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Housing and Urban Gardens

  • Subject: [cg] Housing and Urban Gardens
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Wed, 6 Oct 2004 07:59:58 EDT

Friends,

Community gardening is 50 percent gardening and 100 percent community activism and political action.

This is a Manhattan Community Board 4 letter to Amanda Burden, the Commissioner of NYC Planning on a proposed development in Âthe Clinton Urban Renewal Area which includes theatres, housing and commercial development, new green space and a  community garden. This NYC Uniform Land Use Review Process ( ULURP) vote will probably pass this evening.  I have forwarded it off to you to show the complexity, in terms of zoning and political conversations, that garden preservation usually needs in big cities.

I feel honored to have been on the Clinton Land Use and Zoning Committee that drafted this document, did the work ( over several years) to be able to cobble together the compromises that made housing and gardens a possibility on what is now very expensive real estate.  It is only when community gardeners get on local planning boards, get engaged in the political process and show some real staying power, that similar outcomes are possible.

Everbest.
Adam Honigman
Volunteer,
Clinton Community Garden



OctoberÂ___, 2004

Â

Hon. Amanda M. Burden, AICP

Chair

City Planning Commission

22 Reade Street

New York, NYÂ 10007

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Re:Â Clinton Green Mixed Use Development â 51st to 53rd Streets, West of Tenth Avenue - ULURP Applications No. 050050 ZMM, 050051 ZRM, 050052 ZSM, 050053 ZSM, 005054 ZSM and 005055 HAM

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Dear Chair Burden:

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At the recommendation of its Clinton/Hellâs Kitchen Land Use Committee, Manhattan Community Board No. 4, having held a duly noticed public hearing on ULURP applications number 050050 ZMM, 050051 ZRM, 050052 ZSM, 050053 ZSM, 005054 ZSM and 005055 HAM, adopted the following resolution by roll call vote (___ in favor, ___ opposed, ___ abstentions and ___ present but not eligible to vote).

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These are applications by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and The Dermot Company (Dermot) for a series of land use approvals to facilitate the development of a mixed-use, primarily residential project on portions of Sites 8 and 9C within the Clinton Urban Renewal Area between 51st and 53rd Streets west of Tenth Avenue.

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This project will be one of the last major developments within the Clinton Urban Renewal area, completing a more than 30-year planning and urban renewal effort by the City and the Clinton community. It is the result of a Request for Proposals issued by HPD on December 3, 2001.

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THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT

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The proposed development will involve the construction of approximately 627 residential rental units in two 24 story towers located in the midblock portion of the development site, on a platform to be constructed over the Amtrak rail cut, and a seven story building with frontages on Tenth Avenue and 53rd Street to house theater, gallery and administrative space for INTAR Hispanic American Arts Center and Ensemble Studio Theater (EST). Seven residential condominium loft units will be located above the theater space.

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Twenty percent of the rental apartments will be affordable to families with incomes up to 80% of the area median income for at least 30 years. (This means . . . . [add annual income levels]) The condominium units will be sold at market rates.

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The development will also include approximately 21,700 square feet of public open space, including an approximately 7,000 square foot linear park between 51st and 52nd Streets, and an approximately 6,500 square foot adjacent to the Oasis Community Garden.

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THE COMMUNITYâS CONCERNS

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Since its selection as the developer for this project, Dermot has met many times with various members of the Clinton community to present their plans, listen to the communityâs responses and revise their plans accordingly. The Dermot team has won the respect of this community for its willingness to shape its plans to address our concerns, for its indefatigable optimism about this project despite its many planning challenges, and for the overall quality of the design that has emerged from the process.

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Our concerns about this project relate to three main subjects:Â the theater space, the open space and the projectâs overall density.

