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Committee Calls for All Affordable Housing at 39th Street Site

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Community Board 4's Land Use Committee will soon issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a 25,000-square-foot site at 493 Eleventh Avenue, a city-owned parking lot currently used by the NYPD (and formerly the site of a slaughterhouse). At a hearing yesterday evening, the Land Use Committee drew up a list of wants for the site, and made clear that it thinks that whatever is built there should be 100 percent permanent affordable housing. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), however, have indicated that the development will be only 50 percent affordable.

As far as income restrictions go, the committee is calling for AMI (area median income) bands of 80 percent, 100 percent, 125 percent, and 165 percent, though members indicated that they would go as low as 65 if the building was 100 percent affordable. The committee also called for 50 percent of the building's units to be two-bedrooms or larger, and for 50 percent of the building to be reserved for those in the community. Additionally, it wants the city to lease the site, rather than sell it outright.

As for the size of the building, the committee proposed the building be 450-feet-tall or about 45 stories, which it estimates would hold about 300 units. However, if the retail envisioned for the first and second floors was exempted from FAR (floor area ratio) regulations, the building could potentially be a couple stories taller. Members suggested some level of "façade articulation" so that the building isn't a boring box, as well as a green building with rooftop space open to all residents, a children's playroom, and possibly a computer room.

The committee also called for an affordable supermarket, with one member of the public complaining about the ridiculous price of ice cream in Manhattan when compared to prices in New Jersey. Other suggestions included a not-for-profit-type theater or rehearsal space at the cellar level (several people complained about small theaters being priced out of their buildings), along with pre-K and affordable daycare.

Finally, the committee called for possible landscaping on 39th Street abutting the site. However, this is dependent on whether 39th Street is still mapped between Eleventh and Twelfth avenues, where the Javits Center has its north annex.

The list of wants was generated by combining the committee members' wishes with those of the public that attended the meeting. Several members of the West Side Neighborhood Alliance attended and one of them called this a "unique opportunity." One member of the public wanted the possible future of the Javits Center taken into account in planning the building. Another called for no liquor licenses to be granted to the commercial space in the building. (No one spoke up to say that Hell's Kitchen has a shortage of bars.) Other wish list items from the public included community space, a pool and/or health center, and a roof garden for vegetables. One person asked for more parking, and was met with loud boos.

Representatives of EDC were in attendance at this meeting to take note of the community's desires. They will return with representatives of HPD when the committee meets next, which will be on April 8 at 6:30 p.m. at Cameo Studios, 307 West 43rd Street, Studio B. The RFP for this project is expected to go out this summer.

—Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
· All Affordable Housing coverage [Curbed]