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December 2016

News

CITY COUNCIL APPROVES HISTORIC PLAN THAT WILL SAVE HUDSON RIVER PARK’S PIER 40 AND CREATE AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN WEST VILLAGE

December 15, 2016

Plan will produce $114 million to repair Pier 40’s pilings, nearly 500 units of affordable housing and many other important community benefits

City Hall – Today, the New York City Council approved the ULURP application for a mixed-use development at the former St. John’s Terminal at 550 Washington Street in the West Village. The final plan, which includes many long-sought community benefits, is the result of years of effort and input from the local community, elected officials and Community Board 2.

Under the plan, Westbrook Partners and Atlas Capital will pay $100 million for 200,000 square feet of air rights from Hudson River Park Trust. The new development will replace the St. John’s Terminal building, located on Clarkson Street to Charlton Street, between Greenwich Street and West Street.

The $100 million will be used to fund urgently needed repairs to 3,500 eroding pilings underneath Pier 40. Pier 40 is a vital community resource that includes athletic fields used by thousands of children and adults every year and a commercial parking garage that generates approximately 30% of Hudson River Park’s funding.

The application will result in a number of long-sought community benefits. Among them are:

  • A transfer of $100 million from the developer to Pier 40, which will save the pier from potentially catastrophic structural failure;
  • 476 new units of permanently affordable housing, 175 of which will be for low-income seniors;
  • An additional $14 million capital investment from the City of New York to ensure the sustainability of Pier 40;
  • A ban on future air-rights transfers from Pier 40 to Community Board 2;
  • A reduction in the development’s parking from 772 spaces to 425 spaces;
  • A new 15,000 square foot public indoor recreation center in the future mixed-use development;
  • Roughly 20,000 square feet of new open space at the new development;
  • A $1.5 million commitment by the Department of Transportation to study and address traffic conditions that have long plagued Hudson Square;
  • Funding for a new crosswalk across the West Side Highway near Spring Street;
  • No ‘destination’ retail and a 10,000 square foot limit on most retail;
  • Nearly all retail at the new development will be limited to 10,000 gross square feet;
  • A new supermarket to be located on-site;
  • A new Historic District in the South Village;

The application was amended over the course of a lengthy public review process known as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).  This process began with the formal submission of the land use application by the developer, and it included detailed feedback from Community Board 2, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, the City Planning Commission and the New York City Council.

Each phase of this process included opportunities for public testimony, and hundreds of West Village residents participated in the ULURP by delivering testimony in-person at a public hearing. This plan also incorporates critical input from Congressman Jerrold Nadler, State Senators Daniel Squadron and Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Deborah Glick.

“This is an example of what can happen when diverse stakeholders come together in good faith to negotiate a great plan for the community,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “Pier 40’s athletic fields are a vital asset to thousands of children and adults each year, and its parking garage is the main revenue generator for Hudson River Park. The critical shortage of affordable housing in Community Board 2 is one of the biggest issues facing our community. Through hard work and a transparent public process, we were able to save Pier 40’s pilings, generate affordable housing and achieve a lot of meaningful additional benefits for West Village residents. I want to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chair Carl Weisbrod, Hudson River Park Trust President & CEO Madelyn Wils, Borough President Gale Brewer, Community Board 2 and the applicant for their role in this ULURP. I also want to thank Congressman Jerrold Nadler, State Senators Daniel Squadron and Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Deborah Glick for the important role they played.”

“Pier 40 is a very important facility for thousands of New Yorkers who live in the Chelsea area and even across the five Boroughs, many of whom go there to play sports, participate in after-school activities, and relax. I am proud that this new mixed-use development will bring  not only a much needed new recreational center and supermarket for nearby New Yorkers, but also affordable units set aside especially for the elderly,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I commend Council Member Johnson for his hard work in ensuring that all voices in his community have been heard throughout the process, and for negotiating a deal whose positive effects will be felt throughout the City.”

“Preserving and investing in Pier 40, which has long needed significant investment in its infrastructure, is critical for our communities.  I applaud Council Member Johnson for securing the Pier’s future and community benefits such as affordable housing, the elimination of future air rights transfers into Community Board 2 from Pier 40, an indoor recreation center and the landmarking of the final phase of the South Village Historic District,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler.

“It’s no secret that I’ve had major concerns about this project and the major increase in density it represented. That’s why when Community Board 2 and I both made our recommendations, we laid out a road map for improving this project,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “If we are going to ask a neighborhood to accept this kind of density, we have to make sure we have done everything we can to maximize its benefits, address the community’s needs, and mitigate any negative impacts. Thanks to Councilmember Corey Johnson’s hard work, I think this project finally meets that standard.”

