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Carter's View

The East River Realty Company, which is headed by Sheldon H. Solow, presented a significant revision of its plans to redevelop the Con Ed facilities along the East River south of the United Nations complex to the land-use committee of Community Board 6 last night.

Margaret Taylor of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which is co-designing the plan with Richard Meier, said that the overall mass and number of housing units remain unchanged but that the heights of all the towers have been reduced, a mixed-use tower has been changed to an office tower, one more tower has been added, and the major park space with an oval reflective pool has been repositioned closer to the eastern edge of the site.

Ms. Taylor is shown at the right with Ed Rubin, chairman of the land-use committee, discussing a large model that shows the proposed buildings in white with Trump World Tower at the right.

The tallest building formerly proposed was the northernmost on Solow?s site: an 864-foot-high apartment and office tower that has now be reduced to a 632.5-foot-high office tower. This building was to have contained a rooftop restaurant but Ms. Taylor said that it may not now although the overall plan remains ?a work in progress.?

The tallest building in the new plan is now the building on the west side of First Avenue between 39th and 40th Streets that formerly was 836 feet high and has now been reduced to 698 feet in height.

The United Nations Secretariat Building, the city?s most important landmark on the East River, is 505 feet high and its height in the neighborhood was only surpassed by the Trump World tower on First Avenue and 57th Street which is 891 feet high, a height that aroused great community opposition.

The meeting last night was attended by many residents in high-rise buildings near the site such as the 552-foot-high Corinthinian, the 383 foot-high Manhattan Plaza and the 442-foot-high Horizon, all clustered along First Avenue and the Manhattan entrance to the Queens Midtown Tunnel. Part of Mr. Solow?s site includes the block between Rivergate and Manhattan Plaza and the plan calls for two residential buildings and a resident of the angled Manhattan Plaza asked why the plan?s two residential buildings there were not oriented to complement rather than abruptly abut its large triangular plaza.

Many of the speakers commented that the revised plan was definitely an improvement, but most also continued to voice strong opposition to its height and density. Ms. Taylor received a long round of applause for her clear and patient presentation.

The redevelopment scheme requires numerous special permits and zoning text amendments relating to uses, heights, and setbacks.

Community Board 6 this spring submitted to the planning department its own specific development plan for the site that calls for much lower buildings, no commercial office space, the inclusion of affordable housing, a school, and public ownership of cross-streets, shadow studies and a comprehensive plan that envisions the removal of the 42nd Street exit ramp from the FDR Drive and the decking over of the drive to create new park land and waterfront access.

Mr. Rubin said last night that its plan will be processed by the planning commission at the same time as the Solow plan.

Ms. Taylor indicated that the 4,000 housing units on the site will ?likely? be a mix of rental and condominium units, adding that at present the plan does not call for any ?affordable housing.? She said that the plan includes a five-story community facility of about 120,000 square feet that conceivably could be a school. Ms. Taylor also noted that the revised plan improves its retail presence along First Avenue and creates a three-block-long promenade overlooking the East River at a height where the FDR Drive could be bridged over to create more public space and access to an esplanade along the river.

Additional Info About the Building

Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.