CPC Public Comments: Chelsea Market expansion discussed, debated | chelseanow.com

CPC Public Comments: Chelsea Market expansion discussed, debated

BY SCOTT STIFFLER  | On July 25, the City Planning Commission (CPC) held its sole public hearing on the matter of Chelsea Market expansion. Having been reviewed by both Community Board 4 and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application submitted by Jamestown Properties was discussed at the hearing.

From 11:30am-2:30pm, nearly three dozen people spoke – many of whom were quizzed by CPC members after their allotted time of two minutes at the mic. Below, find some of the public comments.

Melanie Meyers – representing Jamestown Premiere Chelsea Market LP, regarding the proposed zoning map and zoning text amendment relating to the Chelsea Market Block

What the proposed actions will do is:

Include the entire block within the Special West Chelsea District.

Replace the current height and setback and tower controls with specified development envelopes.

Allow for the permitted floor area ratio (FAR) to be increased in exchange for the provision of High Line amenities within Chelsea Market and a contribution to the High Line Improvement Fund.

What I would like to do is discuss some of our thinking about the land use rationales for the proposal and comment on where we are with the Community Board and Borough President recommendations.

For Land Use Rationales:

Chelsea Market is currently the only M1-5 zone in Chelsea encumbered by the High Line that is not part of the SWCD and is not subject to either the rights or controls of the Special District.

It is also the only site in Chelsea with a building having a strong physical connection to the High Line. This provides a great opportunity for education and event prep space, freight access and support facilities for the High Line that is not easily accommodated elsewhere. The opportunity to take advantage of that relationship and utilize existing tools in the Special District makes a lot of sense to us.

While I know that there will be discussion about the development envelope, what we did was look east and west and up and down the High Line for precedents.

The built context and zoning map are informative:  Chelsea Market is one of five full-block properties in the area, four built and one to be developed as part of the SWCD.

All have built or permitted densities of 9 to 13 FAR and the proposal would bring the project into something closer to zoning parity with these similar properties while benefiting the High Line.

For Development Envelopes:

We thought the standard contextual envelope – protecting the midblock and moving density to the avenues is the most appropriate form for the block.  Protect the fabric of the older buildings, and direct density to where the Chelsea Market buildings have been most altered over time.

In terms of envelope, we looked to the surrounding context of the Tenth Avenue corridor, and you can see from the axonometric and the aerial that the heights being proposed fit well within the context of the existing buildings, informing both the streetwall and the overall.

We certainly have heard that further exploration of the envelope is warranted, but we think that it is important that you hear our thoughts and put that discussion in to the neighborhood context.

Community Board and Borough President Resolutions:

Both the community board and borough president issued very thoughtful resolutions regarding the project, making recommendations for modifications or further explorations to the project.  Most of the recommendations have been agreed to by Jamestown, either in whole or part, or in concept with details to be developed.  Among the things Jamestown has agreed to are:

No hotels/above grade outdoor eating and drinking establishments as part of the project.

Reduction in the mid-block envelope height (street wall and overall) by 20 feet from that certified.

While the borough president’s recommendation suggested a different direction, a reduction in the Ninth Avenue envelope to 135 feet (125′ street wall).

Rework the façade from what was originally shown to provide a more contextual treatment.

Commitment to preserving a percentage of the concourse retail for food-related businesses.

Commitment to not objecting to landmark designations or other forms of protection of the important features of the market once the project is underway.

Development of a tech lab/training incubator program, and educational outreach to the neighborhood schools.

Agreement to job fair/job posting programs.

Design to LEED silver standard.

Establishing a construction protection plan in connection with the project.

Two elements that we haven’t addressed:

Proposal to reallocate a portion of the HLIF to the Chelsea Affordable Housing Fund, which raises a larger policy question for the city.

And modifications to the Tenth Avenue envelope, which we know we will continue to discuss.

Thank you for your consideration. I am happy to answer any questions.

