Residents Stung by Developer’s Towering Plans

BY SAM SPOKONY | Residents of West 16th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, aren’t going to be happy with this Christmas present: plans for a new 11-story building that will tower over everything else on their block.


Photo by Scott Stiffler | An 11-story residence is planned to go up, beside the French Evangelical Church of New York (16th St., btw. Sixth & Seventh).

Photo by Scott Stiffler | An 11-story residence is planned to go up, beside the French Evangelical Church of New York (16th St., btw. Sixth & Seventh).

After originally telling the residents that its forthcoming residential building at 124 West 16th Street would only be six stories tall — equivalent in height to the rest of the block — the Einhorn Development Group, which owns the site, now says that it will now build to almost twice that height.

Yiannes Einhorn, principal of the development group, reportedly admitted the new plans in a conversation last week with Paul Groncki, chair of the 100 West 16th Street Block Association.

“I told [Einhorn] I heard he was going to be building to 11 stories, and he said it was true,” said Groncki, in a Dec. 20 phone interview. “I was so mad that I almost walked out of the meeting. The fact is that a building of that height isn’t going to be good for the neighborhood, because it’s completely out of context with what’s on the block now. I can’t believe he went ahead with this without first having any conversations with the neighborhood.”

Groncki stressed that when he had first met with Einhorn during the spring, the developer at that time claimed the building would only be six stories, and said he “loved the block.”

But based on real estate transactions for the site, it would appear that a higher build-out may have been the developer’s plan all along.

Einhorn originally purchased 124 West 16th Street in April 2012 from the neighboring French Evangelical Church of New York — located at 126-128 West 16th Street — which had previously used the 124 building as a “miscellaneous asylum and home,” according to past reports.

And city records show that when Einhorn made that purchase, he simultaneously purchased air rights above the church itself — paving the way for eventual expansion of his plans once he demolished the previous 124 building.

In fact, by the time Einhorn first talked to Groncki in the spring and claimed that the new building would only be six stories tall, the developer was already in the process of amending his construction plans — which were first filed alongside the purchase in April 2012 — to include a full 11 stories.

Einhorn filed those amended plans for the 11-story building on May 6 of this year, according to city records.

The developer just recently received city approval for the amended plans — on December 12, according to those records — which may explain why he declined to inform the local residents until this past week.

Valerie Einhorn, a representative of the developer, confirmed the city’s approval of an 11-story build-out during a December 20 phone interview, but declined to discuss any other details of the plans, saying instead that the developer would be “happy to talk about it in January, after the holidays.”

During their conversation last week, Yiannes Einhorn also reportedly told Groncki that he is now prepared to meet with other block residents in the near future, to explain his plans.

“I told him that it’s going to be a rough conversation,” said Groncki. “Everybody on the block is going to be really unhappy about this.”

But the developer is probably ready and willing to take all that flak from the neighborhood now, because at this point — with the construction plans filed and city approval already nailed down — there’s virtually nothing that can stop him from going forward with
the building.

Groncki acknowledged that, this late in the game, there’s little hope of stopping the 11-story residence from going up.

“We’ve got no gunpowder in our gun,” he said. “But now we just want to make some noise about this. They can’t stop us from being upset, and they can’t stop us from making noise.”

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