Aurora Wants Office Use at Gansevoort Development, We Want More Non-Profit Space: CB2 Hearing Nov. 13

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Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee will hold a hearing this coming Wednesday on Aurora Capital’s application to allow highly profitable office use at their block-long Gansevoort development. Please come to the CB2 meeting and let Aurora know that we need more space for non-profit organizations in exchange!

Wednesday, November 13, 6:30 PM
NYU Silver Building, 32 Waverly Place, Room 408
(near the north east corner of Washington Square Park)

During the past summer, Save Gansevoort (with the assistance of CB2) has worked hard to negotiate a satisfactory deal with Aurora Capital that would allow office uses at their new Gansevoort development in exchange for various protections and benefits for the community.

As a result, Aurora has agreed to prohibit all music and amplified sound on the rooftop and terrace exteriors of the block, has agreed that there will be no future increases in height of any of the buildings, and has agreed to allow no more than 3 full liquor licenses (none of which could be in spaces adjacent to the exterior roofs/terraces) and 4 wine and beer licenses (all of which would be ancillary to some other use such as retail or office space).

There is one major point on which we have not yet reached agreement. We originally asked that 20,000 sq/ft of space be made available at 50% of market-rate rent for non-profit educational, cultural, and/or community service tenants. Aurora first countered with an offer 4000 sq/ft of upper-floor space at 50% of market-rate rent, but then later moved backwards and offered 934 sq/ft of basement space rent free. We believe that Aurora’s current offer is inadequate and more space for non-profits needs to be made available.

It’s important that we have a good turn out of community people at this CB2 hearing, and that people speak out in favor of more non-profit space. The restrictions that Aurora is agreeing to regarding rooftop use are simply mitigations of impacts that Aurora themselves have created. The non-profit space represents the actual benefit that the broader community would receive in return for allowing Aurora office use at this location.

We believe that allowing office use will significantly increase the value of the Gansevoort block – consider how much more Aurora could make if they sold the property with this deal in place and office use allowed, as opposed to if they sold it encumbered with the existing restrictive declaration prohibiting office use. The amount of free or low-rent non-profit space should reflect a reasonable portion of that increased value.

Here is more detailed information about the proposed deal:

EXTERIOR ROOFTOPS

First, Aurora has agreed to prohibit music and amplified sound on the exterior rooftops at all times and with no exceptions.

Second, Aurora has agreed to a closing time of 8:00 PM Sunday through Wednesday on the rear terraces and a 10:00PM closing time Thursday through Saturday. They have also agree to a 10:00 PM closing time seven days per week for the large 5th floor roof on top of 60-68 Gansevoort.

Remember that use of the roofs by eating/drinking establishments will continue to be prohibited by the restrictive declaration, and that no liquor licenses would be allowed in any space adjacent to the rooftops (see below). Aurora is also committing to acoustical screening around all of the rooftops. Office parties and such might still be possible (and catered events might be able to provide alcohol using the caterer’s liquor license) but they would have to be finished – including clean-up – by 10pm and there could be no music.

We have spent months pushing Aurora on the rooftop issues, and we feel this is just about the best we can do.

FAR

Aurora has agreed that that there will be no increase in the height of the existing buildings on the Gansevoort block, except in case of casualty in which case the height of replacement structures may be up to 5 feet higher (subject to Landmarks Preservation Commission approval, of course). Development rights will not be transferred to 803-807 Washington Street (which is the only location they could currently be transferred to).

LIQUOR LICENSES

Aurora’s has agreed to a maximum of 3 full liquor licenses (ie, the existing license at Pastis plus two others). None of these full liquor licenses will used for a space immediately adjacent to any of the exterior roofs/terraces. There would also be a maximum of four beer and wine licenses, all of which would be ancillary to some other use (such as retail or office space). In other words, none of these 4 beer and wine licenses could be for stand-alone cafes or restaurants. We had originally hoped to permit fewer SLA licenses, but agreed to these numbers to help obtain the restrictions on rooftop use described above.

COMMUNITY NON-PROFIT SPACE

We originally asked that 20,000 sq/ft of space be made available at 50% of market-rate rent for non-profit educational, cultural, and/or community service tenants. Aurora first offered 4000 sq/ft of non-profit space in an upper floor at 50% of market-rate rent (or 2000 sq/ft rent-free). Aurora then back-tracked and is now offering a 934 sq/ft space in the basement of 60-74 Gansevoort rent-free.

