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NEW YORK CITY—More than 200 people packed into the PS 20 auditorium in the Lower East Side, for Community Board 3’s vote on the development of the 21-story, mixed-use commercial building that will house a tech hub. The majority of attendees supported the creation of the tech hub, but as local residents they are wary about overdevelopment it may bring to the neighborhood.
David Mulkins referenced a gutted church on E. 12th Street between Third and Fourth avenues. “They cynically kept the front façade for a characterless NYU dorm that rises 26-stories behind it. It’s like a big raised middle finger saying ‘Screw you!’ to the community that opposed it,” he said.
Mulkins supports the tech hub. However, he said if the city does not enact sensible, contextual zoning protections, hyper-gentrification will displace residents, small businesses and the historic character of the neighborhood.
Jean Standish, also a resident of the Village, said without protections her neighborhood will be overwhelmed with oversized developments.
Community Board 3 unanimously voted for a resolution that supported the tech hub rezoning and a special permit to allow the development at 124 E. 14th St. It worked with the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, adding the following amendment to the resolution which requested additional rezoning of neighboring areas to prevent overdevelopment:
“Consistent with previous board support for rezoning the Third and Fourth Avenue corridor, including the December 2017 board resolution, CB3 urges the city to commence the process of rezoning this area as well as incentivize affordable housing and exclude certain use groups such as hotels and big box stores.”
Community Board 3 member Enrique Cruz supported the amendment saying although the community would have liked stronger language, the text would give elected officials the ammunition they need to push for rezoning in the area. In December 2017, Community Board 3 passed a resolution urging the Department of City Planning to consider Third and Fourth Avenue corridor rezoning.
Another amendment creates a community advisory committee with members appointed by the Community Board, City Council and Manhattan borough president. This committee will exist throughout the duration of the project.
New York City owns the property at 124 E. 14th St., which it currently leases to P.C. Richard & Son. The building will be demolished and developer RAL will build a 258,000-square-foot office tower, paying the construction costs that it estimates at $250 million. The city will lease this property to RAL for 99 years.
For 25 years, RAL will lease six of the floors to the non-profit Civic Hall, which will create a digital training center and provide flexible workspaces for tech startup companies.
The building will have training classrooms, then “step-up” office spaces for new businesses and entrepreneurs offered shorter lease terms and reduced security deposits. It will have a community and an event space and will provide 52 free events per year. RAL will lease the other floors at market rate. RAL hopes they will house businesses that will need tech employees and can tap into the tech hub’s network. The building’s anticipated opening is 2020.
New York City Economic Development Corporation and RAL want rezoning to increase the as-of-right building height from 14 floors to 21 stories. They emphasize they need the space to run the programming that will benefit a large swath of the community. It will serve students, teachers, immigrants, the elderly, those with physical and legal barriers, those with financial barriers and others seeking digital training for jobs in the 21st century.
The city anticipates that the tech hub will generate approximately 600 jobs. CoStar recently noted in a GlobeSt.com article that the future of New York City’s economy is shifting from financial services to the TAMI sector.
Anthony Hogrebe, senior VP, public affairs, New York City Economic Development Corporation, tells GlobeSt.com that the tech training center will establish a physical access point to the city’s tech industry, creating a place where New Yorkers can gain digital skills, access a good-paying job, or start and grow a company.
“We’re thrilled to receive the support of Community Board 3, and of so many residents in lower Manhattan who have been calling for these resources for years. We thank the members of the community board for their thoughtful recommendations and look forward to working with them throughout and beyond the public approval process to make this project a reality,” says Hogrebe.
Andrew Berman, the executive director of GVSHP says Community Board 3’s support for zoning protections sends an important message to the mayor and developers that the community does not want the East Village and Greenwich Village transformed into Silicon Alley or Midtown South.
Betsy Kim is the bureau chief, East Coast, and New York City reporter for Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com. As a lawyer and journalist, Betsy has worked as the director of editorial and content for LexisNexis Lawyers.com, a TV/multi-media journalist for NBC and CBS affiliated TV stations in the Midwest, and an associate producer at Court TV.
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