“Pier 40 is a community necessity that’s at risk of becoming a casualty of neglect — that’s why we worked to ensure the pier would get the dollars it needs,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “I’m pleased to have worked with Councilmember Johnson and colleagues to secure $114 million for the pier’s future. Thank you to Councilmember Johnson, Community Board 2, the Hudson River Park Trust, the City, Borough President Brewer, and my colleagues in government.”

State Senator Brad Hoylman said: “This deal helps solidify – quite literally – the future of Pier 40 in the Hudson River Park, one of the most important swathes of open space in Manhattan and home to ball fields used by thousands of kids and adults in my district. I congratulate Council Member Johnson for negotiating an agreement that not only provides more money for the park, but also builds new senior affordable housing, limits future air-rights transfers in Community Board 2, protects historic buildings in the South Village, and commits to other local improvements, including a new recreation center and pedestrian improvements. I’m grateful to the Council Member, the de Blasio Administration, Borough President Brewer, CB2 and all of my colleagues in government for their work on this project.”

Assembly Member Deborah Glick said: “I am pleased to see many changes to the 550 Washington ULURP in advance of today’s vote. This final plan provides much needed affordable and senior affordable housing for our community, $114 million to repair Pier 40 pilings, additional indoor recreation space, a much needed traffic study and an additional crossing over West Street. With this success, it is imperative for Hudson River Park Trust to move swiftly to repair all of the pilings under Pier 40 to ensure stability of the pier for years to come. I would like to thank Manhattan Community Board 2, Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilmember Corey Johnson for their thoughtful and constructive engagement and negotiations throughout this review which resulted in a stronger project for the community.”

“Today marks a landmark victory for Hudson River Park and all who enjoy it,” said Hudson River Park Trust President & CEO Madelyn Wils. “Thanks to the exemplary leadership of Council Member Corey Johnson and our other local elected officials, Mayor de Blasio and his administration, and Community Board 2, a goal the Trust has long worked toward has been met: the critically needed repairs to the Pier’s piles will be made, and the Pier will stay open. Our focus now turns to using the remainder of  Pier 40’s development rights on the Pier itself, which the Council supported in its resolution. We look forward to working with Council Member Johnson, all of our local elected officials and the community on a redevelopment plan for the Pier.”

“The final deal voted upon by the City Council was highly responsive to the demands and concerns raised by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and thousands of residents,” said Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. “The landmark protections for the adjacent South Village neighborhood, secured by Councilmember Johnson in advance of this vote, the restrictions on any further air rights transfers in Community Board #2, and the elimination of “big box” stores and oversized “destination retail” from the plan were key demands of our organization and neighbors, all of which were adopted by the Council.  We’re extremely grateful to Councilmember Johnson for his leadership on this issue and his willingness to fight for these critical priorities for our community.”

“The importance of Pier 40 as a treasured resource for our community and critical economic engine for Hudson River Park cannot be overstated, said Mike Novogratz, Chair of the Friends of Hudson River Park. “We’re thrilled that we now know the ballfields so many of our neighbors of all ages enjoy every day will be saved. Thanks to Council Member Corey Johnson, Community Board 2, the Pier 40 champions, and all the families from across the neighborhood and the city who came together to support this critical project for Hudson River Park.”

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Corey Johnson represents the 3rd District in the New York City Council, covering neighborhoods on the West Side of Manhattan including Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, Greenwich Village and parts of SoHo and the Upper West Side. He also serves as Chair of the Committee on Health.

News

New York Times: $100 Million Deal to Save Pier 40 in Manhattan Is Approved

December 15, 2016

By CHARLES V. BAGLI
December 15, 2016

It’s a twofer.

After years of negotiations and bickering, the City Council on Thursday approved plans to allow a developer to buy the air rights from a crumbling pier in Hudson River Park for $100 million, money that would be used to keep the one-time cargo pier from falling into the water.

In return, the developer — a joint venture of Atlas Capital Group and Westbrook Partners — obtained approvals for a vast, five-tower residential complex with retail and possibly a hotel on the site of St. John’s Terminal, which stretches more than three blocks along Washington Street between West Houston and Spring Streets on the Lower West Side of Manhattan.

The air rights, which are being transferred from Pier 40, enable the developer to build a larger complex, which is planned to include office space and 1,586 apartments, 30 percent of them reserved for low- and middle-income tenants.

During negotiations with the city, elected officials and residents, the developer agreed to dedicate one building to older tenants, to reduce the number of parking spaces at the complex, to emphasize local retailers rather than big box stores and to create a 15,000-square-foot public recreation center.

“It’s been a long and difficult road,” said City Councilman Corey Johnson, a Democrat, who represents the area and was involved in wringing concessions from the developer. “But in the end, the project got better and better at each phase. I’m not sure we would’ve gotten all the affordable housing if it hadn’t gone through a public review.”

