Friday, September 21, 2007

CB9 Rejects Manhattanville Business Owner’s Rezoning Plan

CB9 Rejects Manhattanville Business Owner’s Rezoning Plan
By Melissa Repko

Community Board 9 voted to reject Nick Sprayregen’s 197-c rezoning plan for his business, Tuck-It-Away Storage, last night, setting forth conditions that need to be met before it could be approved in a 16-15 vote.

Sprayregen is the largest property owner in the footprint of Columbia’s proposed Manhattanville expansion zone. If approved, his 197-c plan would change the zoning on the properties, which are currently designated for manufacturing, to allow taller buildings and residential and commercial uses.

Sprayregen has said that, if his application were granted, the businesses currently operating in the buildings—self-storage companies, retail stores, and a parking garage—would remain there.

Additional stories would be devoted to community facilities and apartments, with an unspecified number earmarked for low- and moderate-income tenants.

The vote was close because of a debate over the wording: board members had to decide whether to approve it only if certain conditions were met or to reject unless conditions were met. The latter option was chosen.

CB9’s resolution stated that Sprayregen’s plan was “not consistent with all of the goals, objectives, and recommendations set forth in the CB9M 197-a plan.” Some of the written criticisms stated that the proposal did not adequately address certain community board concerns, such as affordable housing, height restrictions, and discussions with board members.

But Coalition to Preserve Community leader Tom DeMott called the vote “the wrong decision.” He said that because of the negative wording, “this [the proposal] is going in the pile they [city planning officials] will be less likely to consider.”

As the meeting proceeded, many board members expressed outrage over politicians’ unclear statements on Columbia’s expansion, saying that time is running out as the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure—a seven-month process of reviewing plans and offering suggestions—continues.

“I know that it’s business as usual for the politicians to do a dance,” board member Vicky Gholson said. “We understand it takes time, but you burnt my summer.”Representatives from various political offices avoided making definitive statements on their bosses’ stances, calling the process complex and asking for time to understand the nuances of the issue.

Simeon Banister, the Manhattan community liaison for public advocate Betsy Gotbaum, drew flak when asked about Gotbaum’s position.

“The public advocate’s job is to mirror the public,” board member Carole Singleton said above the angry comments from the crowd. “Find an answer. Say yes or no.”Some in attendance also commented on the public forum held Wednesday night with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Harlem resident Michael Adams commended the unity of the board at the event.

But DeMott was upset that Stringer cut off testimony before everyone who had signed up had a chance to testify. “We had speakers who had been waiting for four hours and had planned days in advance,” he said. “We were there. We were ready to speak and we were promised. ...That’s a broken promise.”

With the input of the commentary at the forum and written testimony, Stringer will vote on the expansion plan next Wednesday. Written testimony will be accepted by Stringer’s office up until Monday.

Melissa Repko can be reached at

NB- The CB9M members vote was similar to the one on Columbia's 197-c Plan and bascially for the some opf the same reasons.

I had conversations yesterday afternoon with Nick and his attorney, they explained to me their concerns about a "no unless" vote and I clearly told them that although we like him and his stand against eminent domain and will unequivacally stand with him against eminet domain we cannot have a differenct standards for different developers.

I explained that they would have an opportunity to present their position once again and that they should clarify those points which concerned the Board Members as well as point out any technical error in the judgement of the ULURP committee in misinterpreting anything that might have been said or stated in their written Plan.

The fact is that it was a fairly close vote and "No unless" squeaked by on a 16 to 15 vote.

What this means is that Nich still has time to work with the Board to better align his Plan with our 197-a Plan before the Manhattan Borough President's Public Hearing in the next month or so.

Columbia University has the same opportunity. Hopefully both will take advantage of the interim time and do work with the Board to reconcile their Plans with our 197-a Plan.

These votes do not mean that CB9M members lke or dislike a developer what it means is that we and our community LOVE our 197-a Plan and as so often stated any developer should try a align as close to it as humanly and technically possible and our Board is ready to work with any developer along these lines. - JRM

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