MARCH Board Minutes Approved
Minutes of the regular Community Board Five meeting held on Thursday, March 10, 2022 via teleconferencing, at 6:00pm. Vikki Barbero, Chair, presided.
Nicholas Athanail Vikki Barbero James Beitchman Mary Brosnahan Fortunato Castro Julie Chou Sarah Dowson Aaron Ford Joseph Frewer Laura Garcia Nancy Goshow Tristan Haas John Harris Jr. Marc Hershberg William Heyer Robert Isaacs Michael Kaback Kathy Kahng E.J. Kalafarski Renee Kinsella Layla Law-Gisiko Samir Lavingia Sam Levy Megan Lione Maki Thomas Livesay Blaga Lucic Charles Miller Tod Shapiro Craig Slutzkin Clayton Smith Barbara Spandorf Daniel Spence Noah Stern Sarah BJ Sung Pete Webb Ryan Whalen July Yang Janice Yong
Zach Bahor, Kimberly McCall
David Achelis, Natalie Diggins, Joseph Maffia, David Sigman. Jean Sonderland
Elected Official Reps.
Betsy Scmidt, Congresswoman Maloney
Laurie Harjowaroga, Councilmember Bottcher
Franklin Richards, Councilmember Powers
Aubrey Tannen, Senator Krueger
Marisa Maack, District Manager
Craig Barnes, Mary Barnes, Joseph Bauman, Or Caspi, Kendra Collins, Donal Cranny, Ronnie Gross, Lola Finkelstein, Robert Gochfeld, David Lee, William Leggio, Brenda Levin, Neal Peskind, William Otterson, Kathy Valgora, Lisa Wager, Craig Waggner, Mark Weinstein, Lawrence Whitman, Alex Yong
At 6:00 p.m., the Manhattan Community Board Five March 10, 2022 Full Board meeting was called to order by the Chair who gave the following report.
Chair Barbero welcomed everyone to CB5's public hearing, which will be followed by the full board meeting. She stated that on the advice of the Borough President’s office, all community boards will conduct monthly public hearings going forward. She explained that the Borough President’s directive came about when the City Law Department was asked for its advice regarding conclusions of a draft report that dealt with public hearings of community boards by the New York City Comptroller's office in December of 2021. She announced that it states in the City Charter that except during the months of July and August, each community board should meet at least once each month with the community district and conduct at least one public hearing each month. She further explained that the Comptroller's draft report states that the public hearings of community boards must be separate and distinct from their public meetings and that they must be devoted to one or more specific subjects. She further explained that it also states that the public hearing may not be referred to or conducted in place of the regular public session that community boards hold during their regular meetings, and additionally committee meetings do not qualify as community board hearings and recommended that public hearings be held before rather than after the regular public meeting. It also states that the community board lists any discrete subjects that they want to hear the views of the public on as well as any other subject related to the district. She then announced that CB5 will conduct a public hearing tonight prior to the full board meeting. The public hearing will be conducted by Vice Chair Nick Athanail. She noted that the subjects that are open for two minute comments have been listed on the CB5 website and the public can also comment on any other subject to the extent that they relate to the affairs of the community district..
The Public Hearing of Community Board Five was called to order by the Vice Chair Nick Athanail.
Alex Young – Westside Neighborhood Alliance – spoke of Assembly Bill A7265 and stated that he supports this bill, which will conduct an annual audit of the Affordable New York Housing Program also known as the 421a tax abatement program and asked that the Community Board Five support it also.
Lawrence Wheatman – spoke on Penn Station and asked for more clarification on funding for Vornado.
Lisa Wager - Director of Government Community Relations - Fashion Institute of Technology – spoke of a new exhibition opened at the FIT museum last week for its Asian Americans in New York fashion design labor innovation, curated by students. She also gave a report on FIT alum Laverne Cox who wore a gown designed by another alum Michael Fustoe to the Screen Actors Guild award show.
Mr. Athanail then closed the Public Hearing.
The Full Board General Monthly Meeting of Community Board Five was called to order by the Chair Vikki Barbero.
REPORTS OF ELECTED OFFICIALS
Audrey Tannen, Senator Krueger’s Office: reported on the Open Meetings Law and stated that the Senator took the resolution to Albany and stated that the Senator supports a permanent change in this legislation. She noted that March 15 is the deadline for the state of emergency and if the governor doesn’t extend that, then the open meetings law will revert back to what it was pre-pandemic. She also stated that Senator Krueger and Senator Hoylman wrote an op-ed in the Daily News about the Penn Station plans.
Laurie Harjowaroga, Councilmember Bottcher’s Office: spoke of yesterday’s Health and Mental Health budget hearing. She stated that Councilmember Bottcher spoke to the Health Department Commissioner Dave Chokchi about funding mental health community centers in the Mayor's proposed budget. She reported that Councilmember Bottcher has called for 10 new centers, called “clubhouses,” across the five boroughs and offered to work together with DoHMH to get more funding from the State. She also announced that on March 3rd, Councilmember Bottcher joined Council Sanitation Committee Chair Sandy Nurse and dozens of community groups from across New York City to push back on the Mayor's proposed cut to sanitation in the budget, calling for a full restoration of pre-pandemic corner basket service and a restoration of the curbside compost program. She also announced that on April 2nd they are partnering with the Tin Pan Alley American popular music project and the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership on a co-naming event at the northwest corner of 28th Street and Broadway.
Betsy Smidt, Congresswoman Maloney’s Office: reported that Congresswoman Maloney was excited to announce the inclusion of $6.3 million for New York 12th District’s community projects in the fiscal year 2022 appropriations legislation. She stated that of the $6.3 million coming to New York $1.2 million would fund health care and IT upgrades at the floating hospital, empower new Yorkers in their job searches, reduce hunger through healthy cooking and nutrition education, provide telemental and telehealth services to children and families, provide support and stability for small businesses and restaurants and create youth development programs, community programming and workforce entrepreneurial training. She also reported that Congresswoman Maloney voted to pass a bipartisan resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire and the full withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine, and expressed unequivocal support for Ukraine's sovereignty. She stated that the resolution also calls for the continued use of sanctions to fully isolate the Putin regime and urges the United States and our allies to deliver additional and immediate defensive security assistance to Ukraine. She stated that as part of recent legislation,$14 billion has been earmarked for humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine. She announced that the Congresswoman will be doing mobile case work on March 24th from 11:30 to 12:30 on 22nd street between 7th and 8th Ave.
Franklin Richards, Councilmember Powers Office: reported that Councilmember Powers introduced legislation with Councilmember Osei that will create a program under the Department of Health for bars and nightlife establishments to receive opioid antagonist kits, training and resources, to prevent overdoses. He announced that Majority Leader Powers, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and other elected officials, joined together to call on the MTA to review installing platform screen doors at subway stations to help save lives. He stated that in response the MTA has agreed to test the barriers at three subway stations, the 7 line at Times Square, the E line at the JFK airport station in Queens, and the 3rd Avenue station on the l line in Manhattan. The installation of these platform doors is expected to prevent more tragedies and improve subway services because train operators will not have to slow down as they approach crowded platforms, and it will also reduce litter on tracks that will lead to less track fires and delay. He also discussed the loss of restaurant jobs in New York City post-pandemic, and that Councilmember Powers wrote an op-ed in the Daily News with Councilmember Marjorie Yelazquez and President of the New York State Latino Restaurant Bar and Lounge Association Ariella Tavares, calling on all three levels of government, city, state and federal, to take immediate action to provide relief in the industry.
