Remarks by Simone Sindin, Chair
of Manahttan Community Board No. 4
The New York Real Estate Forum: 2003
Part I: Midtown West: Manhattan's Future
Newman Real Estate Institute
Baruch College - CUNY
Good morning, I am very pleased to
be among the invited speakers.
I've been asked to speak here today
because all the proposals, the plans and exhibits presented earlier this morning
- and those you will hear about later today and as part of subsequent sessions
of this conference - lie within the boundaries of Community Board No. 4.
Our community district stretches
along the entire West Side from 14th Street to 59th Street. I think everyone in
the real estate industry has looked to our neighborhoods at one time or another
for development opportunities. In fact, I recognize many faces in this audience…
100,000 people live in the thriving
neighborhoods of Chelsea and Clinton / Hell's Kitchen. Development of all types
in our area is considerable, but housing production has been most prolific. In
tabulating development projects considered by the Board since the last Census
count just three years ago, we estimate that an additional 10,000 new residents
already occupy or are expected to move into housing that has been recently
completed or currently under construction.
These points are important because
it is necessary for you to understand that the rail yards themselves - and the
area immediately adjacent to them - may in fact be sparsely populated and
under-developed, but the larger area referred to as a whole as "Far West
Midtown" or "Hudson Yards" is part of an existing, solid residential community…
a community that persists, a community that continues to grow, a community that
has historically been known as Clinton/Hell's Kitchen.
As a matter of fact, many of you
will take a bus trip later this afternoon.
On Ninth Avenue above 42nd Street,
you will see a thriving shopping corridor with many popular and ethnically
varied restaurants… you will also see unique shops and boutiques like those
featured yesterday in the New York Times. Below 42nd Street, you will see an
array of international food markets famous for their prices and quality…
East of Ninth Avenue and south of
the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the Garment District is still at the center of
the City's apparel industry. A special zoning district exists here to protect
the special business relationships and physical conditions that make the Garment
Center a unique place.
We must not overlook the obvious
necessity for movement within and throughout our community. The regional
infrastructure of the Lincoln Tunnel, the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Penn
Station exerts the greatest impact locally as it channels hundreds of thousands
of commuters and visitors through our community every day.
West of Eighth Avenue, between 42nd
to 57th streets, and on many blocks as far west as Eleventh Avenue, is the core
of the Clinton residential community comprised of renovated tenements and
Often overlooked, however, are the
thousands of people who live south of 42nd street in the stretch of residential
buildings along Ninth Avenue and south of 38th street over to Tenth Avenue. East
of Ninth Avenue is a string of loft conversions that date from the early 1980s.
34th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues is lined with pre-war doorman
The population of the entire area
is a diverse mix of long-term community residents and relative newcomers, of
renters and owners, of luxury and affordable housing, and of all income groups
and social and ethnic backgrounds.
In short, this is a New York
neighborhood that works.
The speakers today have
concentrated their remarks on the area south of 42nd Street. I invite you to
extend your travels throughout Clinton/Hell's Kitchen where you will see an
incredible amount of new development in progress:
- Residential towers now line 42nd
Street, stretching from Eighth Avenue to the River. There are some gaps, but
we are certain they will be filled in.
- In the West 40s and 50s, from
Eighth to Eleventh avenues, are new 7-story residential developments which
have replaced parking lots and one-story garages.
- The Durst Organization will
anchor the westernmost end of the 57th Street corridor with a project
containing commercial and residential components that will occupy an entire
- At the northernmost reaches of
our Board on Columbus Circle, the two towers of the AOL-Time Warner Center -
the largest development project in construction in the City of New York - is
visible south to 34th street.
- Media groups, large and small,
find the area attractive. Studio City, for example, is a media production
facility planned for a parking lot at 44th Street and 11th Avenue.
- Culturally speaking, the Alvin
Ailey Dance Company is developing studio and performance space on Ninth Avenue
and 55th Street, while Mikhail Baryshnikov is making a new home in Hell's
Kitchen on 37th Street, near Tenth Avenue.
Simply put - a lot is going
The Board believes it is important
to look at the shape and condition of the area north of 42nd Street. These
blocks are full of renovated buildings, old and new residents, and vibrant
commercial streetscape of restaurants and bars, markets, specialty shops and all
types of services needed to support a residential community.
Please remember, 30 years ago
Clinton/Hell's Kitchen was a community in decline plagued by disinvestments,
abandonment, and drug activity. The City's solution was to extend the Central
Business District west and demolish most of the west 40s and 50s.
Obviously, the neighborhood did not
think this was a good idea.
After long discussion, and after
long negotiation, and a lot of arm-twisting, an alternative plan was agreed upon
- development would be balanced serving both the needs of the city and the
The City of New York agreed to
establish the Clinton special zoning district with the stated goals of
preserving and strengthening the residential character of the community through
preservation and new development.
The core of the Clinton Special
District, which is designated the "Preservation Area," is, roughly speaking,
between 8th and 11th Avenues, 43rd to 56th Streets, and is characterized by 5
and 6 story residential buildings.
The "Perimeter Area" allows for
dense high-rise residential and commercial buildings on Eighth Avenue and along
Far from styming development, or
turning the area into a Colonial Williamsburg, as some have feared it would, the
Preservation Area worked. Simulating rehabilitation and new investment and
residential and commercial properties over the past 30 years. Clinton/Hell's
Kitchen is now considered a good address. And people are knocking down doors to
get in. Not bad for a community in decline.
So here we are today looking south
of 42nd Street. Major development plans… new central business district… a
convention center expansion… and a stadium. We recognize that change is coming
to this area, and much of it will be positive change.