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The Theater Space

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Theater space for INTAR and EST was included in the RFP in order to facilitate further redevelopment of the Clinton Urban Renewal Area. Both organizations are vested tenants of City-owned space in the Clinton Urban Renewal Area and entitled to relocation benefits if they are to be displaced. INTAR occupies a two-story building at 5?? W. 53rd Street that will be demolished to make way for the proposed development. EST is housed in space at 549 W. 52nd Street that was to be redeveloped by the Womenâs Interart Center.

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The RFP therefore required the developer to âconstruct and fund the complete build out of theater spaces.â Subsequently, Addendum #4 to the RFP was issued, which stated that the developer would be ârequired to construct the core and shell of each theater space, provide the utility service system and set aside a total of $4 million to partially cover theater build out.â Details concerning the program of required spaces, features and qualities for the theaters were attached to the addendum. Those details had been developed by this Board and the two theaters because it had been jointly realized that the RFP did not fully reflect the theatersâ physical needs as required by labor agreements and each theaterâs unique program. It was fully expected that $4 million would cover a significant portion of the cost of building out the theaters.

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Though Dermot has not yet been able to provide detailed estimates of the cost of building out the theaters, it is becoming clear that that cost may reach or even exceed $10 million. We all have sticker shock.

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INTAR and EST both recognize that the Clinton Green project represents a tremendous opportunity and a springboard to the future. Both recognize that they will be required to raise a significant amount of money on their own, and they are taking steps to prepare their organizations to do so. They are not looking for undeserved handouts. But it is also clear that their own fundraising, even at its most effective, is likely to fall short of the amount needed to make their new space minimally operational.

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INTAR and EST has the support of this Board. They are part of the cultural vitality of the neighborhood and the City, and will contribute significantly to the vitality of the Clinton Green project. We call on all of the stakeholders in this project â HPD, Dermot, the Department of Cultural Affairs, INTAR, EST and our local elected officials to work together to make this project work.

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The RFP also indicated that the theater companies were to have leases for no less than 20 years at break even rent. Addendum #4 added an option for at least one 10 year renewal. Thirty years is an unrealistically abbreviated period of time, especially if INTAR and EST are expected to engage in private fundraising to cover their capital costs. The expectation of this community has always been that this space would be available for use by not-for-profit theaters in perpetuity. If Dermot can forgo commercial rent on this space for 30 years, it can do so indefinitely. We do recognize, however, that provision must be made for the transfer of the space should INTAR or EST cease active operations. We call on the same stakeholders to develop an arrangement that will ensure the permanent operation of the theaters on a not-for-profit basis.

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The Open Space

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This Board is generally satisfied with the linear park proposed between 51st and 52nd Streets. On the other hand, the landscaping plan for the central open space on the north side of 52nd Street requires reconsideration. In addition, there are unresolved issues concerning the relationship of that central open space to the adjacent Oasis Community Garden and concerning the boundaries and operational structure of the community garden. These are largely separate from the land use actions that are the subject of this letter, but are discussed here in some detail in order to encourage their satisfactory resolution.

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Dermot is to be commended for locating such a significant portion of the projectâs open space next to the Oasis Community Garden. Though they are to function separately, having them next to each other will enhance their effectiveness as public open space.

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The proposed landscaping plan for the central open space has not met with a favorable response in this community. The berm along 52nd Street will remove usable open space and will discourage passersby from entering. The lawn beyond the berm would appear to serve the theatersâ patrons and the buildingsâ residents more than the community at large. It is a defensive open space design, and we ask that it be redesigned to be more inviting and usable to the community.

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As a starting point, the boundaries of the existing Oasis Community Garden must be respected. The garden was founded in 1970 and is a member of the Cityâs Green Thumb program. Originally known as Oasis II, it was expanded in 2002 when the Oasis I community garden at 755-765 Tenth Avenue was vacated in order to make way for the Encore West Residence, which will provide housing for low income elderly persons. The Oasis I gardeners joined the Oasis II garden, and the garden expanded into an additional lot at 503 W. 52nd Street, which was made available to the garden as part of Clinton Housing Development Companyâs redevelopment of 501 W. 52nd Street and 733-777 Tenth Avenue. That lot continues to be owned by CHDC.