Senator Brad Hoylman: reported on the $212 billion budget, with $1.3 billion dollars of federal surplus money. He also stated that he’s working specifically as Chair of the Judiciary making sure there is money for indigent legal services for people who cannot afford lawyers as well as undocumented New Yorkers. He then spoke of the situation in Ukraine. He recently visited to Saint George’s Ukrainian Church in Little Ukraine with Governor Hochul. He recently introduced legislation to require limited liability companies to disclose the names and addresses of their beneficial owners to the Department of State, which will help law enforcement, tenants and help our Federal authorities understand who is owning what in our city. He also spoke of legislation on the issue of the homeless and those who are struggling with mental illness and addiction. He stated that he attended the funeral of Michelle Go who was a resident of the 27th district and who was killed as she was pushed in front of an oncoming subway car in Times Square. He stated that one of the bills that he is motivated to pass would require the New York State to apply for a Medicaid waiver to reimburse long-term stays in larger residential mental health institutions to allow patients to remain longer in a facility if needed. He stated that he would like CB5 to know that in conjunction with their work around Penn Station, he a number of his Senate colleagues including Senator Liz Krueger, who helped lead the effort, sent a letter to Empire State Development echoing a lot of the concerns that are shared by CB5 and urging the State to put a pause on that massive redevelopment, which will have 18 million square feet of new commercial space mostly in CB5, until they understand what the costs are to the public. He also stated that they requested an analysis from the Independent Budget Office. He then discussed the introduction of legislation to save composting in New York City, which the Mayor has basically zeroed out.
The February 2022 minutes passed with a vote of 39 in favor, 0 opposed, 1 abstaining, as follows: IN FAVOR: Athanail, Bahor, Beitchman, Brosnahan, Castro, Chou, Dowson, Ford, Frewer, Garcia, Goshow, Haas, Harris Jr., Hershberg, Heyer, Isaacs, Kaback, Kahng, Kalafarski, Kinsella, Lavingia, Law-Gisiko, Levy, Lione, Livesay, Lucic, McCall, Miller, Shapiro, Slutzkin, Smith, Spandorf, Spence, Stern, Sung, Webb, Whalen, Yang, Yong. ABSTAIN: Barbero.
Chair Vikki Barbero invited new board member Janice Young to give a brief introduction regarding her background and reasons for wanting to serve on the Board.
Chair Barbero then announced that Maki Thomas Livesay has agreed to be the Vice Chair of the Landmarks Committee and Aaron Ford has agreed to serve as the Vice Chair of Land Use, Housing and Zoning Committee.
She then spoke of the importance of Committee meeting attendance and stated that this is what the Borough President's office looks at when reappointments are due. She asked that anyone who cannot make their committee meeting must notify their chair as it is very important in terms of reaching a quorum. She announced that they are still not sure of the outcome of the Governor's Emergency Order to extend the hiatus for the open meetings requirement that will end on the 15th and will let the Board know as soon as there is a decision. She also announced that next month would be the start of the nominating and voting process for the positions of officers of the Board. Chair Barbero then announced her intention to stand for another term as Chairperson in the upcoming CB5 officer elections
Borough President Mark Levine: confirmed that attendance is indeed a major factor in community board appointment decisions but on that topic, the deadline for applications has been extended until March 15th. Stated that he would like to start by acknowledging the pain everyone was feeling about the horrific events in Ukraine and how much our hearts have broken for the many Ukrainians that called Manhattan and New York City home. He also stated that this is also a borough and frankly a Community Board, which is safe harbor for investments by many of the Oligarchs who are close to Putin, who have a predilection for putting what are often ill-gotten wealth into ultra-high-end luxury apartments and stated that it's not right that our city would allow money to essentially be laundered this way and that there is a need for the federal government to take action now to expand the sanction list to include some of these individuals and that would require the freezing of all assets including real estate which would essentially be padlocked. He called for federal action from the U.S. Treasury Department, which establishes a sanction list and then allows if necessary local law enforcement to intercede. He spoke of Covid and the progress made in the past two months but that we still do need a drop of caution. He announced the launch of an initiative with his four Borough President colleagues to plant a million more trees throughout our city as a way to fight climate change because they absorb CO2, make our city more resilient, absorb storm runoff, cool neighborhoods and heat waves and stated that he would love CB5's input on where more street trees or trees of any type could go. He spoke of fighting hard for a measure to make the subways safer by doing what big cities all over the world have done, installing screen doors on subway platforms. He also stated that he was fighting hard on the eviction epidemic that's hitting the city now that the moratorium is lifted. He spoke of not having enough legal aid attorneys to cover every tenant despite the legislation and he was proud to pass establishing the right to counsel for tenants facing eviction and is calling on the court system to slow down the docket so that no case moves if the tenant doesn't have an attorney. He also stated that the law giving us the ability to do open meetings expires on the 15th and is another issue he’s working with Senator Hoylman on to extend the law so that CB5 has options to conduct meetings the way you want. He stated that because the deadline is days away, his office is establishing protocols for how to deal with in-person meetings with covid issues, difficulty in getting space and some of the legal concerns.
TRANSPORTATION/ENVIRONMENT – EJ Kalafarski
E.J. Kalafarski gave presentation on the following bundled resolutions.
Penn Station Expansion Alternatives Scope
WHEREAS, Empire State Development (ESD) has introduced a General Project Plan (GPP) which combines a land use action to upzone and redevelop the neighborhood around Penn Station along with a preferred alternative to expand Penn Station through a southern expansion, and Community Board Five officially opposed this GPP, construed with this preferred alternative as a foregone conclusion, in December 2021 after over a year of review and analysis; and
WHEREAS, The next likely step after the GPP is a required Federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review of the preferred expansion alternative and other alternatives to meet similar capacity expansion goals; and
WHEREAS, Community Board Five supports the goals of capacity expansion at Penn Station and increased density through upzoning around Penn Station, though the GPP’s specific land use action and preferred alternative did not satisfactorily and comprehensively evaluate alternative approaches; therefore, be it
RESOLVED, Community Board Five adopts and transmits to relevant agencies the position contained in the following letter, regarding the scope of the coming NEPA review and the criteria that should be considered in evaluating each alternative, including collective costs of upgrading the Northeast Corridor, transit benefits beyond the borders of New York City, construction timelines, and effects of regional rail cooperation on moving passengers throughout the region in each alternative; and be it further
RESOLVED, Community Board Five adopts and transmits the insistence contained in the following letter that specific alternatives be among those evaluated in the coming NEPA review’s scope, including 1) an alternative that adopts expanded through-running through Penn Station, both by using existing platforms with expanded regional coordination, as well as by widening platforms at Penn Station; 2) an alternative that evaluates maximum improvement of existing tracks and amenities within the current station footprint, alongside and in addition to any “no action” alternative; and 3) an alternative that evaluates a connecting tunnel between Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal.
