The de Blasio administration doesn’t want to rezone Morningside Heights. That isn’t stopping a community group from pursuing zoning changes anyway.
Last month, the Department of City Planning rejected a community-led proposal to rezone the Manhattan neighborhood, which is all of 15 blocks. The community group, the Morningside Heights Community Coalition, argues that something must be done to rein in massive development that is out of step with the character of the neighborhood. The neighborhood stretches roughly from West 110th to 125th streets and west of Morningside Park. But from the city’s perspective, the proposal wouldn’t create enough affordable housing to justify a major zoning change.
That doesn’t mean the idea is dead. Speaker Corey Johnson recently pledged to commit City Council resources to creating a rezoning proposal for the neighborhood. Council member Mark Levine, who represents Morningside Heights, is helping to lead the charge. So, if this ultimately goes to a vote, and member deference doesn’t somehow disappear before then, the rezoning has a good chance of passing. Of course, the proposal is still a long way away from being put to a vote.
The old journalism adage goes that three of something makes a trend. The Morningside Heights rezoning would mark the second time in recent memory that a community group, rather than City Hall, steered a rezoning into being. In 2017, the Council approved the rezoning of 10 blocks on the Upper East Side. That effort, led by Council member Ben Kallos and the East River 50s Alliance, was triggered by the Bauhouse Group’s planned 1,000-foot tower in Sutton Place.
The project was eventually taken over by Gamma Real Estate and scaled down slightly. Though the Council decided against exempting the tower from the new zoning rules, the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals ultimately ruled that the old regulations should apply to Gamma’s project.
Billionaires’ Row may soon be home to an office tower.
Alchemy Properties and ABR Partners are teaming up to buy Calvary Baptists’ properties on Billionaires’ Row, Rich Bockmann reports. The partnership, dubbed Alchemy-ABR Investment Partners, plan to build a 230,000-square-foot commercial building at 123-141 West 57th Street. The tower would include 180,000 square feet of office space, along with some retail space and a condo for the church.
ABR and Alchemy — which led the condo conversion of the Woolworth Building — first teamed up in 2015.
“When this site was originally brought to us, Billionaires’ Row was already a phenomenon, but this just didn’t click as a condo project,” said ABR Partners’ Brian Ray. “We started talking about what this market really needs is an office building, and it really started to make sense.”
The project is expected to break ground in 2021 and has an estimated price tag of $350 million.