Sunday, October 12, 2003

Housing Development Fund Corporations - From Public Housing to Private Corporations

Housing Development Fund Corporations
2003 Oct

Housing Development Fund Corporations
From Public Housing to Private Corporations
By Mary K. Fons

In order to get from one side of the Hudson River to the other, one would need to cross a bridge, get in a boat, or be able to jump a very long distance. Since not many people want to attempt the latter, most people utilize tools like bridges or some sturdy method of transportation when they want to get from Point A to Point B.

Upon first inquiry, tenants who wish to convert their buildings from city-owned properties into private cooperatives soon realize that the road will be long - and sometimes frustrating. But tenants who choose to pursue the process to the end also realize that perhaps the best way is to form a Housing Development Fund Corporation or HDFC. When they do this, they are in essence forming that bridge from Point A to Point B, and no jumping needs to enter the picture.

According to Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, president of both 601 W. 136th Street - an HDFC co-op in Manhattan - as well as the volunteer, no-for-profit HDFC Council, a group dedicated to helping tenants take charge of their own buildings and turn them into thriving, successful cooperatives, there are over 1,000 HDFCs in New York City. That's a lot - but what does it mean to be an HDFC co-op? Is an HDFC a business? Sort of. Is it a group of people? Yes, definitely. Does every co-op need to be an HDFC co-op? It depends.

Reyes-Montblanc spoke with The Cooperator recently and said - half-jokingly - that he's been in this business for over 15 years and he still doesn't understand everything there is to know about HDFCs. But we'll try to shine the light on the subject for those who may be in the dark.

Technically speaking, HDFCs are New York State corporations governed by New York State Private Housing Finance Law and are simultaneously incorporated under New York's Business Corporation Law (BCL) so they can issue stock as a co-op corporation. Some HDFCs - though not many - also come under the guidance of non-profit laws. While this information is important to someone wanting to fully understand HDFCs, it's the very information that gets people confused. The best way to explain what an HDFC is and the purpose behind the title is to go through the process a lot of tenants follow when converting their city-owned building into a co-op housing environment.

After we understand how an HDFC is formed, the technical details make a little more sense. Say, for example, there is a building with 100 units somewhere on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Let's call it Building X. The tenants of Building X decide they want to buy their building from the city of New York and turn it into a limited liability co-op. By organizing themselves as an HDFC, they provide several avenues for themselves, the most important of these being their opportunity to utilize what's called a Tenant Interim Lease or TIL.

HDFCs and TILs go hand in hand, most of the time. The Tenant Interim Lease is a net lease that the city issues to the HDFC tenant organization - the individuals who have decided to take steps to purchase their building. Under the TIL, the tenants act as owners and managers of their building, just as though they were already operating as their own co-op. The HDFC is then required to send reports every month, detailing the progress of the building, repairs that must be made, and so forth - like a status report on a probationary social program.

After two to three years (though it can be as long as five in some cases), providing the tenant organization has proven themselves to be capable of handling and managing their building, a rehab and renovation is scheduled. The city of New York at that point would hire a private construction firm to make the necessary improvements on Building X. Oftentimes, the buildings are in a depressed state and a major overhaul would be necessary. In such cases, the tenants would be temporarily relocated to live elsewhere while the changes to the building are taking place. Relocating people for a lengthy amount of time sounds like a major inconvenience but tenants aren't quick to complain. The city didn't start its HDFC rehab program until 1995 - and before that time, buildings were sold to tenants as-is, which caused any number of safety risks and financial headaches for the brand new owners.

Once the rehabbing is done, the tenants move into their new home and voila - they are the proud shareholder-owners of an HDFC limited equity co-op, just like the tenants of 601 W. 136th Street and other co-ops. Some buildings will find the process takes longer than others but the benefits of co-op living are surely worth the wait.

Income restrictions are the norm and both HPD and HDFC are empowered to enforce specific income guidelines. Whether the tenants are involved in the buildings' purchase from the beginning, or move in at the time of conversion, they are entitled to protection from skyrocketing rents or fees. Should any part of the building sell at any time, the HDFC plays a role in making sure that the new tenants meet the income restrictions already in place.

