MCNY Panel Calls for West Side Development Oversight, Funding Transparency

At a panel discussion at the Museum of the City of New York last night, planners and community advocates criticized the lack of coordination going into the planning for the West Side.

The sheer mass of public and private development planned for the West Side (between 14th and 42nd Street, West of 8th Avenue) is staggering.  

Besides the Rail Yards themselves, current planning initiatives include:

Community Board 4’s Anna Hayes Levin and former MTA chair Richard Ravitch both called attention to the lack of an overarching body to oversee the planning and financial aspects of this development. Ravitch called the West Side “planning run amok.” He pointed to Moynihan Station as the key to smart planning, saying,”Until Moynihan Station is resolved, there will be a serious impediment to development on the whole West Side.” Expansion of the station would promote natural growth of Midtown by adjacency, he explained, rather than starting with large commercial developments on 10th and 11th Avenues. He encouraged the MTA to hold off plans for the Rail Yards until Moynihan Station was settled.

All panelists called for financials of each project to be made public. University of Pennsylvania Planning Professor Lynn Sagalyn  noted that press coverage of West Side development has not pushed the City, State or MTA to reveal how much these projects will cost or who would pay for them.

Likely, full buildout on West Side development will happen over the course of the next three decades or so. Chances are high that these projects will shift, scale back, or possibly fall through completely. This development burst is in its infancy, so it’s crucial that the public stay informed and demand accountability in both the planning and funding of these major projects.

 A video of last night’s dicussion will be up next week.


Site Background: 2005 Hudson Yards Rezoning

While the Western Rail Yards still has to go through ULURP (the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure), the Eastern Rail Yards (one half of the entire site) must be developed to meet pre-existing zoning requirements established in 2005. To better understand how the Rail Yards fits into the larger picture of the far West Side, it’s worth looking at this 26 acres in the context of the rezoning.


[Hudson Yards Rezoning Land Use map from DCP. Click image to enlarge]

The Eastern Rail Yards were rezoned as part of the 360-acre Hudson Yards Rezoning, approved by the City Council in January 2005. This massive rezoning, creating the Special Hudson Yards District, was intended to increase the commercial and residential capacity of the Far West Side between West 28th and West 43rd Streets, and Eighth and Eleventh Avenues. According to the Department of City Planning, purposes included:

  • To expand the Midtown business district to increase office space and make Manhattan more “economically competitive”
  • To anticipate the expansion of the 7 train West to 11th Avenue, and downtown to 34th Street
  • To encourage expansion of the Javits Center by the creation of a “Convention Center Corridor”
  • To make a new open-space network, including the creation of a new midblock pedestrian avenue running from 33rd to 41st Streets
  • To interact with a planned Jets football stadium on the Western Rail Yards (not part of this rezoning) related to the NYC2012 Olympic bid

More information on the Hudson Yards rezoning can be found here (DCP) and here (CB4).

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