We believe that Aurora’s current offer is inadequate and more space needs to be found. The restrictions that Aurora is agreeing to on rooftop use are simply mitigations of impacts that Aurora themselves have created. The non-profit space represents the actual benefit that the broader community would receive in return for allowing Aurora office use at this location.

We believe that allowing office use will significantly increase the value of the Gansevoort block – consider how much more Aurora could make if they sold the property with this deal in place and office use allowed, as opposed to if they sold it encumbered with the existing restrictive declaration prohibiting office use. The amount of free or low-rent non-profit space should reflect a reasonable portion of that increased value.

See you at the hearing!

Opportunity for Community Benefit from Gansevoort Development: CB2 Hearing May 8

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Aurora Capital is now asking for office uses in their new Gansevoort Development. We believe that highly-profitable office use  should only be allowed  if the community receives substantial benefits in return.

On May 8th, Community Board 2 will hold a hearing on the restrictive declaration that currently prohibits office use on the site of this development—the entire south side of Gansevoort Street between Greenwich and Washington Streets.

Please come to this important meeting!

Wednesday, May 8, 6:30 PM
Meyer Hall / NYU Center for Neural Sciences, 4 Washington Place (between Mercer and Broadway), Rm. 102

The original reason for prohibiting office use was to protect the existing one- and two-story buildings on this site by removing the economic incentive to build higher. (In 2003, when the declaration was passed, offices were the only use that could have been profitable for floors above the second story.)

Unfortunately, the restrictive declaration has failed in this purpose. Following the Landmark Preservation Commission’s misguided approval of Aurora’s plans, Aurora has now completed structural construction of the large building at 70-74 Gansevoort Street and construction is underway at 60-68 Gansevoort.

Although Aurora was able to obtain financing for these buildings and claims that they can find non-office uses that would enable them to make a profit, they would strongly prefer to have office use. Save Gansevoort has been negotiating with Aurora Capital in an effort to identify other community benefits that could be obtained in exchange for allowing office use. The Community Board needs to hear that any changes to the restrictive declaration must include the following elements:

1.  A substantial percentage of any newly-created office space must be reserved for use by local non-profit organizations that would bring vibrancy and diversity to our community.  The amount of space for non-profit use remains subject to negotiation, and we would like to obtain the maximum amount possible.  It would be helpful if people gave some thought to the kinds of uses they would like to see.  Suggestions so far have included theater and/or dance rehearsal space, space for community organizations, non-profit galleries, space for educational organizations that work with children, etc.

2.  There must be a legally binding agreement that there will be no further development on this block.  Because the eastern half  of the block remains low-rise, around 40,000 square feet of development rights still remain unused. Any amendment to the restrictive declaration must contain language prohibiting the use of these unused development  rights.

3. There must be quality of life protections for the community:

First, the new development includes large exterior roof spaces.  The existing restrictive declaration prohibits use of these rooftops by “eating and drinking establishments.”  However, it’s possible that potentially loud uses such as private office parties or fashion shows might currently be allowable.  Any amendment to the restrictive declaration must contain language prohibiting music on the exterior roofs at any time, mandating reasonable closing hours for the rooftop areas, and mandating subdued lighting for the rooftop areas.

Second, we would like to see a prohibition on any liquor licenses on the block other than the license that has already been issued to Pastis. Aurora apparently wants to keep the option of allowing full liquor licenses for restaurants that are located above the ground floor. Aurora has also indicated that they anticipate leasing space to some retail tenants who might want to operate cafes serving alcohol. We countered that additional beer and wine licenses (NOT full liquor licenses) associated with retail use might be acceptable if closing hours were limited to no later than 8pm.

As always, the most effective way to express your opinion is to attend the hearing in person. However, if you are unable to attend you can send comments to: bgormley@cb.nyc.gov
Put “Attention Land Use Committee – Gansevoort restrictive declaration” in the subject line.

The facebook event is here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1436759336465739/

See you at the hearing!

 

Elaine Young 1942–2018

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We are deeply saddened to report that Elaine Young, co-founder of Save Gansevoort, passed away on May 27th.  Elaine was a tireless fighter for our community, and her honesty and fearlessness will be greatly missed.  Save Gansevoort would not have been possible without her continuous hard work and without her inspiration.

She was a true friend to so many of us.  It’s hard to believe she is no longer here.

