Cover Story: Riverside South Greeting a New West Side Presence

Looking for a luxury condo with breathtaking views of the Hudson River? Want to buy a home loaded with amenities that's within walking distance of Lincoln Center and other Upper West Side hot spots? You're in luck. In October, the 15th floor sales office of 200 Riverside Boulevard, the first condo in Donald Trump's ambitious new Riverside South development, opened its doors. Finishing touches are now being put on the 46-story, 377-unit building located between 69th and 70th Streets, and a March occupancy is estimated by The Marketing Directors, Inc., the exclusive marketing and sales agent for the luxury property.

One of 16 buildings planned for the Riverside South site—which is slated for completion by the year 2009—200 Riverside Boulevard should have no problem delivering the pampered lifestyle it promises. Amenities are also enviable at 180 Riverside Boulevard, a 516-unit rental next door that has been occupied since August. But, if you decide to make Riverside South your new home, don't be surprised if not everyone in the neighborhood puts out the welcome mat for you. It's been a decade since Trump first announced his plans to develop the unsightly Penn Central rail yard, but some area opponents still haven't gotten used to the idea. The loss of river views (the condo is 46 stories and the rental is 40) and overcrowding are two reasons some Upper West Siders wish Trump had picked another spot to build the largest development ever approved by city planning

Not a Speedy Process

"For 50 years people have been trying to build on this spectacular site," says Trump. "Now, for the first time, the most incredible of all developments is taking shape." Upon completion of all its buildings, Riverside South will comprise 5,600 units of housing as well as commercial space and a 30-acre waterfront park. The site stretches from 59th Street to 72nd Street and from West End Avenue to the Hudson River. The two buildings that have been erected are part of Phase I. Trump plans to begin the next two buildings in 1999, with two more to follow in 2,000. The next 14 buildings to be erected will range in height from 15 to 40 stories and will maximize views of the park. The Riverside South development is expected to create approximately 20,000 construction and permanent jobs and infuse more than $4 billion into the city's economy.

According to Richard A. Kahan, chairman of the Riverside South Planning Corporation, Riverside South grew out of an effort by local community groups and citywide civic organizations in the late 1980s to stop Donald Trump from building his original development, Trump City. "Six of those groups—the Regional Plan Association, the Municipal Art Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Parks Council, the Riverside Park Fund and Westpride—did more than just express opposition," explains Kahan. "They offered an alternative plan that reduced Trump City's density while creating a new public park and much-needed affordable housing. Then, after a series of unprecedented negotiating sessions with his opponents, Mr. Trump accepted their alternative plan and joined to create the Riverside South Planning Corporation, a not-for-profit entity."

In 1992, armed with the support of these same six civic groups, Trump's pared-down proposal went through the Uniform Land Use Review Process, a grueling series of community hearings and city approvals, to have the zoning changed from manufacturing to residential/commercial. In 1995, Trump formed a partnership called Hudson Waterfront Associates with five Hong Kong-based companies including New World Development, The Shui On Group, Glorious Sun Holdings, the Edward Wong Group and the Far East consortium. Today, Hudson Waterfront Associates is the owner of the Riverside South development, and the project is being managed by Trump/New World Project Management.

Only the Best

"We're very excited about being a part of 200 Riverside," says Adrienne Albert, president of The Marketing Directors. "After all, the Trump name has long been synonymous with the finest in every kind of real estate, whether residential or commercial. And these homes epitomize the very best Manhattan has to offer." According to Albert, the location is first class—convenient to Lincoln Center, outstanding schools, shops, restaurants, parks, playgrounds, walking and jogging paths and mass transit.

Amenities, too, are state-of-the-art, including monitored round-the-clock security, on-site valet parking, a private fitness spa that features a hydrotherapy waterfall with a skylight and an indoor 50-by-12-foot lap pool, a superbly-equipped and supervised exercise center and a children's play area. "Just like the Trump International," adds Albert, "the finishes are truly resplendent with imported marble bath finishes, elegant oak hardwood floors and granite kitchens. The views, too, are quite remarkable, as you might expect in a 46-story building on the Hudson River."

Linda Bocchini, director of sales for The Marketing Directors, describes the views as, "To die for. You can see the Chrysler and Empire State buildings, and on high floors you can see all the way down to Manhattan Harbor and Lady Liberty. Every day is a fabulous view day, and the sunsets are spectacular," says Bocchini. "I think the architect, Philip Johnson, has maximized the views for us without obliterating the views for the rest of the neighborhood.

"Donald Trump had great vision," she adds. "Every other city in the world respects their waterfront. This is such an improvement. A lot of people from buildings in the neighborhood are coming over to buy."200 Riverside Boulevard has an estimated sell-out value of more than $200 million, and Bocchini has had as many as 15 purchasers in ten days. One-bedroom condos start at $310,000; two-bedrooms from the mid-$500,000s; three-bedrooms start around $915,000. "These are good prices for a new, luxury product," says Bocchini.

Reclaiming Our Waterfront

The opportunity to create Riverside South Park—a new 21.5-acre public park along the West Side waterfront from 59th to 72nd Streets—was one of the unifying forces that drew together civic and community groups into the Riverside South coalition. "Our dream has always been a city where New Yorkers can not only walk to the river, but along the river," explains Parks Council president Elizabeth Cooke. "It's nice to see the dream being realized in our lifetime." The largest public park development in decades and the most significant addition of urban greenery since Central Park, Riverside South Park seems like a win-win proposition. It's being built on private land, paid for and maintained by private developers, then turned over to the City with the developers still responsible for maintenance costs.

