NEW YORK CITY-The City Planning Commission voted Wednesday to approve a rezoning for Hudson Square, the formerly industrial Midtown South neighborhood that’s now home to a high-profile list of creative and tech companies. It marks the next-to-last stop on the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure trail; the proposal now goes to the City Council for a thumbs-up or thumbs-down vote within 50 days.
This past November, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer gave his conditional approval for the plan put forth by Trinity Real Estate, the real estate arm of Trinity Church. Stringer asked for a height reduction in the residential towers the rezoning would potentially bring to one-quarter of the district, the elimination of a downzoned subdistrict and a continued focus on mitigating open-space impacts. In his comments, Stringer noted that without a rezoning, the neighborhood would likely be developed with out-of-scale hotel projects.
Trinity’s plan would create an 18-block district generally bounded by West Houston and Vandam streets to the north; Avenue of the Americas and approximately 100 feet east of Varick Street to the east; Canal and Spring streets to the south; and Hudson and Greenwich streets to the west. On an informational website created to make the case for the rezoning, Trinity notes that the current zoning’s ban on residential development means “little to no foot traffic on nights or weekends, deterring good retailers from coming to the area.”
Over the years, according to the website, “Trinity has gone out of its way to attract quality neighborhood retail, including through financial incentives. Despite this effort, the results have been too often unsuccessful.” Because of the “antiquated” zoning, according to the website, “Hudson Square has high commercial vacancy rates and among the highest retail vacancy rates in the city.”
Some community groups, including the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, reacted with dismay to the commission’s approval of the rezoning plan. “If enacted as is, the Hudson Square rezoning is expected to increase development pressure upon the adjacent South Village,” Andrew Berman, executive director of the GVSHP, says in a statement.
“Not only do GVSHP and other community groups believe this; the city’s own environmental review for the Hudson Square rezoning found that the proposed South Village Historic District would suffer a ‘significant adverse impact’ from the rezoning,” says Berman. “The city also admitted that the South Village is ‘landmark-eligible,’ and yet has still refused to move ahead with landmark designation, as they promised to in 2009.”