Early this week, the developers put $100 million into an escrow account for the air rights from Pier 40, a doughnut-shaped, two-story structure with community soccer fields in the center ringed by parking lots. The money will be released for work on the pier next year when the deal closes.

Officials feared the pier, which sits within Hudson River Park, was in danger of collapse because many of the 3,500 steel pilings that hold it are deteriorating. But the Hudson River Park Trust, which oversees the park, did not have the money for repairs, which could take five years to complete.

“It’s a big moment for the park,” said Madelyn Wils, chief executive of the trust. “It ensures that the pier will stay open. It doesn’t come a moment too soon.”

The city also agreed to provide the trust with up to $14.1 million for other repairs to the pier.

The trust is expected to approve the deal at a board meeting on Thursday afternoon. After the repairs are finished, the trust wants to erect a commercial building on the pier that would generate revenue for the park, while retaining the soccer fields.

But that does not mean that the St. John’s Terminal will soon be demolished to make way for new residential towers. The market for condominiums and high-end apartments has slowed over the last year. Lenders are now cautious about financing construction projects given the plethora of new residential buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

The developer may renovate the existing building for office tenants until the market picks up again. The five buildings will eventually be built in phases. But Atlas and Westbrook say they are in for the long haul.

“St. John’s Terminal will be transformed into a vibrant mixed-use development that adds affordable housing to the district and improved light and visibility for West Side residents,” Paul D. Kazilionis, chief executive of Westbrook, said in a statement on Thursday. “We are grateful for the collaboration.”

Approval of the St. John’s project was also tied to the creation nearby of a new South Village Historic District, a 10-block area with 250 buildings, many of which date to the 19th century. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the district on Tuesday, which will limit development in the area.

“At the end of the day, we thought it was the best deal possible,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, “especially since there was an imperative created by the trust to generate money quickly for Pier 40.”

In approving the St. John’s project, the City Council prohibited the Hudson River Park Trust from transferring any additional air rights to sites in the adjoining neighborhood, said Mr. Johnson, the councilman.

The St. John’s project has been four years in the making and nearly fell apart on more than one occasion. Some people opposed the sale and transfer of 200,000 square feet of air rights from the pier, fearing it would set a precedent for a new generation of towers along the waterfront.

Late in 2013, the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a secret, albeit tentative agreement with the developers for the project and the transfer of the air rights.

But City Hall and elected officials, including Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Gale A. Brewer, the Manhattan borough president, objected sharply to the state’s effort to bypass a city review of the proposal.

Now, “everyone seems happy with the results,” Mr. Johnson said.

News

STATEMENT BY COUNCIL MEMBER COREY JOHNSON ON LPC APPROVAL OF NEW HISTORIC DISTRICT IN THE SOUTH VILLAGE

December 13, 2016

The South Village is a neighborhood of immense historical and architectural significance. Because of this designation, future generations of New Yorkers will be able to experience the unique sense of place and time that this neighborhood imparts. In a time of unprecedented real estate development, the Sullivan-Thompson Historic District will ensure the survival of this unique enclave. ‎ The Landmarks Preservation Commission has done a spectacular job with this designation, and I thank Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan, her staff and colleagues on the Commission for their outstanding work. I also want to thank the people of the Village and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, who made this possible through their years of advocacy.

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Uncategorized

BK Reader: City Council Introduces Package of Bills to Win a Fair Work Week for NYC Fast Food Workers

December 8, 2016

By PHYLLIS HUANG
December 8, 2016

The New York City Council and 32BJ SEIU (The Service Employees International Union) held a press conference Tuesday morning in front of City Hall to introduce a package of bills which aim to provide NYC fast food workers a fair work week and a $15/hour hourly wage.

Although the press conference mainly addressed fast food workers’ concerns, other hospitality workers, including concierges at hotels and residential buildings were also on site to show their support.

Speakers at the press conferences included Shantel Walker and Alvin Major, both long-time advocates for fast food workers, City Councilmembers Brad Lander, Corey Johnson, and Sherry Leiwant, co-president of A Better Balance, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people at all income levels take care better care of their families without losing their financial security.

The fight for $15 hourly rate began four years ago, and the issue of a fair work week emerged soon after. To a lot of people working in the fast food industry, indeed those working in retail industry in general, a fair work week means receiving schedules two weeks in advance; avoiding back-to-back, on-call scheduling; having access to more hours; getting sick days; and being able to request schedule change without the fear of retaliation.

