Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Local politicos seek answers from the Blackstone Group on the Stuy Town air rights deal

News broke last week that The Blackstone Group was partnering with Canadian investment firm Ivanhoe Cambridge to buy Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village for $5.3 billion.

As part of the new agreement with the city, Blackstone will preserve 5,000 units as affordable for the next 20 years, according to The New York Times.

Only later did more details emerge, that the deal contains an inducement: Blackstone has New York City's backing to sell the property’s unused development rights, as The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Per the Journal:

Development rights — also known as air rights — are a hotly contested jewel sought by Manhattan developers. Every property has its own allocation of air rights based on zoning, and for those buildings that haven’t used all of them, the rights can be sold to others looking to build vertically. But such sales are generally restricted to properties on the same block.

Stuyvesant Town has more than 700,000 square feet of these rights, according to people who have reviewed the property’s zoning. That is more than half the size of the Chrysler Building— roughly enough for about 1,000 rental apartments.

Yesterday, City Comptroller Scott Stringer sent John Gray, global head of real estate, a letter asking for clarification on the density of the air rights Blackstone may be transferring.

Here are portions of the letter:

[W]e must express our concern regarding your intention to pursue transferring air rights from ST/PCV to the surrounding communities. This component of the agreement has not been disclosed in any detailed way either in the public documents or in our New York’s communities are keenly aware of the potential impacts associated with air rights, and any plan to radically change the zoning of a large parcel of land must include the community’s voice. ST/PCV tenants, the local community board, and the surrounding neighborhoods need and deserve a detailed description of Blackstone’s intentions including the scale, timeline and public purpose of the zoning change.

Air rights are not a commodity that can be transferred across the city at will; they are zoned onto individual properties pursuant to a larger neighborhood plan and only after full consideration of the potential impacts. The transfer of air rights from one block to another has only been permitted in connection with a clear public purpose and only when limited to the immediate vicinity of the site in question...

While ST/PCV is an iconic community endowed with substantial open space, the two superblocks that make up the complex include neither landmarks nor public parks. Further, the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the superblocks have few vacant parcels to accommodate any new density. Therefore, the public purpose of your proposal, and the boundaries within which an air rights transfer can occur, are not readily apparent.

The public reporting has indicated that only 700,000 square feet of air rights are available on the site. However, the October 2015 term sheet applies no restriction on the total density that can be transferred, and Department of City Planning data indicates that the unused air rights on the two superblocks could amount to 10.7 million square feet when community facility uses are included. While we recognize that no official number has yet to be set, the potential impacts of 10.7 million square feet of density on public transit, streets or other critical infrastructure are staggering, and the true number must be clarified and publicly disclosed.

Finally, while we appreciate that no formal agreement has been submitted, a change of this potential magnitude deserves immediate public disclosure and discussion. It is essential that these conversations begin prior to finalizing an agreement to ensure time for community consultation.

The letter was also signed by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Sen. Brad Hoylman and State Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh.

Among the questions they are seeking answers to:

• What is the scale of density of air rights that Blackstone is intending to transfer?
• What is Blackstone’s intended timeline for public discussions, disclosures and feedback?
• What geographical constraints is Blackstone considering for receiving sites of the density?

Image via


Anonymous said...

What I see, realistically, is First Avenue developed between 14 and 23, and 14 Street from First to D. Massive high rises. This is, essentially, part of Deblaz's Zero Vision Broken Mirrors housing policy.

It just reflects the unchecked redevelopment that has been going on everywhere else -- Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bridge Park, EV, even SI. Will somebody please step in?

Anonymous said...

"Community Facility" = dormitories

Anonymous said...

Monstrosity after monstrosity with no city oversight designed by the rich for the rich. Preserve 5,000 for the next 20 years? It's a giveaway.

Anonymous said...

Dear developers and state and NYC elected officials for giving away taxpayer land, air and light. We are humbled by your aggressive predator nature and boundless greed and corruption. My only wish is that someday your greed and short-sightedness will lead to your demise as it has with others like yourself throughout history and you are left with a city void or culture, diversity, and people to clean up after you.

sam_the_man said...

Blackstone = Treadstone + Blackbriar

Anonymous said...