An HDFC is also eligible for tax breaks under Article XI: Tax Exemptions for HDFC-Owned New Construction or Rehabilitation of Affordable Housing. Under this provision, HDFCs can obtain full or partial exemption from real estate taxes for up to 40 years. This is a major coup for tenants of HDFC co-ops, though it is important to know that the tax break doesn't just happen on its own. The New York City Council must pass an HPD resolution authorizing the tax exemption. Then, the Tax Incentive Programs Unit (TIP), which can be reached by calling 212-863-5110, will issue a Certificate of Eligibility. Finally, the Department of Finance implements your building's benefit. It may sound like a lot of red tape but the reward may be worthwhile and a boon to any HDFC's operating budget. (Go to for additional information on how your HDFC can apply.)

Help is at Hand

If all this sounds convoluted and confusing, that's because it is. But help is available to deserving, committed cooperators who want to make the absolute most of their ownership and vested interest in their homes. Aside from the government Web sites and programs set up to help ease the process and aid the prosperity of new HDFC co-ops, there's also the HDFC Council, headed up by Reyes-Montblanc himself. The group, according to Reyes-Montblanc, "Usually doesn't get involved in the pre-conversion process, although many buildings' tenant associations do tend to contact us for advice and guidance as they get closer - usually about a year before conversion."

The council - an entirely volunteer endeavor - manages to do a lot with a little, not unlike the new cooperators they're helping along the way. "We don't really do outreach," says Reyes-Montblanc, "as we have very limited resources, however word-of-mouth and referrals keep us quite busy. Usually, we take the role of mentors and counselors, reviewing the building's common practices, both administrative and financial, and we make suggestions as to how to improve their business practices and how to refine their business judgment and define the role and responsibilities of the directors, both as individuals and as a board."'

Reyes-Montblanc points out that not every single co-op that comes to the council is automatically granted its time and assistance. "We go through a triage and select to work only with buildings where there is a real board that demonstrates a desire and commitment to improving their deficiencies and living by their bylaws and governing documents. Some buildings we refer to the not-for-profit [Department of Housing Preservation and Development] contracted agencies for specific training or to the workshops and seminars offered by the [Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums] or the Federation."

Reyes-Montblanc points out that the HDFC Council often exhorts those who opt to convert to cooperative living to get involved politically as well. "We ask our members to seek appointments to their Community Planning Boards and School District Boards, and to develop close working relationships with elected officials. We have members in 27 of the 51 Community Planning Boards, and in some like my own CB9M in Westside Heights, we have large representation as well, as in CB4M in Hell's Kitchen and others in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. We've been able to initiate legislation that has been passed and signed into law and have two [pieces of legislation] in the works with the New York City Council."

The expectation (and hope) of the tenants of any co-op - as well as the city of New York - is that the inhabitants of an HDFC co-op community will prosper and thrive in a comfortable place in which to live. By incorporating your co-op as an HDFC, you become part of a larger community of New York cooperators.

Mary Fons is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The Cooperator.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Community Board Saves M104 Bus Route

Community Board Saves M104 Bus Route
By Alisa Nakamine

A plan by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to change the route of the M104 bus line has been dropped after a long negotiation between the MTA and community activists.

The MTA initially planned the route change in order to better serve the new development in the Harlem Piers area near 125th Street along the Hudson River. In addition, the transit authority has been in the process of reorganizing all of its bus depots, and the new route was designed in part to reflect the switch in the M104's service station from the Amsterdam depot--which closed on Sept. 7--to the Manhattanville depot, according to MTA spokeswoman Marisa Baldeo.

The new route would have withdrawn service on Convent Avenue by going up Amsterdam Avenue and turning west at 133rd Street. Presently, the northbound M104 turns east at the intersection of Broadway and 125th Street. The bus goes up Amsterdam Avenue, turns east at 129th Street, and heads south on Convent Avenue to the intersection at 125th Street.

In response to the proposed route change, community members held several meetings and participated in public hearings over the course of the summer. Community Board 9 members, along with several senior citizens from the community, testified at hearings and sent petitions with citizens' signatures. Also, because MTA is a state agency, CB9 members contacted New York State elected officials as well as Manhattan Borough President Virginia Fields, said Theodore Kovaleff, the co-chair of CB9's Transportation and Uniform Services subcommittee, which helped negotiate the change.

On a map, the change seemed to be a simple, one-block shift to the west. But to the residents on Convent Avenue between 125th and 129th Streets--many of whom are low-income senior citizens--that one shift could have limited their mobility in everyday life, according to Kovaleff.
He explained that because Convent Avenue sits at the top of the hill, a route change would have forced elderly residents to walk up and down the slope or a flight of stairs in order to take the M104.

