Chelsea developer hid air-rights buy from neighbors | East Villager & Lower East Sider

Chelsea developer hid air-rights buy from neighbors

BY SAM SPOKONY  |  Residents of W. 16th St. between Sixth and Seventh Aves. aren’t going to be happy with this Christmas present: plans for a new 11-story building that will tower over everything else on their block.

After originally telling the residents that its planned residential building at 124 W. 16th St. would only be six stories tall — equivalent in height to the rest of the block — the Einhorn Development Group, which owns the site, now says it will now build to almost twice that height.

Yiannes Einhorn, principal of the development group, reportedly admitted the new plans in a conversation last week with Paul Groncki, chairperson of the 100 W. 16th St. Block Assoication.

“I told [Einhorn] I heard he was going to be building to 11 stories, and he said it was true,” said Groncki, in a Dec. 20 phone interview.

“I was so mad that I almost walked out of the meeting. The fact is that a building of that height isn’t going to be good for the neighborhood, because it’s completely out of context with what’s on the block now. I can’t believe he went ahead with this without first having any conversations with the neighborhood.”

Groncki stressed that when he first met with Einhorn in the spring, the developer claimed the building would only be six stories, and said he “loved the block.”

But based on real estate transactions for the site, it would appear a higher build-out may have always been the plan.

Einhorn originally purchased 124 W. 16th St. in April 2012 from the neighboring French Evangelical Church of New York, which had previously used No. 124 as a “miscellaneous asylum and home,” according to past reports.

City records show that when Einhorn made that purchase, he simultaneously bought air rights above the church itself — paving the way for eventual expansion of his plans once he demolished No. 124.

In fact, by the time Einhorn first talked to Groncki in the spring and claimed that the new building would only be six stories, the developer was already in the process of amending his construction plans — which were first filed with the purchase in April 2012 — to include 11 stories.

Einhorn filed those amended plans this May 6, according to city records.

The developer just recently received city approval for the amended plans — on Dec. 12, according to those records — which may explain why he declined to inform the local residents until this past week.

Valerie Einhorn, a representative of the developer, confirmed the city’s approval of an 11-story building during a Dec. 20 phone interview, but declined to discuss other details of the plan, saying instead that the developer would be “happy to talk about it in January, after the holidays.”

Yiannes Einhorn also reportedly told Groncki last week that he is prepared to meet with other block residents in the near future to explain his plans.

“I told him that it’s going to be a rough conversation,” Groncki said. “Everybody on the block is going to be really unhappy about this.”

But the developer is probably willing to take flak from the neighborhood now, since — with the construction plans filed and city approval — there’s virtually nothing that can stop him from going forward with the building.

Groncki acknowleged that, this late in the game, there’s little hope of stopping the 11-story residence from going up.

“We’ve got no gunpowder in our gun,” he said. “But they can’t stop us from being upset, and they can’t stop us from making noise.”