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50-story Frank Gehry tower for Downtown

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50-Story Tower Will Go Up On Parking Lot Next to Hospital

by Etta Sanders

A 50-story residential tower, to be designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, is planned for the parking lot of NYU Downtown Hospital. The lower floors are expected to house retail stores and a 10,000-square-foot outpatient center for the hospital. Other floors may be the new home for Pace University's business school and student dorms.

The plans were disclosed by community representatives who met with the developer, Bruce Ratner.

Forest City Ratner acquired the rights to develop the site from the hospital in December 2003. A spokesman for Ratner said it was too soon to comment on specific plans of the site, including the choice the architect.

Pace University confirmed that they are in discussions with Ratner, but would not give details of any pending arrangement. "Conversations are taking place, but it is premature to say anything more at this time," said Christopher Cory, a Pace spokesman.

Gehry would be the second high-profile architect tapped to design a building in the area. Last month an apartment building of transparent cubes, designed by Santiago Calatrava, was announced for a location on South Street. Calatrava is the architect of the bird-shaped PATH terminal to be built at the World Trade Center site.

Members of Community Board 1, who had hoped the plans for the site would include a community facility, said they were surprised that Pace, a private university, would be part of the development.

One board member, Marc Donnenfeld, who lives in a 15-story building on Nassau Street adjacent to the parking lot, said he was also disturbed by the size of the proposed building.

"It's going to be huge," he said. "It's going to be like Gulliver in the land of the Lilliputians."

Suzanne Fass, a 22-year resident of 140 Nassau St., whose windows overlook the parking lot, agreed that 50 stories would be out of scale with the surrounding buildings.

"My main concern and the concern of people in this building is that he not occupy the lot in such a way that he cuts off the air," she said. "All we're asking is that he be a good neighbor."

But the community possesses little leverage to affect the plans.

"We can oppose a tower, but as a community board we technically don't have any capacity to do anything about it," said Madelyn Wils, chair of Community Board 1.

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