March 10, 2022
Re: Expansion Alternatives Scope for Penn Station Expansion
Dear Governor Hochul, Chairman Lieber, etc.
In December 2021, Manhattan Community Board Five unanimously opposed the current General Project Plan for the Penn Station area, also known as the Empire Station Complex. Manhattan Community Board Five urges you to take the opportunity of the coming federal NEPA review of Penn Station capacity expansion - as well as the NEPA review of Penn Station reconstruction, also known as the Penn Station master Plan - to rigorously and comprehensively explore alternatives that have not yet seen a full, federal engineering assessment. The following recommendations were adopted unanimously [pending adoption] by Community Board Five on March 10, 2022.
The current GPP proposed by the State combines a land use action with a specific preferred expansion alternative for Penn Station: a southern expansion with new tracks and platforms. Community Board Five rejected this GPP as essentially structured backwards: proposing a funding structure for a specific alternative, before even formally assessing all alternatives and determining the best functional future for Penn Station.
Community Board Five embraces both the goals of expanding Penn Station’s capacity, which will be direly needed over the coming decades, as well as the goal of increased density around transit hubs, an approach known as transit-oriented development. Indeed, the pending construction of the critical Gateway Program and its new trans-Hudson tunnels will add redundancy and ultimately doubled capacity for trains-per-hour crossing the Hudson River, and this new capacity demands a commensurate capacity expansion at Penn Station to take advantage and set the region up for expansion. But we insist that planning for this development must follow from a rigorous evaluation of the right expansion mechanism for the station.
Penn Station capacity expansion and Penn Station reconstruction will require a federal NEPA review, including a formal assessment of alternatives. As with all federal reviews, the process will start with a draft scoping document, which has not yet been produced; we strongly insist that the scope of this review be drafted from the beginning to include both broad evaluation criteria for each alternative assessed that we lay out below, and the inclusion of certain specific alternatives that we detail.
SCOPING CRITERIA AND FOCUS
A train station is fundamentally about moving people. The goal of Penn Station expansion, on which we believe all involved parties inherently agree, is to increase the daily capacity both of Penn Station as a rail hub and to meet the growing transit needs of the entire Tri-State Region for the coming century. Community Board Five truly believes this is a service worthy of providing to the entire region, and so our goals are not just limited to the effects on our own neighborhood, or narrow measures like Penn Station’s daily ridership. Our goal, and the stated goal of all associated agencies and rail networks, is the modern, efficient, growing transportation of people through the entire region.
For this reason, the evaluative scope of each expansion alternative assessed in the federal review must not be limited to the narrow “development borders” within the neighborhood of Midtown Manhattan, nor just the transit impacts on riders, pedestrians, daily trips, or per-hour train measurements through the station; the scope of evaluating each alternative and weighing the benefits of each alternative against the others must be broadly-defined, to include network effects of each alternative on the whole region. The criteria for evaluating each alternative must be broadly-drawn—literally, in terms of geographic borders—and also broadly-drawn quantitatively in terms of the metrics, costs, and benefits measured.
Various alternatives are designed, with deceptively cost-effective improvements, to enable wide-ranging logistical and service improvements in other parts of the system, with commensurate logistical coordination between rail systems and infrastructure upgrades in other parts of the region. The costs of these other improvements should be factored in, to be sure, but assessment of the specific improvement at Penn Station must similarly measure the capacity and passenger benefit across the whole region, if it has enabled such improvements.
Time-to-build and construction timelines, including the phased effects of each alternative as components are brought online and the effects on transportation access to various regions in intervening years, must also be a factor of evaluation. An alternative that enables characteristics like “through-running” but delays its availability or construction for decades longer than other alternatives must be evaluated in that context, and the costs/lost benefits that are “left on the table” must likewise be compared to the timely benefits of other alternatives. Alternatives must be able to be compared in terms of utility to the "travelability” of entire region.
ALTERNATIVES THAT MUST BE INCLUDED
Using the above broad criteria to evaluate alternatives, we also believe that certain alternatives must be included in the scope of the review to fully evaluate certain proposals that are credibly raised as viable alternatives to the GPP, so that they can be rigorously discounted once and for all, or otherwise considered as real and viable alternatives. The federal environmental review must evaluate multiple alternatives, but at times the process has been criticized for pro-forma evaluations while only promoting and considering the preferred alternative. Some alternatives have never received a formal federal engineering review, and they must receive a genuine, honest, independent review before the community can ever accept a development plan for a single alternative.
We know that certain existing and prior proposals are very likely to already be analyzed in any NEPA review as alternatives, including: the southern expansion preferred by the GPP; a northern station adjacent to Penn Station as proposed in the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) project in 2003; and a new station built below the current one by excavating deep into Manhattan’s bedrock, modeled on the East Side Access project under Grand Central Terminal. As with all NEPA reviews, we anticipate a “no action” alternative will evaluate doing nothing, as well.
In addition to the obvious alternatives above, we urge the following proposals to be included in the scope of the review and evaluated in their own rights, so that the full cost, benefit, regional effect, and necessary alteration to Penn Station of each can be weighed in a comprehensive comparison. The following three alternatives are not reflected in any of the likely alternatives just mentioned, but are viable options that are yet to receive comprehensive assessment in the context of expanding Penn Station’s capacity in conjunction with the Gateway Program. Any course of action for Penn Station would be incomplete and deficient without analysis that would allow these three alternatives, that have been proposed for decades, from being thoroughly established as viable or dismissed as verifiably infeasible.
Today, a small number of commuter trains are indeed capable of using Penn Station as a through-running station, such as originating in New Jersey and continuing through the station to points east. But the legacy infrastructure of Penn Station, and the bureaucratic realities of different agencies running commuter rail lines in different regions, severely limit how this capacity is used today.
An evaluation of through-running as a viable capacity expansion alternative must consider two different possible situations for Penn, as well as all the potential benefit of better interagency coordination between rail networks and improved infrastructure in the regions beyond New York City. Only then can we know the full potential of through-running and the full benefit of reconfiguring Penn Station in a specific manner.
The first variant should evaluate the possibilities of through-running using Penn Station’s current track and platform configuration. As some trains do already, more trains could through-run with the current tracks and platforms, particularly if rail networks like New Jersey Transit, Long Island Railroad, and Metro-North Railroad are able to adopt improvements throughout the region like a combined fare system, dual-mode catenary/third rail/diesel trainsets, improved interlockings and rail equipment, and the design of new routes and lines. These improvements will have costs outside of Midtown Manhattan, to be sure, but evaluating the full cost of this alternative, and its benefits, will be critical to weighing the total cost against dramatic expansion of Penn Station’s footprint.
The second variant should then combine these through-running regional improvements with a proposed widening of the platforms in the current Penn Station. Through-running has been shown globally to provide the greatest capacity when train riders can rapidly alight on one side of the train and embark on the other near-simultaneously. This would require a reconfiguring of Penn Stations tracks and a widening of their platforms, which will increase safety and decrease loading times. This variant should be evaluated in combination with the improvements from the variant above, so that the region can assess once and for all the true potential and need for a platform reconfiguration, or whether similar benefits can be gained without such a disruptive transformation.
Through-running achieved with these regional improvements, either with or without reconfiguration of the platforms at Penn, has never received a comprehensive engineering review at the federal level. We urge that now is the time for that review of both options.