Without M104 service, the only line running along Convent Avenue in the same direction as the M104 would have been the M18, which comes much less frequently than the M104.
Additionally, riders would have had to transfer several times in order to go downtown, according to Kovaleff, requiring them to pay multiple fares.

"There [were] people who [were] going to be harmed physically and financially," Kovaleff said.
"[The plan] was really something that put a major hardship in our senior citizen community."
But for many residents, the route change would have provided a more effective mode of transportation to the Fairway Market on 12th Avenue at 125th Street. This advantage of potentially creating a direct route to Fairway was discussed and "perceived as a positive thing," according to Daniel Zweig, the co-chair of Community Board 7's Transportation Committee. CB7 serves the area just south of the area served by CB9, but was not in direct contact with CB9 during the negotiation process, according to Zweig.

During the negotiation period, concerned parties discussed several compromise plans--some of which would still have provided transportation to Fairway--but could not find one that would serve the senior citizens as well as the original route, Kovaleff said.

Baldeo said that the MTA is aware that by rerouting, it would have taken service away from people who live in the area."We don't just make decisions," Baldeo said. "Community Board plays a big role. We have to see all who is going to be affected, and see if it is worth [the change]."

For now, the M104 route will remain unchanged. "[It was a] major victory for the community," Kovaleff said. "We were heard and the government responded."

But once the construction of the facilities begins for the development project in the Harlem Piers area, "it's going to be an issue again," Baldeo said. "Transportation will be a problem."

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Pedro del Valle

Pedro del Valle
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Pedro del Valle
August 28, 1893 - April 28, 1978

Lieutenant General Pedro del Valle

Place of birth San Juan, Puerto Rico

Place of death Annapolis, Maryland

Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch US Marine Corps

Years of service 1915-1948

Rank Lieutenant General

Commands 11th Marine RegimentIII Amphibious Corps Artillery1st Marine Division
Battles/wars The Banana WarsBattle of GuadalcanalBattle of GuamBattle of Okinawa
Awards Distinguished Service MedalLegion of Merit

Lieutenant General Pedro Augusto del Valle (August 28, 1893April 28, 1978) was a United States Marine Corps officer who became the first Hispanic to reach the rank of Lieutenant General. His military career included service in World War I, Haiti and Nicaragua during the so-called Banana Wars of the 1920s, and in the seizure of Guadalcanal and later as Commanding General of the U.S. 1st Marine Division during World War ll.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for outstanding leadership as Commanding General of the First Marine Division, during the attack and occupation of Okinawa from 1 April to 21 July 1945. His citation reads in part, "Undaunted by the deadly accuracy of enemy gunfire, he repeatedly visited the fighting fronts, maintaining close tactical control of operations and rallying his weary but stouthearted Marines to heroic efforts during critical phases of this long and arduous campaign. By his superb generalship....Major General del Valle contributed essentially to the conquest of this fiercely defended outpost of the Japanese Empire.[1]

1 Biography
1.1 Early years
1.2 The Banana Wars & pre-World War II
1.3 World War II
1.4 Post-World War II
1.5 Later years
2 Works of Pedro del Valle
2.1 Books
2.2 Articles
3 Awards and Recognitions
3.1 Foreign decorations
4 See also


Early years
Del Valle was born on August 28, 1893 in San Juan, Puerto Rico when the island was still under Spanish colonial rule. He was related to Dr. Francisco del Valle, a surgeon who had served as mayor of San Juan from 1907 to 1910. In 1900, two years after the Spanish-American War, the del Valle family moved to Maryland where they became U.S. citizens (The Jones Act of 1917 later gave United States Citizenship to all Puerto Ricans born on the island).[1]

He received his primary and secondary education in Maryland. On June 17, 1911, after he graduated from high school del Valle received an appointment by George Radcliffe Colton, who served from 1909 to 1913 as the U.S. appointed governor of Puerto Rico, to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Del Valle graduated from the academy in June 1915 and was commissioned a second lieutenant of the Marine Corps on June 5, 1915.[1][2]

The Banana Wars & pre-World War II
Pedro del Valle helped the Marine Corps in the capture of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 1916, for which he was awarded his first Legion of Merit. Del Valle commanded the Marine detachment on board the USS Texas (BB-35) in the North Atlantic during World War I.

