Thursday, August 07, 2008

Show and Extell

In this week's Observer, there's a full length story on the proposed Extell development on 11th Avenue that's slated to include a 150,000 sq. ft. Costco: "Expect resistance. While Extell’s plans do not seem to be the hornet’s nest that marked Trump’s early proposals, the local community board is skeptical of a host of issues, and area politicians are cool to the idea of added density and a potential Costco that Extell has proposed. Extell has been meeting with the community on and off since acquiring the site in 2005, and now is hoping to kick off the project in the fall with a preliminary scoping hearing at the Department of City Planning. Some time later—likely, at least a few months—the proposal would start its journey through the city’s seven-month public approval process, which requires a thumbs up from both the City Planning Commission and the City Council."

Expect a full scale war on this; and we're looking forward to a full and open discussion of the blatant hypocrisy of the mayor's open support for this auto dependent box store-and the 6-7 thousand cars it will generate daily. The reason for the ULURP on this is the fact that Extell's Barnett has no interest in building the TV studios first stipulated in the early nineties: "Now, Extell has set its sights on the final three lots at the southern base of the development, known as lots L, M and N; and with no desire to build the 1.7 million square feet of predominantly television studio space that the 1992 agreement stipulates, the developer wants public approval to allow for a giant complex of residential buildings in its place."

And this development, aside from its inclusion of the Costco store, will be mammoth: "The scale being proposed is significantly greater than what was initially planned for the site. According to figures Extell presented to members of the community board, the complex would be about 3 million square feet in size, with perhaps 2,500 apartments, well above the approximately 2.4 million square feet that remains under the development rights allowed by the restrictive declaration. In addition, Extell wants about 280,000 square feet of below-ground retail space—roughly half of which would go to Costco, should Extell ultimately win the company as a tenant—accompanied by 2,300 parking spaces, up from about 780 in the restrictive declaration (below-grade space is not counted in the zoning measurements)."

So an additional space for 1520 cars! Very environmentally friendly, don't you think? Extell spokesman George Artz had this zinger for the Observer: "George Arzt, an Extell spokesman, said the additional density is desired in order to provide larger apartments, to build more affordable units, to create more varied retail and to allow for better architecture. Still, he noted that plans were far from final." (emphasis added)

Indeed, they are not-and Extell better start using a pencil for the plans for this monstrosity, given the already gathering storm of local opposition: “We’re talking about an absolute nightmare—an absolute nightmare,” said Batya Lewton, vice president of the Coalition for a Livable West Side, a community group formed in 1981 to oppose a large planned project that preceded Television City. “They’re asking for, unbelievably, 2,300 more parking spaces in an area that is just so overwhelmed with traffic.”

Council member Gail Brewer is looking to be a formidable opponent, particularly on the Costco store: "As was the case in the 1990s, the area’s politicians will play a major role, particularly the local council member. Until the end of 2009, that’s Gale Brewer, who is anti-Costco and pushing for a commitment to build a school on the site, among other issues." If the ULURP spills over into 2010 a new council will be in place-and Brewer is term limited out. It's hard, however, to see someone taking her place who would support the Costco proposal, given the community's sentiments.