The Borough of Opportunity

On October 13th, Herrick partnered with the Office of the Bronx Borough President and The Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, to host a trolley tour showcasing some of the new opportunities and development sites available in the Bronx. Commentary was provided by:

  • Marlene Cintron, President, The Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation
  • Wilhelm Ronda, Director, Planning & Development at The Office of the Bronx Borough President
  • Daniel Donovan, Planner, Bronx Borough President’s Office
  • Sam Goodman, Urban Planner, Bronx Borough President’s Office

The tour kicked off at the beautiful Bronx Supreme Court building at 851 Grand Concourse with a view of Yankee Stadium in the distance. The trolley then headed to a large development site that is currently up for grabs on 149th Street. Marlene Cintron expressed the need for mixed-use development in this particular area that is buzzing with shoppers and commuters. Ms. Cintron commented that BJ’s Wholesale Club, JC Penney’s and Target all have stores located in the Bronx that are among their top five performing stores nationwide. Enhancing the fast-developing neighborhood is a 250-room Hampton Inn that is the second hotel on 149th.  Ms. Cintron also commented, “The Opera House Hotel has 94% occupancy and is a well-known destination for European tourists. Tourism is up 14% in the Bronx.”

“The Harlem River Waterfront District, which has the Harlem River to the West, East 149th Street to the North and the Major Deegan to the East is of particular interest to developers,” said Wilhelm Ronda who also pointed out that this development lot is near one of the first stops on the 4 train and is considered a “soft site.” Mr. Ronda explained: “Zoning is generous in this area. It is close to bridges and is a major thoroughfare. There are many opportunities here.” The Port Morris area, a primarily industrial neighborhood in the Southwest Bronx, is currently experiencing an extensive revitalization with many factories and manufacturing buildings being converted into lofts.  The community has become home to young professionals and artists looking for more reasonable rent price-points outside of Manhattan and Brooklyn. The tour also passed The Grand Concourse Plaza Shopping Center on 161st Street, The Grand Concourse (modeled on the Champs-Elysees in Paris) that was declared a historic district in 2011 from 153rd to 167th Street is dotted with a mix of Art Deco and Art Moderne architecture residential buildings, and the Bruckner Boulevard Corridor that is home to the Clock Tower Building. The building, along with the surrounding area has shown tremendous growth and transformation. Rents have skyrocketed in this area in less than 7 years.

The Kingsbridge National Ice Center will be another triumph for the Bronx. The complex will be housed in the historical building once used as an armory and will feature 9 rinks. It is set to be one of the largest indoor ice-centers in the world and will attract national and international tourism bringing a significant economic boost to the area. NHL great, Mark Messier, is an investor and chief executive on the project.

The Bronx Borough President’s Office expressed enthusiasm about working with developers to continue strengthening the economic development of the Bronx. Borough President Ruben Diaz highlighted the borough’s strong sense of community and its wealth of commodities and character and encouraged those in attendance to explore the area. Investment in the Bronx remains vigorous and has been strong since 2009. Mr. Diaz welcomed developers to the Bronx and urged interested parties to work with his office on current opportunities. “We want to facilitate new development that strengthens neighborhood character and fosters overall growth of the borough.” said Mr. Diaz.

According to Sam Goodman, who was born in the Bronx and is now an Urban Planner in the office of the Bronx Borough President: “The Bronx is not a place to live, it is a place to celebrate life.” With over $7 billion dollars invested in residential, commercial and institutional projects in the borough in the last 6 years, the Bronx is now the new borough of opportunity.




Creating Sports-Oriented Districts – Successes and Long-term viability

Creating Sports-Oriented Districts – Successes and Long-Term Viability

 On Friday, September 25, Herrick hosted the Urban Land Institute of New York (ULI) for a discussion on Sports-Oriented Districts. Speakers included:

  • Richard Browne, Managing Partner, Sterling Equities
  • Jim Lester, Senior Vice President of Commercial and Residential Development, Forest City Ratner Companies
  • Brad Mayne, President and CEO, Metlife Stadium

The panel was moderated by Bill Johnson, Designing Principal at HOK Sports, Recreation and Entertainment and the introduction to the panel was given by Mitch Korbey, Partner and Chair of Herrick’s Land Use & Zoning Group.

The panel focused on the concept of New York is as a home to the greatest concentration of professional sports teams in the country. These sports-districts’ successes and long-term viability are dependent on getting the right mix of uses, critical mass and the most valuable connection to the communities surrounding them.

Bill Johnson stressed the importance of establishing a vision but also of ensuring that a critical mass, correct mix and community connection was present when venturing into the planning and development of these districts.

