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Union Square Tech Hub Draws Controversy Over Rezoning

By Sarah Jackson, Deputy News Editor

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Courtesy of PC Richards
The food hall inside the Union Square Tech Hub.

A new tech hub, which had its land use application approved on Feb. 27, is one step closer to coming to Union Square — between NYU’s Palladium Residence Hall and University Residence Hall. The new facility, currently branded as the Union Square Tech Hub, would replace the recently vacant 124 E. 14th St. address that P.C. Richard & Son formerly occupied.

Mayor Bill de Blasio advocated for the construction of the hub early last year, but approval has been met by opposition from local community groups concerned of overdevelopment.  

On one hand, NYU supports the building addition but it has no part in the hub’s construction besides the neighboring walls of two of its residence halls.

“NYU hasn’t had any direct involvement in the project,” university spokesperson John Beckman wrote in an email. “However, we have supported the overall efforts to strengthen [New York City’s] science, tech and innovation economy, from the creation of our own Center for Urban Science and Progress to the development of 370 Jay St. as a tech hub in downtown Brooklyn to Tandon’s [Tandon School of Engineering’s] stewardship of several incubators. The Union Square Tech Hub is meant to advance NYC’s [New York City’s] tech economy, and that’s an objective NYU supports.”

The hub would generate 600 jobs and would feature office spaces for startup tech companies, according to the mayor’s office.

Community board No. 3, which covers the Union Square region, voted on Feb. 27 to approve a land use application that would allow the tech hub to be built, but members urged the city to put zoning protections in place to prevent overdevelopment in the area.

Many community preservation groups are likewise concerned about the rezoning required to accommodate the massive size of the proposed 21-story hub.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, fears the hub will turn the mostly residential area into a predominantly commercial zone.

“They’re starting to identify this area as an extension of Midtown, and that’s totally unacceptable,” Berman said. “While there is a large component of the development that would serve this public purpose, there’s actually a great significance of the development that’s purely for-profit, commercial office space [for] whoever can pay the rent. There’s no special public benefit [there].”

Berman thinks a mutual agreement can be reached, so long as certain zoning requirements are implemented and affordable housing provisions are kept in place.

“We also want to add affordable housing provisions and strengthen the affordable housing provisions that [already] exist in part of this area but where the city kind of left a loophole in the zoning that allows the developers to get around it,” he said. “With the appropriate restrictions in place both for the building and for the surrounding area, this could be a win-win.”

Email Sarah Jackson at [email protected]

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