Rezoning Sought for East Houston Parcel; New Development Proposed

Posted on: December 6th, 2011 at 6:42 am by

It’s like buzzards over a dead carcass at 255 East Houston, waiting to dive in for the prize. That much was clear at last night’s Community Board 3 Land Use Zoning subcommittee meeting.

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The owner of the destabilized 255 East Houston, which Action for Progress vacated nearly two years ago due to demolition on the adjacent plot, is currently seeking a commercial zoning overlay for a block-and-a-half parcel between Norfolk and Clinton Street. For whatever reason, this small section of real estate was not included as commercial in the 2008 rezoning of the Lower East Side.

The end-game of this proposal is ultimately to demolish and construct a new as-of-right, market-rate tower on the land in order to “clean up that section of East Houston.” As it stands, the developer can currently build a 5.4 FAR project, but with inclusionary affordable housing bonus, could reach 7.2 FAR.  Or, in English, a maximum height of twelve stories, which equates to double the height of the surrounding tenements. By gaining this amended zoning overlay, those involved could reap more cash from ground-floor commercial tenants like bars/restaurants rather than a community facility (if demolished under current zoning, would need to build a residential-compliant building).

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Yet the board played hardball, and seemed irked with the application, questioning the overall benefit to the community. Sticking points included the likely increase in property values and allocation of affordable housing units. From our perspective, it appeared rather clear that the developers had little to no interest in affordable housing, either on-site or elsewhere (“not economically feasible”).

There was no vote. CB3 sent the developer packing with instructions to conduct outreach on the block to gauge interest in the commercial zoning overlay. This is only the beginning…

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