Richard Browne spoke about the successes and challenges he has faced in the development of Citifield and the surrounding area.  As they continue to develop the area to serve the community beyond the stadium, Richard said, “It is important to create critical mass outside of baseball season.” Developers are now focused on building a one-million square-foot shopping mall near Citifield.

Jim Lester commented on the development of Barclays Center in Brooklyn, saying: “Four residential buildings are going up around Barclays, one of which is entirely affordable housing,” This serves the community well because of the $75 million transit hub that opens right by Barclays.” With the Islanders coming to Brooklyn and Nassau Coliseum being completely revamped, opportunities to grow and develop these communities are becoming more commonplace. Nassau Coliseum will be an entertainment hub for the community, focusing the venue on family entertainment, concerts, boxing and even an indoor skydiving arena.

Brad Mayne spoke about a $38 million cleanup of industrial sites to develop areas in Victory Park, Dallas around the American Airlines Center. These massive cleanup efforts for development are what help to foster and build communities around these sports districts.  “Never stop searching for new opportunities.” said Mayne, who talked about the upcoming American Dream mall at the Meadowlands. The mall is projected to have an indoor water park, an ice rink and concert hall and amusement rides, and with tenants like Hermes signed on, this development will definitely draw new interest to this district.

Community and Business Leaders Discuss LIC’s Future at Bisnow’s Recent Panel

Bisnow’s Future of Long Island City was held at Water’s Edge Restaurant, with stunning views of the Manhattan skyline and the 59th Street Bridge as a backdrop to the event. Mitch Korbey moderated the first panel of the day entitled, “Creating a Community,” and panelists included:

  • Sheila Lewandowski, Co-Founder, The Chocolate Factory Theater
  • David Maundrell, Founder,
  • Jenni Kim, COO, MoMA PS1
  • Joshua Schneps, President, LIC Flea & Food
  • Jodi Stein, VP, Lightstone Group

The discussion kicked off with Jenni Kim speaking about the impact MoMA PS1 has had on the LIC community and how MoMA PS1 has steadily been drawing a growing art audience into Queens. “People are starting to realize it’s more than just two stops on a train,” Jenni said. “An entire world of art that they have not experienced yet is just really, really close.” Sheila Lewandowski spoke about how big box stores seem to be stifling some of the charm of the neighborhood, and while she is an advocate of progress, the ability to grow and create a community should be more than brand name stores, pharmacies and banks. She said, “Long Island City’s charm comes from the mom and pop stores we have around here.”

Jodi Stein mentioned that she didn’t believe that Long Island City was “up and coming” but rather that it has already arrived and said: “I am really excited for what lies ahead here. There is so much opportunity in Long Island City and the opportunities will continue at the current growth rate.” David Maundrell echoed Jodi and Sheila’s sentiments in that, in order to create a community and promote growth, the charm of home-grown stores and development needs to be encouraged. He also said: “I do believe that while Long Island City has ‘arrived’ we still don’t have the infrastructure, as far as schools, to support the out-of-staters and families who are now skipping Manhattan, and swarming to live here.” Josh Schneps said that he has been seeing a wide demographic range frequenting the LIC Flea & Food market on weekends because there is a genuine curiosity for people to try something different. “The streets are really quiet around here on the weekend. So, the LIC Flea has been a nice oasis for people in and outside the community to go spend some time outdoors and try a great variety of foods and goods. We have many visitors from Brooklyn and Manhattan as people are starting to realize that we are a short train ride away and we have so much to offer here.”

Mitch Korbey kept a lively discussion going and concluded the panel by reminding the audience that development and investor opportunities are welcome in Long Island City, with hopeful fingers crossed that retaining the charm and personality of the neighborhood will be high on the priority list!

For Bisnow’s recap of the full event, click here.


Issues in TRANSFERRING DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS in New York City: Previously-Granted Variances

While transferring unused development rights can potentially enable construction at otherwise prohibited densities, such transfers often introduce issues that, if unaddressed, can derail a project long after money has changed hands.  This article focuses on one such issue, namely that discretionary NYC Boards of Standards and Appeals (BSA) approval is required before transferring unused development rights to, or from, sites benefiting from variances that were previously granted by the BSA.  For example, in Bella Vista v. Bennett, 89 N.Y. 2d 565 (1997), the sending site (seller) benefitted from a BSA variance, but the parties purported to effect the transfer without obtaining the necessary BSA approval.  The receiving site (purchaser) was later denied a building permit to use the subject development rights, and then sued the City (wherein ultimately, the purported transfer was invalidated, because the required BSA approval was not obtained).