It would be easy to react to any
one aspect of these plans - the stadium, the expansion of the Javits Center, or
the extension of the No. 7 subway line - but we have no choice but to think of
the broader implication of today's planning for the future of the City of New
We understand what it means to live
at the center of the city and at the center of the region. We already know what
it is to live in neighborhoods burdened by regional infrastructure that daily
serves hundreds and thousand of people. So now, all we are being asked is to
accommodate infrastructure to maintain New York's global competitiveness over
the coming decades.
Any plans for this area will have
to take into account the realities on the ground. While the current plans seem
to indicate financing for the regional improvements, where is the financing for
local infrastructure needs - schools, utilities, sanitation, enforcement, fire
and police, security?
We strongly believe that investment
in public infrastructure must include investment in the physical and social
infrastructure of neighborhoods - most important of which is the preservation
and creation of affordable housing. A partnership with the City must be created
to devise and implement strategies that will result in affordable housing
actually being built, not just talked about. Targeted appropriations over a
series of budget years must be real part of any plan.
We also struggle to reconcile the
competing goals in many of the plans. We've asked ourselves - how can liveable
residential communities, viable business districts, and entertainment complexes
co-exist successfully? A mixed use 24-hour / 7-day-a-week concept sounds
attractive, but high quality of life standards must be enforced.
Lastly, there is one aspect of all
the plans we must address - the 86,000 pound elephant sitting in the room. It is
called by some a Multi-Use Facility but recognized by the majority of New
Yorkers as a football stadium. Simply put, Community Board 4 believes a
permanent stadium is bad for a good West Side. I need not elaborate.
Instead, let us list what we do
like about the Department of City Planning's "Hudson Yards" concept:
- We like the idea of extending
and reinforcing the character and scale of our Ninth Avenue Main Street from
42nd street southward;
- We support a Javits Center
expansion both to the north and to the south to keep it nationally competitive
- as long as both 34th Street and 39th Street remain public ways open to the
sky. No Stadium needed.
- We are surprised and delighted
with the amount of green space proposed on the maps and we are thrilled with
the idea of creating new parkland along Dyer Avenue by reclaiming concrete
islands and adjacent parking lots. The construction of the Lincoln Tunnel and
related infrastructure represents an old way of thinking about public
improvement projects - done in piecemeal fashion with little concern for the
human environment. Although the Port Authority still refers to Dyer Avenue as
the New York Expressway - not that it operates in an express fashion - we
recommend that all of the traffic approaches be reviewed and re-designed to
meet the needs created by the proposed new developments. These improvements
need to be realized in the near, not distant, future.
- Mass transit is very important
and we think linking a new commercial district to Midtown is crucial. However,
an extension of the No. 7 subway line is about more than just connecting the
Hudson Yards to Times Square. We have questions: Can the line handle any more
cars? Where will the additional cars be stored - the Corona Yards, Pelham
Yards? Do these yards have the capacity? How will the rolling stock be paid
for? How will the additional operating costs be covered? How are the Queens
riders of the already over-crowded No. 7 subway line affected by all these
- We like the idea of a new bus
storage facility to handle Port Authority's buses. However, we still have
questions about how charter buses and commuter vans will be accommodated.
- A new transit center at 34th and
11th is a very good idea. This center should link the area to regional
transportation systems, and hopefully this will result in fewer vehicles on
our streets. To date, traffic has done nothing but increase despite transit
improvements… but, we can be hopeful.
- We agree that it is appropriate
to extend the business district along the Hudson Yards corridor and possibly
along 11th Avenue as well, but at a lesser density. Instead of a permanent
stadium, we believe the rail yards would be better used to absorb some of the
density now proposed for 11th Avenue.
Our positions are built on the
platform of community input and study undertaken by the Hell's Kitchen
Neighborhood Association. Suffice it to say that CB4 has embraced many of HKNA's
goals for the area.
The City's Preferred Direction
already reflects many of the comments that we made in response to the 2001
Framework for Development:
- Ninth Avenue is to be recognized
and reinforced as the Main Street, and a strong connector between Clinton and
- Infill residential use is to be
permitted east of Ninth Avenue, and
- Building densities are to be
lower in the Ninth Avenue core, medium along Tenth Avenue, and highest along
the 42nd and 34th Street corridors.
However, we differ with City
Planning as to what "low", "medium" and "high" mean - we think "high" should be
no taller than a 10 to 12 FAR, for example - but I'm sure we'll get that sorted
out, isn't that right City Planning?
Manhattan Community Board No. 4
would like to extend its compliments and thanks to the Department of City
Planning - to Commissioner Amanda Burden, to Executive Director Richard Barth
and to Manhattan Director Vishaan Chakrabarti, as well as to Alex Cooper of
Cooper Robertson, for bringing us into an open and engaging dialogue and
exchange of ideas. We also hope to engage other City and State agencies in a
In order to better understand the
various components of the plan and the potential impacts on our community, the
Community Board requests that Deputy Mayor Doctoroff assemble a working group
composed of Community Board 4, community organizations and City and State
agencies such as Department of Transportation, Economic Development Corporation,
the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the Department of Parks
and Recreation, the MTA and the Port Authority. This group could advance this
concept proposal to a finely-tuned and balanced development plan.
Toward this end, Community Board 4
has taken the lead to form a broader based working alliance of local elected
officials, community organizations, and civic groups. I am pleased to announce
the formation of the Hell's Kitchen/Hudson Yards Alliance, the purpose of which
is to consider, respond and propose balanced alternatives to the plans -
including the stadium - that have been presented for Hell's Kitchen/Hudson
The community - at the very least
the 100,000 residents of Community Board 4 - must be an integral part of the