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04.19.2013
Hudson Square Rezoned
New York City Council trades taller buildings for public space.
Hudson Square.
Trinity Real Estate

Hudson Square has long been a quiet stretch in the midst of Lower Manhattan’s building boom. But the area, once known as the Printing District, is now primed for development. The New York City Council voted last week to rezone this 18-block neighborhood, sandwiched between TriBeCa and Soho, paving the way for more residential and commercial projects.

Trinity Real Estate, which owns 40 percent of the quarter’s buildings, led the rezoning effort, calling for raising allowable height limits in the area. The city council, along with the New York City Department of City Planning and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, made several significant changes to the company’s original proposal and finagled a few key trade-offs with the developer.

In a move that will greatly change the scale of the neighborhood, the city council agreed to allow new buildings on side-streets to be as much as 210 feet tall, as opposed to 185 feet, and to allow an additional 20 feet if the development provides 20 percent affordable housing. It decided to curb the proposed height of new buildings on major avenues from 320-feet to 290-feet.

The rezoning action opens the door to significant residential development that could add up to 3,000 new units to the neighborhood, but not without a few concessions. In a statement last week, Speaker Christine Quinn said that the neighborhood “has long been largely under regulated” but the new rezoning will “help to preserve much of the neighborhood’s beloved character and commercial foundation while also bringing a desired vitality and more open space to attract new residents and businesses.”

The city council required that 600 of the new residential units be affordable. It also demanded that Trinity Real Estate make a number of improvements to the Hudson Square community. The company agreed to contribute $5.6 million in funding toward the repair of the roof at Pier 40 and the expansion of services at the Tony Dapalito Recreation Center. It also agreed to build a 444-seat K-5 elementary school at Duarte Square with new recreation spaces open to the public.

Finally, the city council arranged for the Landmarks Preservation Commission to vote on the northern section of South Village,  known as Zone 2, by the end of the year.

Since the beginning of the rezoning approval process, preservationists have pressed the city to landmark the entire district—fearing that the rise of development in Hudson Square could spill over into the South Village. Many also claim that the Landmarks vote won’t suffice to save the neighborhood. The vote only covers Zone 2, the area north of Houston Street, but leaves Zone 3, the section to the south, vulnerable. Landmarks said it is conducting a review of Zone 3 and hopes to complete the survey by the end of the year.

Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, is concerned that time is running out.

“Hudson Square used to be a sleepy backwater, but now the new development in the area will put pressure on South Village,” said Berman. “It will now be bordering Manhattan’s new hot neighborhood.”

Nicole Anderson