Nov. 22, 2017 By Christian Murray
The owners of the Paragon Paint building who filed plans in 2015 to develop three residential buildings alongside the paint factory are scaling back their plans following push back from the community that argued the project was too big.
The revised plans filed by Simon Baron Development still call for the construction of a residential tower at 45-40 Vernon Blvd., a site that is currently zoned for manufacturing. The new plan includes a 26-story tower, a complete overhaul of the Paragon Paint building for residential and retail use, and the addition of a one-story building on 46th Avenue on an adjoining lot.
The development would lead to the construction of 248 units of which 30 percent would be affordable at 130 percent of Area Media Income. The plan filed in 2015 called for 344 units.
Simon Baron filed the revised plans in September with the Board of Standards and Appeals as the company seeks a variance that would permit residential use. The company’s initial plans appeared to be making little headway after Community Board 2—merely an advisory body–voted against it 24 to 4 (with two abstentions) in February 2016 on the grounds that it was too big.
The BSA largely agreed with CB2’s assessment that it was out of scale given its Vernon Boulevard location—despite Simon Baron claiming that the project should be compared to waterfront properties given its proximity to Anable Basin.
“We told them from a staff point of view that they would have a difficult time making that argument,” Ryan Singer, the BSA executive director told the LICPost at the end of 2016. “There are not a lot of buildings in that area [by Vernon Boulevard] that are that height.”
The tower under the original plan was to be 28 stories and 294 feet tall. While the revised plan calls for fewer floors—26 stories—the building is only 2 feet shorter at 292 feet.
The tower, however, would be pushed back from the street, similar to the original plan.
The primary difference from the original plan is that the developer no longer intends to construct a 13-story building alongside the proposed tower on Vernon Boulevard. In addition, an eight-story building that was originally proposed to go up on 46th Avenue has been scaled back to one story that would be used for retail and connect to the tower.
The plans for the paint building remain, with loft-like units on the upper floors and retail on the ground floor.
“We took a few hits last time, we understood and listened,” said Todd Sigaty, of SHoP Architects, at Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee meeting last week. “It is now smaller in scale than it used to be.”
Matthew Baron, president of Simon Baron, told the committee said that the revised proposal would still provide public access from Vernon Boulevard through to Anable Basin, which includes open space—something that his company is not required to do. The public access was included in the original proposal.
Simon Baron is likely to spend about $15 million cleaning up the contaminated site—where paint and varnish was manufactured for decades. The company is likely to recoup a portion of those remediation costs though New York State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program. The monetary amount is not yet known.
The original plan was panned mainly because it was deemed too big in comparison to other Vernon Boulevard buildings—thereby changing the character of the area. The board’s view was that large building like these should be located by the East River.
Developers in need of a zoning change have just two avenues to get it altered—through the BSA or through the City Planning’s ULURP process. Most developers go through ULURP, where the rezoning process–if successful– takes about nine months and involves a City Council vote.
The BSA track, which is a less cumbersome process, can only be taken if special criteria are met.
To meet BSA standards, developers such as Simon Baron must prove that their property has a unique physical condition that poses a financial hardship.
Simon Baron is claiming that the cost of cleaning the site has caused hardship. The company claims that it needs a zoning variance in order to build a structure where it can overcome the enormous cost of the cleanup.
The company is in the midst of a remediation program where it is clearing the contaminated soil, treating the ground water as well as replacing the timber bulkhead/seawall that touches Anable Basin.
The BSA, before it approves an application, also wants to make sure that the variance wouldn’t result in a building that would change the character of a neighborhood.
Last week, Plaxall announced its proposal to rezone nearly 15 acres of Hunters Point, which includes 12.7 acres of Plaxall property plus a handful of other sites including the Paragon Paint building.
Baron said that the tower doesn’t appear to be out of context given the plans put forward by Plaxall. He said the Plaxall proposal includes buildings that are nearly 700 feet tall.
Baron said that his project can act as a yardstick for the proposed rezoning. “We can put a stake in the ground, where you can say, this was way below [what the others are proposing via a rezoning] and they put in public space and affordable housing.”
Pat O’Brien, a CB2 committee member, said that pointing to the Plaxall proposal is not a good gauge since it has yet to be reviewed. “We don’t have a crystal ball and don’t know what the end result will be,” O’Brien said, adding that the proposal shouldn’t be used to determine neighborhood context at this point.
With the Paragon Paint building being located within the 15-acre area proposed for rezoning though ULURP, Baron’s company could wait for the property to be part of the comprehensive rezoning.