Currently, “twenty percent of the fast food worker do not know their schedule 24 hours before they go to work,” said one of the city council members. A predictable work schedule will enable fast food workers to make plans for their families, take care of family emergencies, take on leisure activities, or even find other jobs they deem necessary.

The package also includes the Fast Food Empowerment Act, the first of its kind in the country., which once passed, will allow fast food workers to legally form non-profit organizations.

The Fast Food Empowerment Act also calls for the employers to make a paycheck deduction of voluntary contributions to a non-profit organization if the employee wishes to do so.

News

The Villager: St. John’s be praised! Many perks in final plan

December 8, 2016

By LINCOLN ANDERSON
December 8, 2016

Clearing the way for a massive development project that will transform Hudson Square, plus help rescue the Lower West Side’s beloved “family sports pier,” on Monday, the City Council’s Zoning Subcommittee voted to approve both rezoning the St. John’s Center site for residential use and transferring 200,000 square feet of Pier 40 air rights into the new megaproject.

Pier 40, in turn, will get an infusion of $100 million for the air rights, with the cash being used to shore up the 15-acre W. Houston St. pier’s badly corroded steel support piles.

As originally promised by the St. John’s site developers, the residential project will include nearly 500 units of affordable and senior affordable housing.

The historic deal was brokered by City Councilmember Corey Johnson, whose district includes the Village and Chelsea, along with Pier 40 and the St. John’s site.

The full City Council, in turn, will vote on the project on Thurs., Dec. 15, after which Mayor de Blasio is expected to sign off on it, formally completing the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure). Under the City Charter, a ULURP — a seven-month-long public-review process — is done for an application to change the city’s land use.

The Hudson River Park Trust, the state-city authority that is building and operates the 4-mile-long waterfront park, will vote to approve the air-rights transfer at its board of directors meeting, also on Dec. 15.

The 1.7-million-square-foot St. John’s project will stretch for three blocks, from Clarkson St. to Charlton St., between Greenwich St. and West St.

The developer is St. John’s Partners, which includes the existing St. John’s building’s owners, Atlas Capital Group, LLC, and Westbrook Partners.

Under the plan, the St. John’s Center — originally built as the High Line elevated railway’s southern terminal — will be razed and replaced with five buildings. Four of these will be residential and one commercial, possibly a hotel.

The tallest building will rise 430 feet, and the smallest 240 feet. The project will include 1.3 million square feet of residential space and 400,000 square feet of commercial space.

st-johns-pier-40-2016-12-08-v02vilprint_webweb

25% affordable units

There will be 1,586 residential units, 476 of them permanently affordable. Of that amount, 175 units will be for low-income seniors; the rest for low- and moderate-income families.

Acting as the community’s point person, Councilmember Johnson worked to ensure that the final deal includes many critical “wants” pushed for by Community Board 2, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and other key stakeholders.

For starters, City Hall and the Trust have agreed that after this one transfer of 200,000 square feet of development rights, there will be no further such transfers from the park into C.B. 2, which stretches from W. 14th St. to Canal St.

In 2013, the New York State Legislature quietly approved an amendment to the Hudson River Park Act of 1998 allowing the Trust to sell the park’s unused development rights to sites on the other side of the West Side Highway. The St. John’s project will be the first time this actually will be done.

S. Vil. landmarking

In addition, in connection with the St. John’s deal, the city has agreed to landmark the final unprotected one-third of the South Village that G.V.S.H.P. proposed for designation 10 years ago. G.V.S.H.P. strategically used the St. John’s project as leverage, arguing that the new construction would ratchet up development pressure in the surrounding area.

As a result, the Landmarks Preservation Commission will vote on Tues., Dec. 13, on whether to designate the final third of the South Village Historic District, which L.P.C. has dubbed the Sullivan Thompson Historic District.

Other new benefits that were secured by the Zoning Subcommittee include a 15,000-square-foot recreation center open to public use in the new project’s middle building. This space will be operated either by the Parks Department or a nonprofit group.

Also, there is a guarantee that the new project will include a supermarket, which this area has long needed.

Per the community’s wishes, the developer will not be allowed to have big-box stores. Stores will be limited in size to 10,000 square feet, with the exception of the supermarket.

The number of parking spaces underneath the new St. John’s project also has been reduced from the original 772 to 425.

City funding for pier

In another benefit, the city has agreed to chip in an additional $14 million for Pier 40 to help ensure the cherished pier’s long-term sustainability.

Also the city’s Department of Transportation will conduct a $1.5 million traffic study of the Hudson Square area to determine how to alleviate chronic traffic and transportation issues and also those specific to the new St. John’s project.

In addition, half of the foliage-filled courtyard of the project’s middle block will now be open to public use. Before, this had been a viewing garden closed to everyone — even the building’s own residents.