In 1919, he participated in the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet.[1] Later he served as "Aide-de-camp" to Major General Joseph Henry Pendleton after serving on a tour of sea duty aboard the USS Wyoming(BB-32). His job included an inspection tour of the West Indies in the company of General Pendleton.[1]

In 1926, del Valle served with the Gendarmerie of Haiti for three years and, during that time, he also became active in the war against Augusto Sandino in Nicaragua. In 1929, he returned to the United States and attended the Field Officers Course at the Marine Corps School in MCB Quantico, Virginia.[1]

In 1931, Brigadier General Randolph C. Berkeley appointed del Valle to the "Landing Operations Text Board" in Quantico, the first organizational step taken by the Marines to develop a working doctrine for amphibious assault.

In 1932, he wrote an essay titled "Ship-to-Shore in Amphibious Operations" which was published in the Marine Corps Gazette. In his essay, he stressed the importance of a coordinated amphibious assault and of an execution of an opposed landing.[3]

He worked as an intelligence officer in Havana, Cuba in 1933 under Admiral Charles Freeman, following the Cuban Sergeant's Revolt. From 1935–1937, del Valle was Assistant Naval Attache, attached to the American Embassy to Italy in Rome.[1]

While on duty, del Valle participated as an observer with the Italian Forces during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. The experiences which del Valle gained as an observer led him to author the book "Roman Eagles Over Ethiopia" where he describes the events leading up to the Italian expedition and the complete movements of combat operations by the Italian Army under Generals De Bono, Badoglio and Graziani.[4]

In 1939, he was ordered to attend the Army War College in Washington, D.C. and after graduating was named Executive Officer of the Division of Plans and Policies, USMC.[1][4]

World War II

Major General Pedro del Valle (second from left)
is greeted by Colonel Puller (Chesty) on Pavuvu
in late October 1944, while Major General Rupertus
(far left) looks on

On March 1941, del Valle became the Commanding Officer of the 11th Marine Regiment, (artillery). Upon the outbreak of World War II, del Valle led his regiment and participated in the seizure and defense of Guadalcanal providing artillery support for the 1st Marine Division.

In the Battle of Tenaru, the fire power provided by del Valle's artillery units killed many assaulting Japanese soldiers before they ever reached the Marine positions. The attackers were killed almost to the last man. [3]

The outcome of the battle was so stunning that the Japanese commander, Colonel Ichiki Kiyonao, committed seppuku shortly afterwards..[5]

General Alexander Vandegrift, impressed with del Valle's leadership recommended his promotion and on October 1, 1942, del Valle became a Brigadier General. Vandegrift retained del Valle as head of the 11th Marines, the only time that the 11th Marines has ever had a general as their commanding officer.[3]

In 1943, he served as Commander of Marine Forces overseeing Guadalcanal, Tulagi, and the Russell and Florida Islands.

On April 1, 1944, del Valle, as Commanding General of the Third Corps Artillery, III Marine Amphibious Corps, took part in the Battle of Guam and was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second Legion of Merit. The men under his command did such a good job with their heavy artillery that no one man could be singled out for commendation. Instead each man was given a letter of commendation by del Valle which was carried in their record books.[6]

In late October 1944, he succeeded Major General William Rupertus as Commanding General of the 1st Marine Division, being personally greeted in his new command by Colonel Lewis Burwell "Chesty" Puller. At the time, the 1st Marine Division was training on the island of Pavuvu for the invasion of Okinawa.

On May 29, 1945, del Valle participated in one of the most important events which led to victory in Okinawa.[7]

After five weeks of fighting, del Valle ordered Company A of the 1st Battalion 5th Marines to capture Shuri Castle, a medieval fortress of the ancient Ryukyuan kings. Seizure of Shuri Castle represented a moral blow for the Japanese and was an undeniable milestone in the Okinawa campaign.[3]

The fighting in Okinawa would continue for 24 more days. Del Valle was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal for his leadership during the battle and the subsequent occupation and reorganization of Okinawa.[3]

Post-World War II
After World War II ended, del Valle was ordered back to Headquarters Marine Corps, where he was named Inspector General, a position which he held until he retired on January 1, 1948.

On February 19, 1946 Senator Dennis Chavez of New Mexico and del Valle held a meeting with President Harry S. Truman in the White House, in which Senator Chavez recommended del Valle for the position of governor of Puerto Rico. [8]

From 1898 to 1942, the governors of the island were officials appointed by the President of the United States. The first civilian and native Puerto Rican appointed governor of Puerto Rico was Jesus T. Piñero in 1942. If Congress had not approved legislation in 1947 allowing Puerto Ricans to elect their own Governor, del Valle may have been appointed to the governorship.[9]

Later years
After retiring from the Marine Corps, del Valle worked as a representative of ITT in the company's office in Cairo, Egypt. After some time with the company he was named president of ITT for all South America in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a position that he held until 1951.