Lesley Doyel, co-president of Save Chelsea

Save Chelsea is strongly opposed to Jamestown’s proposed upzoning and expansion of the Chelsea Market. In addition to the many negative effects that this project would have on the Chelsea neighborhood and the historic complex itself, the proposal contradicts the City Planning Commission’s own carefully crafted Special West Chelsea District zoning of 2005, based on enlightened planning principles, which included moving height and density of new development away from the High Line, as well as maintaining light, air and a positive experience for those who live, work and visit this area. In addition to subverting these principles, Jamestown’s proposal will create much more congestion in a primarily residential area, already overwhelmed with vehicular and pedestrian traffic. This is not enlightened or even responsible city planning.

Neighborhood zoning protections are vital to the preservation of our community’s character and must not be stripped for the convenience of developers.

Save Chelsea has been joined by a broad coalition of other groups in opposition to Jamestown’s proposal. These include the Council of Chelsea Block Associations, The Chelsea Reform Democratic Club, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the Chelsea Coalition on Housing, the Chelsea Village Partnership, the Lower Chelsea Alliance, Friends of the Gibbons Underground Railroad Site Historic District, the Victorian Society’s Metropolitan Chapter and the Historic Districts Council. We have shown up in force repeatedly, written scores of letters and gathered 3,000 petitions in opposition to this plan.

We respectfully ask the City Planning Commission to hear the voice of the entire community and vote an absolute NO to this proposal!

Michael Phillips, chief operating officer of Jamestown, the owner of Chelsea Market

Good morning Chair Burden and Commissioners and thank you for having us. My name is Michael Phillips and I am the chief operating officer of Jamestown, the owner of Chelsea Market. I’d like to let you know who we are, our vision for Chelsea Market, and the goals of the proposal before you.

Jamestown is an international real estate company that seeks to make long-term investments in high-quality properties in urban centers. We have been Chelsea Market’s manager and its majority owner for nearly a decade and Chelsea Market is our Northeast Headquarters. Over that time period, we’ve seen the Market grow and thrive.

The proposed expansion will lead to accomplishing some meaningful and long-lasting goals:

First, the expansion creates much needed space for our expanding tech and media company tenants, widely viewed as the next great economic opportunity for New York City.

Second, it will continue the legacy of the Bloomberg Administration and this commission in supporting the High Line – one of the most visionary re-uses of outdated infrastructure anywhere in the world.

Finally, additional space for office workers will support the ground floor food market, allowing it to thrive in the future.

During our management, the market tenancies have changed markedly.

On the ground floor concourse, we have increased the number of tenants substantially – from 23 to 33 – in just the past five years.

On the upper floors, Chelsea Market has been transformed over the last decade to house more than 3,500 jobs in the media, creative arts, and high tech industries. These businesses include start-ups and established companies, and represent some of the very few industries that have seen growth during the recession.

These businesses come to Chelsea Market because of the vibrancy of the ground floor, the opportunities presented by the large floor plates and high floor to ceiling heights of Chelsea Market, the extensive data infrastructure that has been invested at Chelsea Market and the synergy of locating around other like-minded industries and workers.

At this point Chelsea Market is out of room. What we are asking for is the opportunity to allow these businesses to continue to grow and thrive in what has become their home – which will also allow Chelsea Market to remain the vibrant, contributing resource that has developed over the past 10-15 years.

With our proposal, another 1,000 high-quality jobs in emerging and high tech businesses will be brought to Chelsea Market, aiding the fiscal health of the city, and most importantly, responding to the needs of our tenants.

The proposal will also provide both vital amenities and financial contributions to the High Line.

We believe that the proposal will help keep Chelsea Market a healthy, vibrant asset to the Chelsea neighborhood, one that has benefited from the careful consideration of the Community Board and the Borough President, and one that we know will be strengthened through the remainder of the process.

We appreciate your consideration, and ask for your support.

Betty Mackintosh, CB4 member and a resident of Chelsea

Good morning Commissioners. I am Betty Mackintosh, CB4 member and a resident of Chelsea. I am going to briefly describe our recommendations for the proposed Tenth Avenue addition to the Chelsea Market building.

