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Opinion: 388 Hudson St. is a development the West Village area desperately needs

BY AUSTIN CELESTIN | Former City Councilmember Margaret Chin and former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s legislative grand finale was the passage of the Soho/Noho neighborhood plan in December 2021. While housing advocates lauded the rezoning for finally forcing Soho to play its role in solving the housing crisis, many others were wary of the potential outcomes that the rezoning would bring.

But alongside the rezoning, Chin left a parting gift for the rezoning’s skeptics: a formal commitment to build housing at 388 Hudson St.

The publicly owned lot was a popular suggestion by opponents of the Soho rezoning and supporters of the Elizabeth Street Garden as an alternative to the rezoning and the proposed affordable senior L.G.B.T.Q.+ development Haven Green. While they wanted the Hudson Street project to replace either proposal, Chin saw it as a supplement to those developments. Two years later, with Haven Green and the Soho rezoning both clearing major legal hurdles, the vision for 388 Hudson St. is coming to fruition and has entered the land-use limelight. Its completion cannot come any sooner.

Community Board 2 has been one of the worst community districts in the city at producing housing, with parcels of the neighborhood having even seen a net loss of housing in recent years. Decades of this status quo have culminated in the district becoming one of the most expensive in the city (which was the ultimate catalyst for de Blasio’s rezoning). There is no more room for debate — the area needs to approve the construction of more new housing — lots of it.

Just by itself, 388 Hudson St. would result in a seismic shift in housing development patterns in the neighborhood, providing exponentially more housing than the West Village has built in more than a decade. Hundreds of new working- and middle-class families will enjoy the jobs, schools, transportation access, walkability and neighborhood amenities that have remained a privilege for a neighborhood that is nearly 80 percent white with a median income of $150,000.

What’s even better about the development is that it has grown in scale from its inception. When Chin green-lighted the site for development, the original proposal called for around 100 units. Last week, the city outlined four potential development scenarios, the tallest of which could rise to 35 stories. The housing unit count remains unspecified, but any of these proposals could double or even triple the original 100 units proposed. The city has expressed a desire to max out the development potential, echoing calls from C.B. 2 from earlier this year, which has only improved the project.

But even with the objective and overdue benefits, there are still detractors. Village Preservation is at the forefront of the opposition, hoping to see this scheme get rejected and replaced by a plan with, as it puts it, “respectful scale + height.” In a housing crisis as bad as ours, with a neighborhood that has built a negligible amount of housing for decades, clamoring for respectful scale and height with a 100 percent affordable development is unacceptable. The city has spent six decades centering context and character, and that focus is partially responsible for the situation we are in today. Not only have the stringent restrictions on development resulted in stratospheric housing costs in the community district, but the lack of development has contributed to decades of gentrification in neighboring communities like the East Village and the Lower East Side.

What Village Preservation is seeking will reduce the affordable housing. Additionally, with the structural access to Water Tunnel No. 3 restricting the amount of developable land, a reconfiguration of the building’s massing and height will only exacerbate this reduction. A neighborhood that has failed to provide adequate housing for decades is in no position to be demanding a downsizing.

(It’s also worth mentioning that 388 Hudson will not be the tallest building in Greenwich Village as Village Preservation’s Andrew Berman suggested — it won’t even be the tallest building in a one-quarter-mile radius: 570 Washington St. is rising just two blocks away and will reach a peak height of 450 feet.)

Furthermore, the preservation group’s claims regarding only 30-year affordability are shaky at best. It certainly is in our interest to ensure long-term affordability. Right now, the regulatory agreements are still up in the air, as per the e-mail Village Preservation falsely claimed confirmed its claims. However, since the city is pursuing an upzoning, up to 45 percent of the units at 388 Hudson will have to remain permanently affordable, as suggested by NYC Housing, Preservation & Development’s Twitter account. In a maximized development, that 45 percent alone would still exceed the original proposal for this site and would be significantly more than what the area has contributed for years.

