PARENTS PROTEST CONSTRUCTION OF 10-STORY BUILDING TOPPER NEXT TO SCHOOL

ps 75 rally2
Lisa Walters-Valera speaks out at a rally near PS 75 Tuesday. Photo via Gerson Romero.

Parents at PS 75 on West 95th street are fighting a plan to build a 10-story building on top of an apartment complex at 95th street and West End Avenue. Tenants in the building and local politicians have also criticized the project, and the Buildings Department has so far denied its applications for a permit.

The parent group held a protest Tuesday that was attended by Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell — they say that the intersection, where a woman was hit and killed by a vehicle last year, is already too busy for another large project.

“Last year, Mayor de Blasio launched his “Vision Zero” pedestrian safety program at P.S.75 on the corner of West 95th St. and West End Ave. This intersection, along with other West End Avenue intersections nearby, has a consistent pattern of traffic deaths.

The NYC Department of Buildings is now poised to approve a multi-year and rare heavy construction project on the same narrow and accident-prone street, disregarding the obvious dangers to children, administrators and teachers.

Vision Zero requires cooperation among several city agencies, but DOB is not among them. Large-vehicle traffic, congestion, and other construction impacts are a growing concern for schools as NYC experiences a renewed construction boom.”

711 wea3The building in question, 711 West End Avenue (or 701-711 West End Avenue in building documents), was still awaiting a building permit as of Tuesday. The developers are attempting to add a 10-story structure onto the current six-story building. Developers P2B Ventures did not respond to questions about the project, and architecture firm PBDW Architects, which applied for the building permits, would not answer questions. The design at right is the most recent rendering we’ve seen; it was posted several months ago by a building resident who asked that we not use his name. The developers said no more recent rendering was available.

The project was rejected by the Buildings Department because of “mechanical deductions, floor area calculations, height, bulk, parking, egress, and other issues.” But parents say the developer is reapplying and could gain approval soon. The Buildings Department indicated that the project does not need special permits beyond Buildings Department approval: “if the plans are in compliance with all applicable Construction Codes and the Zoning Resolution the law allows the applicant to pull permits for a construction project.”

Rosenthal wrote in a letter to the Buildings Department that the applications have “misreprentations,” including stating the building is not occupied and that the new building is a different building from the current one (her full letter is below). Rosenthal’s previous attempt to stall or stop construction by fast-tracking an historic district that includes the building doesn’t appear to have worked.

O’Donnell also spoke out about the traffic issue.

“A school wedged between a highway entrance and a highway exit needs extra support to keep its students safe. Mayor de Blasio clearly agreed when he held the press conference inaugurating Vision Zero on a corner here,” he said in a statement. “Adding an active construction site across the street from this site is just a recipe for disaster. Apart from the noise and dust that will make PS75 an inadequate learning environment for a minimum of two years, the additional strain on traffic in the area will mean more worry for parents and more possibility for heartbreaking accidents. This dangerous construction project must not be allowed to imperil our community’s children so profoundly.”

263656856 Letter to DOB Commissioner Chandler on 711 West End Avenue April 10 2015

NEWS, REAL ESTATE, SCHOOLS | 36 comments | permalink
    1. Bruce Bernstein says:

      i saw this demonstration Tuesday on my way to work.

      PROPS to these parents who represent the best extension in the history of community activism on the UWS! this is not NIMBY in the least. they are doing their research and making excellent points. read their letter.

      • Neighbor says:

        All for activism but it needs to be focused on the real issue. The school itself is challenged. The traffic on 95th is exacerbated +270 days out of the year by the fact that the kids enter on 95th by the auditorium, instead of where the building was designed to enter on West End Avenue. There is a wide, safe sidewalk with ample staging. That is the real issue here. Activate to get the developer focused not on how to just simply proceed through inaccurate facts in letters and protests go on…get them engaged on how to help the school as a new neighbor. It needs all the help it can get!