A pedestrian pathway that will be opened up between the project’s middle block and southern block that was in the original plan will now be widened to make it more inviting.

Opening Houston St.

And per C.B. 2’s wishes, there will no longer be any sort of bridge over W. Houston St. where the current St. John’s Center building spans the street. The developer’s initial plan called for just keeping a section of track beds of the original High Line elevated railway that run through the building — as sort of a mini-version of the Hill Line park to the north — which would be part of a planted open space, accessible to the public. But the community board objected, feeling the old track beds would cast shadows below and that they instead wanted to open up the street to the light. The board also had concerns that the bridge area, though purportedly public, wouldn’t really be used that way.

As for another bridge, the developer will not be forced to build one over the highway to Pier 40, though C.B. 2 had strongly advocated for one. However, an additional crosswalk across the highway will be created.

st-johns-pier-40-2016-12-08-v01vilprint_webweb
The idea of keeping these old track beds from the High Line has been axed under the plan for the St. John’s Center site that a key City Council committee approved on Monday. Currently, these old track beds are contained within the existing three-block-long St. John’s Center building, which spans Houston St. and will be razed for the new project. Image courtesy COOKFOX

Better senior homes

Furthermore, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, in particular, had pushed to change the apartment configurations for the senior affordable housing building that will be on part of the project’s northern block, which will also sport a purely market-rate high-rise tower. Originally, the mix of the senior units had been about 75 percent studios and 25 percent one-bedrooms. That formula has now been flipped, so that three-quarters of the units will be one-bedrooms. Only a few units reportedly were lost due to this change.

In addition, the formula for determining eligibility for all of the affordable units based on area median income has been modified “to better reflect the community’s diversity.”

On the other hand, elements that notably have not changed are the megaproject’s original design, height and bulk.
Image courtesy COOKFOX A rendering showing what uses are planned in the St. John’s project. A rendering of Ian Schrager’s planned wave-shaped building, 160 Leroy St., which is not yet under construction, is shown just north (to the right) of the St. John’s project.
A rendering showing what uses are planned in the St. John’s Partners project. A rendering of Ian Schrager’s planned wave-shaped building, 160 Leroy St., is shown just north (to the right) of the St. John’s project. Image courtesy COOKFOX

‘Array of benefits’

In his remarks before the Zoning Subcommittee vote on Dec. 5, Johnson praised the comprehensive deal.

“We have known from the beginning that this project has the potential to benefit New Yorkers extraordinarily,” Johnson said, “primarily through the creation of affordable housing and as a much-needed revenue generator for Pier 40, which is a truly beloved community resource in the West Village. Through this public review process, we have also been able to integrate other great community benefits into this project.”

Johnson thanked C.B. 2 and his fellow local politicians for their input over the course of the half-year-long ULURP that culminated in Monday’s final agreement. He also thanked the developers “for being an active partner in maximizing the public benefits of the project.”

“These are an extraordinary array of benefits,” Johnson said of the deal’s perks. “At each step along the way, this application got better and better, with more benefits for the community at each turn. I think we can now see a clear picture of how this development will integrate with the community, and how it can be a real asset to the West Side and to our city as a whole.”
Images courtesy COOKFOX
A rendering of the interior of an affordable apartment — with a coveted Hudson River view — on the middle block of the 550 Washington St. project (planned on the site of the current St. John’s Center). As opposed to the general affordable units, however, most of the affordable units set aside for seniors will not have any water views — other than, in a few cases, just some narrow glimpses. Image courtesy COOKFOX

ULURP process

As part of ULURP, C.B. 2 approved the St. John’s project and air-rights transfer this past summer, though with many caveats. On the other hand, Borough President Gale Brewer two months later gave a thumbs down on the entire plan, declaring the developer could do much better in return for being allowed to build such a huge project. Both the board’s and Brewer’s recommendations, however, are advisory only.

In September, the Department of City Planning, whose ULURP vote is binding, subsequently O.K.’d the project, but nixed the bridge over W. Houston St. and big-box stores, while requiring at least seven street-level retail stores and a 10,000-square-foot gym to be shared 50/50 by the public and building residents. In the deal reached by Johnson, the gym’s size was boosted by 5,000 square feet.

Harry Bubbins helped lead the G.V.S.H.P. two-pronged effort on the contentious St. John’s Partners development plan slated for the site across from Pier 40. Villager file photoAndrew Berman, executive director of G.V.S.H.P., said the deal was a win on many levels. He was especially grateful for the ban on future air-rights transfers from the park into C.B. 2 after the St. John’s deal. He noted that Madelyn Wils, the C.E.O. of the Hudson River Park Trust, has at times said the entire park may contain as much as 1.6 million square feet of unused development rights available for potential transfer across the highway.

