|By Lore Croghan, Daily News, New York|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 28, 2004 - The developer of the Harlem Marriott slashed 65 feet off the height of the skyscraper at the last minute -- then won crucial approval from two City Council committees yesterday.
Developer Michael Caridi struck a deal with the land use committee's staff to lower the design of the Marriott project at 125th St. and Park Ave. to 453 feet, hours before the City Council was set to take up the matter and after the Daily News revealed the opposition that had crystalized around the project.
Caridi had been planning a 518-foot building -- an outsized design by celebrity architect Enrique Norten.
Opponents said it would be as tall as a 51-story apartment tower and dwarf the rest of the historic neighborhood.
Caridi's compromise moves the $200 million development project -- which will be the first full-scale hotel in Harlem since 1966 -- a step closer to ground-breaking.
The changes to the project design must be okayed by the City Planning Commission, then the full City Council will vote on it.
Caridi decided at the 11th hour to back away from his position that the building had to be very tall in order to be an "icon" for the neighborhood, and acknowledged the community's wishes for a building of a less overwhelming size.
"The City Council recommended we do so," he told The News.
Even at its reduced height, the Marriott will be taller than anything else on historic 125th St., including the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building. Nevertheless, Caridi's gesture of goodwill convinced most of the members of the zoning subcommittee and the full land use committee to support his project.
"The developer gave something back," said land use chairwoman Melinda Katz (D-Queens). This is the project's second height reduction, she added. In the summer, Caridi had proposed a 550-foot design.
Project opponent Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan) continued to hold out against it, saying the height reduction was "a movement in the right direction -- but significantly not enough."
And he called the approximately 100 luxury apartments that will also be built in the hotel tower "a smack in the face for indigenous people in the neighborhood who are desperately looking for affordable housing."
Other council members were more focused on the jobs the new Marriott would create.
"This is a good project for the entire city," Katz said.
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