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Union Square tech hub rezoning gets approval from City Council Subcommittee

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The City Council’s Zoning Subcommittee and Land Use Committees voted to approve the rezoning without protections


Update: On Thursday, the City Council’s Zoning Subcommittee and Land Use Committees voted to approve the Mayor’s proposed upzoning of the site at 120 East 14th Street to make way for a 23-story tech Hub. The approval was given without the neighborhood protections that many of the testimonies heard at the meeting, reports the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation.

While Councilmember Carlina Rivera, had previously expressed having issues with the proposal in its current form and pledged to only support the project if it provided protections, she ended up voting for the rezoning.

The proposed rezoning for the tech hub now needs City Council approval to move forward. The full Council will vote on the rezoning on August 8.

The City Council heard several hours of testimony today regarding the proposed tech training center at Union Square, with public opinion on the matter skewing decidedly mixed.

RAL Development is partnering with the city to bring a 21-story building, with space for a training center, coworking spaces, and offices, to 14th Street, where a P.C. Richard & Son store once stood. The hub was initially announced at the beginning of 2017, but the developer kicked off the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) earlier this year. A spot rezoning of the site is necessary to build higher, but some community advocates see this as a harbinger of hyperdevelopment in the area.

Among those that testified against the tech hub were the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the Bowery Alliance, the Met Council on Housing, and a decent number of local residents.

Several of those neighborhood organizations have stated that they would support the tech hub, but only if its approval comes with protections for the surrounding area—specifically Third and Fourth avenues, which advocates say are ripe for their own rezoning. They want height restrictions to be imposed on those two thoroughfares, and affordable housing requirements to be put in place.

“A tech hub without neighborhood protection is completely unacceptable,” said Joyce Ravitz of the Cooper Square Committee, echoing a sentiment raised by many of those who spoke at the hearing.

City Council member Carlina Rivera, whose district includes the proposed tech hub, also expressed her misgivings about the proposal in its current form. “Only with a comprehensive, holistic approach to both access to technology education and protections of our vibrant community can I vote confidently for this project, and right now that vote is seriously in question,” she stated during the meeting.

Groups that testified in support of the rezoning include Per Scholas, which provides IT training in underserved communities; the Educational Alliance, and several unions, who spoke to developer RAL’s history of working with union laborers. Entrepreneurs and techies who work closely with Civic Hall, the organization that will be headquartered at the tech hub, also spoke in favor of the proposal.

The hearing today was the last chance the public had to weigh in on the proposal; after this, it will go before the full City Council for approval. The City Planning Commission and Community Board 3 previously voted to approve the project. Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer, who also testified at today’s hearing, has also expressed her support for the hub itself, while also supporting attempts to place heights restrictions nearby.