Maximal Improvement within Current Footprint
While a “no action” alternative is required in a federal impact assessment, this is likely to leave out evaluation of a series of improvements which would increase the capabilities of the current footprint of Penn Station, but without the expense and disruption of new track or tunnel construction. It is worthy of evaluation to determine exactly what capacity improvement could be achieved by judicious improvement to the current tracks and platforms of the station and its concourses.
An assessment of an “improved-to-the-max” Penn Station within the current footprint would include a set of improvements to current amenities to increase capacity modestly. These include lengthening Tracks 1–4 so that they are capable of full-sized trainsets as the other tracks currently are, which would then enable additional passenger circulation options including the extension of the Central Corridor to reach Tracks 1–4, as well as extension of the West End Concourse to reach Tracks 1–4.
Evaluation must also take into account updated forecasts of peak hour demand, including changes as the East Side Access project at Grand Central Terminal comes online, taking travelers to East Midtown and not through Penn Station. A focus on the station improvements, passenger projection adjustments, and improved logistical planning for bringing trains-per-hour on existing New Jersey Transit and Amtrak tracks into line with the rate of Long Island Railroad trains-per-hour should be factored in. Similarly, the effects of COVID-19 on passenger growth projections must be taken into account, to determine whether in-footprint improvements allow capacity growth to meet projected passenger demand, or whether more dramatic capacity expansion is truly required for the region.
Rail Connection Tunnel to Grand Central Terminal
In the 2003 Access to the Region’s Core project proposal, an alternative given cursory evaluation was a proposal for a short regional rail connection between Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal. Though elements of this alternative were not given rigorous evaluation at a federal level, the potential benefits that may far exceed the smaller costs of a short connection make it worthy of comprehensive evaluation.
The connector proposal envisions a single new 1.2-mile, two-track tunnel under 31st Street and Park Avenue, connecting the current tracks of Penn Station to the original track level of Grand Central Terminal, via a right-of-way that remains largely available and unobstructed.
The envisioned benefits of such a connector would be to unlock the economic and regional potential of routes and single-seat rides with vastly expanded combinations far into the outer reaches of three different commuter services. Trans-Hudson passengers with the East Side as their destination could potentially remain on train as it runs through to Grand Central directly, as well as vice-versa: Bronx, Westchester, and Connecticut residents would reach West Midtown directly as well without transfers. This could alleviate stress on the subway system as well.
Regional savings and logistics should be evaluated as potentially activated by this connector: the cost of a 1.2-mile tunnel is potentially much lower than more expansive alternatives, and as with other alternatives, the potential of cooperation and unification of the commuter rail systems via a single fare system or “central fare zone” could create people-moving efficiencies far beyond Midtown Manhattan. In addition, the added effects of in-situ improvements such as lengthening Tracks 1–4, as in other alternatives, should be evaluated as well.
As with all the alternatives mentioned, the cost savings, timeframe, and enabled regional rail efficiencies would all need to contribute to the ability to comprehensively weigh this alternative against the others.
Community Board Five firmly believes that Penn Station must be modernized and expanded to meet the needs of the coming century. Community Board Five also believes it is sensible to increase density around transit rich areas.
In fact, Community Board Five believes that it is to the State’s benefit to see these alternatives thoroughly evaluated with this broad scope and criteria alongside the GPP. These alternatives could bring more flexibility, more rail capability, and ultimately more benefit to the city and region at less cost than the GPP’s current preferred alternative. It is of course to the benefit of the State and the city to see those options evaluated.
Finally, a rigorous federal evaluation of these oft-mentioned proposals would alternately provide the data and evidence about which are viable and which are not. The State has often dismissed alternatives to their preferred path, but never with a rigorous engineering review taking into account the proposed development methods and regional effects. It’s again in the State’s interest to see these proposals given a full hearing.
Penn Station has been the pedestrian center of its neighborhood, the commuter center of Manhattan, the regional center of the Tri-State Area, and the rail hub of the entire Northeast Corridor since it was built in 1910. That’s a lot of roles to play. The fundamental role of a train station is to move people, and that’s exactly what Community Board Five wants redevelopment to focus on, to ensure success and capacity for yet another century: moving people in a modern, expansive, comfortable, and appropriately-grand fashion. It’s for this reason that every viable alternative for capacity expansion of Penn Station should be comprehensively evaluated for the benefit of the entire eastern seaboard before committing development effort and taxpayer treasure to a single path. We implore you to direct your respective state and federal agencies to scope this review appropriately.
Application from Gramercy Park House LLC for a Revocable Consent to restore entry portals at sidewalk entrance (16 East 16th Street).
WHEREAS, Gramercy Park House LLC (“the Applicant”) has applied for a new revocable consent from the New York City Department of Transportation (“DOT”) to restore the two entry portals at sidewalk entrances and the ground floor facade; and
WHEREAS, 16 East 16th Street has a landmarked facade and the building is located on the south side of 16th Street between Fifth Avenue and Union Square West, and completed in 1891; and
WHEREAS, The ground floor was demolished in 1951 and rebuilt with an ADA-accessible ramp; and
WHEREAS, This building, excluding the landmarked facade, is currently being demolished and rebuilt with an estimated completion date of Q4 2023; and
WHEREAS, The Applicant seeks to remove the current ramp, restore the ground floor facade to a similar original design from 1891, and lower the entry portals to the sidewalk level to maintain ADA-accessibility; and
WHEREAS, The proposed entry portals for which a new revocable consent is required would protrude from the building less than the current ADA-accessible ramp; and
WHEREAS, While the proposed new entry portal protrusions are less than the current ADA-accessible ramp, Community Board Five is concerned about the limited sidewalk clearance in this area, if, for example, a tree pit were placed directly in front of each portal or a future sidewalk cafe, resulting in even less clearance than with the current ADA-accessible ramp; and therefore, be it
RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends approval of the revocable consent from the DOT for Gramercy Park House, LLC, to restore the two entry portals at sidewalk entrances and the ground floor facade of 16 E 16th St; and be it further
RESOLVED, Community Board Five requests that the Applicant and DOT make every effort to make sure that there is a minimum eight feet of sidewalk clearance in front of the building; and be it further
RESOLVED, Community Board Five asks that the Applicant and DOT install only a single tree pit and minimize other obstructions on the sidewalk to help guarantee the minimum sidewalk clearance.
