Village residents worry nabe could become ‘midtown south’

The growth of a tech center downtown could face challenges if city officials agree with a group of residents who are demanding protections to prevent Greenwich Village and the East Village from becoming “Midtown south.”

A 21-story commercial building, proposed by the city in partnership with a development company, would be built at 124 14th St., where there is currently a P.C. Richard & Son appliance and electronics store. It would include office space, education and job training space run by Civic Hall, retail space and a community event space, according to the proposal submitted in January.

But some residents fear the construction of the Tech Hub would accelerate what they call the neighborhoods’ transformation into “Midtown south” or an extension of “Silicon Alley,” while the city believes it will be economically empowering for “real New Yorkers.”

There are several new developments in the works, including a 23-story condo tower nearing completion on University Place and 12th Street and a hotel under construction on 11th Street, between Third and Fourth avenues.

“They’re completely out of scale and character for the neighborhood,” said Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP)

In an attempt to preserve the residential character of the Village and East Village, the preservation group has been trying to get zoning changes for the area passed for three years, Berman said. Their proposal would restrict the height of future developments, add affordable housing provisions to areas that don’t have it and remove an incentive for commercial development.

The group plans to attend the Community Board 3 meeting on Tuesday as the board, in a 60-day review period, holds a nonbinding vote on zoning changes. CB3 put support behind changes to “preserve the predominantly residential character of the neighborhood” at its December meeting. The group also has called on City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, whose district includes the area that would be affected by the zoning proposal, to only approve the plans for the Tech Hub if they are accompanied by zoning changes to limit such future growth.

Rivera recognized the positives the Tech Hub could bring to the neighborhood.

“This tech center has the potential to be an important digital skills training center for local residents who historically have not had access to the high-paying jobs of the tech industry,” she said in a statement. The mayor’s office agreed. “The Union Square Tech Hub stands on its own merits. Its purpose is to provide a gateway for real New Yorkers—kids from our high schools, public housing and immigrant communities—to get training and a good paying job in tech,” said Melissa Grace, deputy press secretary. “It is disappointing some groups would use the project to change unrelated zoning blocks away.”

Rivera added she will “work toward” the rezoning the community supports.

“The adjoining development this tech hub can bring is also an important factor. I will continue to work toward the protections and rezoning that have broad community support and promote the creation of affordable housing over commercial projects — a priority in line with the values of our community.”

The GVSHP hopes for a “win-win outcome,” Berman said, one that allows the Tech Hub, but also prevents further tech-related development in the area.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, whose district includes Greenwich Village, did not return a request for comment.


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