Independence Plaza neighbors gearing up to fight tower

A small group of Independence Plaza residents are organizing against the proposed tower for Independence Plaza, and they are looking for volunteers with time, expertise and funding. They held their first group community meeting last night, attracting a substantial crowd, nearly all of whom — there was a show of hands — are opposed to *any* construction on the site.

So far the core group includes Diane Lapson, the longtime IPN Tenant Association president; Richard Corman, the president of the Downtown Independent Democrats political club; Stuart Gold, a retired litigator who lives in Tribeca; and Stephanie Kelemen, a Greenwich Street resident and a commercial litigator. Councilman Chris Marte organized and led the meeting, his second on the proposed tower. Contact his office or learn more at the group’s website if you want to get involved.

The initial plan — and it was vague but this is what I gleaned — is to create a non-profit that can raise money to hire a zoning expert who can keep pace with Vornado Realty Trust and Stellar Management — the owners of IPN and the developers of the tower. Organizers already know they need more expertise to understand the zoning regulations for the building, which developers have said can be 900 feet tall as-of-right, and the covenants established in the 1970s, when Independence Plaza was created.

“Nobody in Tribeca likes this project,” Kelemen said. “New York City is now the ‘City of Yes’ — the city of anything goes. Our sunlight and our open spaces are all up for grabs unless we fight. This is our time as a community to come together and see if it’s something that we want to fight for.”

I heard from a press representative for Stellar before the meeting and asked if there was any schedule for filings with the city, and so far, no. “Stellar is engaged in ongoing discussions with the Department of City Planning,” he said. “We are still too early in the process to provide a specific timeline for permitting or any updated renderings.”

He noted that the project will go through the full CEQR — City Environmental Quality Review — which would identify adverse environmental effects, assesses their significance, and propose measures to eliminate or mitigate significant impacts through an Environmental Impact Statement. (I didn’t think that was true of proposed buildings that fell within the zoning code, aka as-of-right, but always learning…) That review process includes opportunities for public presentations and comments.

I also asked what was happening to the current residents in the IPN townhouses that will be razed to make room for the tower, and he said that no residents will be displaced from Independence Plaza as a result of the project. “Stellar and Vornado are working with all existing residents who want to remain part of the IP community to relocate them to similar or better units,” he said.

In a series of questions, neighbors in the audience listed some of their reasons why they were against the tower: noise and dust during construction, the mountains of trash created by big buildings; the potential damage to the historic townhouses on Harrison; the fact that the building (along with the other Independence Plaza buildings) will be in a flood zone and — some seemed to think — is already built on top of sinking ground (of course that would be true of the three existing IPN buildings as well). There was also opposition to the idea of luxury development — an apartment building for only the wealthy.

Few comments were made about the ridiculous height, which would be my #1 objection. (And while we are on that topic, why doesn’t Vornado buy 45 Park Place and finish that monstrosity?)

“This is the wrong place for a tower,” said Diane Lapson, who then referenced the neighborhood’s experience on 9/11. “We paid our dues already. Enough. We are a special needs community. Many of us have PTSD from 9/11.”

Councilman Marte emphasized his experience with the Two Bridges tower development (which will go forward) and noted that the failings there were largely that the community was not monolithic in its approach. Some thought the towers should be smaller; some thought they should not be built at all. It undermined their negotiating power, he said.

“Too much division allowed developers to have their way,” he said.

The group does not have a plan yet, but thinks it is early enough in the process to be effective, Richard Corman said. “We have to minimize the worst and maximize the benefit for people in the community,” he added.



  1. “nearly all of whom — there was a show of hands — are opposed to *any* construction on the site.”

    Hah, of course. That really sums it up. You can just automatically append this quote to any article about building anything anywhere…

    • responding to JMD. Do you live in 310 Greenwich or surrounding area? Do you know what we the community have been through since 911. Health, Mental affects etc. We do not want a tower which will cause us more harm and dangerous also to be built in this space. We will do what we can together to fight this. Its not that they are saying its going to be the same size as the complex its a skyscraper! It is not good for tenants, businesses schools non of us.

      • As someone who was deeply affected by 9/11, and frankly just as a citizen of this neighborhood concerned about its future, it is really beyond the pale to compare building new housing for a new generation of Lower Manhattanites to a terrorist attack…

        • responding to Jess, most of us deeply affected from the 911 terror attacks have post-traumatic stress disorder and also suffer from cancer and other health issues. So if you live in 310 Greenwich Street or lofts across the street, or historic Townhomes this 900-foot Tower (one of 16 skyscraper in NYC) being built would not be healthy for you mentally or physically. Years to build, dust noise, dangerous with winds etc. Even our businesses do not want this moving forward. This BUILDING would not benefit anyone but the rich landlord.

        • I agree with Jess – and I was an IPN resident for 30 years, including on 9/11. I fully oppose this monstrosity but it’s pretty ridiculous to call it a “special needs community”. There are much more effective ways of fighting this terrible project than pretending residents are too traumatized to handle it.