After extensive discussions on the Penn Station resolution, the above two bundled resolution passed with a vote as follows: 38 in favor, 0 opposed, 1 abstaining, 1 present not entitled to vote: IN FAVOR: Athanail, Beitchman, Brosnahan, Castro, Chou, Dowson, Ford, Frewer, Garcia, Goshow, Haas, Harris Jr., Hershberg, Heyer, Isaacs, Kaback, Kahng, Kalafarski, Kinsella, Lavingia, Law-Gisiko, Levy, Lione, Livesay, Lucic, McCall, Miller, Shapiro, Slutzkin, Smith, Spandorf, Spence, Stern, Sung, Webb, Whalen, Yang, Yong. ABSTAIN: Barbero. PRESENT NOT ENTITLED TO VOTE: Goshow (only on Penn Station)
LAND USE, HOUSING AND ZONING – layla law-gisiko
Ms. Law-Gisiko gave brief presentations on the following bundled resolutions:
34 West 38 Street, application to BSA requesting a six-month renewal of a permit to complete construction of a hotel.
WHEREAS, 34 West 38th LLC (the “Applicant”) is requesting the Board of Standards and Appeals (the “BSA”) to renew a building permit (the “Existing Permit”), pursuant to Zoning Resolution (“ZR”) Section 11-332, for a 27-story hotel (the “Hotel”) at 36 West 38th Street, NY, NY, 10018 in a M1-6 zoning district; and
WHEREAS, The Existing Permit was issued prior to the December 20, 2018 amendment to the ZR, which provides that a hotel in a M-1 zoning district no longer be permitted as of right, but only if a special permit is approved by the City Planning Commission and the City Council, and, accordingly, the Existing Permit expired before construction could be completed; and
WHEREAS, A permit for the Hotel for excavation and foundation work was issued in April, 2018, and the Department of Buildings issued the Existing Permit prior to April 31, 2018; and
WHEREAS, Due to the project excavation prior to April 31, 2018, this hotel is being constructed “As of Right” and not subject to the current requirement for a Special Permit “ZR-42-111” for a hotel to be constructed in a M-1 district in New York City; and
WHEREAS, In accordance with Section 11-332 of the ZR, the Applicant is requesting the BSA approve a six-month extension of the existing building permit so that the construction can be completed and receive a Certificate of Occupancy; and
WHEREAS, Pursuant to Section 11-332 of the ZR the requirements for the Renewed Permit are:
An application to renew the building permit may be made to the Board of Standards and Appeals not more than 30 days after the lapse of such building permit. The Board may renew such building permit for two terms of not more than two years each for a minor development or three terms of not more than two years each for a major development or one term of not more than three months for other construction. In granting such an extension, the Board shall find that substantial construction has been completed and substantial expenditures made, subsequent to the granting of the permit, for work required by any applicable law for the use or development of the property pursuant to the permit; and
WHEREAS, If the permit were to expire a hotel would not be allowed “As of Right” on this site due to new zoning restrictions that require a special permit; and
WHEREAS, The Applicant represented that at least 5% of the total hard costs ($2.2MM of $36.7MM) of the project has been spent and at least 5% of physical construction completed; and
WHEREAS, While there is no subjective definition of how to measure the % of estimated construction and costs spent; and
WHEREAS, The delays were due to market conditions with financing and construction loans for the project, exasperated by the COVID 19 Pandemic in New York City, New York Country, and New York State; and
WHEREAS, The new hotel project will be non-union; and
WHEREAS, Community Board Five is on record not supporting hotel construction in this district, however the project was started before December, 2018 (April 23, 2018) and meets the requirements of that allowance under ZR-11-332; and
WHEREAS, If a new project on this site were to come for public review, Community Board Five would not support a hotel via “Special Permit” ZR-42-111 at this M1-6 site “34 West 38th Street NY, NY 10018; and
WHEREAS, According to the testimony of the Applicant it appears that substantial construction and costs have been accrued on this site; therefore, be it
RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends approval of 36 West 38th LLC’s request for a Renewed “Extension” Permit, pursuant to Section 11-332 of the ZR, for the construction of a hotel located at 26-30 West 39th Street
Application to continue the construction of a hotel pursuant to ZR section 11-332, special provisions for hotels in M1 districts, which requires hotels in manufacturing zones to seek special permit approval at 1227 Broadway
WHEREAS, JLAM Management, the owner of the Subject Property at 1227 Broadway (the “Applicant”) is requesting the Board of Standards and Appeals (the “BSA”) to renew a lapsed building permit (the “Previous Permit”) pursuant to Zoning Resolution (“ZR”) Sections 42-111(e) and 11-332(b), to complete construction of a 38-story hotel (the “Hotel”); and
WHEREAS, The Subject Property is located on a 30,150 square foot lot that is identified as both 1227 Broadway and as Block 831, Lot 68, which has the entire block frontage on the west side of Broadway between West 29th and West 30th Streets, and, is entirely in a M1-6 zoning district; and
WHEREAS, The Subject Property has a 38-story, 509 feet tall building with 301,545 total square feet of floor area that, when it is completed, will be operated as a 463-room hotel with ground and second floor retail, which will be managed by Virgin Group as one of their flagship properties, named Virgin Hotel New York City; and
WHEREAS, The Previous Permit for the building was issued prior to a December 20, 2018 amendment to the Zoning Resolution (ZR 42-111: “M-1 Hotel Special Permit”), which provided that a hotel in a M-1 zoning district would no longer be permitted as-of-right, but only if a special permit is approved by the City Planning Commission and the City Council, and;
WHEREAS, the ZR subsection 42-111(e) of the M-1 Hotel Special Permit provided for two ways for an Applicant to appeal to the BSA to be “grandfathered in” and continue to develop a hotel as of right:
WHEREAS, if an Applicant either did not have their foundation completed by December 20, 2018 or if an applicant did not obtain any certificate of occupancy by December 20, 2021, their permit would automatically lapse; and
WHEREAS, The Applicant did lawfully obtain their building permit for 1227 Broadway on October 1, 2015 and completed all foundation work on March 31, 2017, but the applicant did not obtain any type of certificate of occupancy by December 20, 2021; and
WHEREAS, ZR 42-111(e) also says that the Applicant has the right to appeal to the BSA in order to request an extension of the building permit for construction to continue as long as the Applicant meets the provisions outlined in ZR 11–332; and
WHEREAS, ZR 11-332(b) says the BSA must find that the applicant meets three findings:
(1) that the Applicant has been prevented from completing such construction by hardship or circumstances beyond the Applicant's control;
(2) that the Applicant has not recovered all or substantially all of the financial expenditures incurred in construction, nor is the Applicant able to recover substantially all of the financial expenditures incurred through development that conforms and complies with any applicable amendment to this Resolution; and
(3) that there are no considerations of public safety, health and welfare that have become apparent since the issuance of the permit that indicate an overriding; and
WHEREAS, For Finding 1, the Applicant cited the covid pandemic as the hardship and circumstances that was beyond the Applicant’s control, which included the State suspension of all non-essential construction from March 30, 2020 to June 8, 2020 and, also, not having enough healthy workers for almost one year for construction to restart; and
WHEREAS, For Finding 2, the Applicant stated it would be a huge financial loss to abandon the hotel development now and cited they have paid approximately 93% of all expenditures as of October 31, 2021 ($183,035,845.06 of the $195,966,425.35 total cost of the development), and as of December 20, 2021, 97% of the work has been completed (1,657 days out of the total 1,703 work days scheduled for the development), including 100% of the superstructure is built and enclosed, 100% of all vertical transportation is built and installed, 100% of interior fit-out, mechanical floors fit-out, electrical, and fire alarms have been completed, and 90% of the lobby and amenity fit-out on the ground floor is completed; and
WHEREAS, For Finding 3, the Applicant did not include any materials in their application and stated that they did not agree that ZR 11-332(b)(3) was applicable to their variance application; and
WHEREAS, when the Community Board asked the Applicant about the media reports and the DOB violations that were regarding the death of a 24 year-old male construction worker at the 1227 Broadway development site on October 24, 2019, the Applicant cited ongoing litigation for not being able to discuss the issue, and the Applicant also stated that the DOB work stop order lasted for about 6 weeks, after which DOB allowed work to restart; and
WHEREAS, Community Board Five agrees that the Applicant has met the finding of ZR 11-332(b)(1); Unforeseen hardship by the pandemic and the finding of ZR 11-332(b)(2), substantial expenditures paid and substantial construction completed that cannot be recovered financially without allowing construction to continue; and
WHEREAS, Community Board Five would like the Applicant to include some type of acknowledgment, information, or discussion that the Applicant desires to meet the finding of ZR 11-332(b)(3) public safety and welfare, notwithstanding the tragic accident and loss of life, in order to demonstrate to the community, including neighbors, patrons, and employees, that the Applicant is concerned for public safety and community welfare; and therefore, be it
RESOLVED, that Community Board Five recommends conditional approval of the application for 1227 Broadway to continue construction of a hotel pursuant to ZR section 11-332 with the condition that the Applicant and the Board of Standards and Appeals discuss and evaluate the merits of the Applicant meeting the findings of ZR 11-332(b)(3).
