New York state halts plans for Hudson Yards development site

Peebles Corp. pitched 1,663-foot “Affirmation Tower”

Empire State Development's Hope Knight, Gov. Kathy Hochul (Getty, rendering via Adjaye Associates)
Empire State Development's Hope Knight, Gov. Kathy Hochul (Getty, rendering via Adjaye Associates)

A proposal for what would have been one of the city’s tallest skyscrapers is now on ice.

State officials this week rescinded a request for proposals for a 1.2 acre site on Manhattan’s West Side, where a team led by the Peebles Corp. envisioned a 2 million-square-foot tower built and mostly funded by Black-owned companies.

The skyscraper proposed for the state-owned site at 418 11th Avenue would have marked a record addition to the city’s skyline. Dubbed “Affirmation Tower,” the building was set to stand 1,663 feet, taller than One World Trade Center in terms of floor height, but second in spire height.

The group planned to bid on the project, which would have featured at least two hotels, office space and an entertainment complex.

In a statement after the RFP was rescinded, the team behind the Affirmation Tower said it views the move “as a temporary setback.”

“We are confident when the state of New York re-issues a new RFP, we will have the winning proposal,” the spokesperson said. “We await the next steps.”

The state issued the RFP in March, asking for a commercial or mixed-use development proposal. Brookfield, Related, Rockrose Development Corp. and Tishman Speyer also reportedly pitched ideas for the site.

Officials encouraged hotel development “complementary to the Javits Center,” which is located across the street from the long-empty lot.

But much has changed since the request was issued — most notably, the governor.

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Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo had pitched the site as part of a broader transformation of what he dubbed “Midtown West.” The site on 11th, as well as another state-owned parcel and a few of the sites surrounding Penn Station, would include a total of 1,400 affordable housing units, he announced at the time. But Empire State Development, which has also proposed changes to the governor’s initiative, appears keen on narrowing what it will permit on the state-owned site.

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Hope Knight, acting commissioner of Empire State Development, said in a statement that the group’s move was made “in light of today’s changed economic environment and in keeping with Governor Hochul’s commitment to building a thriving and equitable New York.”

The agency can now “reassess development priorities and solicit more input from the local community and other stakeholders,” Knight said.

A response from the Peebles Corporation, Exact Capital Group and the Witkoff Group to the RFP was revealed in October, revealing it would be designed by British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye.

During an interview with Peebles prior to the state’s decision, the developer said the proposal could serve as a “catalyst, a symbol of recovery.” He said the project could “meet the moment,” in the form of a response to the city’s recovery from the pandemic and the nationwide reckoning over systemic racial discrimination sparked by the killing of George Floyd last year.

The development team had planned to award at least 35 percent of contracts related to the project to minority and women-owned businesses, above the state-mandated 30 percent.

“We were trying to reach a broad, diverse audience and shake the trees for talent,” he said. “Because of the lack of inclusion, you gotta search a little bit harder, take the affirmative steps to identify talent.”

Erin Hudson contributed reporting.

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