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The Oasis Community Garden is subject to the community garden settlement agreement that was entered into in 2002 between the State of New York and the City of New York concerning the preservation and development of City-owned Green Thumb community gardens. According to that agreement, the Oasis Community Garden is to be offered to a not-for-profit land trust organization to be preserved as a community garden or open space. If it must be temporarily closed and disturbed during construction of an adjacent development project, as will certainly be the case here, reasonable efforts must be made to return it to the condition that existed prior to the commencement of construction. HPD and Dermot have recognized the requirements of this agreement, and Dermot has committed to digging out remaining rubble, providing new topsoil, fencing and water and electrical sources.

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There is confusion about the boundaries of the garden, and how much of the garden is covered by the settlement agreement. The gardeners have indicated a willingness to reconsider those boundaries in order to allow for a better relationship between the Clinton Green project and the Oasis Community Garden so long as the overall space allotted to the community garden is not diminished.

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Finally, arrangements must be made to transfer the community garden to the not-for-profit land trust organization required by the settlement agreement and to establish its rules of operation so that it can be supported, used and enjoyed as widely as possible. This Board will convene a meeting with the gardeners in the coming weeks to begin that process, and will expand the discussion to include other interested community members as well as representatives of HPD and Dermot.

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Overall Density

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The RFP initially called for a minimum of 350 housing units. By the time Dermot was selected as the developer, the expected number of units was increased significantly, to the present level. In a series of meetings with Dermot, this Board has reluctantly accepted the overall scale of this project. It must not be considered a precedent for future development in the area. [This thought could be expanded.]

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The southern tower contains a small amount of commercial space. We understand that the 52nd Street Project has been in discussions with Dermot to relocate a portion of its operations, which are now housed at 500 W. 52nd Street. We encourage these discussions to continue. The 52nd Street Project is a thriving member of our community that serves many of the neighborhoodâs children. Having them at street level on 52nd Street would enliven 52nd Street and enhance the Clinton Green development and The 52nd Street Project itself.

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THE APPLICATIONS

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The applications are for the following land use actions:

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ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ A rezoning of a portion of the site from M1-5 and R8 to C6-3;

ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Disposition of City-owned property;

ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ A UDAAP Designation for the project site;

ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ A text amendment adding new ZR Section 96-40 to the regulations governing the Special Clinton District to allow for the modification of open space requirements as part of a general large-scale development special permit;

ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ A special permit to allow for the location of floor area and dwelling units without regard to zoning lot lines and to permit modification of open space, yard, height and setback and distance between building regulations;

ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ A special permit to allow for commercial uses to be located on the second floor mezzanine of the southern residential building; and

ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ A special permit for development over the Amtrak cut.

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We have examined and generally agree with the applicantâs statements of the justifications of these actions.

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Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved that Manhattan Community Board No. 4 recommends approval of ULURP Applications No. 050050 ZMM, 050051 ZRM, 050052 ZSM, 050053 ZSM, 005054 ZSM and 005055 HAM, subject to the following conditions:

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1.ÂÂÂÂÂ Arrangements are made to ensure that the theaters are built-out in a way that is financially sustainable to all concerned, and that the theaters will be permanently available for use as not-for-profit theaters.

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2.ÂÂÂÂÂ The landscaping plan for the central open space is redesigned to be more inviting and usable to the community.

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3.ÂÂÂÂÂ The issues concerning the Oasis Community Garden are resolved.

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Sincerely,

Â

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Cc:Â ÂÂÂÂ City Planning Commission

ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Calendar Information Office

ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ 22 Reade Street, Room 2E

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ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ elected officials

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ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Steve Benjamin â Dermot

ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Melanie Meyers

ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ HPD

ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ DCA

ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ INTAR

ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ EST

ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Oasis Community Garden

ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ Clinton Housing Development Company







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