The following is from Elaine’s family:

Elaine Young was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 3rd, 1942.  Daughter of the late Irving Adler and the late Helen Heda, Elaine is survived by her beloved spouse of 30 years, Virginia Syron.  Elaine is also survived by her brother Jack Adler, his wife Judith Adler, her nephew Matthew Adler, and her nieces Sharon Adler, Anna Adler, and Danielle Witchel.   Elaine spent holidays and weekends with Ginny’s family and will be deeply missed by Judy and Kees Schuddeboom, Greg Khost, Jackie O’Brien, Peter Khost, Aida Izadpanah, Alex Khost and Amanda Wilder.
Elaine graduated from the University of Chicago, majoring in History.  Elaine began her career as an educator and taught in the New York City public schools in Harlem and the South Bronx.  She later moved into real estate and became a broker and partner in Patton Young Properties in New York City.
A world traveler, Elaine was not just a tourist but immersed herself in the culture of places she visited.  Her passions included politics, classical music, art, gardening, and cooking.
Elaine was a fiery activist who worked tirelessly for her beliefs, and she served as President and Board member of her co-op. She was a neighborhood preservationist and spearheaded the “Save Gansevoort” movement. For twelve years Elaine served on Community Board 2 and was a primary member of the SLA Committee.  A dear friend summed up Elaine’s dedication and commitment by saying, “Elaine was the last real soldier for our cause.”

Donations in Elaine’s memory may be made to the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation to continue her preservation work in the Far West Village and the Gansevoort Market Historic District:  www.gvshp.org/elaineyoung

Court of Appeals Gansevoort Decision

photo: The Villager
photo: The Villager

We have been informed that the Court of Appeals has denied our motion to appeal the Gansevoort ruling.  The Court, as is customary, provided no explanation for the denial.  The Court also lifted the temporary stay, so Aurora is now free to start demolition of 70-74 Gansevoort Street and initiate work on the addition on top of 60-68 Gansevoort Street.

Although not entirely unexpected, this is very disappointing.   We’ve done our very best to get the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s terrible Gansevoort decision overturned in court, and our lawyer Michael Hiller did a wonderful job. But it was always going to be a heavy lift, and we’ve now reached the end of this particular legal road.

Aurora still has to work within the terms of a Restrictive Declaration on this site which prohibits office use.  Given the changes in the NYC real estate market, this may be a bigger problem for them now than it was back when they started this project in 2015.  We will remain vigilant to make sure that the Restrictive Declaration is properly enforced.

Appellate Court Decision and a New Appeal

photo: UpstateNYer
photo: UpstateNYer

We have some unfortunate news:  the appellate court has rejected our appeal of the lower court decision upholding the Landmark Preservation Commission’s approval of the massive Gansevoort development project.  The appellate court’s written decision was very disappointing, and failed to address the many specific points which we raised arguing that LPC’s approval of the project violated Landmarks law.

Because our case has the potential to set important precedents that could strengthen landmark protections across the city, we have received support to file a new appeal to the highest court in New York State, the Court of Appeals.

Our lawyer, Michael Hiller, has filed a motion requesting that the Court of Appeals hear our case, and the court has granted an interim stay prohibiting construction while they consider whether or not to accept our appeal. So, for the moment, exterior alteration or demolition at 60-68 and 70-74 Gansevoort continues to be halted.

We’ll let you know as soon as there is further news from the court.  Stay tuned!

Court to Hear Save Gansevoort Appeal on Thursday, December 14, 2PM

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Mark your calendars for our big court date:  Thursday, December 14th.  This is the day the appeals court will hear the case brought by Save Gansevoort and the Historic Districts Council challenging the Landmark Preservation Commission’s approval of the massive Gansevoort Project. We hope to see a huge crowd there!

The hearing will be:
Thursday, December 14th, 2:00 PM
NYS Appellate Division, First Department
27 Madison Avenue (25th Street & Madison)

We welcome and need your presence at this significant hearing. A large turnout will demonstrate to the court that there is great public concern about both historic Gansevoort Street and the integrity of New York City’s landmarking process.

The facebook event is here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/313620865785957/

Here is a quick look at recent background:
Save Gansevoort was handed a victory on August 16 when the appeals court agreed to grant a stay in our lawsuit against the developers. The judges’ unanimous decision sent a signal that they take very seriously Save Gansevoort’s fight to preserve historic Gansevoort Street and to stop the two large buildings Aurora Capital wants to build. Our arguments, which have now swayed 5 appellate judges, would set important precedents if our appeal is upheld. These precedents would significantly strengthen legal protections for Historic Districts throughout the city.

