[Rendering via NYCEDC]
The conversation/fallout continues from last week's City Council approval of the the mayor's plan for the Union Square Tech Training Center (aka tech hub) at the former P.C. Richard site on 14th Street at Irving Place.
The unanimous approval includes the rezoning required to build the the 21-story tech hub — which is larger than what current commercial zoning allows. For months, some residents, activists, small-business owners and community groups expressed concern that the rezoning necessary for the project would spur out-of-scale development on surrounding blocks.
The project is being developed jointly by the city’s Economic Development Corp. and developer RAL Development Service. The 240,000-square-foot building includes Civic Hall, which will offer tech training for low-income residents, as well as market-rate retail and office space.
The support of local District 2 City Council member Carlina Rivera was key to making the tech hub a go, as Crain's other other media outlets noted.
Rivera had reportedly promised to seek a separate rezoning for the surrounding area during her campaign last year to establish height limits and, in some cases, cap commercial square footage in exchange for her support of the hub.
In voting yes on the project, Rivera said the tech hub would bring "true community benefits, tech education, and workforce development services that will finally give women, people of color, and low-income New Yorkers access to an industry that has unfairly kept them out for far too long."
This link goes to the letter that Rivera shared following the vote.
Meanwhile, the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation (GVSHP), which had lobbied for protections for the surrounding neighborhood as a component of the tech-hub plan, released this statement from executive director Andrew Berman critical of Rivera's yes vote without any substantial zoning limitations.
The GVSHP and other critics (the Met Council on Housing, the Historic Districts Council, the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors and the East Village Community Coalition were among the groups to express concern during the approval process) have said that the tech hub will provide important and valuable training services for low-income residents and small businesses starting out. However, Berman has pointed out that the training facilities could have fit in a smaller building on the site, which wouldn't require any commercial upzoning that only serves the mayor's real-estate interests.
On Monday, Rivera released a letter to Marisa Lago, the director of NYC's Department of Planning, calling on that agency to establish a special permit for hotel developments south of Union Square from Third Avenue to University Place. The permit would require an additional site-specific review process for extra time to evaluate a given project's impact on the local community, as Patch reported. (The Villager published a copy of Rivera's letter here.)
Berman quickly issued a rebuttal, stating, in part:
The requirement of a special permit for hotels will have little to no effect on the development problems the Tech Hub will exacerbate. First, any hotel can still be built with the approval of the City Council. Second, this really only applies to a portion of the affected area, since the zoning for about half the area already prohibits or restricts hotels. Third, hotels are only one of many forms of bad development this area is experiencing which this measure will not address, such as office buildings and high-rise condos, as well as doing nothing about affordable housing which the community rezoning plan Rivera promised to hold out for would have.
The GVSHP also created a table, comparing the neighborhood protections that were promised to accompany the tech hub, and those that were actually delivered. (For more detailed analysis, follow this link.)