Rising in the east


The city's planning commission today approved major zoning changes to the area south of the United Nations, clearing the way for huge new towers that would become Manhattan's largest residential development project. Full story after jump.By David Freedlander


The land due south of the United Nations building today resembles an urban checkerboard, with some squares left blank as buildings have been removed, while in adjacent spaces high rises tower above like stacked kings.

With an overwhelming city Planning Commission vote yesterday to rezone the area over the objections of some elected officials and area residents, all the checkerboard squares may soon be filled in.

“We have enormous concerns about the potential impact of this development,” said Daniel Garodnick (D-Manhattan) who represents the area in the City Council. “This is a pro-development community, but we want to see residential buildings that work for our community.”

The plan by developer Sheldon Solow would be Manhattan’s largest residential development project, with 4,000 apartments spread over six large residential towers – one of which would reach more than 600 feet tall – as well as an office building and more than 500 public parking spaces. The plan approved yesterday also calls for adding 600 units of affordable housing and a 630-seat K-8 public school to the plan.

The commission scaled back the height and density by almost 20 percent from the developer’s original plan and added more retail space, but did not address public access to the East River, irking the president of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, Roland Lewis.

“We are locked away in this city and don’t know how to relate to the waterfront,” Lewis said. “We can’t have the waterfront be a front yard to the condo owners there.”

Part of the new development will be on the site of the former Con Edison generating station, a beaux-arts structure built in 1901 and in use for a century, spewing smoke and soot over the neighborhood.

Long time residents of the area are happy to see those days over, but were nervous about what was to come.

“It’s going to be terrible,” said Josephine Zito, 56, a 20-year resident of a high-rise at 39th Street and First Avenue. “There are too many people here already and no place for them to go. I can’t imagine any more.”

The plan now heads to the City Council, which will have 50 days to accept, reject, or modify it.

Tags: manhattan , con ed , development , real estate

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