Why I issued a conditional disapproval of the UWS project
Recently I released my recommendation for Riverside Center as part of the ULURP process. Like many members of the community, I believe that Riverside Center has the potential to enliven the neighborhood. However, during my review period it became apparent that despite my strong desire to see positive development on the Upper West Side, the proposed project failed to fully integrate with the neighborhood and would result in significant impacts on local infrastructure. I was therefore compelled to issue a conditional disapproval of the project.
Riverside Center is the last development site of Riverside South. As such, it is the final opportunity to remedy the impacts and shortcomings of the original development. Many of the neighborhood’s negative conditions, such as local school overcrowding and unsafe traffic conditions, can be attributed directly to Riverside South’s large-scale development. To replicate the same shortcomings and negative impacts associated with the Riverside South development for Riverside Center is unacceptable.
The proposed Riverside Center would only provide a school half the size needed for the neighborhood, ignoring the impacts of the original Riverside South development. If the proposal was to move forward as planned, the area’s already overcrowded elementary and intermediate schools will be at 145 percent capacity by 2018. As such, the proposed development will perpetuate a negative consequence of the original Riverside South development. On this point alone, the project would have warranted disapproval.
However, as we further investigated the development, it became apparent that the proposed site plan failed to provide the “superior planning” necessary to grant the zoning waivers. As proposed, the plan creates open space that would not be accessible to many individuals, including those with disabilities, and would be cast in shadows much of the year. Further, the site turns its back on West 59th Street, creating a dangerous dead zone.
Additionally, the proposal requests a significant increase in density, which would result in many impacts on infrastructure without a plan to mitigate those impacts—most notably, the impact the development would have on congested streets, mass transit and streetscapes. This density could only be achieved by effectively taking a proposed public street; removing a public good without providing an equivalent public benefit.
Finally, the applicant has chosen to propose several commercial uses that do not contribute to the vibrancy of the neighborhood, such as an automotive service center and one of the largest public parking garages in Manhattan. These uses not only will fail to provide the community with the active retail necessary at the site, but will contribute to the dangerous traffic conditions already found on West End Avenue and other major thoroughfares in the neighborhood.
I am proud of my record of supporting appropriate and responsible development in our borough, but I do not feel this proposal, as it stands, is the right development for the Upper West Side. I remain hopeful that through the remainder of the process, the development will be modified to integrate with the larger community in a more appropriate fashion and to reduce the negative impacts on the neighborhood’s infrastructure.
Scott Stringer is Manhattan Borough President.
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