835 6th Avenue, an application requesting Department of City Planning Chair Certifications to allow for design changes to an existing plaza and allow for an Open Air Café at 835 6th Avenue (between 30th/31st Sts.).
WHEREAS, 835 6th Avenue Master, L.P. ℅ DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners (the “Applicant”), is requesting a certification pursuant to sections 37-624 and 37-73(c) of the Zoning Resolution to allow modifications of seating, planting, water features, and lighting throughout the plaza and relocation of the Open Air Café to the clustering of tables instead of a linear arrangement at 835 Sixth Avenue, Blocks 805, Lots 67, 71 and 1101-1106 and
WHEREAS, A certification for this urban plaza was initially submitted in 2006 and executed in 2007; and
WHEREAS, A subsequent notice of certification to modify the plaza was filed and the modified plaza was completed in 2011; and
WHEREAS, The current application, which has been submitted to DCP for approval was ready to file in 2020 but delayed until 2021 since the hotel that operates the POPS was shut down due to COVID; and
WHEREAS, The compliance report as of May 2021 noted that the plaza was non-compliant with seating, lighting, litter receptacles, bike racks and additional amenities; and
WHEREAS, Many homeless people began to gather in the plaza during the COVID pandemic; and
WHEREAS, Closure of the plaza was permitted by the DOB because the hotel, which is attached to the plaza closed in March 2020 due to COVID; and
WHEREAS, The plaza currently has a non-functioning water element leaking in to a parking garage below and is unable to maintain many of the original plantings along with non-operational lightning which has never been completed; and
WHEREAS, The water feature will be updated to gurglers, the lighting and the planters will be replaced, and the broken pavement will be repaired; and
WHEREAS, It is unclear whether signage will be placed to indicate to the public that the tables and chairs may be used without purchase by the public as required by CB5; and
WHEREAS, The hours of operation for the bathroom and other signage for the bathroom off the POPS in the plan were unable to be ascertained; and
WHEREAS, No additional table and chairs are being added but the layout for the existing sidewalk café will be reconfigured from a linear arrangement against the building to a more central location in the plaza to offer better views of a giant video screen installed as part of the plaza design against a wall westward, and to allow for socialization; and
WHEREAS, The video screen operated by the hotel was originally part of the initial POPS application and was intended to display art; and
WHEREAS, The Applicant has used the screen to project sports events, causing tremendous noise, unruly gatherings of patrons in the café, and overall nuisance to the surroundings; and
WHEREAS, The Applicant has not complied with restrictions on the use of the screen as originally approved; and
WHEREAS, No security plan was provided;
WHEREAS, The Applicant has appeared numerous times in front of the PSQL committee of CB5 to address noise and unruly conduct as part of a set of liquor licenses, and has been uncooperative to the greatest extent; therefore, be it
RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends denial of the application for modifications of seating, planting, water features, and lighting throughout the plaza and relocation of the Open Air Café; and be it further
RESOLVED, Community Board Five urges the Applicant to:
RESOLVED, CB5 urges the Applicant to work diligently and collaboratively with the PSQL committee of CB5 and the immediate community on the issuance of liquor licenses for the cafe within the plaza as well as the sidewalk cafe.
After some discussions, the above three bundled resolutions passed with a vote as follows: 38 in favor, 0 opposed, 1 abstaining, 1 present not entitled to vote: IN FAVOR: Athanail, Beitchman, Brosnahan, Castro, Chou, Dowson, Ford, Frewer, Garcia, Goshow, Haas, Harris Jr., Hershberg, Heyer, Isaacs, Kaback, Kahng, Kalafarski, Kinsella, Lavingia, Law-Gisiko, Levy, Lione, Livesay, Lucic, McCall, Miller, Shapiro, Slutzkin, Smith, Spandorf, Spence, Stern, Sung, Webb, Whalen, Yang, Yong. ABSTAIN: Barbero.
Proposal by Governor Hochul to (1) Ease Restrictions on Converting Hotels and Offices to residential uses, (II) Lift the residential F.A.R cap and give the City of New York authority to encourage densification, and (III) end the 421-A Tax Abatement and establish a new program that more effectively uses public dollars to drive affordability.
WHEREAS, Governor Hochul has introduced articles in the Executive Budget to (i) ease restrictions on converting hotels and offices to residential uses, (ii) lift the residential FAR cap and give the city of New York authority to encourage densification, and (iii) end the 421-a tax abatement and establish a new program that more effectively uses public dollars to drive affordability; and
WHEREAS, Community Board Five has serious concerns about these proposals and their effectiveness to achieve the stated goals; and
WHEREAS, Community Board Five expresses the attached position on these proposals; and
WHEREAS, Community Board Five 5 urges the Governor to better include the public, local legislators, and community boards in discussions on these matters which have such a direct impact on our local community; therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That Community Board Five urges the Governor to remove these proposals from the State budget; and be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, That Community Board Five urges our State and City legislators to oppose the proposals; and be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, That Community Board Five urges the Governor to include the public, local legislators, and community boards in discussions on these matters to find more effective ways of achieving their stated goals.
STATEMENT AND POSITION BY COMMUNITY BOARD FIVE ON GOVERNOR HOCHUL’S PROPOSALS TO (I) EASE RESTRICTIONS ON CONVERTING HOTELS AND OFFICES TO RESIDENTIAL USES, (II) LIFT THE RESIDENTIAL F.A.R. CAP AND GIVE THE CITY OF NEW YORK AUTHORITY TO ENCOURAGE DENSIFICATION, AND (III) END THE 421-A TAX ABATEMENT AND ESTABLISH A NEW PROGRAM THAT MORE EFFECTIVELY USES PUBLIC DOLLARS TO DRIVE AFFORDABILITY
In her 2022 State of the State address, Governor Hochul made proposals to (i) ease restrictions on converting hotels and offices to residential uses, (ii) lift the residential FAR cap and give the city of New York authority to encourage densification, and (iii) end the 421-a tax abatement and establish a new program that more effectively uses public dollars to drive affordability. Community Board Five has the following analysis and response to these proposals:
GOVERNOR HOCHUL’S PROPOSAL IS AS FOLLOWS:
The ongoing shortage of housing in New York, combined with the post-pandemic rise of remote work that has emptied out offices and hotels, has given rise to the need for more flexible zoning rules that make it easier for buildings to convert commercial spaces into residential ones as needs change over time. Governor Hochul will propose legislation to facilitate conversions in the following manner:
COMMUNITY BOARD FIVE’S RESPONSE:
CB5’s position on this subject was previously established in our resolution of February 2021 when an earlier version of this proposal was announced.