The need for this building, at this location and size, cannot be overstated. The project at 388 Hudson St. represents an opportunity for Lower Manhattan to reverse its trend of nonexistent housing production and become an active contributor toward solving the housing crisis. It is a small step toward the progress the city needs to make to meet its housing goals, and we must be doing whatever it takes to reach those goals. The success of this project would also set a positive precedent for the future of city-owned sites across the five boroughs, including two more in Lower Manhattan at 2 Howard St. and 324 E. Fifth St. A chain reaction such as this one that promotes dense development on public sites is precisely what the neighborhood needs.

But perhaps more important than the potential benefits of these developments are those who speak up in support of the project. This West Side site was always one of the go-to alternatives for opponents of the Soho rezoning and of Haven Green, as well as other proposals for the neighborhood. And now they have that alternative. The most ardent supporters should be the politicians, activists and neighbors who regularly invoked this site as an alternative to those original proposals. It doesn’t matter that the city wants to maximize the development, even though Haven Green cleared its legal hurdle and the Soho rezoning’s first projects are trickling in. Those projects alone won’t be enough to solve our housing shortage. Indeed, 388 Hudson St. is a critical piece of the equation and will be most effective if built alongside these other developments. These stakeholders’ support must be loud and clear now that this development is about to enter the public review process. The absence of their support, though, makes it clear they were never serious about solving the housing crisis. Basing support for 388 Hudson on the potentially failed prospects of other projects doesn’t help address our housing shortage, and it reveals that the calls for building on this site by some were not genuine — rather only a bluff to increase the chances of stalling other projects.

But as Margaret Chin dutifully described 388 Hudson before, “It’s always been an additional, not an alternative site. We want to develop affordable housing anywhere we can.”

Celestin is a senior at New York University studying urban planning and journalism and a member of Open New York.


  1. Marilyn Stevenson Marilyn Stevenson September 23, 2023

    I don’t expect to see this comment approved, but this needs to be said. Should a newspaper allow comments calling a local civic organization a “segregationist white grievance organization,” at least without some facts to back it up?

    Should the same newspaper then censor comments questioning that characterization, apparently only because the newspaper disagrees?

  2. Carol Frances Yost Carol Frances Yost September 21, 2023

    So, is Andrew Berman a multi-millionaire? Where are his stocks and bonds, his yacht, his mansion? Where is Commenter Spencer’s proof? Mr. Berman is executive director of Village Preservation, a charity that needs donations. I trust Village Preservation, too. It’s stood up for a lot of projects I’ve wanted to see saved. The multi-millionaires are the developers who are devouring these properties.

    I don’t know about Open New York and can’t comment on it.

    I don’t know Mr. Celestin, but he’s an NYU student, and as has been pointed out in other comments, NYU has threatened to take over all of Greenwich Village (see the documentary “The Lost Village”) and devour it for its own student dormitories and whatnot, destroying beautiful gardens and neighborhoods. It’s already done away with a much-used gym, and threatens the Morton Williams Supermarket, needed by residents of the area. Fortunately, it’s taking so long on its projects that it may have abandoned some of its plans. Oh, how I hope so!

    Now, as Barbara suggests, let’s get a number for affordability and get a smaller building.

    By the way, HPD has no comma in its name, Mr. Celestin; it’s Housing Preservation and Development. It’s for the development and preservation of housing.

  3. Barbara Barbara September 20, 2023

    I have yet to see a number for what affordability means. Current minimum requirements for affordable units in other recent high-rise Manhattan developments are not affordable for many low-income residents Downtown. Elderly, artists, unskilled laborers, second- and third-generation residents will probably be left out in this proposal, as in so many others. Oh, I trust Village Preservation. They have no monetary advantage to their advocacy, unlike some pols and other defenders of vertical buildings that block out the sun for the rest of us.

    • Needs Needs September 21, 2023

      C’mon, don’t be willfully naive. Village Preservation relies on wealthy Village homeowners for the donations that fund their activities. It’s why it’s consistently defended the right of homeowners to consolidate multi-unit buildings in the Village into single-family mansions so long as they maintain the aesthetics of facades.