“We are glad that the deal brokered by Councilmember Johnson and passed by the City Council’s Zoning Subcommittee includes explicit limitations on future air-rights transfers for the Greenwich Village waterfront and adjacent neighborhoods, which otherwise could have been inundated with 1.5 million square feet of development from Hudson River Park ‘air rights’ transfers allowed by the state Legislature in 2013,” Berman said. “This will help protect this neighborhood from the massive overdevelopment which could have easily otherwise resulted.”

Berman said that the Trust, the city and the real estate industry all strongly opposed limiting additional air-rights transfers into C.B. 2.

“Clearly, the South Village landmarking is part of this whole deal,” he added, “although it wasn’t part of the ULURP. G.V.S.H.P. would have opposed this application without the South Village landmarking.”

Some slam society

Yet some are now blasting Berman and G.V.S.H.P. for not opposing the St. John’s project for its behemoth size. But the preservationist noted that if this plan had been denied, an “as of right” (as in, allowed under current zoning and not needing to go through ULURP) enormous commercial development — with hotels and / or office space — could still be built on the St. John’s site. Plus, the community would get none of the benefits negotiated for the current plan.

“If this was rejected,” Berman said, “you would still get a huge building, 100 percent commercial, with no size limits on retail stores, no limits on future air-rights transfers into the neighborhood going forward, no South Village landmarking, no public space provided, no affordable housing and no money for repairs for Pier 40.

“That’s a ‘head-in-the-sand’ approach,” he scoffed of those who say “Do nothing” and oppose rezoning the St. John’s site to allow the planned mega-project.

‘Could be worse’

To those who argue that no one wants to build commercial projects that far west anyway, Berman retorted, “If you look in the vicinity of the site, there are hotels and commercial buildings being built left and right in Hudson Square and up and down the waterfront. To say that a commercial project could not be built here does not comport with reality.”

Terri Cude, the new chairperson of C.B. 2, praised Johnson, the community and C.B. 2 leadership for hashing out the deal.

“The plan approved by the Council includes many important benefits for our community because Councilmember Corey Johnson was unrelenting in his effort to secure a result that responds to the concerns raised by Community Board 2,” Cude said.

“The project approval requires the transfer of $100 million to secure the Pier 40 structure and the anticipated project will include hundreds of units of affordable housing. The project area is more open to public use and large-scale retail is restricted. It prevents future air-rights transfers from Hudson River Park to the Far West Village. A 15,000-square-foot public indoor recreation facility was added and Houston St. will be opened to the sky. A major traffic study will focus on pedestrian safety in the broad area affected by the Holland Tunnel and West St. We also look forward, at long last, to L.P.C. designation of the third phase of the South Village Historic District.

“I would like to thank all the members of our Working Group who engaged the community in multiple hearings and crafted the C.B. 2 response that resulted in this solid outcome, and especially to call out the leadership provided by Tobi Bergman and David Gruber.”

Bergman chaired the community board until last month, and is a longtime local youth sports and parks advocate. Gruber, also a past C.B. 2 chairperson, headed the board’s Pier 40 Air Rights Transfer Working Group, which held an avalanche of public meetings about the project this past summer.
Courtesy Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
A map showing the final segment of the original South Village Historic District proposed by G.V.S.H.P. (Contrary to the map’s outdated key, the final one-third is finally being considered for landmarking. A vote is expected on Dec. 13 — two days before the City Council votes on the St. John’s / Pier 40 plan.) Courtesy Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

Long time coming

A past president of the Greenwich Village Little League, Bergman is probably the one local activist most associated with, first, getting playing fields on Pier 40, and then fighting to ensure that the fields and pier are preserved into the future. Efforts by the Trust over the past 15 years or so to commercially develop the pier to generate more revenue — both to repair the pier and fund the entire park — have all failed, as the massive pier has continued to erode.

The first doomed development process ended with the Trust putting “interim” fields on the pier, but they soon became a sacred cow. Meanwhile, the Trust still hopes to milk the pier for more revenue.

“ULURP is only as good as the community and leadership participation and that’s why we had a good result in this case,” Bergman said. “The community engaged and spoke out. The C.B. 2 Working Group listened and made a strong case in the resolution the board approved. It all worked because our councilmember understood and fought for every detail.”
G.V.L.L. Upper Division players have a lot of space to work with at their home field at Pier 40 on the Lower West Side waterfront. But local youth leagues are apprehensive about the Hudson River Park Trust's plans to increase commercial space on the 15-acre pier. Villager file photo
Greenwich Village Little League players have a lot of space to work with at their home field at Pier 40 on the Lower West Side waterfront. But local youth leagues are now apprehensive about the Hudson River Park Trust’s plans to increase commercial space on the 15-acre pier. Villager file photo

G.V.L.L. and other local youth sports leagues, like DUSC (Downtown United Soccer Club) and the thousands of families who participate in them have anxiously followed the ULURP process, which will impact the future of Pier 40, which is akin to the community’s “backyard.” Many have dubbed it “Downtown’s Central Park.”

