Expanding Affordable Housing, Green Space in Hell’s Kitchen

After the meeting, residents were encouraged to use sticky notes to comment on the plan’s proposed uses for the nine Port Authority-owned sites. | Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | The Hell’s Kitchen South Coalition (HKSC) unveiled a draft of its neighborhood plan at their Tues., April 3 meeting.

“We are excited to share what we’ve been working on in the past year,” the Reverend Tiffany Triplett Henkel, chair of the coalition’s steering committee, said to kick off the meeting at Metro Baptist Church on W. 40th St.

But first, Christine Berthet, a member of Community Board 4 (CB4) as well as the HKSC, gave an update on the status of efforts to engage with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey regarding the proposed renovation of the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Last year, the community met with the authority three times, while, in contrast, they have already met six times this year, she noted.

“You see that there has been a sea change in the relationship,” Berthet said. “They’re very, very interested in hearing what we have to say.”

Indeed, in 2016, when the Port Authority announced it would be expanding its aging bus facility on Eighth Ave. without seeking community input as well as bandying about the possibility of invoking imminent domain, opposition from the neighborhood and elected officials was fierce. The Hell’s Kitchen South Coalition formed in response, and had its first official meeting in February 2017.

“All the things that this community and its elected officials opposed are gone,” Congressmember Jerrold Nadler told the crowd, noting that they can “seize this opportunity” for improvements.

Betty Mackintosh, chair of the HKSC Neighborhood Plan Committee and a CB4 member, went through the plan, which focuses on nine Port Authority-owned properties spanning from W. 33rd to W. 42nd Sts., from Eighth to 11th Aves.

There was “robust community participation” in the development of the plan, Hell’s Kitchen South Coalition member Betty Mackintosh told this publication. | Image courtesy of HKSC

The plan’s goal is to create new public green spaces as well as permanent affordable housing, encourage local businesses, and improve air quality, she said.

Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea have the third highest average of an urban air pollutant called PM2.5, according to city data, and the community and coalition have been focused on improving air quality in the area — where both the bus terminal and Lincoln Tunnel are located.

Mackintosh explained that the plan would add a significant amount of green space to the neighborhood.

It also focuses on a longtime community goal: affordable housing. The plan calls for residential development where feasible, with a requirement that 30 percent of it would be permanent affordable apartments.

For one site, Galvin Plaza — a one-block area between W. 39th and 40th Sts., between 10th and 11th Aves. — the plan calls for both commercial and residential development on top of a proposed bus facility. The authority has been looking at that site for a bus garage, Mackintosh said in a phone interview with this publication before the meeting.

The proposal also looks at possible affordable small-scale retail space, but the details are still being worked out, she said.

Mackintosh noted by phone that there was “robust community participation” in developing the plan, and all kinds of research, including fieldwork, that went into it.

“The complexity of the area is really kind of amazing,” she said.

The building of the bus terminal and the Lincoln Tunnel “tore the fabric of the community,” Mackintosh noted.

At the meeting, HKSC and CB4 member Joe Restuccia added, “We should see tonight as a broader plan because the Port Authority came with a just a plan to replace the terminal, but our community response is ‘you must reknit the whole community back together,’ and it’s not just a terminal, it’s the bus parking lots, Dyer Ave., the ramps…”

Platforms would be required for development, which are expensive to construct, Mackintosh said. The plan also calls for the “submission of a zoning text amendment which would go through the [Uniform Land Use Review Procedure] process,” according to the presentation slides.

The Hell’s Kitchen South Coalition draft plan focuses on increasing green space in the neighborhood and looks to create some permanent affordable housing. | Image courtesy of HKSC

After the presentation, residents asked questions about the plan, and were encouraged at the end of the meeting to add comments and concerns to large photos of the sites that lined the church’s walls.

The next steps for the plan include additional coalition meetings to reach consensus, the inclusion of elected officials, dialogue with the Port Authority, and asking CB4 for support.

Port Authority representatives did attend the meeting, but did not present or publicly comment on the plan.

The authority is currently considering a build-in-place option for the bus terminal, and a spokesperson told this publication last September that a request for proposals for environmental work and for preliminary architectural and engineering services were going to be reissued last fall.

The environmental review process for the new bus terminal is ongoing, Lenis Rodrigues, authority spokesperson, wrote in an email.

The Port Authority did not respond to questions about the architectural and engineering services, if there is any update on the bus terminal plan, and declined to comment on the neighborhood plan.

Congressmember Jerrold Nadler said at the meeting the community can “seize this opportunity” for improvements. | Photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic

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