  2. “Councilman Marte emphasized his experience with the Two Bridges tower development (which will go forward) and noted that the failings there were largely that the community was not monolithic in its approach.”

    This is a breathtakingly nonsensical analysis of the politicians’ impotence at Two Bridges.

    Just read the unanimous August 2020 decision by the Appellate Division, First Department that overruled Judge Engoron’s decision on Two Bridges.

    “[…] The motion court acknowledged that the Developers did not seek a special permit because the proposed changes to the site plan do not require a waiver of any applicable ZR provision. The court nevertheless determined that a special permit and ULURP are required because the proposed towers are a ‘huge’ change to a site plan that was previously modified through special permits. The court did not cite to any statute, regulation or case law to support its conclusion. […]

    “In reaching this result, we are mindful of petitioners’ concerns that their constituents have had limited input on the proposed development’s potential effects on their neighborhood, including increased density, reduced open space and the construction of a large number of luxury residences in what has been a primarily working class neighborhood of low to medium rise buildings. However, existing law simply does not support the result petitioners seek. […]

    “Petitioners could have taken steps to amend the ZR to prohibit buildings of this scale in the area, and/or to amend ULURP to add to the categories of land use actions requiring review, through legislation and/or referendum (see NY City Charter §§ 200, 201 [amendment to ZR]; 38[16]; 197-c[a][12] [amendment to ULURP]). In addition, petitioners could have taken steps before expiration of the Two Bridges Urban Renewal Plan by its own terms in 2007 to amend the ZR to include the Urban Renewal Plan’s greater restrictions, including a preference for low to medium rise buildings. Petitioners could have also sought to change the zoning classification of the Two Bridges neighborhood. Having failed to do so, petitioners cannot seek a remedy in the courts. […]”

  3. I have a condo in Tribeca, and I FULLY support this project. The area needs continued development, and this will help build a stronger tax base to absorb the increasing costs to live in NYC.

    • There are already so many other development projects in the works in this neighborhood. It has to end at some point. Part of what makes tribeca special is that it’s not as congested as other neighborhoods. Lets keep it that way.

  4. It is absurd to say that “no one in Tribeca” supports this development. I certainly do, and know others that do as well. I hope that future coverage elevates those voices as well.

    More broadly, the fact that virtually everyone in the room raised their hand to oppose *any* new development on an empty, cement block of land tells you everything you need to know. There is no good faith debate about housing policy going on here. This is not about “affordable housing,” it is not about PTSD from 9/11, it is not about preserving the “character of the neighborhood.” It is about protecting the interests of the loudest voices in the room, and further entrenching an economic reality in this district that only benefits those who are fortunate enough to have been here long enough to have some form of housing security. Whether it was building mixed-income housing on a vacant parking lot at 250 Water St. or 100% affordable housing for formerly homeless LGBTQ seniors at Haven Green, these individuals have consistently stood against any new housing, whatever form it takes.

    Enough of the distractions and obfuscation. It’s time to shed these regressive forces from the progressive banner, and begin building a coalition that is truly committed to an affordable, vibrant, and sustainable vision for Lower Manhattan.

  5. I live in Tribeca and I support this tower. We have a major housing shortage in NYC which is the cause of rents that are far too high. Building taller buildings with more apartments is the best solution to this dire problem.

  6. Get on board with development people. We are in a housing inventory crises, <1% vacancy rates and insane housing cost up and down the socioeconomic spectrum.

    People deserve to have their voices heard but YIMBY needs to prevail here and in many other pockets of the city. Look at the development in Jersey City and Hoboken, absolutely remarkable and to the benefit of the community in many ways.

  7. I invite all of you who are happy about the project to come live at IP or even closer if you are not tight on top if it. No one said it is like a terrorist stuck, but we’ve been through the first building if downtown. Then the destruction, then the re-building . Now we are supposed to spend our remaining time living in a new construction zone. All for check monstrosity to exist when there are so many empty office buildings downtown laying vacant.

    I’m wondering how much you benefit from talking that way. Money? Employment? Free apartments? Or just the thrill of the attitude. We’ve seen this before. Plants. And I don’t mean the green kind.

    • Thank you, Diane!!! They don’t live here they don’t care!! They really think its going to Benefit the area make affordable housing etc. They have no clue how corrupt the Stella and Vernado are. They care about no one but money.

  8. Another voice to the chorus here: not only should this be built but, if they can, the developer should pursue buying out and tearing down the entirety of Independence Plaza and BMCC. Giant, superblock eyesores that detract from the charm of the rest of the neighborhood.If anything is out of character here it is Independence Plaza. Brutalist brick high rises that get overlooked because they’re part of a great neighborhood but, if they stood alone, would be on par with the Morrisania Air Rights development as one of the great development mistakes in the history of NYC

    For bonus points while we’re at it let’s add back Washington Street to the grid, and try to undo all the mistakes of the late 60’s/early 70’s.

    • I think you’re spot on. IP is terrible though does seem to be a good source of moderately priced housing. If the developer can build this new tower as of right, then so be it. It’s not out of context. It’s NYC. Development is a given. We need housing. It’s never fun being next to a construction zone but that is the nature of living in an evolving city where housing is at a premium.

