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11.09.2011
Hudson Where?
Environmental review for Hudson Square brings mostly
An aerial view of Hudson Square.
Courtesy Hudson Square BID

As if making sense of NYU and St. Vincent’s rezoning weren't hard enough, Greenwich Village's community board continues to sift though yet another dense proposal, this one from the real estate arm of Trinity Church for a more residential Hudson Square neighborhood. On October 27, the city officially began the environmental review and public scoping phase at City Planning.

Not every developer can say they've been in the neighborhood for 300 years and are planning for the next 300, but that's what Trinity’s Rev. Dr. James Cooper told a crowd at a land use committee meeting earlier in the month. The church is the major stakeholder, owning more than 40 percent of the 21-block property. Trinity has always referred to the amorphous area as Hudson Square, and the neighborhood’s Business Improvement District wisely decided to adopt the historic moniker in lieu of yet another riff on SoHo.

The rezoning seeks to convert the area bound by West Houston, Avenue of Americas, Canal and Greenwich streets from light manufacturing into a multi-use district that continues light manufacturing but favors residences and schools, while restricting hotels, nightclubs, and big box retail. New cultural institutions are also welcome. There are currently no height limits in the area, but new height and bulk restrictions would shift higher massing toward Canal and the Avenue of Americas, where several tall buildings already exist. The maximum height in that subdistrict would be 430 feet with a floor area ratio (FAR) of nine for residential and ten for commercial. There, Trinity proposes a new residential tower of its own and a 420-seat public school, both designed by SHoP Architects. Slightly to the north, near Watts and Broom streets, another subdistrict seeks to alleviate massing by limiting heights there to 120 feet at 5.4 FAR.

If anything, some wish the area would get even denser, although parents at the meeting were already fretting about their forthcoming school being taken over by overflow students coming up from classroom-poor Tribeca.

Sometimes called a “dead zone” but also home to the Ear Inn and the future Jackie Robinson Museum, Hudson Square sees a daytime workforce of 50,000 dwindle to down 2,100 residents at night. Once a printing district, the area has evolved into a creative hub or “architect’s ghetto” according to some. Architect Research Office’s Stephen Cassell, who arrived 17 years ago and sits on the board of the Hudson Square BID, welcomes the change: “Some people have fine-grain problems, but everybody is pretty much for it; that’s because so few people live here.”

Tom Stoelker