VIA OVERNIGHT MAIL
January 29, 2008
Ms. Amanda Burden, Chair
City Planning Commission
22 Reade Street
New York, NY 10007-1216
Re: 125th Street Rezoning
Dear Chair Burden and Members of the Commission:
On behalf of the New York Building Congress, the City’s largest and most diverse coalition serving the design, construction and real estate industry and involving 1,500 members from 400 constituent organizations, please accept this letter in lieu of testimony at the January 30 City Planning Commission public hearing on the proposed rezoning of the 125th Street corridor in East, Central and West Harlem (“125th Street Rezoning” or “Plan”).
The Building Congress commends and enthusiastically supports the City on this impressive interagency initiative, which has spanned more than four years and involved extensive public outreach and guidance from a community-based Advisory Committee. The product of the City’s efforts is a comprehensive, balanced plan to achieve clearly-defined goals for preserving and promoting the unique character and history of 125th Street, while creating opportunities to further the ongoing revitalization of the area. That revitalization can progress only so far under the existing zoning, which has remained largely unchanged since 1961 and fails to maximize the potential of this transit-rich corridor.
The Department’s plan proposes to unlock that potential by positioning high-density zones where they make the most sense – at the transit hubs and major thoroughfares, while gradually lowering density in zones farther from major transportation infrastructure. Furthermore, by increasing densities for generally the same land uses and replacing existing manufacturing districts to allow new mixed uses and commercial uses, the Plan lays the foundation for enhancing 125th Street as a regional business district and stimulating residential development to help meet the City’s increasing demand for housing. These changes are projected to yield two million square feet of new commercial space, more than 2,300 dwelling units, including approximately 450 permanent income-targeted affordable housing units through the first Inclusionary Housing Program in Upper Manhattan, and over 6,500 new jobs. At the same time, the Plan’s proposed zoning changes would preserve the scale and character of areas to complement existing building patterns.
The Plan also includes innovative strategies for enhancing 125th Street’s world-famous reputation as an arts, entertainment and retail destination, starting with the City’s first-time use of an Arts Bonus, which would give developers a density bonus in exchange for providing visual or performing arts space. This Arts Bonus is expected to create approximately 90,000 square feet of arts and performance space on 125th Street. Equally impressive, the Plan’s proposed Special District, a 24-block stretch of 125th Street, would incorporate provisions to maintain and improve its lively pedestrian environment through regulations aimed at ensuring that ground floors are dominated by active uses, such as retail, entertainment and restaurants. In addition, the proposed Special District would contain a Core Subdistrict, where developments with 60,000 square feet of floor area or more would be required to allocate five percent of their space in the building to qualifying arts and entertainment-related uses. Indeed, these measures would pave the way for significantly boosting 125th Street’s established cultural repertoire.
Given all of the economic benefits and quality-of-life improvements to be derived from the Plan, the 125th Street Rezoning is exactly the kind of well-planned development the Building Congress endorses. We encourage the Commission to approve it.
Though not specific to this Plan, the Building Congress would like to take this opportunity to express its concern about infrastructure planning and investment related to private and public-initiated development activity citywide. As the Commission knows, Mayor Bloomberg’s PLANYC begins to take a hard look at the increasing demand being placed on the City’s aging infrastructure and includes a number of initiatives for meeting that demand. But more can and should done to advance that effort.
The Building Congress recommends that, consistent with its mission under the New York City Charter, the Department of City Planning examine the capital programs of the Metropolitan Transit Authority and city agencies responsible for critical infrastructure oversight to determine the extent to which infrastructure planning and investment is keeping pace with citywide demand. Based on this comprehensive examination, capital programs could be adjusted, as appropriate, to make them even more effective in addressing existing and future infrastructure requirements essential to sustaining, let alone growing, development activity and a robust economy.
Richard T. Anderson
The Honorable Inez E. Dickens, New York City Council
The Honorable Michael N. Gianaris, New York State Assembly
The Honorable Robert Jackson, New York City Council
The Honorable Miguel Martinez, New York City Council
The Honorable Daniel O’Donnell, New York State Assembly
The Honorable Bill Perkins, New York State Senate
The Honorable Adam Clayton Powell, IV, New York State Assembly
The Honorable Christine C. Quinn, Speaker, New York City Council
The Honorable Eric T. Schneiderman, New York State Senate
The Honorable Jose Serrano, New York State Senate
The Honorable Scott M. Stringer, Manhattan Borough President
The Honorable Keith L.T. Wright, New York State Assembly