Skip to Content
CityRealty Logo
Don't blink.

That was the marching song today at the city's Board of Standards and Appeals as The Related Companies presented a modified plan of its controversial redevelopment project on the site of the Superior Ink plant at 469 West Street, which is also known as 70 Bethune Street.

It was a short presentation by Jerry Johnson of Wachtel & Masyr LLP and Charles Gwathmey of Gwathmey Siegel Associates, the architect. The modifications included a lowered "street wall," reduced bulk and a shift in the placement of the project's tower from the midblock towards West Street overlooking the Hudson River. The revised plan had been submitted to the board Monday.

Meenakshi Srinavasan, the chairperson of the board, then opened the crowded hearing at 40 Rector Street to public testimony and heard testimony from representatives from neighboring buildings such as Westbeth, 380 West 12th Street and 130 Jane Street that at the prodding of the Department of City Planning they had made a strenuous and difficult effort to reach a compromise that was forged in last-minute "compromise" meetings last night. Many of the speakers praised Related for making concessions and agreeing in principle to a compromise even though it had not thought it possible.

Ms. Srinavasan asked if the new "compromise" plan could be shown the board and her eyes widened when she was told it could not.

The "compromise" plan, she was told by several speakers, would lower the project's street wall from 60 to 40 feet and shift the tower's position further away from the side-streets.

Mr. Johnson requested that the board hold the hearing open until the developer could return with two revised plans and Ms. Srinavasan gave it until November 15 with another hearing set for November 22. Mr. Johnson requested that a decision be given at that point, but Ms. Srinavasan declined, stating "one thing at a time."

Both of the plans discussed at the hearing would not change the height of the proposed project but the compromise plan would make the tower "fatter."

Mr. Johnson said that its modified plan would have a tower that would about 185 feet tall as compared with the 199-foot-height of the three towers a few blocks to the south on West Street that were designed by Richard Meier and erected "as-of-right," that is, within existing building and zoning regulations, prior to the recent rezoning by the city that has downzoned much of the West Street corridor but did apply to the Superior Ink site, to the dismay of some civic and preservation organizations.

Related originally had planned a larger, 225-foot-high, 104-unit tower on the site that would have been similar in design to its project now nearing completion at 445 Lafayette Street, a very attractive and large reflective glass tower with many curves that was also designed by Mr. Gwathmey. Mr. Johnson said Related's "modified" plan now calls for between 60 and 70 condominium apartments.

Mr. Johnson said that Related's new tower design is about the same height as Westbeth, the artists' studio building just to the south.

Jessie McNabe, a resident of the 383-unit Westbeth, however, urged the board to keep the issue open long enough to determine the environmental impact of the new project on neighboring watertables, noting that construction of such a large project in a high water table along West Street might jeopardize nearby properties structurally.

The recent rezoning has affected several other sites in the area including a proposal by Richard Born, Charles Blaichman and Ira Drucker, the developers of two of the three Richard Meier towers at Perry and Charles Streets, to build a new tower at 166 Perry Street, and a new building planed by artist Julian Schnabel on West 11th Street. The Department of Buildings has requested that work on those projects be halted.
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.