Doesn’t it seem like we can blog about Cuomo’s proposals every week this month? Sanchez & Polovetsky is based in NYC, so anything New York City related captures our attention. On a personal note, we are big fans of the High Line, especially in the warmer weather. In case you haven’t heard, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has plans to extend the High Line from 10th Avenue, where it currently ends, to the entrance of the newly opened Moynihan Train Hall.
A new L-shaped elevated walkway will link the existing public park at 30th street to a pedestrian plaza at Manhattan West, which is a six-building mixed-use development from Brookfield Property Group (that stretches from 9th and 10th Avenues and 31st to 33rd Streets). The extension would end on 9th Avenue, across from the entrance to the new Moynihan Train Hall. Just in case you are unaware, the Manhattan West development measures eight acres and contains six million square feet of Class-A office space, 844 residences across The Eugene and The Pendry Manhattan West hotel, 200,000 square feet of retail, a new Whole Foods, a food hall, and a multi-concept restaurant from Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group.
There are several organizations in the partnership named in the proposal including Brookfield, Empire State Development, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Friends of the High Line.
According to Cuomo, “This will be the most ambitious redevelopment that New York City has seen in decades. When the private sector economy lags, state governments build infrastructure and spur development. The beautiful Moynihan Train Hall is open, the renovation of Penn Station and this High Line extension project begin this year. This connection is part of a district-wide redevelopment of the West Side that will jumpstart the private market in a post-COVID world.”
While many of us stopped commuting to Penn Station during the pandemic, by the time we get back on the train we will be able to explore the new Moynihan Train Hall which opened in early January 2021, in the landmarked James A. Farley Post Office Building on Eighth Avenue, across the street from Penn Station. We always like to give a bit of history, so you may remember that the $1.6 billion project actually expands Penn Station. It does this by providing new waiting areas for the Long Island Railroad, Amtrak, and new commercial and retail spaces.
Cuomo is also proposing another extension for the High Line that will run from 34th Street and 12th Avenue past the Javits Center and cross the West End Highway, ending at Pier 76 and Hudson River Park. Currently, the property is a tow pound run by the NYPD that will be vacated by the end of January 2021, with plans to make it into a public park.
The purpose of the High Line expansion is to create more public space and address community concerns about pedestrian access to the west side of Manhattan. Anyone coming in and out of the area around Penn Station knows that there is a lot of traffic and congestion that continues on to Hudson Yards. The cost of the project is estimated at $60 million, which will come from a combination of private and public funds.
The bustle and excitement for hockey fans will likely increase, since the NHL is set to move its headquarters to One Manhattan West. There will also be a program on the plaza’s ice rink, along with public art and events by Arts Brookfield.
Keep an eye out for more news on the area and for Penn Station. We recently heard that Cuomo has announced a proposal to revamp Penn Station with upgrades that will increase train capacity by 40-percent. Stay tuned!
We often blog about eminent domain in New York and across the country. This week we came across an interesting story about Los Angeles’ Chinatown, where the City council is trying to use eminent domain and COVID-19 funding to ensure that an affordable housing building remains.
What is interesting about this story is that cities have started to use eminent domain more frequently to acquire properties for public/affordable housing. Of course, affordable housing is a valid public use under the eminent domain laws, so this makes perfect sense.
Back to our story: this month, the City council will decide whether to acquire the building known as Hillside Villa through its powers of eminent domain; in order to keep it permanently affordable as public housing. In 2018, a 30-year affordable housing agreement expired at the Villa, and landlord Tom Botz issued a one-year notice to tenants that their rents would rise to market rate. For some residents this could mean a 200% increase. In 2019, L.A. agreed to pay Botz $12.7 million to maintain the Villa’s affordability agreement for another 10 years, but he reneged on the deal.
Los Angeles has a housing crisis. Ananya Roy, a professor of urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles, says L.A. must use eminent domain to beat its housing crisis. The City’s ability to meet its housing goals “will rest on the public acquisition of land and property,” she wrote in an email.
The history of eminent domain in Los Angeles is most remembered by events in the 1950’s, when the City seized properties to build Dodger’s Stadium. The properties, which were designated as public housing, were taken from families in Chavez Ravine to build the stadium.
History is looking to be remade. Councilmember Gil Cedillo first called for the acquisition of the Villa in January via eminent domain, and this month he proposed that the City finance the acquisition with its remaining CARES Act money. Los Angeles received nearly $700 million from the federal government to combat the COVID-19 crisis last spring, and around $43 million remains. ,
The Villa’s market value has been appraised at approximately $46 million. A $46 million acquisition would cost the city approximately $371,000 per unit in the Villa, while construction and development regulations mean new units can cost the city more than $500,000. Even if the money is available, Botz insists the building is not for sale.
Eminent domain has been regularly used to create affordable housing in NYC, and it appears that now L.A. intends to do the same.
As we head into the final days of the year, we couldn’t resist another eminent domain post. It is our passion and we hope that you find the posts as interesting as we do. Today we are writing about an eminent domain public hearing held in Oneida county, related to the downtown Utica hospital project where a three-level parking garage is slated to be built. The new garage structure is intended to be a part of the Mohawk Valley Health System (“MVHS”) hospital building, and to provide parking to those visiting the Adirondack Bank Center and the city court.
Four downtown Utica property owners are fighting back. The owners say that they are defending their assets; and that they have not yet reached a sales agreement with the health system for the to-be-built garage.
Since most of the land required for this project has already been acquired, Oneida County is considering eminent domain as a way to acquire the holdout properties.
Thanks to modern technology, the Oneida County Department of Law held a virtual public hearing to give property owners and local officials an opportunity to publicly comment and make their statements to the County Board of Legislatures.
At that hearing, business owners and local government officials spoke up to state that they do not believe this garage is needed. “It's not at all obvious that it's necessary and I think using eminent domain to seize private property from its citizens for a project that has not been shown to the public to be necessary…[is] extremely inappropriate” said Celeste Friend, Utica Common Councilperson 3rd District.
“Eminent domain should not be used in this case. Private public development took place after the fact eminent domain is being proposed to take private property from individuals who have a right to ownership. In this case the proposed project will not market and if wanted maybe to place in other reasonable locations where other parking garages exist,” said Timothy Julian, Oneida County Board of Legislatures reading a statement from Utica Common Council President, Michael Galime who could not attend Wednesday night’s meeting.
Katie Aiello, owner of Character Coffee says, “It appears that these parking spots for service parking is already sufficient. Eminent domain is theft.”
Clearly, this hospital project is not very popular with the local community. In 2019, the #nohospitaldowntown group and the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica filed a lawsuit against the city and MVHS to stop construction of the new hospital. That lawsuit was dismissed by the New York State Supreme Court. According to health officials, the construction of the MVHS hospital is expected to be completed by May of 2023. As for the construction of the garage, well that remains to be seen.
As always, we will keep you posted as to any new eminent domain news that comes along. In the meantime, have a safe and Happy Holiday Season and a Happy and Healthy New Year!