      It’s part of their larger project. GVSHP has been at the forefront of transforming Jacobs’s critique of how renewal resulted in the destruction of social and economic diversity into a critique about the need to maintain aesthetics that serves wealthy property owners. It’s a willful misreading that serves the rich and has resulted in the exclusionary West Village that exists today.

      • Andrew Berman Andrew Berman September 22, 2023

        A few facts: 1) Village Preservation’s median donation is $50. 2) Nobody has opposed the mega-mansion phenomenon in our neighborhood more than us.

  4. David R. Marcus David R. Marcus September 20, 2023

    What would you expect from folks like Celestin other than a jaded NYU view of the world that our community is ripe for the taking, notwithstanding hard-fought landmark and zoning protections won by Andrew Berman and Village Preservation, who followed in the footsteps of giants like Jane Jacobs against forces that would desecrate and destroy our beautiful Downtown neighborhoods?

    NYU has been leading the war against the Village esthetic for years and it is apparent it is churning out graduates such as Celestin, who with all his many years of real-world life experiences, has clearly swallowed the Kool-Aid NYU is feeding those students. It’s but one of the reasons I no longer display my NYU MBA nor contribute to their fundraising appeals.

    The community and many politicians have weighed in and were promised a contextual, permanent, low-income housing development, and like much else in this city, disingenuous politicians (Mayor Adams following in the footsteps of de Blasio and Chin and Rivera) and their apologists are trying yet another bait and switch whilst they once again turn a deaf ear to the community, ignore the wishes of their constituents and attack any differences of opinion with blatant disinformation.

    • Jan Jan September 21, 2023

      It was actually CB2 that proposed increasing the size and bulk of 388 Hudson — it had nothing to do with disingenuous politicians. Berman was not happy with that idea from the start. The proposal negotiated by Margaret Chin for this site was certainly for 100% affordable housing, and it is incumbent on local residents and housing organizations (not Village Preservation, because this is not their primary goal) to ensure that this is enforced. It’s not really clear yet where the facts lie here. Certainly there seems to be misrepresentation of some aspects from Berman; I find it hard to believe that the city would OK a project with 30-year affordability cutoff, for example. But accusing Celestin of being a mouthpiece for NYU is as credible as someone accusing you of doing the same because you have a degree from NYU.

  5. Gojira Gojira September 20, 2023

    Not sure what planet this Celestin character just arrived from, but he knows nothing of the reality of the origins of the housing crisis in the city — like how real estate developers have torn down countless low- and middle-income units in order to build tourist hotels like the Moxie, for which the East Village lost five perfectly fine Beaux-Arts apartment buildings, and high-income hi-rises all over the city which are affordable only to rich transplants, money launderers from other countries, and lots more non-native residents. And if 388 Hudson is such a great project meant to save the Elizabeth Street Garden, then how come the destruction of said garden is still on the agenda?

  6. S.S. S.S. September 20, 2023

    The fact that this NYU undergrad leads off his essay lauding two of the most despised people in New York politics — Bill de Blasio (the most unpopular mayor in recent memory) and REBNY darling Margaret Chin — and ends with a quote from her — shows how alien these Open NY shills are.

    Despite massive funding from the Real Estate Board of New York, REBNY, Chin barely survived electoral challenges from two underfunded grassroots opponents, Jenifer Rajkumar in 2013 and Chris Marte in 2017.

    In fact, Chin squeaked by with a mere 221 votes in 2017, the lowest margin of any Council race in all of New York City that year.
    Her protege, Gigi Li, got creamed by Marte in 2021, coming in last in a crowded field.

    This is what the people who actually live and vote here think of Chin and de Blasio, Celestin’s heroes.
    We reject them, we reject REBNY (whom Celestine has interned with) and we reject Open NY.

