the location has been set, we will notify you).

And if you want to support GVSHP’s proposal for a contextual rezoning in the South Village, already endorsed by the Community Board and local elected officials, please send a letter here.

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