Gotham Details Plan For Norfolk Street Site; More on That Bogus Rivington House Link

A massing diagram showing the shape and size of the new project was part of last night's community board presentation.

A massing diagram showing the shape and size of the new project was part of last night’s community board presentation.

Representatives of the Chinese American Planning Council (CPC) and the Gotham Organization, a New York City-based developer, outlined plans last night for a huge new project on the site of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol (BHH), the fire-ravaged Norfolk Street synagogue.

During the presentation before Community Board 3’s land use committee, Gotham’s Bryan Kelly said the project at 50-60 Norfolk St. would consist of two towers (10 and 30 stories), 488 apartments (including 188 affordable units), a large new facility for CPC’s social service programs, a new synagogue space for Beth Hamedrash Hagadol and neighborhood retail. We reported many of these details in a story published yesterday.

The most interesting part of last night’s discussion concerned the city’s announcement earlier this week of the Norfolk Street housing plan, and the clumsy/deceptive effort by the mayor’s office to link it to Rivington House.

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On Tuesday, the de Blasio administration reneged on a promise made in September of 2016 to create 100 units of senior housing in a new project at 30 Pike St. The commitment had been part of the mayor’s efforts to make up for the bungling of deed restrictions at Rivington House, the former Lower East Side nursing home now in the hands of luxury condo developers.

The unwelcome news was delivered in a press release that also detailed plans to add 60 nursing home beds at Gouverneur Health and to support Gotham’s proposal to create 88 apartments for low-income seniors on Norfolk Street.  The press release read, in part, “The affordable homes and health care for seniors fills a commitment made by the Mayor to replace services lost in the wake of the Rivington House nursing home closure in 2015.”

The mayor attended a town hall on the Lower East Side in May of last year.

The mayor attended a town hall on the Lower East Side in May of last year.

At last night’s meeting, CB3 member Lisa Kaplan said, “We got word day before yesterday that a project that had been promised to us on Pike Street, that the affordable units were now part of (the Norfolk Street project). It looks to me like you were already planning to do senior housing and the project that we were promised on Pike Street just went up in smoke. Tell me that I’m wrong, and why I’m wrong.”

Kelly, Gotham’s executive vice president for development, responded, “I can’t speak to that (Pike Street) development because it’s out of Gotham’s purview, but what I can say is that CPC and Gotham have always talked about the idea of (possibly) including senior affordable housing in our development.”

“Our ability to work out site control with the BHH synagogue has allowed us to identify a footprint where we’re able to create” the senior affordable apartments, said Kelly. Gotham began working with CPC and the synagogue’s leadership before the May 2017 fire that destroyed much of the historic Jewish site. After the fire, they hammered out a proposal for the senior building, incorporating remnants from the burned out synagogue. Gotham has been overseeing the demolition of destabilized portions of the shul. 


This past fall, Kelly said, “we were approached by the city to ask whether we would consider an even more robust program for senior affordable housing… City Hall, through the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, has been willing to commit $25-30 million to create 40% affordable housing on this site…”  Initially, Gotham and CPC had intended to build 30% affordable housing in the project. The city’s financial commitment, Kelly explained, allowed them to up the affordable component to 40%.

But Alan Gerson, CPC’s attorney, told board members that Rivington House was never brought up by anyone in the administration. “From the very beginning,” said Gerson, “before we selected Gotham, CPC expressed in the Request for Proposals a clear interest and preference in maximizing affordability, including affordability for senior housing.” He added, “We didn’t learn about the change of the Pike Street project until just about when you learned about it. Our negotiation with the city was for maximum support, period, the end.”

At another point, MyPhuong Chung, chair of the land use committee, voiced her own concerns. “I had a huge concern about the Rivington House linkage that the press has been making,” she asserted. “Now I understand that you’re not involved in that and that the city didn’t come to you and say, ‘Hey, in exchange for Rivington House can you up the affordability or increase the units?’”

She then went on to blame the local media for the misconception, ignoring the city administration’s role in disseminating misleading information in its Tuesday press release. “I’m very glad to hear that,” said Chung, “because it’s kind of how the press has been portraying it.”

She concluded by saying, “I just want to make very clear that our community is in dire need of senior housing, and that adding senior housing to any project does not make up for Rivington House. That was a 200-bed skilled nursing facility. That is a totally different loss (beyond) what any senior housing could ever fulfill.”

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Other notes from last night’s presentation:

–CPC and Beth Hamedrash Hagadol will own their community spaces. Gotham will have a long-term lease on CPC’s property, but the non-profit organization will retain ownership of that, as well. Lease payments will help support Chinese American Planning Council’s local programs.