Believing that the United States was in danger of a communist threat, del Valle tried to convince the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and U.S. Department of Defense to form a vigilante minuteman group. He also believed that the CIA should operate behind Russian and Chinese lines. After his ideas were turned down, he decided to form his own group.

In 1953, del Valle met with Lt. Col. John H. Hoffman (USMC), Lt. Col. Eugene Cowles Poneroy, Brigadier General Bonner Fellers, and Major General Claire Chennault (USAF) and formed the "Defenders of the American Constitution" (DAC). DAC's main goal was to purge the United States of any communist influence. The idea behind the group was to organize the citizens in each state as vigilantes against sabotage and other forms of treason, then link them up in some national headquarters.[10]

Del Valle ran for governor of Maryland in 1953, however he was defeated and failed to be nominated in the Republican primary election. The controversial views shared by some of the members of "DAC" was to blame for the organization's decline in popularity.[10]

On April 12, 1961, del Valle invoked The Protocols of the Elders of Zion during a speech before the United States Daughters of 1812, in an attempt to prove that Communism and Socialism were introduced to Russia by an "Invisible Government" whose intention was to destroy that country. Del valle also belonged to a group known as the "Sons of Liberty", established in 1967 in Annapolis, Maryland and named after the secret patriotic society which directed the actions of the Boston Tea Party on December 13, 1773.[11]

Lieutenant General Pedro del Valle, who was married to Katharine Nelson (1890-1983), died on April 28, 1978 in Annapolis, Maryland. He was buried in the United States Naval Academy Cemetery of Columbarium. After del Valle’s death at age 85, the DAC ceased to exist.[12]

Works of Pedro del Valle

Del Valle, Pedro Augusto. Diary and reports of the U.S. naval observer of Italian oparations in East Africa: March 1937 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1937).

Del Valle, Pedro Augusto. Roman Eagles Over Ethiopia (Harrisburg, PA: Military service Pub. Co., 1940).

Del Valle, Pedro Augusto. Semper fidelis: An autobiography (Hawthorne, CA: Christian Book Club of America, 1976).

Lieutenant General Pedro A. del Valle, U.S. Marine Corps (retired) (Oral history program).

"Guam, the Classical Amphibious Operation" Military Review (1944)."Massed Fires on Guam" Marine Corps Gazette(1944).

Awards and Recognitions
Among Lieutenant General Pedro del Valle's decorations and medals were the following:
Navy Distinguished Service Medal,

Legion of Merit with a Gold Star,

Navy and Marine Corps Medal, Ethiopia 1936–36,

Presidential Unit Citation, Guadalcanal 1942, Okinawa 1945,

Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with Bronze Star, Haiti 1916,

Dominican Campaign Medal, Dominican Republic 1916,

World War I Victory Medal 1918,

Haitian Campaign Medal, Haiti 1926,

Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal, Nicaragua 1930,

American Defense Service Medal,

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with five Bronze Stars,

American Campaign Medal,

World War II Victory Medal,

Foreign decorations
Order of the Crown of Italy, Italy 1936,
East African Medal, Italy
Colonial Order of the Star of Italy,
Italian Bronze Medal for Military Valor,
Cuban Naval Order of Merit second class, Cuba 1938,
Ecuadorian Decoration of Abdon Calderon Star first class with Diploma, Ecuador 1942.

See also

United States Marine Corps Portal

Puerto Rico Portal
List of famous Puerto Ricans - Military
Puerto Ricans in World War II

List of Historically Important U.S. Marines

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

In Growth Spurt, Columbia Is Buying Swath of Harlem

In Growth Spurt, Columbia Is Buying Swath of Harlem
NEW YORK TIMES 7/30/2003

Columbia University, long starved for land at its campus in Morningside Heights, is buying up a 17-acre swath in West Harlem for its first major expansion in 75 years. The university's long-range plan calls for removing the battered brick industrial buildings now in the area bounded roughly by Broadway, 125th Street, 12th Avenue and 133rd Street and replacing them with a new tree-lined campus of school buildings, performing arts centers, research labs, a jazz club and dormitories.

The proposed multibillion-dollar project, about half the size of Columbia's 36-acre campus in Morningside Heights, would be built in the coming decades and could become what the university regards as a link to its health sciences complex in Washington Heights. Aside from acquiring the rest of the land, Columbia also needs zoning changes that would allow high-rise development of nonindustrial buildings.

