GROUCHO (to woman seated next to him at an elegant dinner party): Would you sleep with me for ten million dollars?
WOMAN (giggles and responds): Oh, Groucho, of course I would.
GROUCHO; How about doing it for ten bucks?
WOMAN (indignant): What do you think I am???
GROUCHO: That’s already been established. Now we’re just haggling about the price.
For the umpteenth time, the 5Pointz residential development plan received another layer of approval from the powers-that-be to increase the size of the project, and this one seems to be the absolute final one necessary. Most of the noisy press has focused on the two most colorful groups. The pro-development camp who consistently asserted that the developers, the Wolkoffs, were legally entitled to build on the lot; and the artists camp, who felt the current building was a treasure. As far as I’m concerned, both camps are right.
My focus today is not on the “Tear it down/Don’t tear it down” circus, but rather the special permit that allowed the Wolkoffs to increase the size of the two buildings from roughly 30 stories each, to 41 and 47 stories. Basically what happens in applying for the permit, is that the developer has to pay for a lengthy 3rd-party feasibility study that lists all the negatives of allowing him said special increase. There’s a whole litany of negative effects for a community that usually include standard items like increased auto traffic in the area, increased pedestrian traffic, lack of parking, strain on public transportation, etc. Then comes the aesthetics bucket list such as the effect on the skyline and the big new shadows across the neighborhood. As a local example of the last item, one effect cited in the 5Pointz study in allowing the buildings to be 40+ stories, was that now they would create shadows on Murray Park at certain times of the year. The net-net of all this is that there are negatives that a whole community must shoulder, so a developer can increase the size of his building.
On the other hand, there’s a huge cost advantage for a developer in building as big and high as he can, in order to amortize the fixed costs he’d incur whether the building were one story or a hundred, plus a lot of other savings such as supplies(example: if you’re buying 1000 bathtubs instead of 700, you get a better price per tub) In recognition of this trade-off between “Increased Community Negatives” and “Greatly Increased Bottom Line”, the city and it’s various politicos swarm over this potential honeypot to play a game of squeeze-the-developer.
As expected, that’s exactly what transpired on the 5Pointz deal. After all the negotiating, the city was able to extract some low-cost artists studios, the allowance of some graffiti on certain portions of the building, and most significantly, 210 of the new apartments will be “Affordable Housing.”
Huzzahs all around on this settlement, right? Not so fast.
What the agreement really distills down to, is that 210 lucky souls will get subsidized housing, and the rest of the community will have to endure the negative effects of the increased building size. Maybe those effects are really bad, or maybe they are fairly meaningless, but the net equation is 210 people benefit greatly, and the rest of the neighborhood of 20,000+ takes a little hit in their quality of life.
Now, let’s take the 5Pointz example to the extreme. What if the proposed increase were to 60, or 80, or 100 stories? Would you feel the increased negatives then? Of course, and you’d probably make a huge ruckus over what was being inflicted. Instead you just get a little screwing, maybe ten bucks worth, and thus don’t make a fuss. Now that’s the art of the deal!
Council Approves Housing Plan for 5Pointz – huzzahs all around, except from the artists. Sorry if I made you a little unsettled too.
Founders of 5Pointz File Lawsuit to Block Demolition – probably too little too late
Market Reports Out for Queens/LIC Rentals, Sales – “The LIC rental market has a growing inventory with steady pricing. New developments are renting at an average of 20 units a week per building.” Old news to LICtalk readers, we told you this a month ago.
Manhattan Rents Decline for the First Time in Two Years – Old news, yawn.
These Donors Will Take Anything but Manhattan – a story about the Rubins, who make big arts donations solely to the outer boroughs, including $300K to Socrates Sculpture Park last week. Too bad the Wolkoffs don’t take a page from their book.
The Death of the Suburbs – Sam Zell calling a trend we spotted in April. I didn’t know he too was a reader of LICtalk: ‘The demand for the suburban lifestyle had been driven mainly by safety and schools, he said. “If you wanted to see the end of suburbia, all you’d need to do is make the school systems in the cities triple-A and why would anybody live in the suburbs,” Zell said.’
Aereo Pushes Back Android App – local biz we made mention of earlier in the week. Will they be the next Comcast?
Cafe To Open in Hunters Point South Park – surprise, it won’t be Starbucks