Union Square tech hubbub heats up ahead of public review date with mayor’s latest rezoning bid

January 30, 2018

Rendering via NYCEDC

In what may be shaping up to be one of New York City’s biggest preservation battles of the coming year, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s application Monday for a rezoning in order to move forward with a proposed tech hub at 124 East 14th Street in Union Square led neighborhood preservation and affordable housing groups to escalate cries of protest. Community organizations, including the Cooper Square Committee and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), restated the urgent need for assurance that rezoning would come with protections for the adjacent residential neighborhood. Preservationists fear the creation of a new “Silicon Alley” near Union Square will bring rent hikes and more condo and office towers. The proposed tech center, which the mayor hopes will nurture budding entrepreneurs in the technology field and bring over 600 jobs to New Yorkers, is planned at the site of a P.C. Richard & Son store, in an area already filled with new developments with more on the way.

124 East 14th Street, union square, tech hub, GVHPS, preservationists
Image via Google Maps

The public review process for the proposed tech hub officially began Monday with the city’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) presenting the the proposal to the City Planning Commission. 6sqft previously reported that preservationist groups feel the mayor is trying to transform Union Square and its southern stretches into an “oversized Silicon Alley.” Councilwoman Rosie Mendez and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation have been advocating that, in exchange for the building, the city rezone the surrounding blocks to prevent an influx of out-of-scale development.

The latest concern is that the mayor’s recent rezoning application doesn’t include enough protections for the surrounding neighborhood, and that without these, the new tech hub will, according to a press release from the GVSHP, “accelerate the transformation of the area between Union Square and Astor Place, along University Place, Broadway, and 3rd and 4th Avenues, into an extension of ‘Silicon Alley,’ with more of the tech office high-rises, luxury condo-towers, and huge hotels we are seeing developed in this area.”

GVSHP has proposed zoning protections for the University Place, Broadway, 3rd and 4th Avenue corridors directly south of the site which would put in place height limits of approximately 8 to 12 stories for new developments in the University Place and Broadway corridors along with affordable housing provisions. The protections would also eliminate a loophole that the organization says allows large-scale commercial construction.

The next step for the tech hub project is a required public review process; a Community Board #3 public hearing on the plan is scheduled for next Wednesday, February 7 at 6:30 PM at the Henry Street Settlement at 301 Henry Street.


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