UPDATE: 931 First Avenue Is Anybody Home?
By Bill Huxley
Could another residential skyscraper be built near
the United Nations, only a few blocks from Trump World Tower? Don't
bet against it. Con Edison is selling its Waterside steam plant
and attached office building located on First Avenue between 38th
and 41st Streets, as well as a fuel-oil storage facility on 35th
Street. Together the properties cover about nine acres, calculated
to fetch $200-300 million. At that price, developers will be bent
on maximizing their returns. Translate: residential towers.
Determined to prevent a fait accompli, concerned neighborhood associations,
including MECA*, Murray Hill and Tudor City, have joined with local
condo boards to form the East Midtown Coalition for Responsible
Development. Like our own coalition to protest the Trump building
and to push for zoning reform, their aim is to discourage construction
that violates the spirit of NYC zoning, overtaxes the infrastructure,
and damages the local environment.
Their strategy includes hiring a land-use planner to advise them
and to support design alternatives to dense residential development.
Fred Arcaro, MECA president, notes that the campaign to defeat such
massive projects will be costly; a land-use planner alone costs
$40,000 to $50,000. At stake are quality of life and the investment
value of nearby residential properties.
Although the coalition's wish list includes such low-rise favorites
as parks and playgrounds, cultural and educational facilities, a
convention or conference center, restaurants, and retail stores,
they are more likely to see residential towers rising on this prime
piece of river-view real estate. At this writing, several developers
are bidding on the site.
However, the road to developing the Con Ed property is a long one,
sure to keep us guessing at every turn. The 35th Street parcel is
zoned for manufacturing, and a request to change zoning must go
through ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure), a process that
includes public hearings, and environmental impact studies. Also,
demands for a complete review of the city's arcane zoning law are
being heard at City Hall. Stay tuned. What happens to our neighbors
to the south affects all midtown residents.
*Manhattan East Community Association
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Turtle Bay Association is a nonprofit (501c3) community
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