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Neighborhood protests 1.1M sf ComEx project.

Neighborhood protests 1.1M sf ComEx project

At a public hearing last week, community groups and their residents were out in full force to express their dissatisfaction with the proposed 1.1 million-square-foot Commodities Exchange building planned for Tribeca.

While the government and the private sector view the plan as vital to the city's economy, the Lower Manhattan community and local pols see it as a threat to the neighborhood and unjustified in light of the abundance of vacant office space in the area.

The new headquarters for the five separate operating and legal entities and member firms of the Commodities exchange is being built in partnership with the city's Economic Development Corporation and the State Urban Development Corporation. The building was born as a public/private venture earlier this year when the exchanges were threatening to leave the city taking with them not only their business but thousands of jobs.

Earlier this month, Community Board 1 voted 35 to 5 in favor of rejecting the proposal slated for site 5B of the Washington Street Urban Renewal Plan. Paul Goldstein, district manager, said "We support the efforts to retain the exchanges, but we just feel this site is inappropriate."

The 730-foot-high structure, said Goldstein, would be the biggest in Lower Manhattan and would rise directly next door to P.S. 234, the only elementary school in the area, and one block away from the Washington Market Park.

The board proposes, he said, first upgrading the exchanges current location at 4 World Trade Center. If that is not feasible, he said, they suggest retrofitting some of the 22 million square feet of vacant space in Lower Manhattan. If either of those options are not viable, he said, they believe a new structure should be built on site 25 at Battery Park City, a large commercial site next to the existing World Financial Center.

With all the vacant space in Lower Manhattan, and, since what the exchanges require is mostly office space, Goldstein said, they don't believe a new building is necessary. Why, Goldstein asked, put $145 million in public subsidies toward creating more office space.

In addition to the Community Board reps, members of the Tribeca Task Force, and other civic groups that voiced opposition to the project, roughly 100 third and fourth graders from P.S. 234 gave testimony.

The hearing was held by Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger as part of her new role in the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). While Messinger is one of the few elected officials that supports the project, her office said she, nonetheless, wanted to address the community's concerns and educate herself further on all the points of view.

Messinger, who is expected to pass judgement on the project Nov. 20, said, while she supports the project for economic growth reasons, she hopes the Exchanges will be sensitive to the community concerns and devise programs in which they give back to the neighborhood.

Representatives of the Commodities Exchanges, the real estate and construction industries, the city and the state economic agencies were also on hand to speak on behalf of the project.

"I thought it was a very productive meeting," said Michelle deMilly of Getto & deMilly, spokespeople for the Exchanges.

deMilly said pro-project speakers testified that the new building will represent a small portion of vacant space in the area, and the new structure will, in fact, generate business for the Downtown district.

In addition, she said it has been the plan of the Exchanges to build a new self-contained building.

deMilly said the Exchanges are already beginning to address the problems that may arise because the building is adjacent to the school. The entrance, she said, is actually away from the front of the school and they are in discussions with the school about noise, traffic, etc.

"It is an issue the Exchanges are taking seriously," she said.
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Title Annotation:1.1 million square foot Commodities Exchange building
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Oct 30, 1991
Words:647
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