Gov. Kathy Hochul is pulling back on Andrew Cuomo’s plan to reshape a vacant 1.2-acre lot near the Javits Center, which a team of developers had eyed for a 1,600-foot skyscraper that would have been one of the city’s tallest.
Empire State Development, the Hochul administration’s economic-development branch, announced late Tuesday it would rescind a request for proposals for the site on 11th Avenue, just east of the convention center. The agency was not explicit in its rationale, but the state had been facing community pressure to require affordable housing options at the site as the city faces an ongoing housing crisis.
The state had billed the property – which is owned by a state entity and known as “Site K” – as one of the last remaining vacant lots in Midtown West.
“In light of today’s changed economic environment and in keeping with Governor Hochul’s commitment to building a thriving and equitable New York, Empire State Development is rescinding the current RFP for Site K,” Hope Knight, ESD’s acting president and CEO, said in a statement.
Redeveloping the lot had been a priority for former Gov. Cuomo, whose administration opened up bidding in March and encouraged developers to consider a hotel that could complement the Javits Center.
In October, a team of Black-owned companies led by the Peebles Corporation unveiled a headline-grabbing proposal that called for a 1,663-foot Affirmation Tower with two hotels, commercial space, an ice-skating rink and an observation deck. The building, they claimed, would have been the tallest in the Western Hemisphere, though the spire height of One World Trade Center would have been taller.
But community organizations, including Manhattan Community Board 4, have been pushing for development in the area to include affordable housing. And the consortium’s proposal, which was the only one to be made public, included no residential housing.
In her statement, Knight said the state will “reassess development priorities” for the site and “solicit more input from the local community.”
A representative from the Peebles Corporation could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.
Under Cuomo, the state had been seeking a developer or team of developers to build a commercial or mixed-use space on the vacant lot, which is between 35th and 36th streets and is part of the zoning district for the Hudson Yards development.
The state’s request for proposals made clear it was looking for someone to build a hotel on the space, though it wasn’t necessarily a requirement. And it also made clear the community board preferred residential housing at the site, but that wasn’t required either.
If a bidder decided to propose a building that included residential use, they would have been required to make 30% of units affordable for those making 80% of the area’s median income, according to the state’s request.
Lowell Kern, chairman of Manhattan Community Board 4, said the board would prefer the state make affordable housing a requirement for development at Site K moving forward.
He pointed to plans for a nearby 11th Avenue lot – known as the Slaughterhouse Project because it once was home to the New York Butchers' Dressed Meat Company – as a model. There, the city is advancing plans to build two skyscrapers with more than 200 residential units, all of which will be designated affordable housing.
“We are committed to affordable housing on [Site K],” Kern said. “And if there were no affordable housing proposals that were submitted that the state deemed acceptable, then we’re happy they are pulling the [request for proposals].”
Since taking office in August, Hochul has pushed forward with some of Cuomo’s major projects in New York City and scaled back or paused others.
In October, she called on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to examine alternatives to a $2.1 billion AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport, which Cuomo had pushed in the face of criticism for years.
The next month, Hochul announced her support for the redesign of Penn Station and the surrounding Midtown neighborhood – another Cuomo pet project. But she also backed some changes , adding more pedestrian space and slightly reducing the size of 10 new buildings central to the project.