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Waldorf Astoria condo conversion should have more rooftop space, CB argues

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Developers in charge of the renovation seek to lower the required open roof space

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As the Waldorf Astoria conversion to both hotel and condo is underway, a local community board is pushing for more rooftop space, AM New York first reported.

Manhattan Community Board 5 urged the City to deny an application by Anbang Insurance Group, the company in charge of transforming the landmarked building, to reduce the required rooftop open space because only 56 percent of the building will be converted into residences, documents show.

The Board expressed concern about residents not having enough open rooftop space and contributing to increased use of other open spaces in the neighborhood, including Central Park, “which is already overused,” the document reads. If the application was to be accepted by the City, Board members suggested the developer should donate $125,000 annually to the Central Park Conservancy.

“Community Board 5 has reached a critical level, where we cannot accept anything that doesn’t comply with our zoning regulations, without anything,” Layla Law-Gisiko, chair of the board’s Land Use, Housing and Zoning Committee, told AM New York.

Zoning regulations currently require that at least 30 percent of the “gross roof area” of a converted building with 15 residential units should be dedicated to recreational use, and that for each additional unit, 100 square feet of additional roof area, up to 50 percent of the roof’s gross area should be dedicated to recreational use. That space should be accessible to the building’s residents and their guests.

But the City Planning Commission chair can authorize modifications to those provisions if the roof is “unsuited for open space use or cannot be made suitable for open space use at a reasonable cost.”

“The Chair has not yet reviewed the application,” a spokesperson for the Department of City Planning said in a statement. “This zoning provision requires that a certification decision be based on the feasibility of constructing viable open space for building residents on the roof of a commercial building that is being converted to a residential building,”

Sources familiar with the plan said that the landmarked building’s structure—such as narrow shaped roofs, similar to other Art Deco skyscrapers—provides some setbacks, as it does not make it suitable to accommodate large numbers of people or recreational activities.

“As we advance plans for the careful preservation and revitalization of the Waldorf Astoria New York, Anbang has worked closely with the Department of City Planning to maximize the amount of rooftop open space that is feasible given the building’s iconic art deco design,” Andrew Miller, executive director of real estate development at Anbang International, told Curbed in a statement.

“A new residential building at this location would be required to provide no rooftop open space, and we are in fact far exceeding the amount of indoor and outdoor recreation space that would be required for a new building.”

Waldorf Astoria New York

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