Friday, July 15, 2011

Cuomo OKs plans for U.N. to build

The governor gave the United Nations his blessing to replace a park with a commercial tower. However, the international body won't decide until fall whether to proceed.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation on Friday that allows the United Nations to construct another building on what is now a park. The transaction is part of large, complicated plan to fill a 21-block gap in the East Side waterfront promenade that runs between East 38th and East 60th streets.The money received from the sale of the park land, combined with funds the city would garner from selling two office buildings, would be used to the extend the promenade.

After receiving an official request from the City Council, the state Legislature last month passed a law that lets city and state officials sign a “memorandum of understanding” by Oct. 10 and allow for the future demolition of Robert Moses Playground so the United Nations could build a tower on the site's 29,000-square-foot blacktop. The park is on First Avenue, across East 42nd Street from the international body.

The legislation was necessary because it takes state approval to eliminate a park, yet law makers won't be in session during the fall when the U.N. is expected to decide whether to move forward with the plan. The memorandum would allow local state representatives to require conditions be met before a deal could proceed. The plan would also be subject to the city's Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

"For over 60 years, the United Nations has been an important part of New York, bringing jobs, tourism, and economic development to the city," Mr. Cuomo said, in a statement. "This law allows the U.N. to expand its facilities, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in new investment and helping it better serve its vital mission."

Meanwhile, the city last month tapped the firm AECOM to provide engineering, design and planning services for the project and to study both its cost and feasibility. In the past, experts have estimated the project could cost between $150 million and $200 million. There is currently no funding for it.

Additionally, the city will soon begin infrastructure work on an East River pier located between East 38th and East 41st streets that was once leased to Consolidated Edison Co. and could anchor around 34,000 square feet of new public space. The work, which will include rehabilitating the pier's piles and decking, will be funded by a $13 million payment from Con Edison that was part of earlier requirements under its previous lease.

A completion date for the revamped pier and new park space will be determined as the early design work progresses, an Economic Development Corp. spokesman said.

By Theresa Agovino / Crain's New York Business
July 15, 2011 3:37 p.m.