No Action, But Many Questions at Community Meeting on Congregation Shearith Israel's Development Plans
Community Board 7 (CB7) did not vote at last night's "informational" meeting, a misnomer since more questions than answers emerged about Congregation Shearith Israel's (CSI's) plans to build a 105'-tall building, including five floors of luxury condos stacked on top of a new community house, on the low-rise, brownstone-scale midblock of West 70th Street.
No one but CSI's attorney and architect spoke in favor of the development project. But West Siders showed up in force to express concerns about the impact this particular project would have on our neighborhood. In addition, participants included residents and homeowners keenly aware of the precedent CSI's building would set for other would-be developer-institutions including the New-York Historical Society, West-Park Presbyterian Church, Congregation Rodeph Sholom, the Jewish Home & Hospital and the Ramaz School on the East Side.
This was the first of at least two meetings of CB7's Land Use Committee (future dates tba) on CSI's as-yet incomplete application to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) for 7 zoning variances, needed since the proposed building would violate the area's low-rise, contextual R8-B zoning designed to protect the character of brownstone blocks. CSI has so far failed to complete its application in response to BSA's 48+ objections to the original submission (made back in April 2007). CB7 committee members clearly recognized the shortcomings of the current proposal and put CSI on the hot seat with their probing questions.
LANDMARK WEST! brought in a court reporter to document the proceedings. A full transcript will be available at http://www.landmarkwest.org/advocacy/70st.html and www.protectwest70.org soon. Stay tuned for information about upcoming meetings and opportunities for public input.