For over two years, the BHA opposed this extremely large City-driven project that is outrageously out-of-scale and completely unprecedented. The original proposal featured two towers, 986 feet tall and 561 feet, a 350-seat elementary school and a new Khalil Gibran High School with 350 seats as well as 200 units of affordable housing in the tall tower. All this across from 4-story brownstones.
The BHA proposed a one tower/one school solution with 4-story townhouses on the north side of State Street to reflect the existing residential context. Although the 2004 Downtown Zoning calls for a transition between downtown and residential streets, the City refused to engage in meaningful dialogue about our alternative proposal.
The project was approved with a 15.75 FAR (floor area ratio, less than the original FAR at 18). Council Member Steven Levin said he would not approve the project unless the FAR was reduced to 15. We believe CM Levin fought for us, but compromised to achieve new schools and affordable housing.
We appreciate the design changes that reduced the heights of both towers and also moved tower two further from Third Avenue. However the end result will see tower one situated directly across from 4-story brownstones, a result that zoning, dating back almost one hundred years, was supposed to prevent.
This large project is moving forward. Construction will bring new challenges including noise, dust, vibration, rodents, street closures, traffic and more.
Now some good news. The developer, Alloy LLC, has always promised to be a good neighbor. To their credit, they have consistently given open and clear communication on a regular basis through community meetings. While no one likes to live next to construction, they have been responsive and open. They have distributed project manager contact information and have responded quickly whenever contacted.
A group of residents from the most affected blocks of State Street have created an organization, the 400-500 Block State Street Association, that holds meetings with Alloy development on a regular basis.
We always supported the affordable housing component and the new Khalil Gibran High School. We still believe the disregard of the local community is a bad precedent for the City. Other neigbhorhoods with similar battles are fighting back regarding 200 Amsterdam Avenue, the 65th-66th Upper West Side project and Inwood rezoning.
The City needs to achieve better balance.
You can see the original presentation and designs here. The agency responsible for leveraging City property to develop public/private partnerships for school construction is the Educational Construction Fund (ECF). They have a history of maximizing height and bulk to achieve their goals.