The height, bulk and façade of this addition are some of the most controversial elements of the proposal, generating enormous community opposition.

One serious concern is the nine-story addition’s impacts on the High Line. As shown in the EAS, the new structure would cast additional shadows on the High Line. It would also block the open view of the sky above the existing Chelsea Market building.

CB4 believes that the proposed addition is out of character with the surrounding buildings both in terms of its height and façade, and recommends that the maximum building height before setback be 170 feet and the maximum building height be 184 feet with a 35 foot setback. This modification would result in:

Increased compatibility with the heights of the nearby 85 and 99 Tenth Avenue buildings, which are 180 feet and 160 feet high respectively. Lee just mentioned CB4’s recommendation that these buildings be included in an expansion of the Special West Chelsea District.

A five-story addition to the existing Chelsea Market building (instead of a nine-story addition).

Fewer shadows being cast on the High Line.

Better light and views from the High Line.

Originally Proposed Façade:

The community has universally scorned the modern design façade of the Proposed Addition, likening it to both a spaceship and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.  The proposed metal diagonal supports and grid in front of the windows create a look incompatible with the existing Chelsea Market building and the neighboring older brick buildings, particularly 85 and 99 Tenth Avenue. The gap between the existing building and the proposed addition results in the addition appearing to hover over the existing building (the spaceship is about to land).

Design Changes to the Façade:

CB4 has recommended to the Applicant that the façade include masonry or terra-cotta and smaller scale design elements that are more compatible with the neighborhood context. And that the gap be less prominent. In response, the Applicant has made major revisions to the façade treatment and placed some panels in the gap. CB4 believes that the Applicant has made significant improvements to the original design and recommends that the Applicant continue working in this direction, consulting with CB4 prior to City Planning Commission review.

Ian MacGregor, owner and operator of The Lobster Place seafood market

Good afternoon Chairwoman Burden and members of the commission. My name is Ian MacGregor and I am the owner and operator of The Lobster Place seafood market, one of Chelsea Market’s original tenants.

In 1995, The Lobster Place came to Chelsea Market with 15 employees and a tiny retail fish store. Due in no small part to the environment Chelsea Market provides – in particular the symbiotic relationship between the upstairs commercial tenants and the ground floor retailers as well as the uncommon cooperation that characterizes the relationship between landlord and tenant in the building – we now employ 100 people across two locations (55 in Chelsea alone) and we operate the largest retail seafood market on the East Coast.

As much as those opposed to the project have tried to characterize Jamestown management as greedy developers who intend to push out mom and pop retailers, this couldn’t be further from the truth. As part of their commitment to maintain the food-based character of the market, Jamestown has made a proposal to extend my lease for a significant period of time. The simple fact is that the economics of the food industry and food tenants don’t support the types of rents that greedy developers are interested in. Fortunately for me, Jamestown is as interested in being a steward of Chelsea Market’s character as they are in turning a profit. And as a response to some of the remarks made today, if there has been a reduction in food uses in Chelsea market, that is news to me. The arrival of Anthropologie simply replaced another fashion store.

With my new lease in hand, I am planning a major renovation of our store that will result in 37 new food jobs, from entry-level kitchen personnel to managers, when the project is complete in 2013. While this project – and countless others that the expansion will encourage – entails risk for me and my company, we are making a long term bet on the market based partially on the idea that the expansion project will proceed.

From my perspective, this expansion is the next logical chapter in a story of shared prosperity that has characterized the growth of the market since 1995 when my family brought The Lobster Place there. For entrepreneurs like me and my ground floor neighbors, I ask that the commission approve the project.

David Holowka, Chelsea resident for 12 years and licensed architect in New York City for 28 years

The Special West Chelsea District might as well be called the “Special District to Ensure That Light, Air and Views Are Preserved along the High Line Open Space,” for the number of times these words are repeated in its zoning text; as often as twice a page. Jamestown’s proposal couldn’t be more hostile to this goal or the zoning’s very purpose, to place common good above private enrichment. It’s clear that Jamestown intends to exploit membership in the Special District just so it can cash in on views from above the High Line. Jamestown is even willing to pay a premium to cantilever its addition out over the High Line.

