Upper West Side Board Pushes To Limit High-Rises

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The New York Sun

Any plans to begin constructing high-rise buildings in the Upper West Side may be halted by an effort to rezone the area.

In a unanimous Tuesday evening vote in front of hundreds of community residents, Community Board no. 7 passed a resolution that, if made into a law, would prevent any new developers from building above 125 feet on Broadway and above 75 on other streets in the area. The affected area is bound by 97th and 110th streets and Riverside Drive and Central Park West.

The vote was heralded by local activists and politicians alike as a decision that would help preserve the look of the neighborhood, which many feel is threatened by the luxury, high-rise towers to be built by Extell Development Corporation on either side of Broadway at 100th street. The move to rezone stems from reaction to the Extell towers, which were presented to the community board by the president and CEO of Extell, Gary Barnett, last June. Though the rezoning will not affect the Extell construction because the foundations of the towers are already laid, it will prevent similar projects from being built in the future.

“We believe this plan addresses the needs of the city the best,” Cynthia Doty a member of Westsiders for Responsible Development, a group founded in opposition to the Extell construction, told The New York Sun. “It allows for development at the same time that it protects and preserves the wonderful aspects of the neighborhood.” The plan passed by CB-7 includes measures for inclusionary housing, which would allow for some buildings to increase in height if they offered middle or low-income housing.

“It’s a really unique neighborhood that has great diversity. People did not want to see the character of the community change drastically,” an aide to councilmember Inez Dickens who represents part of the area in question, Micah Kellner, said. He noted that the Extell towers do not “fit with the character of the community.” Mr. Kellner said that Ms. Dickens was “thrilled” by the outcome of the vote and would be “be pushing City Planning to adopt the proposal.”

Extell’s towers – whose units will be priced at around $1,1000 a square foot – are slated to be built at 31 and 37 stories respectively, a plan made possible because Extell purchased the rights to build upwards from the surrounding buildings. Any rezoning plan presented by the Community board or the city would not allow such a transaction in the future. Representatives from Extell could not be reached for comment.

Though the Department of City Planning has been working with the community board, they intend to recommend zoning that would allow for buildings that are taller. The zoning “must be one that provides a framework that encompasses the largest percentage of the existing buildings,” the press secretary for City Planning, Rachaele Raynoff, said.

City Planning intends to recommend a plan that would allow for buildings that are slightly taller than those allowed by the zoning proposed by CB-7 but shorter than what would be allowed by what City Planning proposed earlier this year. The City and the Community Board support the same plan for the area’s side streets – one that would ensure the protection of the local brownstone buildings.

The New York Sun

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