Columbia has crowded new buildings onto campus for years and erected towers on scattered sites in the surrounding area, but officials say it needs to expand if it is to continue to attract top professors, researchers and students.

Columbia is hoping that its plans will fit well with efforts by the state, city and community groups to redevelop the Hudson River waterfront and West Harlem, which the university prefers to call by its historic name, Manhattanville.

"This is an opportunity in Manhattanville to create something of immense vitality and beauty," said Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia's president. "This is not to just go in and throw up some buildings. These would be beautiful, magnificent buildings on the order of what we have in Morningside Heights. Maybe not in mass, but in quality."

Columbia has more than 20,000 students and 9,000 employees, making it the 12th-largest employer in New York City and the largest recipient of research funds in the city. The university has hired the Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Skidmore Owings & Merrill to design the project. If it goes ahead, the first phase would include a 500,000-square-foot complex on 125th Street for the School of the Arts, research space, residence halls and retail space.

Columbia hopes to avoid the kind of community opposition and campus rebellions caused by its past attempts to expand, or its effort in 1968 to build a gymnasium in Morningside Park. To that end, the university is focusing on a run-down industrial area of warehouses, auto-repair shops and a meatpacking plant, avoiding a string of apartment buildings along Broadway between 133rd and 132nd Streets, but including an odd-shaped block to the east, bounded by Broadway and Old Broadway.

The area is framed by an elevated subway line along Broadway and a highway viaduct along 12th Avenue; Manhattanville Houses are to the east and another housing complex is to the north.

The university has been meeting quietly in the past two months with United States Representative Charles B. Rangel and state and city officials about plans to redevelop the area. It has also established a task force including representatives of the local community board and various neighborhood groups, a tactic that some residents have found encouraging and a break with what they said was Columbia's past arrogance.

"They're treading lightly," said Peggy Shepard, executive director of West Harlem Environmental Action, who has met with Columbia officials. "They put together a task force to show the community they want to do this in partnership. They have not really presented anything at this point. It's mostly them listening to us. As long as their needs are compatible with how the community sees the use of the manufacturing zone, it could be a good thing."

Over the past 50 years, Columbia has spilled down Broadway from the gates of its main campus at 116th Street. Its attempts to erect new buildings or buy old ones and squeeze out residents have generated one neighborhood battle after another.

Columbia has owned property on the south side of 125th Street since the late 1960's, but few people have been aware of the extent to which the university has been buying or leasing property in West Harlem, particularly for the past year. It rents space, for instance, in the old Studebaker building on 131st Street and has an option to buy the six-story structure as well as the garage next door. The university owns a parking lot on 129th Street and, real estate executives said, is negotiating to buy the land occupied by a U-Haul franchise on Broadway, near 132nd Street.

According to a Columbia document prepared for government officials, it owns or controls more than 40 percent of the 17 acres for the new campus and is in talks to buy 32 percent more.

Next spring, the city and the state expect to begin a $12 million plan to rebuild the Harlem piers on the waterfront between St. Clair Place and 133rd Street for recreational use. The city is also working with the community board, Columbia and others on a plan to rezone the neighborhood and encourage economic development under Henry Hudson Parkway, just to the west of the new campus.

The university's plans would amount to one of the largest development projects in the city and could fit in with those efforts, although there is clearly potential for friction. School buildings, laboratories and science labs would generate new jobs, university officials said, and there is the possibility that businesses could locate nearby as a result of research work.

In addition, Columbia said it would provide space for retail shops and nonprofit organizations along Broadway and 12th Avenue and would develop partnerships between, say, the School of the Arts and local artists and community organizations.

That approach contrasts sharply with what others have taken as Columbia's view of Harlem in the past. In the 1960's, the university built a tower for faculty apartments at the corner of 12th Avenue and St. Clair Place, it put the front door facing west, in effect turning its back on Harlem and 125th Street.

Now the university's plans for high-rise buildings could also run afoul of efforts by community groups to preserve the low-scale character of Harlem. Housing is a pressing issue, and the university's project may require moving a major Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus garage now on 133rd Street. Finally, Columbia would almost certainly need state help to condemn property that it cannot buy.

Jarvis Doctorow, for one, said he was having too much fun to sell. Mr. Doctorow, who is 79, owns the seven-story factory at 3280 Broadway that he converted to an office building, where Columbia is among the renters.

