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Carter's View

The City Planning Commission approved Monday several special permits for the plans of Times Equities, a real estate company headed by Francis Greenburger, to erect a 63-story hotel and residential condominium development at 50 West Street across from Battery Park City.

The slim tower has been designed by Gruzen Sampton LLC and Helmut Jahn of Murphy/Jahn Architects of Chicago, who designed CitySpire, Park Avenue Tower and 425 Lexington Avenue in New York and the great State of Illinois Center in Chicago.

The curved south side of the tower would have a plaza that would provide an alternate and more attractive pedestrian walkway from Battery Park City to Greenwich Street than the existing walkway through the Battery Tunnel Garage.

The proposed building would house a 155-room hotel on floors 1 though 13, 48 "full-service residential units" on floors 14 through 18 and 259 residential condominium apartments on floors 20 through 63. It would not have a garage.

The ground floor of the tower, which would be designed to achieve a Gold LEED rating, would contain a "light-art gallery showcasing some of the most innovate light installation artists in the world, a caf¿/bar, a restaurant and a "gourmet" corner store grocery.

The project required text changes to allow a plaza at the site and to permit the transfer of development rights above the Battery Tunnel garage to be used "only in the at-grade area north of J. P. Ward Street, and by special permit only."

In addition, the project required the demapping of a 8-inch strip between J. P. Ward Street and the applicant's site and a demapping for "a plane above J. P. Ward and the portion of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel Approach located 37.2 feet above the area between West, Washington, Morris and J. P. Ward Streets.

The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel Approach has about 2.7 million square feet of unused air rights and the 50 West Street project plans to acquire about 183,000 square feet of those air rights.

The project's site is just to the north of the proposed, 8-acre Greenwich Street South project that would deck over the Manhattan entrance to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, create a new park and a new, automated, green-roofed bus garage and five residential towers, a plan that was initiated by Mayor Bloomberg in 2002 and which the chairman of the Hugh L. Carey Battery Park City Authority, Jim Gill, said last year he would like to take charge of.

An urban design study for that project was prepared in 2005 envisioned a new, curved pedestrian bridge over West Street to connect the southern part of Battery Park City to Greenwich Green, a new park between Morris and Edgar Streets between West and Greenwich Streets.

Julie Menin, chair of the Community Board, urged the board not to recommend approval of the project, but a resolution approving it "conditionally" was passed by a vote of 34 to 5 with three abstentions.

Members of the community board indicated they wanted any income from the sale of air rights to the project to be used for projects in Lower Manhattan, indicating that they were concerned about schools, a new pedestrian bridge over West Street, and the area's need for more cultural institutions and affordable housing.

Time Equities has agreed to give a local school 159 laptop computers with four-year maintenance contracts to help address the area's school needs, but the board indicated it wanted the project to contribute more to the community's needs, which include affordable housing and a bridge over West Street.

The redevelopment of the 50 West site would involve the demolition of the 12-story, 1912 building once known as the Crystal Building that has a 3-story-high mansard roof.
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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.
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