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A 22-STORY TOWER FOR WEST CHELSEA?

City Council Member Corey Johnson. Image credit: NYCC/William Alatriste

City Council’s Zoning Committee discusses proposed construction of a 22-story building next to U-Haul depot on West 23rd Street. On March 28, 2017, the City Council’s Zoning Subcommittee heard testimony on an application to modify bulk regulations within the Special West Chelsea District in lower west Manhattan. The applicant, 23rd and 11th Associates LLC, sought a zoning text amendment to permit the distribution of floor area across different commercial zoning districts and subarea boundaries for zoning lots fronting on 11th Avenue and West 23rd Street to allow the allocation of floor area across a single zoning lot on West 23rd Street.

The lots in question have been owned by U-Haul since 1980. The applicant proposes to maintain an existing three-story U-Haul building on one of the lots. The remainder of the project area, which currently contains two, three-story building and a one-story structure, would be redeveloped to create a new 22-story mixed-use building containing approximately 288,000 square feet of floor area. The 70,000 square feet of unused floor area of the U-Haul building would be transferred to the project area.

The new mixed-use building would have retail and gallery uses on the ground floor along West 23rd Street and 11th Avenue. The upper floors would contain 140 residential units. The text amendment does not increase the FAR or introduce new uses.

Manhattan Community Board 4 voted 26-0 to recommend disapproval of the application conditioned on the fulfillment of an affordable housing commitment by the applicant as part of an unrelated building demolition in West Chelsea. Borough President Gale Brewer recommended approval of the application. The City Planning Commission recommended approval on February 22, 2017.

At the subcommittee hearing, Jerald Johnson, of Fox Rothschild LLP, spoke on behalf of the applicant. Addressing the Community Board’s concern, Mr. Johnson explained that there was an existing building that had been demolished and that demolition apparently violated the regulations for the harassment district for Special West Chelsea. Mr. Johnson confirmed that they were working with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to remedy the situation.

Council Member Corey Johnson expressed concerns about whether the demolition issue at the other site would be resolved before the City Council vote on the present application. Council Member Johnson stated that he was familiar with the good work of the applicant in the community, but feared he would be playing favorites by approving the application before the other issue was resolved. The Council Member requested some form of statement or document that would confirm a roadmap to remedy the demolition issue and replace the six units lost before the City Council vote. Council Member Johnson also criticized the applicant for not submitting any renderings of the proposed building to the Council before the hearing.

No one else testified on the application, which was laid over until the next meeting for a vote.

CC: Hearing on West 23rd Street Text Amendment (March 28, 2017).

By: Jonathon Sizemore (Jonathon is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2016).

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