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David Walentas of Two Trees Management Corporation has proposed developing the western half of the block bounded by Tenth and Eleventh Avenues and 53rd and 54th Streets with a 32-story structure with a S-shaped plan with about 900 apartments, 236,000 square feet of automobile sales and repair space, 31,000 square feet of health club space, 16,000 square feet of retail space, up to 225 accessory parking spaces and 28,000 square feet of space for the New York Police Department Mounted Unit.

Twenty percent of the planned apartments would be "affordable units."

According to "scoping" documents filed with the city October 10, 2007, the development would have a two-story base covering the site. "Rising from the base there would be tower structures forming an S-shaped pattern and containing residential units. Along Eleventh Avenue facing DeWitt Clinton Park, the residential tower would step up from7 stories on the 10-stories on the south....On the eastern edge of the site adjacent to the 457-foot tall AT&T Switching Tower, the residential portion would step up from 29 stories on the north to 30 stories plus two mechanical levels on the south. Connecting these two sections would be a tower on a diagonal alignment relative to the street grid, stepping up from the west along W. 53rd Street to W. 54th Street on the east. The portions of the base structure not covered by the residential towers would have a flat roof predominantly covered by garden terraces for use by building residents and skylights providing natural lighting for the residential lobbies."

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.

The New York Police Department Mounted Unit needs a new facility because one of its existing ones on Pier 76 will be converted to a new use as part of the ongoing development of the Hudson River Park.

Enrique Norten of Ten Arquitectos is the architect for the project, which is known as The Clinton Park.

The proposal requires zoning map and text amendments, a special permit from the City Planning Commission relating to general large-scale development, a special permit from the Board of Standards and Appeals and approval of New York State housing Finance Agency financing under its 80/20 affordable housing program.

A public hearing on the "scoping" documents was held November 15, 2007.

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."
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.