Rendering of 321 East 96th Street via Perkins Eastman Architect
Located on Second Avenue between East 96th Street and East 97th Street, the Marx Brothers Playground boasts a jungle gym and ball fields spread out over 1.5 acres. The East Harlem green space, which first opened in 1947 on land formerly occupied by the car barn of the Second Avenue Railway, has found itself at the center of a debate between preservationists and developers. As the New York Times reported, park advocates and city officials disagree on whether the parcel is considered a park or a playground. If it’s a park, any plans to modify it require the approval from the State Legislature and the governor; playgrounds do not. While it seems irrelevant, the categorization of the land will determine whether a 68-story mixed-use tower will rise on its site, a project backed by city officials and affordable housing advocates.
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Mayor de Blasio and his administration have made progress in meeting their goal of building 200,000 affordable units over the span of a decade, as 21,963 new units were added in 2016, the most in 27 years. However, there continues to be a shortage in East Harlem. Out of the nearly 20,000 affordable units, the city brought to all five boroughs, just 249 units have been built in East Harlem, according to a new report by the Department of Housing and Preservation Development (HPD). To better accommodate these residents, the city plans on expediting the construction of 2,400 units of affordable housing over the next few years, as DNA Info reported.
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Looking to take advantage of the newly opened Second Avenue Subway stop at 96th Street, the New York City Educational Construction Fund and AvalonBay Communities are working their way through the city approval process to build a 1.14 million-square foot, full-block, mixed-use development in East Harlem. CityRealty tells us that the project located at 321 East 96th Street would hold two new school buildings for three different local schools, 20,000 square feet of retail space, a rebuilt playground, and a 68-story, 760-foot residential tower that would offer between 1,100 and 1,200 units and possibly become the city’s tallest building to contain affordable housing (roughly 330 below-market rate units).
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