The proposal expressly overrides “any state law ... local zoning law, ordinance, resolution, or regulation” that would have the effect of limiting the conversions allowed by the proposed amendment, including but not limited to the NYC Zoning Resolution, the Energy Code and the NYC Building Code. Instead of going through a proper legislative process, this sweeping legislation was included in the FY 2022 New York State Executive Budget, without input from the communities it would affect or the state and local legislators whose laws it would override.
Furthermore, the proposal would enable conversion of numerous properties, most of them located in CB5, while not giving those communities the benefit of much-needed affordable and supportive housing because of the “loophole” allowing developers to do a building’s full conversion in one location and a contribution to a fund managed by the State to spend anywhere and anyhow the DHCR chooses. While neighborhoods in CB5 may benefit from a use change allowing residential conversions, such changes must be done in a thoughtful and comprehensive way, following the SEQRA and CEQR technical manuals, with full evaluation of environmental impacts, with community input and guidance from local stakeholders and legislators, and with proper mitigations, such as the creation of school seats, open space, hospital beds and other services a new residential population would require.
GOVERNOR HOCHUL’S PROPOSAL IS AS FOLLOWS:
Existing New York State law limits the maximum density of residential floor area ratio (FAR) in New York City to 12.0, even though it does not limit the overall allowable floor area that may comprise other uses. Governor Hochul will propose a repeal of this antiquated limitation on the City’s authority and give the City the autonomy it should have to allow for denser residential development where appropriate.
COMMUNITY BOARD FIVE’S RESPONSE:
CB5 echoes the sentiment of the Municipal Art Society of New York in their letter to Governor Hochul, et. al. That statement reads:
“[W]e cannot support lifting the FAR 12.0 cap on residential buildings. Despite the seeming logic of giving New York City local control over its own zoning decisions, there are many overriding considerations that limit our ability to support this recommendation.
There has been no demonstration that increased density alone yields affordability. Indeed, there is widespread agreement that the City’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program has not produced the affordable units promised, while the City’s Voluntary Inclusionary Housing program similarly yields trivial numbers of and relies too heavily on the private sector to produce affordable units. Both should be significantly rethought by the City. MIH has also shown that the City lacks comprehensive data of existing affordable units. In addition, New York City has a considerable amount of developable FAR already; even affordable projects leave unused FAR on the table. The argument that the lifting of the FAR cap is necessary to create FAR is unfounded.
We question whether New York City officials need “authority to encourage densification” without a corresponding mandate for sound planning, adequate environmental review, and the assurance of an emphasis on the production of affordable housing over new market rate units. Many City neighborhoods are dense already. The conversation around lifting the cap on residential FAR further concentrates growth pressure on the areas of the city that have some of the most housing without taking into account other strategies to introduce new housing into lower-density areas in the city. Recent economic studies on the benefits of preservation in the City show that historic districts are often denser than the surrounding areas. The Upper East and West Sides of Manhattan, containing nearly twenty designated districts, are the two densest communities in the country. The existing density in these areas supports vibrant commercial districts, street-level activity, and reinvestment to maintain the character of the buildings and the culture of the communities they serve.
Recent rezonings in New York City, whether in richer or poorer communities, have been highly contested. There have been many reasons for this, but the overwhelming concern is that communities feel ignored. The current environmental review process, the lack of long-term community-based planning, and critical gaps in the land use process have led to the discord these proposals engendered. We believe there must be a well-considered plan prior to zoning changes, including criteria minimizing the affected land area and a public planning process. Any change to the no-cap must respect historic districts and ensure that they will not be negatively affected. Historic districts only occupy some 5% of the buildable land in the City. Further, 95% of subway entrances are outside of historic districts. The definition of “transit rich” needs to be expanded.
The City’s last Administration made two prior attempts to lift the cap with limited public information or debate. These previous efforts were minimally supported in the legislature and received active opposition from many New York City representatives in the State Legislature. We welcome the opportunity for a robust public debate of your current proposal where we can present our arguments against lifting the residential FAR cap as well as our support for alternative strategies to increase affordable housing production, support community-based planning, and stabilize our neighborhoods.”
III. End the 421-a Tax Abatement and Establish a New Program That More Effectively Uses Public Dollars to Drive Affordability
GOVERNOR HOCHUL’S PROPOSAL IS AS FOLLOWS:
There is a critical need for affordable and market-rate rental housing in New York City. Real estate tax abatements have historically driven the development of new rental units across the city with 200,000 apartments105 currently covered by the 421-a program. Since 2010, nearly half106 of all new residential units built in New York City took advantage of this program, which has spurred housing construction and the creation of thousands of affordable units.
With 421-a set to expire in 2022, there is an opportunity to enact a different kind of abatement program that can continue to incentivize rental housing construction across New York City while creating permanent and deeper affordability and spending taxpayer money more efficiently.
Governor Hochul will propose a new tax abatement that aims to achieve these goals:
COMMUNITY BOARD FIVE’S RESPONSE:
The 421-a property tax exemption program has not produced the needed level of affordable housing in CB5. Governor Hochu’s proposal basically extends the tax benefit to developers with some changes but not in a way that would effectively create more affordable housing.
421-a was signed into law in 1971 when New York City was in a state of declining population, decelerating construction, and diminishing real estate values. Those conditions no longer apply today, and several attempts to correct the program and add new requirements to it have failed to either shrink the cost of the program or produce a meaningful amount of truly affordable housing. 421-a has been substantially revised three times—in 1984, 2008, and 2017—and still has not produced the needed levels of affordable housing.
Governor Hochul’s revision of 421-a, called Affordable Neighborhoods for New Yorkers, creates a new tax rule, 485-w, that would continue the 35-year break to rental projects that offer below-market rates on at least 25% of their units. 485-w would provide that, if a project contains 30 or more units, 25% would need to be affordable (10% at 40% of average median income (“AMI”), 10% at 60% AMI and 5% at 80% AMI).
This basically extends the same tax benefit for developers, with some changes regarding affordability. While we appreciate the deepening of the affordability requirement, this still isn’t enough to redeem the proposal. The same inefficient structure of 421-a is perpetuated by 485-w.
Of particular concern is that, because the proposal defines “affordable” at 90% of the AMI for buildings with 30 apartments or less, developers will favor smaller projects overall. That may reduce the total number of homes created, further exacerbating the lack of affordable housing. For larger buildings, the lowest income level would be 40% of AMI, but only for 10% of the units. With projects under 30 units, 20% of the units must be set aside for affordable at 90% of AMI but this requirement would end when the tax exemption ends, allowing free market units to remain free market after the tax exemption period expires. Furthermore, with AMI in our district being so high, relative affordability remains unaffordable for most.