–The project will include 20,000 square feet of retail on Broome St. (half at ground level, half in the basement). The developer will not lease space in the project to a big box retailer.

–The developers said historic elements from the synagogue are being removed with care for possible future use. The Landmarks Preservation Commission is overseeing the partial demolition.

–CPC’s 40,000 square foot space will house administrative office plus social service programs. Currently, CPC maintains separate offices on Eldridge and Elizabeth streets.

–Dattner Architects, the same firm behind the senior rental building on Essex Crossing site 6, will be designing the new project. One major goal is activating Broome Street, between Norfolk and Suffolk Street, and essentially making the project “seamless” with the surrounding Essex Crossing buildings.

–The site is currently zoned R-8 and is part of a Large-Scale Residential Development Plan. Gotham is seeking to create a new master plan and upzone the parcel to R-9-1. The proposal must go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, and there will be an environmental review.  The Landmarks Commission also must sign off on the development plan.

30-Story Residential Tower Planned Alongside Ruins of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol

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The Gotham Organization is set to go before Community Board 3’s land use committee tonight to unveil plans for a large new development project — built partially on the ruins of the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol synagogue at 50 Norfolk St.

The proposal includes two buildings, including a 30-story tower on Suffolk Street, right in the middle of the Essex Crossing mega-project. The new plan would add 488 residential units, retail and community space on sites currently owned by the synagogue and the Chinese American Planning Council. The project will cover 576,000 square feet, according to a document filed with CB3 in advance of tonight’s meeting.

The community board questionnaire reveals the following:

–The developers envision a “master-planned project” that would create an “intergenerational community.”

–They’re seeking to change the R-8 zoning on this particular block to R-9-1 and C2-5.


–On the synagogue site, there would be a 10-story senior building, including 88 apartments for low-income seniors. It is presumed that the developers would incorporate what remains of the synagogue, which was destroyed by an arson fire last May. Crews have been demolishing unstable portions of the landmark-protected structure for the past several weeks. The apartments would be available to seniors with annual household incomes between 30% and 60% of Area Median Income.

–On the current Suffolk Street parking lot owned by the Chinese American Planning Council (CPC), there would be a 30-story tower with 300 market rate apartments and 100 affordable units. The affordable units would be reserved for residents earning household annual incomes between 40% and 100% of Area Median Income. Market rate apartments would be offered in a range between $2150/month for studios and $7350 for 3-bedrooms.

–There would be 46,000 square feet for community facilities, including a headquarters for CPC’s social services and a new synagogue for Beth Hamedrash Hagadol. The two non-profit organizations would own these spaces.

–The developers are looking to participate in several subsidy schemes, including the 420-c and 421-a tax exemption programs.

As we reported yesterday, the mayor’s office is trying to argue that the affordable units in the new Norfolk Street project compensate the Lower East Side community for the loss of more than 200 nursing home beds at Rivington House. This project was in the works long before the city administration seized on it as a potential “Rivington House replacement.”

Tonight’s meeting takes place at 6:30 p.m. at University Settlement, 184 Eldridge St.

One more interesting tidbit. The Gotham Organization was one of many developers which bid on the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area Project, now known as Essex Crossing. The firm lost out, but the developer is now poised to claim a large chunk of real estate right in the middle of the former SPURA site. If this new project goes forward, the 30 story tower will be taller than any of the Essex Crossing buildings. In creating 488 new residential units, it would generate almost half the number of apartments being built in all of Essex Crossing.

60 Norfolk Development Questionairre by The Lo-Down on Scribd

De Blasio Administration Reneges on Plan to Replace Rivington House With 30 Pike St. Project (Updated)

30 Pike St.

30 Pike St.

The de Blasio administration is backing away from a commitment made more than a year ago to replace Rivington House with a new senior housing and health care complex at 30 Pike St.

The promise came during a City Council oversight hearing in September of 2016. As top officials were being grilled about their inexplicable decision to lift deed restrictions at the former nursing home, they announced plans for the new facility. The administration said the new project would pave “the way for the return of health care lost as a result of a mishandled deed modification at Rivington House.”  The mayor committed to build at least 100 apartments at 30 Pike, a site controlled by the city’s Department of Environmental Protection. A Request for Proposals (RFP) was supposed to go out last year, but it never materialized.