However, the firm seeks a variance via the BSA—since it could be two years before the 15-acre area is rezoned and it claims the property meets the BSA criteria.
In addition, the rezoning plan put forward by Plaxall calls for the addition of manufacturing and other mixed uses that the current Paragon Paint plans don’t include.
O’Brien argued that by going the BSA route there will be inconsistency in land use in Hunters Point. He said that Plaxall is seeking a rezoning, the Economic Development Corp is also seeking to rezone its 44th Drive site, and there is Paragon Paint’s BSA application.
O’Brien said that the three projects are so intertwined that it makes more sense for there to be one coordinated zoning process for the entire area. He said there could be three different requirements for sites that are next to one another.
Simon Baron plans to go before the BSA during the first quarter of 2018 for a decision. It no longer requires a community board vote.
Anonymous I remember the same thing about the Tall buildings being near the water and KING Bloomberg saying “Mixed Use” for LIC not all Luxury Ivory Towers. What GREED and BS that was.
Surely the greedy luxury real restate developer you voted for for president will do something about these greedy luxury real restate developers.
I well remember developers and city folk PROMISING all the tall buildings would be near the water, not in the rest of the neighborhood. LIARS, LIARS PANTS on FIRE!
I find it really odd and confusing that this plan keeps getting killed while other monstrosities get approved. 70 stories practically right next door. 28 gets killed. Are they not bribing the right people?
simple. they just need to write a bigger check.
there is way too much residential housing in nyc. That’s why it is so inexpensive to live here.
Big deal, take it completely off the table and that will be the best way for it to proceed. STOP with the Overkill of Building already.
Good point, we shouldn’t be giving these greedy developers any more power, the way you did when you voted for one for president.
MRIRONY-He was a better choice than Hillary and still is. Try a NEW theme.
Thanks for not denying that you gave a greedy real estate developer more power instead of voting for a candidate that would help low-income families.
Trump was deep in the pockets of real estate, Hillary was deep in the pockets of Wall Street. Neither would have done squat for low income families once the votes were counted. Pick your poison.
MRIRONY–Frank is right . Both are for the rich in some way or other. Trump wanted to protect the country not have “OPEN BORDERS”. Trump wanted to build up the military and she wanted to keep Obama’s DUMB policies which cut the military. These things made up my mind to vote for TRUMP. Get over it already. Do you think I am the only one who voted for TRUMP.
When you vote greedy luxury developers into power, you don’t get to complain that greedy developers have too much power.
Hillary wanted to end the Wall Street tax loopholes. Trump wants to cut the Estate Tax for anyone making $6mil or more. You voted for the billionaire developer that will make policies to benefit billionaire developers. How could you be so gullible?!
How about NO to all of this? No more residential buildings!!
It’s a city not a county village. If you don’t want buildings move upstate or out to the island. Cities grow or die.
LIC was fine before this Over development. it is now RUINED forever. No reason to build like this without planning where people will fit on Public Transportation, too many shadows from BIG Buildings, No Stores to shop because of rising rents and greedy landlords. No places fr dogs, no green space etc..etc… etc.. Traffic getting worse, foot traffic also. It Sucks here now.
Trump and other greedy developers like him drove up prices in Manhattan, and the spillover is driving up prices in neighboring areas like LIC. Now he wants to give millionaires a tax break.
It’s a shame you voted for such a greedy developer and gave him more power to continue doing this, instead of thinking about low-income working class families. Thanks for being a part of the problem.
At one time people complained about the overdevelopment of Manhattan and voiced all the same issues to no avail. Areas in the outer boroughs are following suit and old nieghorhoods, just like in the Manhattan of yesteryear, will change forever with zero regard for nostalgia or opposition. Overcrowding in the subways is as old a complaint as ever and they’re not going to stop building because your commute is uncomfortable just like they’re not going to stop selling 16+ million cars a year despite the worsening traffic and gridlock. If it’s not to your liking then it’s time to consider a move because it’s only going to get worse.
You are right 100% . It has to stop somewhere or there will be no escape from the dregs of Over Development, especially without planning.
The city is already dead. How many more empty retail spaces and banks does this city need? The bubble will burst soon.
You are right 100%. There should be a vacancy tax on these empty storefronts that developers keep empty waiting for that rich tenant to come along and pay what hey want. In some cases it may never happen or could take years. There also should be a vacancy tax on apartments that are kept empty in these luxury buildings, that way rents could come down . The Real Estate developers are sitting on their city tax breaks and don’t care who can’t find a affordable apartment. A crying Shame,
Very true MRLIC, the luxury tax developer you voted for for president wants to give major tax breaks to the rich. Thanks for making the problem worse!