Jan. 18, 2016 Staff Report
The developers who plan to revamp the Paragon Paint building and erect three residential buildings on adjacent parcels—including a 28-story tower—will be presenting their plans at a public hearing on Wednesday.
Brent Carrier and Matt Baron, the developers, are seeking a zoning variance from the Board of Standards & Appeals so they can move forward with their plans.
The meeting, scheduled for 6:30 pm on the fourth floor of The School of Academy for Careers in Film and Television, will provide residents with an opportunity to ask the developers questions about the project.
The proposal includes a 28-story tower that would be attached to the Paragon Paint building, as well as two other residential buildings that would be 13 stories and eight stories, respectively.
The development, which would include 14,000 square feet of retail space and a large public park that opens onto Anable Basin, is spread over three contiguous parcels. The plans call for 334 rental apartments, of which 103 would be deemed affordable.
Pat O’Brien, chairman of Community Board 2, in announcing details of the public hearing at the CB2 board meeting earlier this month said: “It is a very adventurous proposal, with a very tall structure very close to Vernon Blvd.”
Lisa Deller, chairwoman of CB2’s Landuse Committee, urged people to come to the meeting to help the board provide greater feedback to the developers. She has voiced concerns about the scale of the proposal.
The board is scheduled to vote on the plan at its monthly meeting at the Sunnyside Community Center on Feb. 4. It’s vote is not binding but it is taken into consideration when the BSA makes its ruling.
The developers are seeking a variance because the Paragon site is currently zoned for manufacturing (M1-4). This zone does provide them with the right to develop a hotel, which would be about 10 stories tall.
However, the developers claim that a hotel project would be economically unfeasible given the $20-plus million cost to clean up the toxic site that has housed the old paint factory for 80 years.
While a significant portion of the $20 million is likely to be subsidized by the Brownfield Cleanup Program (as much as $10 million), the developers said the remaining cost is still a burden and is driving the need for the variance.
But their application for a variance has already generated some pushback from the board.
O’Brien told Carrier and Baron at a Landuse Committee meeting in December that the Board was concerned by the project’s height and scale given its Vernon Boulevard location.
“We have problems with density, bulk, height and the fact that it changes the nature of the neighborhood,” O’Brien said.
Deller said at the December Landuse Committee meeting that Hunters Point was built around the concept that the tallest buildings were to be located by the East River, with smaller buildings toward Vernon Blvd.
“If it were 12 stories it would be one thing. But it is 28 stories, a huge shift,” Deller said.
Howard Goldman, the attorney for the developers, said at that Committee meeting that even if a hotel were possible, they would have to build it across the entire site to recoup some of their costs, thereby ending the possibility of the public park.
“[With the proposed project] we are dedicating a third of the 54,000 square feet land area to open space,” Goldman told the committee, amounting to 18,000 square feet of open space.
The plan provides access to the park via public space that would be between the tower and a 13-story building that is also planned for Vernon Boulevard, Goldman said. The open area would then lead down to a half-acre park adjacent to Anable Basin for public use.
The 28-story tower would be set back 50 feet from Vernon Blvd, just about the width of a narrow street, Goldman said. He added that it is pushed right back to ensure the feel of Vernon Boulevard does not change.
The eight-story building would be on 46th Avenue, while the Paragon Paint building would be revamped in order to accommodate residential tenants.
Goldman said the revamping of the old Paragon Paint building, as opposed to demolishing it, is just further evidence that the developers are trying to maintain the integrity of Vernon Blvd.
Furthermore, Goldman said the tower would be located on the water – like the East River developments – so it should be viewed as a waterfront building as opposed to a smaller-scale building on Vernon Boulevard.
Baron argued that the 28 story tower proposal should not be viewed in a vacuum, but should be judged for its total impact on the surroundings.
For example, he noted that developers are cleaning up a toxic site, which was deemed “a significant threat to human life” by the New York State Department of Health before the site was purchased.
Baron also said that the creation of the open space ensures that other buildings will have a “view corridor” to the water. Furthermore, he noted the 103 affordable apartments that would be created, and said that the retail space could also be filled by much-needed commercial tenants, such as a supermarket or a drug store.
He said this space, however, was not big enough to house a school.
The Landuse Committee asked the developers last month to put together some alternative plans where the tower would be shorter.
“We look at this [site] as the first in a potential wave of precedent-setting developments,” O’Brien said.
Goldman said that the tower allows the developer to open up the space for the public park. He said the alternative would be shorter buildings that would cover a larger portion of the land, reducing space for the public park.
“If you want to keep open space then the building gets tall,” he said. “The design concept is to maximize the open space which results in a taller building.”
Baron said the smaller the park becomes, the “less inviting it will be.” He said a shorter building that covers a greater portion of the site would merely be “a compromise on paper.” He said it would reduce the quality of the park.
But Deller at the committee meeting was more focused on the potential scale of the building than the park.
“In the hierarchy of priorities, the height and bulk is what we need to get at. The park is lovely – it’s lovely icing on the cake.”
Wednesday, January 20
The School of Academy for Careers in Film and Television
1-50th 51st Street, 4th Floor, Long Island City