A coalition of youth leagues, Pier 40 Champions, at one point a few years ago even pushed a self-designed concept plan for luxury high-rise towers in the park right in front of the pier as a way to generate funds to help save the pier.

A ‘Little’ cautious

“Obviously, I am quite pleased at the outcome as it pertains to the development project,” said Michael Schneider, G.V.L.L.’s new president. “In addition, the changes that came at the last minute are quite welcome. Corey Johnson did a fantastic job and raising $14 million for the pier from the city was really a wonderful surprise.

“However,” Schneider added, “lest everyone celebrate too soon, I am still a bit concerned that in fixing Pier 40, our 15 acres of street-level fields remain the focal point. I understand Pier 40 offers some excellent business opportunities for the private sector. But to us, it’s not about the money but what the money is used for. Our children make this the community it is and they deserve the same thing all kids who live outside of the city take for granted — going out and playing ball. Making money for the sake of making money just doesn’t compare. I trust the Hudson River Park Trust and believe they will do the right thing in fixing Pier 40. Fingers crossed.”

Pier 40’s future?

Now blocked from doing further air-rights transfers into C.B. 2, the Trust plans to use Pier 40’s additional air rights to create commercial office space right on the pier itself — though without jeopardizing the pier’s playing fields. According to a source, the pier’s additional unused air rights — technically known as floor area ratio, or F.A.R. — could go toward adding more floors for commercial use on the pier, though not necessarily a lot more height.

Pier 40’s current donut-style three-story pier shed has very high ceilings, so unused F.A.R. could be utilized to add more floors within the existing pier-shed envelope. However, it remains to be seen what the Trust actually will do.

According to a source, the park authority and local youth sports leagues, in fact, are potentially contemplating opening up the pier’s eastern frontage and pushing the commercial space toward the pier’s west side. However, the state Legislature would need to approve commercial office use on the pier, which is currently prohibited under the park act. C.B. 2 would also be involved in the discussions.

The cash-strapped park is primarily self-supporting, so the Trust has always been looking to increase revenue at Pier 40, one of the park’s key “commercial nodes,” even though 50 percent of the pier’s footprint, by law, must be devoted to open-space park use.

Revenue, too…

In a statement, Wils, the Trust’s C.E.O., said, “Pier 40 is a treasured community resource and an important revenue generator for Hudson River Park. Monday’s vote moves us one step closer to ensuring that the urgently needed repairs to the pier’s piles will be made, and the pier will stay open. Under a newly strengthened deal, the full $100 million will be guaranteed to the park before the developer can pull the special permit.

“Once the funding is secured,” Wils said, “we must also make sure Pier 40 serves as a revenue generator for the entire park. We thank the City Council for acknowledging today that the remaining development rights on Pier 40 should be used on the pier itself in a future redevelopment.

“We look forward to working with Councilmember Johnson, our other local elected officials and the community on a redevelopment plan for the pier.”

Glick: ‘A good deal’

Deborah Glick, along with Richard Gottfried, sponsored the park air-rights transfer legislation in the Assembly three years ago that is now being exploited by St. John’s Partners. Asked her opinion of the ULURP agreement in the City Council, she called it “on balance, a decent deal.”

“It’s crucial for the playing fields and stabilizing Pier 40,” she said. “And I think some of the added components — community space, affordable housing, senior housing, ensuring the South Village gets landmarking — are very important aspects, considering how many developments get done with little or no givebacks to the community. These have been significant positive elements — even though this will be a very large development.

“The givebacks to the community are substantial,” Glick reiterated, “a reflection of a unified community seeking a balanced response, and ensuring significant money going into and maintaining Pier 40, which is crucial for all of the West Side.”

Historic celebration

Meanwhile, G.V.S.H.P. will hold a celebration for the landmarking of the South Village’s final section on Tues., Dec. 13, at Film Forum, at 209 W. Houston St., from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The society will have one of the theaters, images of the district will be shown on the screen, and there will be refreshments. R.S.V.P. at gvshp.org.

News

Wall Street Journal: New York City Council to Consider Laws on Employee Hours, Scheduling

December 6, 2016

By MARA GAY and MELANIE TROTTMAN
December 6, 2016

New York City lawmakers are introducing legislation to require employers to offer their workers more predictable schedules and opportunities for more hours.