More information about  the stay which the appellate court granted us can be found here.
More information about our appeal can be found here.

Save Gansevoort is looking for donations. Many people have been very generous. But lawsuits  cost money and  you can imagine how expensive this multi-year fight has been. Please donate here.

Great Villager Article About the Significance of the Gansevoort Lawsuit

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The Villager has just published an outstanding article about our Gansevoort lawsuit.

The reporter really did her homework; she interviewed two LPC insiders and delves into the legal issues involved and why our appeal could set a precedent that would protect Historic Districts across the city.

If you read just one article about the Gansevoort legal fight, this is the one!

Appellate Court Grants Stay in Save Gansevoort Lawsuit!

justiceWe have some great news!  Save Gansevoort and our ally the Historic Districts Council have won a significant victory in the appellate court.  The appellate court has just granted our motion for a stay which prohibits the developer from doing any exterior work on 60-68 Gansevoort and 70-74 until the court can rule on our appeal.

In order to grant us the stay, the appellate court had to find that there was a substantial likelihood that we would obtain a reversal of the lower court decision which approved the massive Gansevoort development project.

The appellate court rejects the vast majority of request for stays that it receives, so the fact that the court granted our request is very significant.  Moreover, the vote by the 4 judges to grant the request was unanimous. Additionally, a fifth judge ruled in our favor last April to grant us an emergency stay.

This victory bodes well for our fight to preserve historic Gansevoort Street and to stop the two large, out-of-character buildings Aurora Capital wants to build.  Equally important, it bodes well for landmarked Historic Districts across New York City.  Our arguments, which have now swayed 5 appellate judges, would set important precedents if our appeal is upheld and significantly strengthen legal protections for Historic Districts.  We expect our hearing before the appellate court will take place some time in December. Stay tuned!

More information about our appeal can be found here.

Important Update on the Gansevoort Lawsuit

photo: Djmutex
photo: Djmutex

There have been important developments in the past several weeks regarding the lawsuit brought by Save Gansevoort and the Historic Districts Council to stop the massive Gansevoort development.  Here’s an update.

On March 27th, the New York State Supreme Court ruled against our suit to overturn the Landmark Preservation Commission’s approval of Aurora Capital’s huge Gansevoort Street project.  In approving this proposal, the LPC essentially undid important elements of its own designation of the Gansevoort Market Historic District, a designation that occurred just 13 years ago in September 2003. 

We have filed an appeal of the lower court decision, and on April 4th the Appellate Court granted us an emergency stay to stop any exterior construction or demolition work at 60-68 Gansevoort Street and 70-74 Gansevoort Street.

This is great news, but we now need the Court to continue that stay through the appeal process – otherwise, two landmark, historic, irreplaceable market buildings will be destroyed, along with the heart of the Gansevoort Market Historic District.

It is our belief that the lower court decision failed to properly interpret New York City’s Landmarks law.  We are fighting to save one of the last surviving market districts in New York City, and our appeal has the potential to set important precedents for historic districts across the city.  We make multiple arguments, but here are three key points: 

1. Our appeal challenges the assertion that a “no-style” architectural designation automatically allows the Landmarks Preservation Commission to approve a building’s demolition.  In addition to architectural importance, the landmarks law lists eight other criteria of equal importance, such as historical and cultural significance.  These other eight criteria must also be considered before a building may be demolished.

2. Our appeal challenges the LPC’s absurd ruling that the history of the Gansevoort Market Historic District consists of four equally significant periods, and that the previously-existing tenement buildings were as important to the District’s history as the current low-lying market buildings.  This represents a complete misreading of the designation report. It would allow developers to “cherry pick” from any era in a district’s history to justify inappropriate new construction, even if that era was not the reason for the district’s designation.  This would put every historic district at risk. 

3. The lower court erred in determining that so long as the Landmarks Preservation Commission holds extensive hearings and requests at least one modification to a proposed design, its decisions are immune from court review.

The Save Gansevoort lawsuit is one of multiple lawsuits filed against the LPC and other agencies and commissions over a series of unprecedented decisions by the City to grant permission to private real estate developers to develop and convert landmark properties.  Not coincidentally, as with so many of the other controversial decisions by the City favoring real estate developers over the last two years, Capalino & Company was one of the registered lobbyists for the developer on this project, hired for the ostensible purpose of facilitating the approval that the LPC issued.

A copy of the affirmation we have filed in support of our request for a stay pending appeal can be found here (scroll to the bottom of the page).

If you would like to help support our fight, please make a donation here.