By Dan Rivoli
Borough President Scott Stringer rejected Extell Development’s plans for the Riverside Center development Aug. 31.
The proposed five-building, 3-million-square-foot development would create too much burden on the Upper West Side, the borough president’s report concludes. Stringer likened it to the Riverside South plan, which laid out the blueprints for the redevelopment of the land between West 59th Street and West 72nd Street, from West End Avenue to the river. Riverside Center is the last undeveloped parcel of land in Riverside South.
“The Riverside Center development has the potential to either improve the neighborhood or to recreate the past mistakes of Riverside South,” Stringer said in a statement. “This is not about no development—it’s about appropriate and responsible development.”
Stringer’s stance on land use matters like this is advisory. The project’s next stop in the public review project is the City Planning Commission. If approved there, the City Council has the final and binding vote on the project. Council Member Gale Brewer has generally been in favor of the Community Board 7’s recommendations.
Stringer’s conditional disapproval and recommendations were based on many of the same issues Community Board 7 raised when it considered the proposal.
On building a new school, Extell, the developer, was to fund 75,000 square feet of space and build an additional 75,000 square feet should the School Construction Authority provide funding. But Stringer’s report states that the bad economy makes additional funding unlikely and Extell should construct the full 150,000-square-foot school.
The report also criticizes the open space component of the project. Much of the open space is on private streets and in the middle of the development. Even in the central open space, the report says, the southern buildings will cast a shadow and block air and light. Building the development at grade rather than at street level, the report says, hampers access to open space.
“[Extell] must produce a site plan that results in a better relationship among buildings and open space to public streets,” the report recommends.
As for the details around automobiles in the development, the report asks Extell to limit parking to one floor at 1,100 spaces, nix the car service center and reconsider the automobile showroom, characterized as a “destination use that does not serve a local need.”
The affordable housing component has also changed. During the borough president’s review process, Extell agreed to make 20 percent of residential space permanent affordable housing.
“I encourage Extell to continue working with the City Planning Commission and the Council to reach a satisfactory resolution that addresses community concerns,” Stringer said in a statement.
Extell spokesperson George Arzt gave this statement on the borough president’s decision:
We are disappointed that the recommendations by Borough President Stringer do not adequately recognize these continuing difficult economic times. The proposed reduction in density, along with the borough president’s other recommendations, threaten the economic viability of riverside center. This project will bring important and significant benefits to the city and the community, create tens of thousands of construction and permanent jobs and generate new tax revenues for the city and state. We will continue to discuss the project with the borough president as [the public review process] proceeds and are hopeful we are able to receive his support.
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