Tuesday, May 15, 2007

ZONE THIS: Upper West Side Rezoning Fight Begins - May 10, 2007 - The New York Sun 

Upper West Side Rezoning Fight Begins - May 10, 2007 - The New York Sun

The Upper West Side has undergone a remarkable transformation over the last ten years. The most noteworthy addition is the twin-towered Time Warner Center. It's located at Columbus Circle, the gateway to the UWS.

But, more changes are in the offing. And a zoning battle is brewing between developers and residents.

"People here are furious, still," the president of West Siders for Responsible Development, Miki Fiegel, said of the 37-story Ariel East and 31-story Ariel West. "I look out my window, and see people pointing to the buildings — and shaking their heads."

The Extell Development Co. purchased air rights from a nearby church, and a row of brownstones, enabling the construction of the 300-foot-plus towers. Inside the structures, two- to five-bedroom homes — some commanding prices of more than $3.5 million — boast high-end finishes, park and river views, and amenities such as a private movie theater, a pet spa, and a billiards lounge.

The president of the Real Estate Board of New York, Steven Spinola, said luxury apartments would both increase property values of local homeowners, and bring more upscale retail. He said he worried that the city's proposal would discourage some muchneeded residential development in the area, adding: "This is a wide street — this is Broadway — and it's where you want to encourage bigger and taller buildings." Occupancy for Ariel East and Ariel West is scheduled for July and September, respectively. More than twothirds of the units have been sold, according to a spokesman for Extell, George Arzt. "The new zoning is bad for the architecture of the community because the buildings are going to be really chunky," he said. "But, it's good for our project because the views will be unobstructed."

The planning department is proposing a neighborhood rezoning that, while increasing slightly the maximum squarefootage of developments, would impose height limits for avenues and side streets, respectively; force developers to erect structures flush with the street wall, and restrict the transfer of air rights from mid-blocks to avenues. Under the proposal, certain buildings along Broadway could rise to a maximum of 145 feet, which is less than half the height of either Ariel tower.

The new zoning would also provide incentives for developers to include below market-rate housing in their residential projects. The planning department's proposal would affect the northern portion of the Upper West Side — bounded by 97th and 110th streets to the south and north, and Riverside Drive and Central Park West to the east and west.

Residents have benefited from the huge increase in property values and a new influx of residents have added to the vitality of the area. However, at what point will residents and UWS denizens say enough is enough? And who is to decide what is enough? Some feel that the government should interfere with the market process by applying arbitrary zoning decisions. Others believe that developers, buyers and residents will determine the future of the vaunted neighborhood.


START-UP AT CARNEGIE SITE By STEVE CUOZZO - Business - New York Post Online Edition 

START-UP AT CARNEGIE SITE By STEVE CUOZZO - Business - New York Post Online Edition

Finally, the north side of West 57th street is getting "some work done." Steve Cuozzo details what it took to get to this point.

THE roar of jackhammers across from Carnegie Hall is sweet music to developer Gary Barnett's ears.

Barnett's prolific Extell Development Corp. has finally started work on one of the city's most-watched sites - a colossal, six-building assemblage on the north side of West 57th Street across from Carnegie Hall.

Barnett said yesterday the project will be "at least 50 stories" with "north of 500,000 square feet." Though plans aren't final, "We're looking forward to doing a five-star hotel at the base and above it, condos with Central Park views."

Extell filed demolition plans with the Buildings Department this month. The takedown has begun behind a shroud of black netting. Barnett said actual construction should start this year, even though certain aspects of the project - including choice of architect and hotel operator - have yet to be finalized.

A gratified Barnett said, "It's taken me nine years to put it together." The site includes all the buildings from 147-161 West 57th and air rights from adjacent properties.

50 stories? Hotel? Six-building assemblage? This is going to be quite a project that will change the face of that side of the storied street.


SPRING (ST.) IS IN THE AIR By LOIS WEISS - Business - New York Post Online Edition 

SPRING (ST.) IS IN THE AIR By LOIS WEISS - Business - New York Post Online Edition

Lois Weiss notes how a stand-out SoHO cornder site can fetch $250 million.

"This is one of the most exciting properties on the market today in SoHo," said Richard Baxter of Cushman & Wakefield, which is pitching the place to prospective buyers along with the rest of the fabulous foursome of Ron Cohen, Scott Latham and Jon Caplan.

There are three interconnected buildings on the corner of Broadway and Spring including Nos. 530, 532 and 536 Broadway. There is 125 feet of retail frontage on each street hosting Levi's, Scoop, Sketchers and Arden B., among others.

Dolce & Gabbana has its showrooms and offices on the entire second floor of all three buildings, which is where they hosted a sample sale last week with lines snaking out onto the street. All other commercial tenants have full floors in at least one building with some configured as duplexes or across two buildings.

Nearly all the leases expire over the next five years.

"I've been doing this for a long time and it's time to move on both in terms of me personally and knowing the right time to dispose of an asset," said Ken Schack, a third-generation principal of the company, which has owned the buildings for 60 years.

Looks like they're doing it at the right time.


SECULAR TURKS ARE AT A CROSSROADS: One Turkish City Countering Fear of Islam’s Reach - New York Times 

One Turkish City Countering Fear of Islam’s Reach - New York Times

Konya is still deeply attached to its faith. Mosques are spread thickly throughout the city; there are as many as in Istanbul, which has five times the population. But in a part of the world where religion and politics have been a poisonous mix and cultural norms are conservative regardless of religion, it is an oasis: women here wear relatively revealing clothing, couples hold hands and bus segregation is a distant memory.

“We’ve been wearing the same dress for 80 years, and it doesn’t fit anymore,” said Yoruk Kurtaran, who travels extensively in Turkey. “Things used to be black and white.”

Now, he said, “there are a lot of grays.”

The shift shows the evolution of Turkey’s Islamic movement, which has matured under Mr. Erdogan, abandoning the restrictive practices of its predecessors and demonstrating to its observant constituents the benefits of belonging to the European Union.

It also follows a pattern occurring throughout Turkey, where the secularists who founded the state out of the Ottoman Empire’s remains are now lagging behind religious Turks in efforts to modernize it.But secular Turks, like those who took part in the recent protests, do not believe that Mr. Erdogan and his allies have changed

Turkey is now one of the world's most fascinating places to monitor. It is wedged between the modern, secular European west and the Islamic, traditional Middle East. Turkey's economy is growing by leaps and bounds but is the cultural and social issues that dominate the Turkish debates.


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