Today, the administration is backtracking, contending that the 30 Pike St. location isn’t feasible for the proposed development. This morning, Politico alluded to the city’s decision in its morning email (the full story is available only to Politico Pro subscribers):

The de Blasio administration has picked a new location to fund the senior citizen housing it promised in exchange for botching the transfer of a nursing home on the Lower East Side… The administration now plans to subsidize apartments for (100) tenants near the site of the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue, a landmarked property on Norfolk Street that was demolished after being destroyed in a fire last year, sources said.

Workers continue to dismantle unstable portions of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol on Norfolk Street.

Workers continue to dismantle unstable portions of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol on Norfolk Street.

As we have previously reported, a development plan is in the works on a parcel behind Beth Hamedrash Hagadol at 50 Norfolk St. It’s owned by the Chinese American Planning Council. The new residential tower is being developed by the Gotham Organization, utilizing air rights from the synagogue. Workers have partially demolished Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, which was ravaged by fire in May of last year.

It should be noted that the project at 50 Norfolk St. was always envisioned as a senior housing complex (with some market rate housing, as well). The city’s efforts to portray the Norfolk Street proposal as a replacement for more than 200 nursing home beds at Rivington House will not be warmly received by the local community.

On Friday, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a settlement agreement with the Allure Group, Rivington House’s former owner. Among other points, it requires the for-profit nursing home operator to open a new nursing facility on the Lower East Side. It hasn’t been announced where that new project will be located.

We’ll have more details as they become available today. The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development hasn’t responded to our requests for comment about this issue in the past several days, but indicated this morning that a press release would be forthcoming today.

UPDATE 11:13 p.m. We now have the press release from the mayor’s office. The new Norfolk Street project will include 88 units of senior affordable housing. In addition, the project from the Gotham Organization will create 400 units of mixed-income housing on the parcel behind Beth Hamedrash Hagadol. The complex will include a new headquarters for the Chinese American Planning Council, neighborhood retail and space for the synagogue.

The city is also announcing today that it will create 60 new skilled nursing facility beds at Gouverneur Health on Madison Street. Gouverneur is hiring 75 new staff members for the expanded facility, which is expected to be up-and-running by April.

In a statement, the mayor said, “This plan is a reflection of our unwavering commitment to the Lower East Side, the seniors who built this amazing and diverse community, and the immediacy of their needs. This neighborhood must be made whole for a broken City process that resulted in the sale of a critical health care facility.”

As we pointed out this morning, the new units on Norfolk Street were already in the works. The commitment for new nursing home beds at Gouverneur is new, but the administration is not delivering on the 100 units of senior housing promised on Pike Street.

Today’s press release included the following statement from City Council member Margaret Chin:

After years of shrinking affordable housing and healthcare options for our seniors, we are finally beginning to turn the tide. This plan is an important part of our efforts to allow elderly New Yorkers the ability to grow old in a caring, safe place in the neighborhoods they call home. I thank Mayor de Blasio, Deputy Mayor Shorris and HPD for following through on their commitment to increase the availability of healthcare and affordable housing for seniors in desperate need.

Tomorrow evening, the developers will outline their plans for the Norfolk Street site at a meeting of Community Board 3 (6:30 p.m./184 Eldridge St.) There will be a 10 story building perched above what’s left of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol and a 30-story tower on the parcel behind the synagogue. A total of 488 units will be included in the two buildings. In addition to the 88 senior units, there will be 100 permanently affordable apartments.

The project will go through ULURP, the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which includes advisory roles for the community board and borough president. The ULURP must be approved by the City Council.

$2.5 Million Improvement Project Unveiled at Hong Ning Senior Housing Building

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There was a ribbon cutting, complete with the traditional lion dance, at Hong Ning Housing yesterday morning in celebration of the completion of a renovation project at the senior complex at 50 Norfolk St.

The 155-unit building just received a $2.5 million upgrade, including new elevators, a remodeled kitchen, a redesigned lobby featuring hand-painted wallpaper and improved karaoke and activity rooms. Hong Ning was developed in the 1970s by the Chinese American Planning Council. Yesterday’s festivities were led by Wayne Ho, president and CEO of the Chinatown social services organization.

Ho noted that CPC also recently added a Resident Wellness Coordinator to bring new programs to Hong Ning Housing. The project was made possible through a mortgage refinancing initiative facilitated by the federal Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

The senior building is right next door to Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, the 167-year-old synagogue that was nearly destroyed by fire last month. The Chinese American Planning Council and the synagogue have been collaborating on a mixed use development plan, utilizing a parking lot behind the shul. That plan was to include a restoration of the synagogue, which was abandoned several years ago. Following yesterday’s ribbon cutting, Ho told us he does not yet know the fate of the development plans. He’s waiting to hear the results of engineering studies to determine whether any part of the synagogue can be salvaged.