Those 5000 "affordable" apartments over 20 years is a joke--if the city simply builtt an additional 250 affordable apartments per year they could do ths for less than the $200 milion tax giveaway that Bllackstone got in this deal. Instead the city is building things like a Sanitation garage on 25th St. near Waterside on a block that could handle almost 1000 apartments. After 20 years those affordable apartmets have no protection and will go market rate--StuyTown aready has some apartments with legal rents of $10,000, and many are renting for $5-$6,000 ange today. If the city put in progams to build affordabe housing like Mitchell Lama then the affordable housing would be around well after StuyTown turns into a big luxury apartment complex or condo conversion.

blue glass said...

let's see what our elected officials come up with here. maybe they won't wait for cb#3 to give them their marching orders.
based on what's been done to our neighborhood so far i don't see how anything positive that can come out of the sale of stuyvesant town. the sale should have been prevented and sty town "protected" from the get go.

sorry to be so negative - but between the unchecked gross acts of landlords and developers we've pretty much lost the heart of the community already.
even if our elected "officials" cared, they've pretty much let go of their clout and the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

They're only gonna fuck themselves if they develop. Usually when air-rights are sold it's the neighbors that get fucked, but Stuy Town is a different situation. No neighbors to bear the brunt of development. If they do it it will be strictly to the detriment of their own property. Anyways I know this place well and there are only a few isolated spots--like the single story restaurants on the Peter Cooper side of 20th and 1st--that could be realistically added on to.

Gojira said...

"The transfer of air rights from one block to another has only been permitted in connection with a clear public purpose" - ya mean like the secret sale of Cooper Station PO's air rights to NYU so the ancient Armenian Catholic Church of St. Ann, built in 1849, could be knocked down so an ugly, soulless, grossly oversize dorm for transients could be built? (And please, no reminders of how NYU "thoughtfully" preserved the church facade, what a mockery. It would have been more of a kindness if they had razed the whole thing and strewn the ground with salt.) Blackstone has an equal amount of care for and interest in the communities in which they make their money, and since money is all they care for and are interested in, the rest of us are screwed six ways from Sunday. Goodbye, sky. See ya later, light. It's been nice knowing you.

Anonymous said...

Instead of asking for clarification the politicos should be passing legislation with a max height limit, no exceptions whatsoever including affordable housing.

Giovanni said...

Hello wrecking ball, buh Bonniebye East Village. The destruction of this neighborhood will continue until morale improves.

Anonymous said...

So, after 20 years, those 5,000 units will be designated as "unafforable?"

Anonymous said...

Speaking of quality of life issues, Chipotle is asking for a liquor license for its new location in Stuy Town. The Communty Board 6 meeting is this Thursday. Oct 29th at 7PM. Lots of college kids will be piling in there all night, creating noise, litter, and bringing more litter, mice, rats and drunks into StuyTown since Chipotle serves both Margaritas and beer. If you want to oppose the liquor license contact the community board or show up at the meeting this Thursday:

Business Affairs & Street Activities Committee
When: Thursday, October 29, 2015 - 7:00 pm
Where: Bellevue Hospital Center, 462 1st Ave, NY, NY, 10016 Old Medical Library - 8th Fl.


9i. New OP Liq. Lic, Chipotle Mexican Grill of Colorado, LLC dba Chipotle Mexican Grill,
286 1st Ave @E. 17th St. Reso.

If you cant attend, here is the CB6 contact information. Even a few people opposing a liquor license on valid grounds is enough for them to vote it down.

Community Board Six Manhattan
866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 308
New York, NY 10017

Telephone: 212-319-3750

Fax: 212-319-3772

Email: office@cbsix.org

Anonymous said...

Per Vanity Fair...Love him or hate him, the smart money in New York City says that de Blasio is virtually ensured a second term. “What Manhattanites in the ‘Bloomberg Bubble’ don’t understand,” says the organization head who deals regularly with the mayor’s office, “is that many people in the outer boroughs love him as much as Manhattanites hate him. But even more important is that the city’s builders love him, and they have always elected the mayor in New York City, by funneling more money than anyone else to their chosen candidate. Why do they love de Blasio? Because he doesn’t give a damn about urban planning, density, or architecture. He only cares about more affordable housing. For the builders that means they get to build an extra 20 floors and do it with fewer restrictions.”

Sean Mac an Ultaigh said...

Here's something to think about...who do you think's "sharper"...the City, with its usual cast of well-intended though hardly dazzling "lightweights" or the Blackstone Group, a confederation of "sharks" with fancy business school educations, who would never "dream" of giving a sucker an even break? Just sayin'...

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

Not sure how the EV is gonna be much affected by this because of the recent zoning height restrictions. Re-rezoning would be required and would have to travel through a host of city agencies and bureaucrats. Midtown East might be a different story.

Anonymous said...

Yup, keeping 5k units for the next 20 years nets a 200 million dollar tax break? In short, perhaps the largest block of affordable (kinda) housing in the city goes market rate and not only does the city lose 200 million in income but after 20 years, there will be nothing to show for it. Sigh. It didn't have to happen this way. What if the city had put significant effort into helping the current residents (well, say, half of them, a tricky proposition but possible) turn the place into a collection of coops? It's not a perfect solution but it would have created (more or less) affordable housing for a huge block of people plus it would have helped stabilize the area/city. This deal helps . . . only the developers and everyone else hurts.