Jamestown’s documents dismiss the shadows its addition would cast on the High Line, saying “the High Line path areas function similar to public sidewalks, which the CEQR Technical Manual states are not considered sunlight sensitive.” Jamestown lays claim to the great height granted the neighboring Caledonia apartment building, under grandfathered zoning that predates the High Line and the Special

District. The Special District was created in time to influence the Caledonia, carefully crafting its bulk to step down to the height of Chelsea Market, a successful piece of the High Line’s design that Jamestown’s addition would make irrelevant.  Jamestown argues that its proposal protects mid-block character by directing floor area towards the avenues, as if this didn’t mean building over a public park.

These aren’t just highlights of Jamestown’s intelligence-insulting rationale.  They’re what the whole self-serving travesty is made of. What kind of valid reasoning, after all, would change the zoning to allow private development within the footprint of a public park?

The High Line would get a cash payout into a maintenance fund from Jamestown, through a bastardization of the Special District’s “High Line Improvement Bonus.”  This provision applied to only three of the Special District’s sites, granting them extra area “in exchange for a monetary contribution for the restoration and development of” – surprise! -“open space on the High Line,” the very thing Jamestown would seize from the public whose tax dollars made it valuable.

Jamestown would gallingly pervert the Improvement Bonus into a way of buying a zoning exemption, while actually robbing the High Line of open space.  Beyond this loss, the High Line would lose the support of

a community outraged over paying to maintain it with its own residential and historic character.  Who else would benefit?  Job creation was used to justify demolition of Penn Station.  Why change zoning to build on top of a complex that’s listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places when there are vacant lots right across 15th Street, and 14 blocks north, Hudson Yards is now zoned for 26 million square feet of new office space? If ULURP can’t reject a proposal this false and obviously predatory,what value does it have as a review process?

Jennifer Hensley, executive director of the Association for a Better New York

Good morning Chair Burden and honorable commissioners of the City Planning Commission.  I am Jennifer Hensley, executive director of the Association for a Better New York. ABNY is among the city’s longest standing civic organizations advocating for the policies, programs and projects that make New York a better place to live, work and visit. We represent the broad fabric of New York’s economy, and our membership includes New York’s most influential businesses, nonprofits, arts and culture organizations, educational institutions, labor unions and entrepreneurs. I am testifying today on behalf of the Association for a Better New York (ABNY) in support of the ULURP application proposed by Jamestown Properties to expand Chelsea Market.

Since our founding in the early 1970s, ABNY has sought to provide guidance and support to activities that improve the City of New York.  Our broad-based and diverse membership allows us to analyze issues facing our city by considering them from many perspectives but, most importantly, what is in the best interest of the city.

In the case of the Chelsea Market expansion which is before you today, we have thoroughly reviewed the project and thought carefully about both the project’s impact on the local community, including its residents, businesses and public infrastructure. We also evaluated the project’s economic impact as it relates to job creation and increased tax revenue for the city, and Chelsea Market’s role as an important hub for growing technology businesses.  We strongly support this application and hope that you will too.

As you may know, ABNY has spent a significant amount of time looking at the importance of the tech sector to the growth of New York City’s economy.  Recently, working in partnership with the Center for an Urban Future, we issued a report entitled, “New Tech City” which identifies the need to create new, desirable office space to attract and retain tech companies in New York.

We believe Chelsea Market is critical to the growth of the tech sector and to the broader economic development of our city.  When completed, the project will create 1,200 new, full-time jobs, generate millions in tax revenue for the city and state and, with Google right next door, develop highly-demanded office space creating a true hub for established and emerging technology companies. We commend Jamestown Properties for delivering a plan that respects the historic nature of the site, for making commitments to ensure that the ground floor be maintained primarily as a food concourse accessible to the public and for developing a design that reflects community input and is contextual in relation to the buildings surrounding the complex.

