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Plans For Extell’s Riverside Center Receive Another Thumbs Down

A couple of months ago, David reported about Extell’s plans to build Riverside Center, along with Upper West Siders’ disapproval of the plan.  To be fair, Riverside Center deserves some points for ambition — to recap: that’s 2,500 new apartments, 210,000 square feet of retail, new school, car service center, movie theater, and 250-room hotel, all of which would stretch from 59th Street to 61st Street and West End Avenue to the West Side Highway. But that’s about all the credit Upper West Side residents were giving. This overly ambitious plan gained many opponents rather quickly.

Extell’s plans from March were recently revised, and went back in front of the Upper West Side’s Community Board 7, which was less than kind to them months ago.  In the most recent revision, three towers near the Hudson River were reduced in size while two near West End Avenue grew.  It was something, but it didn’t address one of the community board’s original concerns with this project: questions about the mega-development’s environmental impact held many back from jumping on board with Extell’s new plan for the empty space back in March. Which was obviously a good thing for us to hear at gbNYC, because it means New Yorkers were demanding greener living. What we didn’t expect was how much they wanted it.

In more recent news, a vote of 36-to-2  in Community Board 7 favored disapproval of Riverside Center.  Some of the community’s issues with this mega-development included how much commitment went to the proposed school and affordable housing.  More interesting to gbNYC readers is the neighborhood’s commitment to this project being green — they demanded that the entire development be built to LEED Platinum standards.  Being Upper West Siders, they also demanded a bunch of other things — more park space, more commitment to the planned school and affordable housing as well, requesting that Extell fund the entire school instead of just the building’s core and shell.  Extell’s plans included 12 percent of housing affordable housing for 20 years, but CB7 wants 30 percent of Riverside Center’s housing to be affordable housing, permanently. We obviously support all this, but we keep coming back to that demand for LEED Platinum efficiency. David got kind of emotional about it last week, but it’s easy to see why — We like to hear that New Yorkers are fighting for greener living!

The Board decided to throw everything they wanted out on the table, thinking that this opportunity would only come once.  They requested some pretty drastic — and truth be told, expensive — changes to Extell’s plans, but we hope that everything will turn out for the best.  It seems that CB7 fought the right fights; public review of Extell’s mega-development will continue by heading to the City Planning Commission.  The problems with that process have been on sad display of late with Williamsburg’s New Domino development, but CB7′s clear and audacious demand for green building will hopefully be hard to ignore.

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