"I cannot prevent people from knocking on my door," he said, "but the building is not for sale."

Columbia has made no secret of what it says is its desperate need for land to expand. A 1998 survey by the office of the university provost found that it had less space per student than other major universities, 194 square feet; in contrast, the report said Princeton had 561 square feet, the University of Pennsylvania 440 and Harvard 368.

Columbia is erecting a 16-story apartment building for law students at Amsterdam Avenue and 122nd Street and an adjacent $50 million academic center. It is finishing a building on 110th Street, starting work on another at 103rd and Broadway, and planning for perhaps two towers on the grounds of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.

Mr. Bollinger said he saw the land in Manhattanville as an important opportunity.

"Over the long term, upper Manhattan is our home," Mr. Bollinger said. "Columbia will never fully realize its own aspirations unless it accepts that. The question is, how do we weave together this tapestry? Any sense of a gated community or a town-gown line would be a mistake."

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Community Boards

Community Boards

Community Boards
by NYO Staff Published: June 1, 2003

This article was published in the June 1, 2003, edition of The New York Observer.
More from Community Boards

On the Rise: Tribeca WelcomesLarge-Scale Development Projects "Hot" may no longer be the right word to describe the Tribeca real-estate market, but neither is it exactly foundering. Lured in part by low interest rates and the possibility of post-9/11 government subsidies for downtown construction, developers are busy raising new buildings in the neighborhood, despite the soft economy. No less than four new buildings are going up in Tribeca's historic district within three blocks of each other: a boutique hotel at N. Moore and Greenwich streets, a nine-story corporate headquarters two blocks north at Hubert Street, a luxury residential high-rise one block east at Hubert and Collier streets, and a six-story loft residence one block north on Laight Street, near the Holland Tunnel on-ramp.

Community Board 1 reviewed three of the building proposals at its May 20 public meeting. (Construction of the Hubert tower is already well underway and should be completed by year's end.)

Board members voted to approve the plan for an 80-unit hotel designed by Edmond Bakos of the Rockwell Group, which conceived the stylish W Hotel Union Square. The six-story building's brick-and-mortar façade, with rounded corners, will be accented by large, recessed windows and steel shutters.

"We wanted to take the historic details that make Tribeca what it is and reinterpret them in sympathetic, modern fashion," said William Higgins, a partner in the historic-preservation consultancy firm Higgins & Quaesbarth, which works with Rockwell.

Mr. Higgins told The Observer that the flurry of building projects in the area "represents a real affirmation of the continuing vitality and economic liveliness of Tribeca," despite the blow the neighborhood received from the terrorist attack. "It has surprised me how quickly Tribeca has rebounded and how much energy it seems to have maintained in the face of 9/11," he said.

The board also voted to approve the Laight Street residence, which it first reviewed back in July 2001. The building, which will replace a derelict gas station, was originally planned as five lofts, each over 2,000 square feet. But citing financial hardship, the developer was recently granted a variance to double the number of units. Most of the 10 apartments will run approximately 1,300 to 1,700 square feet.

The developers of the Hubert and Greenwich Street building have also modified their original plan, but not for financial reasons. Board 1 objected to the initial proposal for an 11-story edifice, which it felt would overpower the surrounding buildings in the low-rise historic district. The revised plan cuts the number of stories down to nine, reducing the building's height by 33 feet.
The site, presently occupied by a dilapidated warehouse, will serve as the new headquarters for Samuel A. Ramirez and Company, a full-service, family-owned securities firm that has operated downtown for over 30 years. The warehouse will be torn down to make way for a new building with ground-floor retail, four commercial floors and four residential floors. The commercial space will be occupied entirely by Ramirez and Company, and the firm's principals will live on the top two floors. The others will be occupied either by company associates or rented to the public.

Whereas the hotel reflects the ornamental strain in 19th-century American architecture, the terra cotta, metal and concrete structure designed by Morris Adjmi echoes the geometric and utilitarian aesthetic of surrounding industrial buildings, Mr. Higgins told The Observer . A tripartite vertical scheme, repeating arch motif and abstracted dentil cornice all recall typical architectural features of that period, said Mr. Adjmi, best known for his bold design (with Aldo Rossi) of the Scholastic headquarters on Broadway in Soho. Although pleased with the recent modifications, Board 1 decided to postpone its vote on the proposal.

