The Northwest's parking garage issue will never die. Developer Richard Singer has been battling neighbors for years as he tried a parking garage to capitalize on the trendy and traffic-clogged NW 23rd Street. Neighbors have a long list of concerns, mostly about the big garage infringing on a historic residential neighborhood. In February 2007, after fighting bitterly through layers of city bureaucracy, the neighborhood won out when the City Council
squashed the garage made a tentative decision to uphold the appeal in a 3-2 vote. Then the developer and neighbors went through a controversial mediation process and in June, Singer's group withdrew the design from Council's consideration.
Now the developer's back from the drawing board with a whittled-down design that's won the somewhat reluctant approval of the City's Historic Landmark Commission on Monday. The 103-car garage is now 87 cars, the three-story lot is now only two plus a brick facade.
"It's less oppressive than the first design," said Landmarks Commissioner Harris Matarazzo, who voted against the project after noting that the project's proposed demolition of a historic home (the house of Julia Hoffman) upset him. Art DeMuro, chair of the Commission, disagreed with neighbors who showed up to speak against the project, saying he believed the revamped garage was "appropriate and sensitive" and necessary for the viability of the newly-posh neighborhood.
The debate among the Landmark's Commission was one that a lot of changing historic neighborhoods are having. Should the historic district guidelines of a neighborhood override the laws that allow developments like the garage? Apparently not - the Commission voted 3-2 in favor of the lot. Irvington has been raising a ruckus about the same question in relation to the Irvington Squire project which goes before the commission next week.
post updated 8/14/08 to clarify the 2007 process with the Council.