        • Emmaia Gelman says:

          The school’s entrance is on 95th street because that’s where a security desk can manage the entryway. That’s not available on the West End Ave side. PS75 has a careful and attentive administration, and although there’s always room for discussion, you can be pretty sure there’s a reason for how things are done. Especially when it comes to interfacing with the streets.

          • Neighbor says:

            I agree the administration is very attentive and very effective within the limits of the physical reality of the school. The level of cooperation and coordination amongst the three principals is to be commended. However, there can be solutions that improve the long term life and safety of the school, improve the traffic conditions of 95th street and mitigate the interim construction issue. The school entrance is but one of many opportunities that, with a little impetus can make tangible long term improvements.

    2. Jeremy says:

      Ugh. These people are the worst. The UWS has become just infested with small pockets of loud people trying to turn back progress. They won’t be happy until all the buildings are low-income or dumpy 1940’s co-ops at $3500 a square foot.

      • Betty says:

        “These people” are my friends. They are not protesting against change or progress. They are protesting against developers that obviously don’t care or consider that there is a school directly across the street. “These people”, as you put it, are representing our children. They are standing up for the students and the teachers that attend PS75. Read the article again, more carefully please, and take your negative and ignorant comments elsewhere.

        • LuLu says:

          But they did not protest a 400 bed homeless shelter with pedophiles, also across the street? I would consider the latter more dangerous? Ahhhhhh politics.

          • Amy says:

            I would argue that there’s been plenty of protesting of the shelter on 95th Street and the way it’s being run. After the fact. But there was no opportunity for community input or response before it got created. At least here there’s an opportunity being given to the community to express an opinion.

            • LuLu says:

              I happen to know Neighborhood in the Nineties reached out to the school and the parents and no one wanted to get involved…because of politics.

    3. Paul RL says:

      This new building will be a wonderful development for the area, bringing in young people and families that will help support our local businesses and breathe new life into the area. It’s exactly what we need here, and more of it!

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        so i guess the people protesting were not “young people and families”?

      • Mark says:

        Isn’t that the funky SRO block you are always complaining about? More yuppies won’t erase your xenophobic fears of lower income people of color walking down your street. You’re going to have to compromise that this isn’t the luxurious Upper East Side or Tribeca. The Upper West Side is its own character and this building does not fit into it. Could the building be any more hideous?

        • Paul RL says:

          Okay, Mark, I’ll bite.

          1) While I don’t exactly love the new facade, I really dislike the old one. If I had my way, I would change both the new and old facades to be more in keeping with the surrounding buildings. But i don’t think that’s what this argument is about.

          2) What does my support of this project, which will displace no one, have to do with “xenophobia”? Oh, right, the homeless shelter. And your obvious desire to cry “racism!” for no apparent reason. Yes, I and the majority of my neighbors (as well as CM Helen Rosenthal) believe that our immediate area is oversaturated with homeless shelters and other supportive facilities, and that they have had a major detrimental effect on our neighborhood over the past few years. “Freedom House” is particularly bothersome to me as a parent because it is known to house residents with outstanding arrest warrants – DIRECTLY across from PS75.

          3) While I don’t fear the dreaded Upper East Side the way you obviously do, I have always loved my UWS because of it’s quirky and diverse character. But in the past few years, at least in the West ’90’s, it’s become defined more so by its homeless shelters, panhandlers, and mentally unstable characters walking the streets. I’ve lived here long enough to see the change. Perhaps if you opened your eyes you’d see it too.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        he also supported the Salvation Army in its attempt to sell the Williams across the street and throw the senior residents out of their homes — he said it would “improve the neighborhood.”

        (yes, he said he wanted existing seniors “grandfathered” in, but if the sale goes through of course that won’t happen… and the seniors know it.)

    4. Bruce Bernstein says:

      by the way, it was a MUCH bigger crowd, at 7:30 in the AM, than is shown in the photo.

