Developer J.D. Carlisle Yanks Support for Kips Bay Plaza, Killing Project

A two-block pedestrian plaza for a Second Avenue service road in Kips Bay, which was on track for implementation this summer, has been indefinitely delayed after adjacent property owner J.D. Carlisle sent a letter to DOT last week saying that it opposed the project.

Developer J.D. Carlisle once supported a neighborhood association's application to DOT's plaza program, but no longer. In response, DOT has halted work on the plaza. Image: Kips Bay Neighborhood Alliance

DOT, which had hosted two public design workshops for the plaza, says it will not proceed without the support of Carlisle, which owns a two-block retail complex adjacent to the plaza site.

“It was obviously a disappointment, to say the least,” said Erica Rand Silverman, a board member of Kips Bay Neighborhood Alliance, which was the plaza’s sponsor. “We’ve been working on the plaza for a couple years. In that time, Carlisle has been really, really supportive.”

Carlisle provided financial support for maintenance of a three-month demonstration plaza over the summer, Silverman said.

The demo plaza relied on temporary materials from DOT and programming from KBNA. The result apparently left a bad impression and confused some local residents about what a final plaza would look like. ”We did the best we could with the resources we were given,” Silverman said. “We got our tables, but not our chairs. We got our umbrellas, but two weeks before the plaza closed.”

Despite the problems with the summer installation and opposition from some residents of nearby Kips Bay Towers, KBNA collected 1,200 signatures in favor of the plaza by January. Design workshops in January and March moved forward, gathering feedback on the design.

But behind the scenes, J.D. Carlisle was souring on the project. On March 19, the company sent a letter to DOT [PDF] saying that it “staunchly opposed” the plaza, as did its two largest tenants, an AMC Loews movie theater and a Fairway supermarket.

Carlisle also said it was afraid that it would end up being responsible for maintaining the plaza. “We lack any confidence in the sponsoring entity’s (KBNA) ability to effectively raise the required funds,” J.D. Carlisle’s Evan Stein wrote.

“It’s unclear to me exactly what he means,” KBNA’s Silverman said, “because they were a big partner in pledging to fund the maintenance. We wouldn’t have these problems if they followed through on what they were saying.” Streetsblog has reached out to J.D. Carlisle for comment, but has not received a reply.

This isn’t the first time J.D. Carlisle’s plaza position has vexed local residents. In December, the developer said that Fairway opposed a year-round outdoor market that used the service road on Sundays and wanted it to move elsewhere. The grocery chain’s president said at a community board meeting that it had no such objections and the market was saved, but Carlisle then threatened to drop its support of the plaza project unless the market was moved.

Today, the market remains, and Carlisle has managed to kill the plaza project, for the time being.

Now, KBNA finds itself in a difficult position, attempting to fundraise for a plaza that may or may not happen without a major backer. “We’re still moving forward,” Silverman said.