The six bills are aimed at helping nudge thousands of fast-food, retail and other service workers closer to earning a living wage in a place where the divide between the rich and poor can be startling.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, and the overwhelmingly Democratic City Council are making a pre-emptive strike against the incoming Trump administration, saying they want to protect poor and minority communities across the five boroughs.

“We know workers will be under attack,” Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said at a rally Tuesday outside City Hall.

The legislative measures met resistance from employer groups that have tried to defeat similar proposals in other cities, including San Francisco and Seattle, which have scheduling laws.

Mandates, many employers said, drive up costs and make workplaces less efficient. Employees—not employers—initiate most scheduling changes, business officials said.

The legislation is being proposed on what Howard Behar, a former president of Starbucks, called “a false premise.”

“You take the flexibility away from employers, they have to take the flexibility away from the people,” said Mr. Behar, who opposed Seattle’s scheduling law. “No matter how much you may try. You cannot solve the social issues in our country on the backs of the retail and hospitality industries. You are just creating whole new set of problems.”

But supporters of the proposals have been emboldened by the passage of other local workplace-protection laws across the country such as those raising the minimum wage and requiring paid sick leave.

Proposals nationwide have been focused largely on part-time employees in retail and food service, which pay lower wages than many other sectors.

The plans vary in scope and detail, but generally strive to give employees more notice of their schedules, more access to extra hours, extra pay for employers’ last-minute scheduling changes and to establish minimum requirements for the amount of rest time between back-to-back closing and opening shifts, dubbed a “clopening.”

In New York, council members said the legislation is a matter of fairness and would help reduce income inequality.

“This is about the dignity of having your time respected,” said Councilman Corey Johnson, a Manhattan Democrat sponsoring one of the bills.

“We know that the rent is too damn high. And we know that the cost of food is going up,” he said. “What is not going up? Wages.”

One bill would allow workers to request flexible schedules and receive them in certain emergency situations. Another would ban on-call scheduling for retail workers and would offer premium pay if on-call scheduling is done.

Four bills would expand protections in fast-food restaurants. One would require employers to notify employees of their schedules two weeks in advance and to give bonus pay for late changes in schedule or number of hours to be worked. A second would require the restaurants to give employees at least 11 hours off between shifts, and pay premiums to employees who work shifts from the open to close of business. Both proposals were initially put forth by Mr. de Blasio, who has close ties to union labor. A spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio said he is reviewing the other pieces of legislation.

Another bill would require fast-food restaurants to offer any additional work hours to employees before hiring part-time workers or contractors. The last measure would require employers to deduct a voluntary contribution that employees can make to a nonprofit organization for fast-food worker rights.

“New York City’s legislators are acting as labor organizers, not elected representatives. The laws they’ve proposed—penalties for schedule changes, limitations on hiring—are very similar to provisions in collective bargaining agreements,” said Michael Saltsman, research director at the Employment Policies Institute, a right-leaning think tank that generally supports restaurants and other small businesses.

News

New York Daily News: City unveils AIDS memorial in the West Village at World AIDS Day ceremony

December 1, 2016

By JENNIFER FERMINO
December 1, 2016

In a moving ceremony in the shadow of the old St. Vincent’s Hospital — the epicenter of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s — city officials and advocates marked World AIDS Day in the West Village Thursday with promises to continue to fight the deadly disease.

The ceremony included the dedication of a new memorial to the more than 100,000 people who have died of AIDS, as well as the caregivers and activists who helped to battle the epidemic.

Mayor de Blasio, former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and City Councilman Corey Johnson — who is HIV positive — all attended the ceremony.

“I literally would not be alive if it were not for the tens of thousands of [AIDS] activists … who put their lives on the line,” said Johnson, who reps Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen.

The memorial — an 18-foot white sculpture at West 12th and Greenwich Avenue — is the first public space in the city recognizing the AIDS crisis.

The old St. Vincent’s Hospital held the largest AIDS ward in the country, and was the first dedicated solely to the disease.

De Blasio said the loss of lives during the height of the AIDS epidemic 30 years ago made him sad, but the resilience the city showed made him proud.

“We [New Yorkers] are never held down for long,” he said.

The city, which is spending $100 million annually on anti-AIDS programs, has vowed to eradicate the disease by 2020, and recently announced that for the first time in 30 years, less than 2,500 people were diagnosed with HIV.

And no babies were born HIV positive in the five boroughs last year, officials said.

Gov. Cuomo, who has promised to eradicate AIDS statewide by 2020, on Thursday announced new legislation that will help fight the disease.

The new state initiatives include expanding access for high-risk populations to drugs that protect against contracting the disease, as well as a new goal of zero AIDS deaths and zero HIV transmissions through injection drug use by the end of 2020.