As WAN gears up to celebrate World Architecture Day in New York in October with an all-star global cast that will share ideas about housing the next generation, New York's housing question got a bit more interesting this week, sparking a debate over whether saving the cash-strapped Hudson River Park, which stretches along the Hudson River on New York's West Side, will mean having tall residential towers there.
Today, a little-known clause in the agreement between the City and the Hudson River Park that could allow the entity to sell air rights to developers across the street means that luxury high-rises could populate the Hudson River waterfront on New York's West Side, from Battery Park to 59th Street.
As was reported earlier in WAN, the Park's maintenance expenses far exceed revenues and the air rights idea is a way to get the revenue needed to make repairs to the piers, estimated at $100m, without adding commercial development. But critics, like the Greenwich Village and Chelsea neighbourhood groups, which are located in the affected area, fear it will forever change the face of the neighbourhoods along the river, blocking views and leading to overdevelopment.
In an article in today's New York Times about the Park's plan to sell its air rights, Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation said, "We, as well as other groups in the affected communities, were taken completely by surprise. Most of us hadn't heard about it until the day before the vote. We're concerned about overdevelopment on the waterfront blocks, which are the visual face of the neighbourhood. Knowing that this potential Pandora's box has been opened is very worrisome to us."
The Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) which manages the park, is asking for an amendment to the bill that established it in 1988 that would allow it to sell development rights. Madelyn Wils, president of the organisation, told that Times that what they are asking for is nothing unusual. "It's not unlike many precedents out there, and there is a good public purpose."
The legislation, passed by lawmakers in June, that would allow the HRPT to sell its air rights, is awaiting signature from the governor of New York.