The proposed structure of tax abatements for affordable housing does not go far enough, nor provide certainty that the needed level of affordable housing will be produced. With just these few tweaks, 485-w will fail just as 421-a has.
After some discussions, the above resolution passed with a vote as follows:
Ease Restrictions on Converting Hotels and Offices to residential uses, 27 in favor; 10 opposed, 1 abstaining. IN FAVOR: Athanail, Beitchman, Brosnahan, Castro, Chou, Dowson, Ford, Garcia, Goshow, Harris Jr., Heyer, Kaback, Kahng, Kalafarski, Kinsella, Law-Gisiko, Levy, Lione, Livesay, Lucic, Shapiro, Slutzkin, Smith, Spandorf, Sung, Stern, Yong. OPPOSED: Frewer, Haas, Hershberg, Isaacs, Lavingia, Miller, Spence, Webb, Whalen, Yang. ABSTAIN: Barbero.
Lift the residential FAR cap and give the City of New York authority to encourage densification, 26 in favor; 11 opposed, 1 abstaining. IN FAVOR: Athanail, Beitchman, Brosnahan, Castro, Chou, Dowson, Ford, Garcia, Goshow, Harris Jr., Heyer, Kaback, Kahng, Kalafarski, Kinsella, Law-Gisiko, Levy, Lione, Livesay, Shapiro, Slutzkin, Smith, Spandorf, Spence, Stern, Yong. OPPOSED: Frewer, Haas, Hershberg, Isaacs, Lavingia, Lucic, Miller, Sung, Webb, Whalen, Yang. ABSTAIN: Barbero.
End the 421-A Tax Abatement and establish a new program that more effectively uses public dollars to drive affordability, 34 in favor, 2 opposed, 1 abstaining, 1 present and not entitled to vote. IN FAVOR: Athanail, Beitchman, Brosnahan, Castro, Chou, Dowson, Ford, Frewer, Garcia, Goshow, Harris Jr., Hershberg, Heyer, Kaback, Kahng, Kalafarski, Kinsella, Lavingia, Law-Gisiko, Levy, Lione, Lucic, Miller, Shapiro, Slutzkin, Smith, Spandorf, Spence, Stern, Sung, Webb, Whalen, Yang, Yong. OPPOSED: Haas, Isaacs. ABSTAIN: Barbero. PRESENT AND NOT ENTITLED: Livesay.
PARKS AND PUBLIC SPACES – clayton smith
Mr. Smith gave brief presentations on the following bundled resolutions:
Applications from Madison Square Park Conservancy for Annual Roster of Programming in 2022.
WHEREAS, Madison Square Park Conservancy ("Applicant") has submitted applications for their annual roster of programming for 2021; and
WHEREAS, Applicant has submitted applications for a scaled-back annual roster of programming for 2022, which will be limited as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic such that certain aspects of the standard roster of events (e.g., the children’s music events) as compared to prior years is more modest and subject to change pending developments in the mitigation and abatement of the pandemic; and
WHEREAS, The following roster of programming and events are currently scheduled for 2022:
WHEREAS, Applicant will advise Community Board Five of any changes or additions to the roster of programming, if any; and
WHEREAS, Community Board Five believes that the nature of the programming is greatly to the public's benefit, and will continue to improve public access to Madison Square Park on event days from prior years; and
WHEREAS, Applicant has committed to return to Community Board Five to separately discuss any additional marketing or commercial events in 2021, subject to Community Board Five's standard review process and public hearings; and
WHEREAS, There is long-standing precedent for these events in Madison Square Park, and Community Board Five has found a significant amount of support for these events from residents and stakeholders in the community; and
WHEREAS, Applicant has agreed that if there are any material changes to any event from previous years (i.e., signage, set-up, scale, location, and/or ancillary activities), they will return and present these changes to Community Board Five; and
WHEREAS, When presenting future event applications, Applicant will clearly state whether or not these events are occurring concurrently with previously approved special events; therefore, be it
RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends approval of the applications from Madison Square Park Conservancy for their annual roster of programming for 2022.
Application from Vector Media for “SONY Seinfeld Food Truck,” a marketing event in Bryant Park on April 24, 2022
WHEREAS, Vector Media (“Applicant”) has submitted a permit application to the Parks Department on behalf of its clients SONY for “SONY Seinfeld Food Truck,” a marketing event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Seinfeld be held on the 40th Street Plaza at Bryant Park on Sunday, April 24, 2022 from 11 AM to 5 PM, or until supplies run out; and
WHEREAS, Event set-up would occur at 10 AM on April 24, while breakdown and cleanup would occur at 6 PM on April 24; and
WHEREAS, The Event is to involve a food truck occupying the space directly to the north of 40th Street, which will distribute prepackaged food items, to feature a large Seinfeld logo on its sides, front and back panels, and
WHEREAS, No amplified sound will be played; and
WHEREAS, The Event will not need power and accordingly, the truck’s motor will not be running; and
WHEREAS, Signage at the Event will consist of two 22” x 34” external sandwich board signs, to include the Seinfeld logo on artwork that will be chosen from entries in a contest that Applicant is holding to engage the public; and
WHEREAS, Applicant is distributing prepackaged food items associated with the show, such as chocolate babka, black & white cookies, Ring Dings, Coffee Cakes, Snickers (with fork and knife) and Junior Mints; and
WHEREAS, Applicant is providing two brand ambassadors to let curious passersby know about the offerings, and in response to community concerns, have committed to refraining from patrolling the park proper to approach people passively using the public space; and
WHEREAS, Applicant will provide a trash receptacle adjacent to the truck and assumes responsibility for disposing of its contents at their own facility; and
WHEREAS, Applicant has agreed to abide by Community Board Five’s understanding and interpretation of New York State law that Applicant is required to obtain park users’ express written permission for any use if they are recognizably recorded, and cannot post a notice instructing park users to avoid the public space altogether to avoid the use of their likenesses; and
WHEREAS, The Event will bring an important source of funds to Bryant Park and has a minor impact on this vital and heavily trafficked public space, and is an appropriate use of the Park; therefore, be it
RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends approval of the application from Vector Media for “SONY Seinfeld Food Truck,” a marketing event in Bryant Park on April 24, 2022.
After much discussion, the above bundled resolutions passed with a vote of 38 in favor, 0 opposed, 1 abstaining: IN FAVOR: Athanail, Beitchman, Brosnahan, Castro, Chou, Dowson, Ford, Frewer, Garcia, Goshow, Haas, Harris Jr., Hershberg, Heyer, Isaacs, Kaback, Kahng, Kalafarski, Kinsella, Lavingia, Law-Gisiko, Levy, Lione, Livesay, Lucic, McCall, Miller, Shapiro, Slutzkin, Smith, Spandorf, Spence, Stern, Sung, Webb, Whalen, Yang, Yong. ABSTAIN: Barbero.
The public were invited to comment on topics of their interest.
Charles Disability – asked about the process of getting platforms on streets, particularly in front of his apartment building.
Mark Weinstein, representing Donal Cranny – discussed public safety issues Mr. Cranny is facing as a local small business owner.
There being no further business, the regularly scheduled meeting of Community Board Five adjourned at 7:58 p.m.
Respectfully submitted by,