Focus on schools, park air rights, Meatpacking BID
BY DAVID GRUBER | Just when I thought we could have a breather on Community Board 2 after working through three ULURP’s over …….the last two years and no major new ones in the pipeline, I have again been proven wrong (as are most of my predictions, although I did well with the Academy Awards).
We are busy as ever with both new and continuing projects.
Our new middle school at 75 Morton St. is still not 100 percent in the hands of the city, and both the Department of Education and the School Construction Authority are reluctant to begin even preliminary work and drawings until the state is out out of the building entirely. Our state and city elected officials are equally frustrated and are pressing on all sides. It will happen at some point, and as soon as it does, we will, along with parent groups from C.B. 2-area elementary schools who have been working alongside us for the past year, engage both S.C.A. and D.O.E. and begin the dialogue with them about how to configure the space and programs. The S.C.A. and D.O.E. people have really made a great effort to work with us, and this process can serve as a model of how government and the community can work together to produce better outcomes.
We have also engaged both New York University and Councilmember Margaret Chin’s office, asking them to reopen the restrictive declaration that was imposed by the City Council on the N.Y.U. Plan 2031 ULURP. With the help of Councilmember Chin, the reopened R.D. will allow D.O.E. to have a longer opt-in period for deciding whether or not to build a public school on land donated by N.Y.U. We want to revert back to the original N.Y.U. proposal approved by the Borough President’s Office and the City Planning Commission to have an opt-in period until 2025 and not the reduced 2014 window. This is a major issue for this community board.
We are working with various stakeholders, including The Hudson River Park Trust, Community Boards 1, 2 and 4, the recent purchasers of the St John’s Center building, our elected officials and various community-based organization to try and work out some guidelines for transferring the air rights that the state has recently has enabled the park to sell. This will be the vehicle to finally put the park and Pier 40 on sound financial footing. This will enable making the necessary repairs to ensure the safety and viability of this major open space and recreational resource for our community. This project will occupy much of our attention in the coming year or two.
The recently finalized Hudson Square Special Zoning District was almost immediately activated. Already the first two major buildings have filed for permits to build a mix of market-rate and affordable housing. This is exactly what we hoped for in a community that is starved for affordable housing. Eventually, the building at Varick and Canal Sts. and Sixth Ave. will come online, as well, and we will have at the base of that building a new elementary school and a shared recreational facility. It’s a great start for what we hope will be a vibrant, mixed-use, residential / commercial district. One of our partners in all of this, the Hudson Square Connection BID, will be a key player in this new Manhattan “city within a city.”
We are also very excited that the new Whitney Museum is also winding its way to completion. I believe this new institution will be a game-changer for the landmarked Meatpacking District, which has evolved as a huge restaurant and bar zone, causing havoc with noise and traffic for both the businesses and especially the surrounding residential community. We are strongly advocating that the BID offer the surrounding community real seats and representation on the BID board.
We have had a full, overflowing plate this year, but this board has met the challenges and will continue to do so moving forward.
– Gruber is chairperson, Community Board 2