NYC regulates development intensity, including by limiting the square footage of zoning floor area (ZFA) (i.e., so-called “development rights”) permitted without discretionary zoning approval.  A site’s maximum ZFA depends on its applicable lot area, which sometimes can be exceeded using ZFA from another, adjacent zoning lot.  The most common way is by a zoning lot merger, whereby adjacent zoning lots (with consent from owners, lenders and other interested parties) are combined into an enlarged zoning lot, with a maximum ZFA equaling that of the sum of each of the individual constituent zoning lots.  Unused ZFA can be reallocated to a specific site in the new zoning lot that is targeted for future development.


While otherwise not required to transfer unused development rights by “traditional” zoning lot merger, BSA approval is needed where a newly-enlarged zoning lot would include a site that has previously been granted a BSA variance.  The appropriate BSA application is to reopen, and amend, the original variance.  BSA’s approval is not automatic, but rather a circumstantial inquiry of whether the variance would be undermined.  See, e.g., BSA Cal. No. 885-78-BZ (2009) (citing Bella Vista).


Before transferring unused development rights in NYC, confirm whether any relevant site benefits from a BSA variance.  If so, review any underlying BSA documentation to evaluate the likelihood of BSA approval.  Responsibility should be allocated (between a seller and a purchaser) for pursuing any necessary BSA approval.  A well-drafted agreement can establish crucial protections, including deadlines and consequences.

While this article focuses on one discrete issue, there are many considerations in transferring unused development rights in NYC, the failure of which to evaluate could be problematic.

An Air Rights Plan to Help Hudson River Park


You may have heard about an innovative and ambitious plan being developed by the Hudson River Park Trust, intended as a way to finance (in part) the ongoing construction and continued maintenance of the group’s namesake, five-mile-long open space, which stretches from the Battery to 59th Street in Manhattan, encompassing a “500-acre footprint” including over a dozen piers extending into the Hudson.

The group is currently in the planning stages for a proposal that would effectively transfer unused development rights tied to a certain number of the existing piers (quoted in recent press coverage as the equivalent of approximately 1.6 million square feet), to an area defined as a special “transfer district” (similar to the underlying framework along the High Line and other delineated areas in the City), covering roughly one City block’s width in from the shoreline, for the full length of the Park.

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Meet the New Planning Commissioner


Late last week, Carl Weisbrod was officially appointed to the Chair of the City Planning Commission, a two-in-one title that brings the added responsibilities of the Director of the City Planning Department.

The appointment of Mr. Weisbrod had been reportedly decided earlier in the week by City Hall and thus what surprise there was to the news was tempered by a sense of relief and even comfort.  Because of the relatively late appointment — and after a search that had had as many as half-a-dozen presumed contenders as recently as a week ago — this particular position had become the focus of increasing speculation across the real estate and development community.  The fact that Mr. Weisbrod was the co-chair of the Mayor’s own transition team — an unusual scenario he himself acknowledged at his inaugural press conference — provided an added layer of intrigue, but one that somehow seemed appropriate in the end.

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How did it get so late so soon?*


Last week, David Greenfield (44th District, Brooklyn) was selected to chair the City Council’s Land Use Committee, but a number of key agency appointments in the de Blasio administration remain vacant or unconfirmed.  With turnover being widely reported at the top of City Planning, Landmarks, the BSA and HPD (to name just some) we, along with many others with an interest in land use and real estate, eagerly await word on those and other appointments. Continue reading

Windy City


For those who live, work, or happened to be visiting in Midtown Manhattan today, you’re probably well aware of the crane situation at the construction site for the tower on West 57th Street (under control, as of the late afternoon).  These types of situations—and this was the same site where an earlier crane memorably dangled 1,000 feet in the air for several days after Hurricane Sandy almost exactly one year ago—rightfully gain nationwide attention for the dramatic scale of the dangers posed, in a line of work that we so often take for granted.

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This Week at the City Planning Commission, 9/30


For the most part, much of the public drama over the Department of City Planning’s East Midtown proposal has been played out.  At this point, most anyone with a stake in New York City real estate has (often quite forcefully) thrown in their two cents:  architectural pundits and practitioners, big-time property owners, citywide civic advocacy groups, a consortium of affected Community Boards, present and presumptive Manhattan Borough Presidents, and nearly every faction of the fourth estate.  But ultimately—or likely penultimately, as the City Council will most certainly take its turn to weigh in—it finally comes down to what the City Planning Commission thinks, and its moment arrives this week.

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Park Here: Changes to Parking Regulations in the Manhattan Core


In May, the City Council adopted a zoning text amendment that revised the parking regulations in the “Manhattan Core,” the area south of 96th Street on the east side and south of 110th Street on the west side.  Since 1982, this area of Manhattan has been subject to parking regulations that differ from those in effect in the rest of the City, in part due to an effort to reduce pollution after the Clean Air Act and an acknowledgement that the number of cars in the congested areas of central Manhattan should be limited.  Parking is not required for any new development in the Manhattan Core and is only permitted in limited amounts.

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