Manhattan Preservation Groups Block New Development—On a ‘Historic’ Parking Lot

A judge ruled against a decision by the Landmarks Preservation Commission to approve a 324-tower in the South Street Seaport Historic District, highlighting the tensions in a city facing a dearth of affordable housing.

2 minute read

February 1, 2023, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Google Street view of 250 Water Street parking lot with tall buildings in background

The lot in question. | Google Maps / 250 Water Street

A lot currently being used for parking in Manhattan’s South Street Seaport Historic District could be transformed into hundreds of units of housing—that is, if the parking lot wasn’t historically landmarked.

As Ginia Bellafante explains in The New York Times, when a developer proposed a 26-story building for the site at 250 Water Street, preservationist groups voiced their objections and sued, arguing that the building didn’t fit with the character of the historic district, could cause disruptions to a nearby school, and that the Landmarks Preservation Commission acted out of political interest when it approved the plan. “The proposal for the Water Street site includes 270 rental apartments, at least 70 of which would remain affordable, significantly, to those making an average of 40 percent of the area’s median income.” This means dozens of very low-income families “would qualify to live in a new building downtown, close to every conceivable means of public transportation and highly regarded public schools including Peck Slip, across the street.”

The preservationists won.

Bellafante calls this a “a particularly confounding example of the challenge to economically integrate wealthy neighborhoods in New York,” where community groups have obstructed the construction of new housing. With roughly 67,000 people sleeping in New York’s homeless shelters last November, Bellafante wonders, how does the aesthetic cohesiveness and ‘historic character’ of a neighborhood stack up against a desperate need for housing?

Friday, January 27, 2023 in The New York Times

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