The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has jurisdiction over development projects within historic districts, has already approved the Laight Street residence. The commission will review the hotel and corporate-headquarters proposals during a public hearing on May 27. Mr. Higgins called the chances of approval for both "very good."
-Megan Costello

Manhattanville Makes Way For More Transitional Housing
Since the late 1980's, Community Board 9 has tried to fight off incursions by social-service organizations -providing housing for AIDS patients, recovering addicts and the mentally ill-that have been drawn to the neighborhood's unused buildings and cheap leases. Now, yet another housing organization is looking to set up shop in the neighborhood-but this time around, it may be with the board's backing.

On June 19, members of Board 9 will vote on whether to support Weston United Community Renewal, a nonprofit social-service organization that is competing to lease a building located at 157 Edgecombe Avenue in Manhattanville. If the organization is awarded the lease, it will renovate what is now a shell of a building into transitional housing for the homeless, Weston United officials said in a presentation before the full board on May 15.

The board's housing and land-use committee has recommended that the full board back Weston United's plans. If the board follows the committee's advice, however, it will represent a significant departure for a community with a long-standing opposition to the increasing number of social-service agencies in its territory.

The decision will also come at a time when some board members are looking for legal methods to end the expansion of the agencies already in the neighborhood.

Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, the co-chair of the housing committee, said that he voted in favor of supporting Weston United, despite the fact that he believes the neighborhood is oversaturated with housing for the homeless, the mentally ill, substance abusers and AIDS patients. Weston United's positive track record, and the fact that it sought the board's approval even when it wasn't required to, contributed to the committee's decision, Mr. Reyes-Montblanc said.

"[Weston United] demonstrated respect for the community, asking for our support even though they didn't need it," Mr. Reyes-Montblanc told The Observer . "A lot of institutions don't have that courtesy. They do their thing and we find out about it afterward, and that almost guarantees unanimous opposition."

Jean Newburg, Weston United's executive director, declined to comment to The Observer about her organization's plans. But at the May 15 meeting, Ms. Newburg said that Weston United was competing for the lease with another social-service agency with similar plans for the building. That organization-which was not identified-has yet to contact or come before the board.

The board will likely support Weston United because it is a known organization with a proven background, unlike its competitor, Mr. Reyes-Montblanc said.

"They have a very high reputation for good service within boards 10 and 11," he said. "There were quite a number of people who spoke on their behalf, which seldom happens."

If Weston United is awarded the lease, it will be the organization's first foray into Board 9's territory. But the operation would be far from the first transitional-housing facility within Board 9, which is a serious concern to many residents and board members.

While several members said the social-service programs are needed in the neighborhood, many agreed that Board 9 already has more than its fair share of transitional housing.

A study commissioned in the late 1990's by board member and former chair Maritta Dunn mapped 39 of these facilities in the board's territory-the vast majority of them clustered in a predominantly minority neighborhood north of 125th Street, east of Riverside Drive and west of St. Nicholas Avenue. Walter South, another board member, calculated that the area's population of people in transitional-housing and outpatient programs-about 4,100-make up as much as 15 percent of the total population in the corridor east of Riverside Drive.

According to Ms. Dunn, the neighborhood doesn't have enough political clout to resist the intrusion of social-service agencies, which are attracted by the large number of inexpensive buildings for sale or lease.

"You have to really look at communities where there are minorities … where people don't have the actual power to say: 'No, don't come in here,'" Ms. Dunn said. "Now, I guarantee you, if somebody of power lived in that neighborhood, that map [of 39 facilities] wouldn't exist."

Landlords also favor the social-service agencies over traditional renters because the agencies-almost all of which are subsidized with city, state and federal grants-promise a stable and sizable income for the owners, Mr. South said. As a result, landlords make larger profits than they do in rent-controlled buildings or buildings without a consistent tenant base.

While the board will likely support Weston United, its members are also in the process of drafting a land-use plan for the neighborhood (called a 197A) which may call for restrictions on the amount of social-service housing in the neighborhood. But the plan, which can take as long as a decade to complete, is not a perfect solution, because the city and the state are not legally bound to comply with it, Ms. Dunn told The Observer .

"You could put in extremely strong language as to what you do and do not want in that community," Ms. Dunn said. "When it's all done, the city still has the option to adhere to what's in [the land-use plan] or not."

The only real solution, according to Ms. Dunn, is that "you have to have powerful political and financial backing-and if you have both, you're wonderful."
-Brandt Gassman

June 3: Board 7, Fordham University, 113 West 60th Street, 7 p.m., 212-362-4008.

Tags: , , , ,