    • North Tribeca, Nice you want them to tear down buildings that seniors have lived for years! Such a nice person you are. Isn’t that considered affordable housing. It doesn’t affect your life, so you just don’t care about the people in this complex, Shame on you.

      • There is only one way to make housing more affordable: build much more of it. The only thing better than one 900ft tower in IP is for them to tear the whole thing down and build the eight-ten towers that could fit in that footprint.

        The only reason IP even exists is because the city used its powers to condemn the area around Washington Market and then redevelop it! Drawing the line at an eyesore 1975-vintage development as the high water mark of development in lower Manhattan makes about as much sense as the Amish deciding to stop technology in the 1800s…

        Furthermore, trotting out 9/11 as some kind of excuse is morally reprehensible. Have you no shame?

  9. New York City desperately needs much more housing at all price points and many more projects like this one.

    New York City still has unemployment above 5%, which is significantly above the national average (below 4%). Bring on the construction jobs.

    New York City has a looming budget crisis as far as the eye can see because of growing pension payments and rising wage costs. Build this tower and fill it with families paying New York’s robust income and property taxes.

    It’s unfortunate that construction is disruptive to neighbors but that’s a fact of city life. Unless we’re going to build housing in the middle of Central Park additions to housing stock are going to have to be next to somebody. Understandably, we’d all prefer it occur next to somebody else, which is pretty much what “NIMBY” stands for. (Also, I’ve lived near construction sites. Things will be loud during the day for a few months when foundation work is being done. Once the new building starts growing vertically there’s not much noise or disruption. This will be problematic for the neighbors for months, not years.)

    This is a good site for a large building. It’s near transit and not particularly out of context right in the middle of other high rise apartments. Objections can be reduced to either (1) Don’t ever build anything or (2) Don’t ever build near me. Neither objection is a good reason to stop this.

  10. Pam loves to censor people for calling others “hyper-capitalist.” Can’t alienate her corporate real estate advertisers.

    But it’s cool to accuse people against this tower of using 9/11 as a reason for opposition. She leaves those strawman argument comments up.

    • I do not publish comments from people who hide behind fake email addresses or who use multiple monikers to disguise themselves or who attack other commenters personally.

  11. A larger, more diverse population in Tribeca might fill up empty storefronts with the reasonably-priced restaurants, etc., that the neighborhood currently lacks.

  12. The verdict is still out on this mega-project. But as one who’s lived in Tribeca, one block from Independence Plaza for almost four decades and whose family member has been treated for cancer because of 9/11, I do object to the horrors of 9/11 being trotted out every time an objection or controversy arises. Like the Holocaust, what we went through 23 years ago and from which many still suffer should not be expropriated and trivialized.

  13. The comments in this thread are proof that this terrible project is doomed to succeed. The original residents who helped create this neighborhood – and yes, that includes in large part IPN residents – are now outnumbered by people who moved here not long ago and most don’t have any solidarity for the seniors and families who came before them.

    NINETY STORIES, FOLKS. More than 310 Greenwich and 40 Harrison combined. You get what you deserve and should be careful what you wish for. Those of you who live here and cheer on this project can enjoy the long lines at supermarkets and local restaurants (better eat at Bubby’s now before the line stretches to Vestry St every brunch) and kids packed toe to toe at 234 and Washington Market. And don’t forget the huge influx of cars – rich people can’t live without them and will gladly contribute to the traffic with their Range Rovers. You’ll be suffering it all long after the last rent stabilized IPN resident is gone.

    • You can get more bees with honey.

      Yelling and shaming people isn’t going to get you the ears you want. It’s just going to push people away, regardless of whether you have a valid point or not. I don’t think that is your objective here. Or is it?

  14. “which developers have said can be 900 feet tall as-of-right”

    uhm hello?…. 900 ft????

    are there seriously only 2 people on this thread that object to the height?… the tower will be surrounded by zoned low rises, coops, and condos on the other side of Greenwich. The potential height is the monstrosity and eye sore here, not the fact that something new is coming. But that’s IMO,

    I think there is room for improvement at IPN… but…for sure I’m always weary of developers that make “tenant non-displacement” and “affordable housing” promises… hmmm… I feel like they dangle this in front of the city then end up raising the rents a few years later and these “non-displaced” then become displaced. So I don’t trust them or their word.

    But honestly there is so much space that is unused in the internal of IPN plaza, that from a business perspective (from which everything in NYC is viewed), it just doesn’t makes sense to not build something that uses the space more effectively.

    So I think y’all need to compromise and get a better arguing platform, because without a doubt this thing will be built and it will bulldoze ahead, and if the excuse to not build rests on PTSD, that will not cut it. But a more valid reason may get more attention and negotiating room.

  15. IPN represented by outsiders who want that nice, unblocked view of the river while having their Seafood Cobb Salad from Sarabeth’s? Methinks there’s something fishy going on here.

  16. Will this proposed tower be able to withstand an earthquake?