    5. Emmaia Gelman says:

      PS75 parents aren’t objecting to construction, we’re objecting to a DOB permitting process that can and does approve massive street upheaval and construction danger without an reference to what’s around it. The city has conflicting policies. Out of one side of its mouth it’s saying 95th and West End is a dangerous intersection — and it is deadly, we unfortunately know. Out of the other side it’s saying you can close a lane where West Side Highway exit traffic is squeezing through, park a crane there for two years, and send angry drivers shooting into the intersection that kids have to cross to reach the school.

      The construction will also a mean huge amount of noise that will make it really hard for kids to learn while it’s happening. There are rules to protect tenants from that noise, at least theoretically — start times and end times that recognize people can’t really conduct normal activities while construction is active. But school operates at the same time that construction operates. What then?

      So what we’re saying is, have some sense about this, and don’t destroy a great community school in the name of neighborhood-building. (Not sure about calling that “progress” when the city is pretty hard up for decent schools.)

      Also, this is only one of three huge planned construction projects all within a block of each other — one on each side of the school. Which one is it okay for us to protest? Or should we just have the kids wear hard hats to school?

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        Emmaia, which are the other two? I heard at the rally that they were tearing down the building on the NW corner of 96 and West End?

        • Emmaia Gelman says:

          The other two projects are the Williams and something to replace the shuttered deli on 96th and West End.

    6. Lisa says:

      This is a huge, complex project.

      The traffic – West Side Highway & West End Ave – would be a nightmare, wouldn’t it?

      And truly do not understand how it can be safe to do construction above an occupied building?

      • Its done all the time. There are a number of buildings that have been constructed that way on the UWS. There are even some where they’ve built underneath.

    7. 9d8b7988045e4953a882 says:

      The NYC population is growing, and we need to build a lot more housing. People like this who try to stop every construction project are one of the reasons that the rent is so high.

      • bruce Bernstein says:

        that is just ludicrous. this will be a luxury development, and the building is currently mostly rent stabilized. the landlord / developer is doing his best to rid the building of rent stabilized apts… so this development will actually RAISE rents, not lower them.

        • Elizabeth says:

          Right on Bruce! All the new housing going up is “luxury”, nothing for the “regular” guy.
          Landlords aren’t interested in keeping rents affordable.

          • LuLu says:

            I don’t understand why people fail to understand that if you don’t build market rate housing then there is more pressure on traditionally affordable. The people with money are going to go somewhere, and if they don’t get the new units, they move in to the older housing stock pushing up rents and driving older/poorer tenants out. Housing must be built for all income levels, in every neighborhood. It is the 90s turn for more market rate to balance the subsidized. Healthy communities are mixed communities, and that includes the rich you all hate so much.

    8. ELJ says:

      I don’t have any skin in this particular game but I’m curious as to how many people who are in favor of this development send their kids to public school?

    9. AC says:

      Just asking, if they were constructing a school at the same location, would the same people be protesting?

      • drg says:

        Exactly right.
        I wonder when they constructed the school back in the day if the local neighbors went to the street complaining about the noise, dust, congestion and the degradation of the residential nature of the neighborhood by multitudes of noisy children.
        The beauty of NYC is the everchanging nature of people, buildings, jobs etc.
        The idea of freezing in time any particular neighborhood based on current fashion of what is “right” seems a recipe for ultimate disaster.
        The brownstone blocks in the 90’s went thru so many cultural and financial evolutions… from single family high middle class homes (1890), thru lower working class boarding houses with 12+ families in each (1930’s), thru significant decline and partial destruction (1970s) and subsequent rebuilding (1990s). Evolution may not be pretty but should be allowed.
        I think we should let the neighborhood to continue to evolve. External planning frequently, frequently backfires considerably. Look at those neighborhood killing monstrosities on columbus avenue… 1960’s urban renewal at its worst… some will say it was Robert Moses and the real estate industry at the time. I would agree, “central planning” is always prone to bad ideas and financial manipulation.

        • Paul RL says:

          Nice summary, drg.