  7. emma emma September 20, 2023

    If folks were truly concerned about affordable housing, they’d address all the housing lost or destroyed – Airbnb use, landlords who displace residents, landlords who hold units vacant for years to sell for new luxury development.

    Entire blocks with new luxury high rises mean that people lost housing in buildings that were demolished. Housing destroyed to claim need for “more” housing.

    Kind of like a person who kills parents – then claims he is an orphan.

    • True New Yorker True New Yorker September 21, 2023

      Except of of course nothing of what you said it true. But, sure, blame the landlords, who actually built this city. Nobody, repeat, nobody gets evicted from a rent-stabilized, protected unit, unless (and listen closely) they don’t pay the rent. Where in the Village are these entire blocks being demolished? Oh wait…nowhere. Back in the day? That was the govt’s foolish idea of urban renewal (Independence Plaza, NYCHA, etc. Battery Park City? landfill). If they “hold” units it’s because the laws make it impossible to evict tenants or get a return on investment for a unit that needs to be renovated. Educate yourself on the housing situation created by the government (that also takes up to 40% of the gross rent in TAXES + water, sewer, tickets, etc). Yes, the city is expensive — partly because politicians don’t want to build and or many tenants are protected and don’t move. Save your breath on the landlord demonization. Also — all those co-op and condo owners (especially the ones who got what now look like bargains back in the day) — how come you don’t blame them for being greedy when it comes time to sell? Shouldn’t that Soho artist from the ’70s sell to the next generation at the same cheap price?… And “affordable” housing in New York City means one thing — subsidized — by other New Yorkers and the neighbors. “Luxury” means market-rate housing.

      • lisa lisa September 22, 2023

        Multiple things can be true at the same time.
        There are struggling responsible landlords overwhelmed by City taxes and unfair City policies.
        There are also bad and dishonest landlords.

        BTW many places/neighborhoods in Manhattan where multiple small adjoining residential buildings have been torn down and continue to be torn down — to make way for big new luxury high-rises. Or hotels.
        For example, if you’ve not been recently, check out Lower Manhattan around Fulton-John-Nassau.
        Truly unbelievable.

  8. Sam Sam September 20, 2023

    It’s sad that a hardcore NIMBY like Berman has weaponized a noble cause of preserving beautiful, historic buildings into opposing affordable housing on a vacant lot. He has no credibility and his anti-housing crusade is just sad. I wonder if the GVSHP donors realize that he’s taken the organization off the deep end.

    • Josh Josh September 21, 2023

      In recent years it seems that NIMBY is used as an automatic-pilot broadbrush label.

      Honestly- would you be ok with – let’s say – a new garage or a nursing home next to your building?

      • Spencer Spencer September 21, 2023

        Yes, I’d be very okay with a 40-story building adjacent to my apartment building.

        • lisa lisa September 21, 2023

          One thing is for sure — the bicycle lobby folks would be apoplectic and definitely NIMBY at a garage being built.

          • Spencer Spencer September 30, 2023

            A huge garage was built right by me, but only because the city required it with new housing development. I’m for ending parking requirements.

  9. Spencer Spencer September 19, 2023

    Andrew Berman is a pathological liar. Don’t let this multimillionaire registered lobbyist gaslight you. Village Preservation is a segregationist white grievance organization.

    • S.S. S.S. September 20, 2023

      Spencer is certainly familiar with segregationist whites, as well he should, since he is a recent transplant living in gentrified Brooklyn, but who grew up in Laguna Niguel.

      Laguna Niguel is a wealthy suburban bedroom community and Republican stronghold in conservative Orange County California that is 73% white and 2% black!!!

      Yet he comes to the tolerant Village and besmirches our most prominent civic organization.

      This is the face of Open New York, folks. They have no shame.

      • Spencer Spencer September 21, 2023

        I find this funny. 1. I didn’t choose where I grew up 2. My hometown is very exclusionary 3. I’ve told my hometown council people they need to allow dense homes everywhere and their response is “we need to preserve the character of the city and our neighborhoods.” 4. Sean Sweeny is a wealthy creep.

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