This Parking Lot Has a Big Future
by Avi - October 10, 2009 at 9:56 am -
By Peggy Truong
Anxiety is building over the Extell Development Company’s plan to build five high-rises on the site of a parking lot overlooking the West Side Highway between 59th and 61st streets. Residents who live across from the site of the proposed Riverside Center worry that if the developers get their way the buildings will send long dark shadows into their living rooms.
The shadows and sheer density of the project – 2,500 apartments could be built on the site – were two of the biggest concerns expressed by 70 or so neighbors who gathered at The Annex to the Church of St. Paul the Apostle on West 59th Street Thursday night.
Organizers, including Anne Weisberg and Community Board 7 members Helen Rosenthal and Ethel Sheffer, had an open dialogue with the crowd, half of whom were residents at 10 West End Ave.
The site, as originally proposed, would include thousands of apartments, retail stores, a movie theater, an underground parking garage, and a hotel the size of the Mandarin. A new pre-K through 5th grade public school is also being considered for the site, and a Metro-North train station could be built there too.
The project includes 3.2 acres of privately-owned publicly accessible open space that the company has touted as a major public benefit, but which some community members doubt will be bring much pleasure to the public.
The Riverside project is still being reviewed by the city planning department and needs to be certified before it comes back to the community board for comment. That could happen as early as November or December. In the meantime, local residents want to start to air their concerns. A few alternative proposals for the site have also been presented, including plans from the Coalition for a Livable West Side and the Riverside South Planning Corporation.
“We can’t make recommendations as a vacuum, you all have to live with these buildings across the street,” said Rosenthal, who took part in one of her last public events as chairperson of Community Board 7. “We are using this early opportunity to jumpstart our knowledge space.”
Daniel Kassell of the 315 West Tenants’ Association said there’s not much to see outside his apartment window except for a parking lot.
“There is no view left from West End Ave. to the Hudson River,” said Kassell, a three-year resident at 315 W. 61st Street. He said the Extell plan also needs to consider the limited availability of sunlight once the buildings are up. “We don’t live there just in June, people getting vitamin D is more important,” said Kassell.
Bruce Muller of 10 West End Ave. said his biggest concern is the gigantic wind tunnel that will eventually be created by the current development plan. The wind, said Muller, would be strong enough to pop all the windows at 10 West End Ave. The construction phase, in comparison, was secondary.
“I’m looking forward to watching it being built. I even bought an air purifier,” said Muller.
Also speaking on behalf of 10 West End Ave was Marta Block, who said she felt betrayed by the Riverside Center website and its ocean sound effects. “How is this all going to take place in a two block place? It’s obscene,” she said. Block suggested the addition of more schools, police precincts and other community essentials to the Extell plan.
Sheffer confirmed that the Extell project is currently in a “free-certification” stage, meaning discussions like the one held Thursday night will be considered for reports sent to the planning department.
“Here we are developing our concerns in an interactive process with you,” said Sheffer.