Save The High Line?

Plans May Doom Northernmost Blocks of Future Park

westerrailyards.jpg

Photo: Courtesy of Hudson Yards Development Corporation

Looking west over the railyards.

State and city officials said Tuesday night that they would try to save the three northernmost blocks of the High Line when they choose private developers for the western rail yards, but they made no promises.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the six blocks worth of rail yards in the West 30s, will be asking bidders to submit two plans: one in which the sections of elevated track along 30th Street and 12th Avenue would be preserved and the other in which they would be removed, according to city officials. The M.T.A. would determine whether the lost profit from maintaining the train track would be worth it.

“The M.T.A. and the city support retaining the High Line,” William Wheeler, the M.T.A.’s director of special project development and planning, told the more than 150 residents who packed an auditorium rented for the unveiling of the West Side rail yard plans. “But what the M.T.A. has to do is understand the assessment of risk and reward from the developers to understand how it impacts or doesn’t or benefits or doesn’t the returns we are going to get from the properties.”

Mr. Wheeler received a healthy applause, and speakers from Friends of the High Line, a nonprofit organization that has successfully campaigned to turn the southernmost 19 blocks of the unused track into a park, thanked the M.T.A. for its support. But officials said that preserving the High Line would likely add to the developers’ cost because it would require them to have to work around it. If the track was torn down, however, it would be replaced by a narrow raised park just like the High Line in order to open up 30th Street.

Affordable housing was the other major issue that arose during the meeting, which gave the public its first public glimpse of the city’s plans for the former Jets football stadium site. Regina Myer, a senior vice president at the Hudson Yards Development Corporation, the city agency overseeing the project, said that developers would devote “up to 20 percent” of the rental units they built for low-income families, and that two other publicly owned sites on the West Side, which would accommodate hundreds of additional affordable apartments, were “under very very serious consideration for affordable housing.”

About half of the 21 community members who spoke afterward complained that the affordable-housing commitment was not great enough, because it would only come out to be one-fifth of rental housing while condominiums would likely be entirely market-rate.

“We just want to live in our city,” said Marisa Redanty, the president of the Manhattan Plaza Tenants Association.

But city officials said afterward that it would be better to put affordable housing on other sites because it will cost so much for developers to build a platform over the rail yards. They also did not want to detract from the proceeds that the M.T.A. would earn from the sale of the development rights.

The two halves of the rail yards—the eastern half was rezoned two years ago—will accommodate between 2,400 and 5,800 new apartments, according to the proposed zoning, and between 6 million and 9.4 million square feet of office space. Officials said they had not figured out the limit to the height of the office towers, but they spoke freely about towers that are between 40 and 60 stories tall.

The buildings would likely be placed on the northern and southern edges of the rail yards because an Amtrak tunnel goes through the center.

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