Oct. 7, 2019 By Christian Murray
Community Board 2 approved a series of zoning modifications to the 5Pointz towers Thursday but only after much debate–and a call for the project to include a 5,000 square foot library.
The board took two votes on the contentious plan before agreeing to approve the zoning changes. The modifications—which involve an extra floor to each tower and various tweaks — were approved on the second vote but only after a library was included.
Jerry Wolkoff, the controversial 5Pointz developer, sat at the back of the room during the vote and was surprised by the board’s decision.
“I went there for a minor modification and this library came out of nowhere,” Wolkoff said after the vote. “Suddenly I’m in charge of a library. I don’t know how this relates to me.”
Wolkoff presented his revised plans earlier in the meeting, which call for 254 studios, 595 one bedrooms, 261 two bedrooms and 12 three bedrooms. The number of units was higher than the 1,000 units he indicated when he was granted a special zoning permit in 2013. However, he reduced the number of 3-bedroom units, so the floor area still complies with the permit.
The initial vote was to approve the modifications based on Wolkoff’s pledge to build 220 affordable units per a 421-a tax abatement; pay service workers a prevailing wage; and increase art studio/gallery space. The board’s Land Use Committee recommended that the full board approve the motion.
The board, however, rejected the motion by a vote of 20-8, with board member Sheila Lewandowski arguing that Wolkoff was providing the community with no real benefit under such an agreement.
She said that Wolkoff was getting tax credits on the 220 affordable units and that he needed to give the community more.
But board member Stephen Cooper disagreed with Lewandowski and advocated for the Land Use Committee’s recommendation. “It’s a minor modification and if we reject it the city will pass it anyway, I assure you. It is a minor modification…It’s a done deal.”
Cooper said the modifications were hardly noticeable and the building is the same size as what was put forward in 2013—just a slightly different shape.
But Lewandowski insisted Wolkoff had to give something back to the community in lieu of the approval.
Lewandowski said that the Court Square library that is located in the Citigroup building is slated to close and that Wolkoff could provide the space at $1 a year in his building like the bank had for many years. The library’s current lease is ending.
The board voted in favor of Lewandowski’s proposal, 24-to-5, which included the provisions put forward by the Land Use committee.
The board’s recommendation is advisory and the City Planning Commission will make the determination as to whether the library should be a requirement of the zoning modifications. The commission, however, has a long history of approving plans counter to the recommendations of community boards.
Wolkoff’s zoning application–deemed a “minor modification” by City Planning–does not have to go before the city council for a vote or before the borough president.
Last week’s approval came about two months after the board rejected Wolkoff’s initial application. The board argued at the time that he had not been forthcoming in his application and wrote a strongly worded to the City Planning Commission outlining why his modification should be denied.
The rejection was not based on the plan itself but on Wolkoff’s perceived lack of transparency. For instance, Wolkoff changed the unit mix from what was put forward in the 2013 special permit. He was slow to inform the board what the changes were—even though they still complied with the special permit.
Wolkoff, who apologized for not being responsive to the board two months ago, was perplexed by Thursday’s vote.
“I had been approved by the Land Use Committee last week and then it goes before the full board I’m told I should be building a library. Who knows, I’ll look into it.”
When are all these dumb New Yorkers going to wake up and stop tolerating/willfully ignoring and defending the corruption of its leaders? How stupid do you have to be to believe that they’re actually representing your interests? Take the average IQ at one of JVB’s ribbon-cutting ceremonies, and that should tell you what you need to know.
in this day and age libraries need space for people more than books. think of it as a place to pickup the book you ordered from another branch. to serve the community you need a childrens room, a place for seniors to read a newspaper and an all purpose community room for things like yoga, knitting and ESL classes. the woodside branch is tiny yet does all that and more
As a NYC librarian I can tell you that 5000 square feet is not enough to provide for an entire community considering Court Square Library will be closing.
Well the current library at Court Square is 3200 sq ft. While not ideal, it definitely serves its purpose. I don’t think there’s ever been a situation of ‘oh my, this place is too crowded’. 5k sq ft, while also not ideal, would be a vast improvement and a welcomed facility for the neighborhood.
Hope this library doesn’t take over ten years to build, doesn’t cost over 40 million, does has a floor plan that’s practical, and is 100% handicap accessible. If they build it all the politicians, all the special interest groups, and all the local community boards should be barred from any involvement.
5000 square feet is a tiny library, is it the same size or smaller than the one that is leaving the Citi building? At this size it is more like an amenity for the future residents of the building rather than something for the community – make it at least 15,000 square feet so there is plenty of room for book browsing as well as simultaneous use by elder, teen, pre-teen and young programs.
Terrific reporting and also great to have gotten real time quotes from the developer who usually does not speak with the press.
How about we just fight to keep the library where it is?
There is a good chance the owner of the old building will want to demolish it.
Politicians don’t care about anyone but themselves. We must vote out every last incumbent at every level of government regardless of party affiliation.
A developer with a reputation for lying and reneging on non-binding agreements will never provide Court Square with a library. We are going to need community leaders and elected officials to hold him to it. JVB? Gianaris?