State issues request for apartments, not offices, at Hudson Yards site 

New RFP for “site K” requires housing

Governor Kathy Hochul and 418 11th Avenue (esd.ny.gov, Getty)
Governor Kathy Hochul and 418 11th Avenue (esd.ny.gov, Getty)

State officials quietly rebooted efforts to develop a vacant site near the Javits Convention Center with new lines drawn in the sand: The project must have housing and cannot include office space.

Without fanfare, Empire State Development last week reissued a request for proposals for “site K,” a vacant, state-owned parcel at 418 11th Avenue. The RFP calls for a residential/mixed-use project that must include a housing component with 30 percent of the units affordable for individuals making an average of 80 percent of the area median income.

The Cuomo administration had issued an RFP for the site in March 2021 allowing for a commercial or mixed-use development. But in December of that year, state officials rescinded the request, citing the “changed economic environment” and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s commitment to building affordable housing.

At the time, the site had eager suitors lined up. The most publicized was a team led by developer Don Peebles, who envisioned a 2 million-square-foot project dubbed “Affirmation Tower.”

The project, to be mostly funded and built by Black-owned companies, would have included two hotels, office space and an entertainment complex. It was also vying for the Museum of Civil Rights, founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton and Judge Jonathan Lippman.

The project was also to be designed by architect Sir David Adjaye, who has since lost work amid multiple sexual harassment allegations.

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When the state backtracked on the RFP, Peebles called the idea of affordable housing on the site “absurd” and said it was better suited for hotel use. It is unclear if his team will try to submit a proposal under the state’s new parameters.

Other developers who showed interest at the site before the state changed course include Brookfield, Related, Rockrose Development and Tishman Speyer, the Wall Street Journal reported at the time.

The RFP indicates that developers can “assume a residential tax exemption that mirrors the terms” of the expired tax break 421a. This may be a selling point for developers otherwise unwilling to begin new multifamily development without the generous property tax abatement.

On Tuesday, Hochul announced a similar arrangement in Gowanus for multifamily projects that met an initial 421a deadline of June 15, 2022, but are in danger of missing the construction completion deadline three years from now.

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