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Carter's View

Sheldon H. Solow?s plans to redevelop the Con Ed facilities along the East River south of the United Nations complex have been revised and now call for more, but shorter, towers, according to an article by Erik Engquist in today?s edition of Crain?s Business.

This spring the City Planning Department held hearings on the environmental studies needed for the proposal that then called for the development of 6,266,790-gross square feet, of which 4,324,635 square feet would be residential, 1,119,979 square feet, commercial office space, 40,433 square feet of retail space, 60,725 square feet of community facility use, and 721,018 square feet of below-grade parking space to accommodate 1,183 public spaces and 376 ?accessory? spaces. The proposed plan also included 149,863 square feet, or 3.44 acres, of ?publicly accessible open space.? The complex included 4 different parcels with a total of 8.7 acres and the redevelopment scheme requires numerous special permits and zoning text amendments relating to uses, heights, and setbacks.

In the plan then under review, the parcel at 616 First Avenue would consist of two 45-story residential buildings with 60,725 square feet of community facilities in a three-story building, 2,000-square feet of retail space, 30,000 square feet of open space, and 294 parking spaces. The parcel at 685 First Avenue would be a 67-story residential tower with 3,750 square feet of retail, 96 parking spaces and 1.1 acres of open space. The parcel at 700 First Avenue would have a 63-story residential tower on its west side and a 50-story residential tower on its east side, 12,000 square feet of retail space, 2.56 acres of open space, 280 accessory parking spaces and 889 public parking spaces. The parcel at 708 would be a 57-story mixed-use tower with a roof-top restaurant.

Richard Meier and Skidmore Owings Merrill are the architects of the project, which will have 5 towers taller than the Secretariat Building of the United Nations just to the north and three that are almost as tall as the Trump World Tower at 47th Street and First Avenue.

The project has encountered considerable opposition and Community Board 6 this spring submitted to the planning department its own specific development plan for the site that calls for 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.

The community board?s plan has received widespread endorsement from elected local politicians.

The developer is seeking an overall floor-to-area ratio (FAR) of 12 for the complex. The board?s plan, on the other hand, is based on a F.A.R. of only 6, but with bonuses of 2 F.A.R. each for providing an easement along the FDR drive to facilitate its realignment and eventual decking over and waterfront access, affordable housing, and preservation of some of the existing powerplants.

The recent start of demolition of one of the powerplants, however, removed the possibility of that bonus.

According to the Crain?s article, ?the revised design that Mr. Solow will present to a community board subcommittee today addresses earlier criticisms by shortening the towers, by making the project?s three acres of open space more accessible to the public and by increasing the space allotted for retailers along First Avenue.? ?The new plan also includes a three-block promenade along the FDR Drive. But East 39th and East 40th streets would remain private,? according to the article.

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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.