        • Richard says:

          Those Brownstones you mentioned would be all but gone if it was not for landmark preservation of the upper west side.
          RB

          • drg says:

            Not entirely true. In the 90’s the only landmarked brownstones are east of columbus. All the remaining brownstone west of columbus DID manage to survive the lack of landmarking.

          • Landmarking has not been a significant control of development. Existing housing business models and zoning changes implemented by the 1961 NYC Zoning have been a better method of preserving existing buildings. Condominium, cooperative and single family housing conversions mitigate new construction more effectively.

        • There are many issues to be resolved.

          The school has been at this location for sixty five years, it may no longer be in a suitable location due to neighborhood changes.

          The school was built before the building across the street. Finished a year apart, there may have been little conflict during the construction at that time.

          Construction safety is an issue, but the traffic issues might actually outweigh all others. The entire surrounding neighborhood has traffic problems. West End Avenue has just been redesigned. The highway entrances have been changed numerous times. The highway exits may need to be closed during the period of construction. A long term solution might be to relocate or rebuild the school where the traffic issues are mitigated in the design solution.

          Like in nature, neighborhoods are ecosystems. They evolve and adjust to changing conditions. All the different elements and actors have to adjust to the changing rules. Rule changes after the fact are not effective and may cause even greater harm.

          The urban planning projects of the 50′, 60′ and 70’s only targeted specific issues and were extremely disruptive on the UWS. West End Avenue and Riverside Drive have not had significant change and any new project stands out.

          Condominium conversions and downsizing of small multiple dwelling properties to single family homes are pushing the lower economic classes out. The rule changes and policies being implemented are accelerating appearance of symptoms that warn of potential ecosystem collapse.

          Apply the lessons of The Great Sparrow Campaign to urban planning. The unintended consequences of central planning and control resulted in far greater issues and problems.

    10. Gerri says:

      This is what this is all about:
      Hi Gerri,

      There’s no one solution to the affordable housing crisis — each building and each community is as unique as the individual New Yorkers who live in it.

      Housing New York, the plan Mayor Bill de Blasio announced one year ago today, is grounded in numbers and data, but it does not treat people like statistics. Instead of applying a blanket policy to the whole city, we’re tailoring our solutions to the specific communities we work with.

      One year in, Sheryl Morse’s story is a great example of the results we’ve seen — watch the video now.

      WATCH: Sheryl Morse’s story

      Over the past year, our administration has secured more than 18,000 affordable apartments toward the goal of creating or preserving 200,000 affordable units for half a million New Yorkers over 10 years, with more progress made each day. Each of those housing units represents a New Yorker or a family of New Yorkers — hundreds of thousands of people, living in the security of knowing that skyrocketing housing costs won’t force them from their homes.

      But the numbers can never communicate exactly what our housing plan means for the people it serves. Watch Sheryl’s story now:

      on.nyc.gov/sheryl

      We’ll continue to fight on all fronts so more New Yorkers like Sheryl Morse, and the 158 other families of the Navy Yard Development in Fort Greene, can live affordably in our city.

      Thanks,

      Alicia Glen
      Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development

    11. Lis says:

      A traffic nightmare due to proximity to West Side Way.

      IMO there should be serious limits to new development and major construction at sites near significant NYC roadways.

      For example, the amount of truck traffic headed to the Lincoln Tunnel outbound to NJ in the morning is now at unbelievable levels. Traffic will only worsen when the Hudson Yards mini-city is complete.

      The West Side Highway and West End Avenue are not in the same category, but all the same, there should not be additional development or construction at this critical juncture.

      And by the way, there will also be increased traffic resulting from the major residential-commercial development underway on West End 57-59th Street.

    12. Linda says:

      Who cares? Most people living on the UWS are not parents and those children will be affected only for the short term. There is noise and construction everywhere. The more affluent people in our neighborhood the better. How about the 2 homeless shelters around the corner from these schools? They are more of an impediment. Bring it on.