The architecture design team for the Riverside South Park was led by landscape architect Thomas Balsley, and also included landscape architect Lee Weintraub of Weintraub & Associates and public artist Jody Pinto. In October construction began on Phase One of Riverside South Park which comprises approximately eight acres and stretches from 68th to 72nd Streets along the Hudson.

Traversed by the controversial Miller Highway, a six-lane elevated road built 70 years ago to rise over the busy Penn Central rail yard, this portion of the park will include a waterfront promenade, a cove of marsh and wetland grasses with an observation tower for viewing the natural shoreline environment, one-and-a-half acres of playing fields, three basketball courts, two handball courts and a roller-blading area under the highway overpass. According to Roberta Brandes Gratz, a founding member of Westpride, the Miller Highway is an eyesore that should be demolished and relocated inland at, or below, ground level. This would allow for the new waterfront park to be unobstructed. Hudson Waterfront Associates is waiting to hear whether federal funds will be available for the Miller Highway relocation project.

According to Mary Musca, executive director of the Riverside South Planning Corporation, Phase One will be completed and open to the public in May. Also included in Phase One is the reconstruction of the Pier at 70th street which will offer the public a 750-foot-long platform stretching out over the Hudson River. The pier will be open to the public in April, 2000. "Next summer all those West Siders who so lovingly tended Riverside Park through the years will find that our neighborhood's great outdoor green space has been extended and enhanced at Riverside South," says Mary Frances Shaughnessy, a board member of the Riverside Park Fund, a civic group that has supported the development of Riverside South and its public park.

Never Giving Up

On Manhattan's East Side, the sales center is now open for The Trump World Tower, a 90-story, luxury high-rise that Donald Trump intends to build in Turtle Bay on First Avenue between 47th and 48th Streets. Unlike the uproar Trump has faced from community opposition on the West Side, opponents to the East Side project—which would be the fourth tallest building in mid-town—only began making noise a month or two ago when the neighborhood realized the new building was practically a done deal. In fact, now that Trump has his building permits and has begun work on Trump World Tower, Turtle Bay celebrities and residents such as Walter Cronkite and Kofi Annan have announced their outrage and questions are being raised whether the city's zoning code was properly interpreted. Trump may build additional stories without community approval because he purchased air rights above other buildings and transferred them to Trump World Tower.

On the West Side, Riverside South is even more of a done deal, but a core group of activists remains fighting to this day. "We're still in opposition," says Madeleine Polayes, who heads the Coalition for a Livable West Side. "Riverside South should never have been approved. Trump is building a city within a city, and it's out of character with the rest of our neighborhood. Our position is not anti-development," explains Polayes, "but you do have to oppose things that are not right for a certain area."

Riverside South opponents, including Congressman Jerry Nadler, are now focusing their attention on preventing the relocation of the highway. Nadler, who is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, is doing his best to keep the Miller Highway relocation project from receiving necessary Federal funding by keeping it off the list of projects seeking funding under the Federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act.

Other West Side contingents are not as strident. Back in 1992, Manhattan Community Board Seven passed a resolution to not support the Riverside South project; however its stance has softened over the years. According to a source, "The feeling at the board's last task force meeting was that the project is here and we have to make the best of it." The board is keeping tabs on the construction of the park and neighborhood improvements for which Trump and his partners are responsible, such as $10 million in off-site transportation improvements to alleviate congestion at the 72nd Street and 66th Street subway stations as well as an additional $7 million in regional transportation improvements. Riverside South is expected to bring an extra 10,550 residents to the neighborhood.

"The traffic is already horrendous," says councilwoman Ronnie M. Eldridge, whose District Six is home to Trump's new project. "The Lincoln Square District is the most heavily developed area in Manhattan. I was opposed to Riverside South because the buildings are too large and too dense. A lot of people in the community remain opposed to the development. It's being built in stages, so there are still a lot of questions. We're concerned about the schools. They're at capacity now. The subway is also very crowded. We will have to cope."

But, on election day, Eldridge did meet a couple of new faces at the polls. "They're new in the neighborhood, she says. "They told me they moved here from the suburbs to live in Donald Trump's new building and they love their new apartment."

Diana Mosher is Managing Editor of The Cooperator.

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3 Comments

  • These so called "luxury" condos should be converted to affordable housing as they sit there 60-70% empty for at least three years since they opened. The only people are buying are foreigners who only live here a few weeks out of the year. They don't use any services on the street level and just use up and waste space. New York is done for if there is no housing for those making under $40k a year and as the unique businesses leave or can't afford the commercial rents... How much does a NYC cop start with $28,000 a year?
  • SassyLou: New York would be "done for" if it were overtaken by "those making under $40k a year". Get an education to develop a profession that someone would be willing to pay you more than 40k a year then buy yourself something nice. Don't envy those who can afford better than you can. They worked hard for it and still do.
  • That's telling her Jon. People like Sassy Lou have no idea what it costs to construct these "Affordable Housing Buildings". And WHO pays the rent Sassy? If the building costs $400 a sq ft to build and a person can only afford $800 a month...who pays the cost of running the building? YOU DO that's who. So as Jon suggests...go get some education and information and THEN make statements. And remember that most of the affordable builders in town are scam artists (Remember Atlantic Development????????)