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In an article in the November 28-December 4, 2008 edition of Now Chelsea, Diana Vacca reported that the Clinton/Hell's Kitchen Land Use Committee of Community Board 4 voted in November to approve an amended plan for Clinton Park, the Z-shaped mixed-use project planned for 11th Avenue between 53rd and 54th Streets by Two Trees Management.

The amended plan reduced the height of the proposed 32-story building by one story and reduced the number of housing units by 55, 11 of which would have been "affordable." As a result of the amendments, the project will have 845 rental apartments of which 169 are "affordable."

It will also have a large commercial facility in its base that will be used by Mercedes-Benz.

The project has been designed by Ten Arquitectos of which Enrique Norten is the principal. The design curves down in steps from its highest height near the Verizon Building on the block towards Eleventh Avenue.

Some members of the committee expressed concerns about commercial signage at the project and exhaust fumes from the dealership. The article quoted Jed Walentas, a Two Trees principal, as stating that "The service bay is insanely clean," adding that They have a thing called service tourism, where they actually have a little glass thing where they bring you down to watch your car get fixed.

The developer initially had allotted 16,000 square feet of retail space for a supermarket but the plans were changed to 5,000 square feet that will have, according to the article, "an substantially below-market rent to support whatever nonprofit or cultural entity will be chosen among the many whose survival depends on inhabiting such a space."

Mr. Walentas told Anna Hayes Levin, the chair of the committee, that the adjoining Dewitt Clinton Park was "a huge part of the reason we saw value in the site" and his father, David Walentas, said "We think that's our front lawn. We're going to take care of it whether you want us to or not."

Two Trees Management is best known for its conversion of buildings in the Dumbo area of the Brooklyn waterfront across from Lower Manhattan.

The executive committee of Manhattan Community Board 4 sent its comments to the City Planning Commission November 26, 2007 and noted that "the board is gratified that the applicant promises to locate low-income units on every floor of the building, and not just on the lower floors as many developers do."

The letter, signed by Jean-Daniel Noland, chairman of the community board, and Anna Hayes Levin, chairman of its Clinton/Hell's Kitchen Land Use Committee, however, found that the project was "significantly out of scale" and would "set an unfortunate precedent for zoning on the four remaining private development sites" in the Clinton Urban Renewal Area and in the 11th Avenue corridor to the south.

"Two Trees," the letter continued, "seeks to dazzle with a marvelously creative building from a world-renowned architect, and the design has been guided by some principles we strongly support - keeping building heights lower on 11th Ave. opposite DeWitt Clinton Park, and concentrating height on the eastern portion of the site, next to the AT&T tower. But fancy architecture is no substitute for good planning....The studies of urban design and neighborhood character must recognize that while this striking design presents a varied facade from the west, from the north and south it will be a high-density modern slab in a medium- and low-density brick and industrial landscape."

Two trees acquired the site in 2006 for about $130 million from Verizon, which had been using it as an automotive service/vehicle storage facility.
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.