Session A2

Hard to Develop: Environmental Reviews, Policy Goals and Community Concerns in Dense Urban Areas

Kovid Saxena, AICP

11:15 – 12:45 PM ET

About the Presentation

495 Eleventh Avenue is the last remaining large developable parcel adjoining New York City’s $25 billion Hudson Yards development. Adjacent to the Javits Center, a bus depot, and the Lincoln Tunnel, it is unusually physically constrained. The political context “a widespread sense that the surrounding Hudson Yards development did not equitably address community and citywide needs” is complex.

The presentation will discuss an EIS for a proposed mixed-use development on 495 Eleventh Avenue, comprising a hotel, supportive housing, affordable and market-rate residential units, shared office space, and a supermarket. The project complements and leverages neighboring activity and major public infrastructure improvements. Opportunities for affordable and supportive housing development are increasingly rare in high-income areas like Hudson Yards. 495 Eleventh Avenue provided an opportunity for equitable siting of such housing, plus community-oriented and commercial uses. The city-owned site abuts a bus depot, tunnel ventilation structures, and several under development Hudson Yards sites. To satisfy the public and decision-makers that the project would protect public health and quality-of-life, it underwent a robust review of environmental factors, including transportation, air quality, noise, open space utilization, indirect residential displacement, shadows, historic and cultural resources, urban design and visual resources, and construction.

The resulting EIS was crucial to city approval. There is essentially no easily-developable land left in major city centers; available sites typically have environmental and physical constraints. Consequently, affordable housing and homeless services are routinely placed in locations far from economic opportunities. To equitably locate social infrastructure, decision-makers and the public need to be satisfied that development will not compromise public health or quality of life. The EIS served as a model for how these concerns can be addressed. The project analyzed in the EIS furthers New York City’s goal of fostering economically diverse neighborhoods by transforming an underutilized parking lot into a development that reflects local and citywide needs. All 350 dwelling units in the project would be income-restricted; 75 would be designated for supportive housing. Non-residential uses address community needs and support economic recovery. The EIS confirmed that the project would not displace community residents due to increased rents and would not overburden community resources such as schools and parks. It also demonstrated consistency with New York City’s Waterfront Revitalization Program, including climate resilience objectives. The surrounding neighborhood has been undergoing drastic change as part of the largest private development undertaking in U.S. history. Along with the extremely physically constrained development site, the EIS considered the cumulative effects of the project and ongoing development in the surrounding area.

About the Speaker

Kovid Saxena, AICP
Principal and Director of Environment Planning
Sam Schwartz Consulting

Kovid Saxena is Principal and Director of Environmental Planning at Sam Schwartz Consulting. As a leader in the environmental sector, he has over 20 years of experience in providing consulting and advisory services for complex transportation and infrastructure projects. He has presented papers on environmental policy at national conferences and holds credentials from the American Institute of Certified Planners, U.S. Green Building Council, and the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. He serves on the Urban Land Institute New York Infrastructure Council, and the American Council of Engineering Companies Engineering Public Policy Committee. Mr. Saxena holds a Master of Science degree in Urban Planning from Columbia University.


Jennifer Dickson
Principal Planner
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP

Jennifer Dickson works with developers, property owners, and educational and religious institutions on all aspects of zoning, housing, and land use regulations. She has extensive experience with New York City land use regulations and procedures and has led numerous complex rezoning, special permits, and other discretionary approval applications. She also helps clients navigate inclusionary housing regulations, waterfront development requirements, landmarks issues, and development rights transfers. Jennifer regularly appears before the New York City Planning Commission, the New York City Council, the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals, and local Community Boards.
Jennifer is a leading authority on the Affordable New York housing program and its predecessor program 421-a. She has helped numerous developers, investors and lenders navigate the 421-a program, and assists clients with Affordable New York eligibility analysis, applications, and compliance issues. She frequently lectures on the legislative and administrative aspects of both programs.

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