With echoes of its Manhattanville decision, the City Planning Commission has approved both Manhattan Community Board 6 197-a Plan, and developer Sheldon Solow’s plan for a massive development at the former ConEdison site on the East River waterfront, both with modifications.

In response to community concerns, Solow had previously agreed to include more affordable housing and a public school. After a contentious public hearing in December, DCP’s approval of the plan came with the following modifications:

” ● Lowering the height of the 685 First Avenue building from 721 feet to 600 feet and requiring additional retail space;
● Reducing the floor area of the commercial building at 708 First Avenue from 12 FAR to 10 FAR, and reducing the east-west width of the building from 320 feet to 280 feet.
● Reducing the size of the public parking garage from 651 space to 400 spaces;
● Making a number of improvements to the open space including extending the hours of operation, doubling the size of the children’s playground, and a phasing plan that requires nearly half of the open space to be completed at the time the first building on the superblock is completed.
● Finally, in order to ensure that affordable units will be produced at the same time as market-rate units, the Commission is modifying the application by restricting the height of each residential building on the northern superblock to 80% of the proposed height unless affordable housing is provided as each individual building is developed.”

In her statement at the meeting, DCP Chair Amanda Burden said that Community Board 6 had done “outstanding” work in creating the 197-a, and praised the plan’s consideration of open space and affordable housing issues. According to Burden, the modifications to the 197-a include only “technical issues of feasibility,” and the modifications to both plans, “serve to reconcile the differences” between the two.

While it is heartening to see another 197-a plan completed and approved, the fact is that, (and here I will quote from our testimony delivered to DCP in December) – Action on CB6’s 197-a and 197-c was held in the ULURP pipeline until the developer had a chance to catch up– this delay was antithetical to effective planning; this delay ignored CB6’s 197-c action; and this delay sent a message that the city prioritizes developer-driven development over community-based planning.

The two plans will now proceed to the City Council for final approval.