This project is critical for New York City’s economic growth, and we hope that the City Planning Commission will approve this project as it has been presented today. Thank you for your time and your consideration of this important matter.

Andra Gabrielle Mooney

Since 1976,  I’ve lived and run a small business in Chelsea, served as co-chair of the 300 West Block Association and worked with the Chelsea Coalition on Housing and other community groups.

Chelsea today can literally trace its development to the actions of a previous generation’s NYC planning agency. ‘The 1959 Chelsea Conservation and Rehabilitation Program’, described in a simple brochure which I’ve attached, deliberately brought together tenants, business and property owners, block associations, churches, city officials, police and others.

People committed to their community have freely contributed decades of effort, even planting the first trees before the city did it, to create the economic vitality of this vibrant, unique part of the city and work at maintaining it daily, block by block.

Our community has worked with developers that actually improved the neighborhood. But there is an urgent need to take account of the impacts of rapid overdevelopment concentrated in Chelsea.

A recent New York Times article states: “Manhattan rental prices seem to be divorced from the larger economic picture…the average rent in Manhattan surpassed the all-time high set in the real estate frenzy of 2007…Right now, landlords can go for pie in the sky – why not?”

Jamestown wants to capitalize on the communities’ efforts for their rental profit. Altering the zoning for them justifies other developers to demand even more. It escalates ongoing efforts to displace businesses and residents for the highest possible short-term rental rates.

A 27 percent fund to build future affordable housing calculated on current market rates is a false solution that ignores reality. People living throughout the neighborhood, both long-term in currently affordable housing, and new residents, are under this tremendous pressure and need protection to directly address that reality.

None of Jamestown’s claimed ‘contributions’ are valid or justify a change for them. The plan’s benefits are limited to those stakeholders and dismissive of the negative community impact.

The world urgently needs leadership to set an example of responsible, sustainable development addressing local and global issues. This project is the wrong direction.

Chelsea emerged from a clear intention to build together a community for all to be a part of.

The human, economic and structural diversity is an essential core aspect of its vitality and possible future success.

Please support our community and completely reject this unneeded, ill-conceived Jamestown proposal.

I thank you for your work.

Brad Hargreaves and Jake Schwartz, co-founders, General Assembly

Our names are Brad Hargreaves and Jake Schwartz and we are writing today to extend our support on behalf of General Assembly for the Chelsea Market Expansion Project.

General Assembly was founded as a global network of campuses for technology, business and design. At our core is a community of top practitioners and entrepreneurs dedicated to learning skills within a community of peers.  Over fifty young companies work from General Assembly’s spaces in Manhattan, and more than 10,000 students have been through our programs in the past 18 months.

Our entrepreneurs and the students from our classes have gone on to build companies and services that have raised over $50 million in venture capital and created hundreds of jobs in the five boroughs of New York City. In addition to providing employment, these entrepreneurs are bringing new ideas into a world that needs them.

The expansion of Chelsea Market is one of those good ideas. Companies and entrepreneurs that we see come through our doors every day are always talking about the need to be a part of a community.  Chelsea Market has the makings of a major technology community hub, with companies like Google, Yext and more in the neighborhood.  With the expansion of Chelsea Market to provide a home for even more technology companies, this community will be even stronger and more impactful.

These companies aren’t the only ones that benefit – the city does as well. Expansion projects like this create jobs. We like seeing our friends take our classes in code and get those jobs. There is a growing tech community that needs them and Chelsea Market is a part of that community.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

Good morning Commissioners, my name is Andrew Berman, and I am the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. GVSHP is the largest membership organization in Greenwich Village, NoHo and the East Village, with many members in Chelsea as well. GVSHP has a long history with Chelsea Market, having included it in our proposed NYC Gansevoort Market Historic District in 2001 and in our successful 2007 nomination for listing of the district on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

We urge you not to approve this application, not to amend it, not to move the proposed bulk from one side to another or from the avenues to the middle. We urge you to simply reject it.

There is no good reason to upzone Chelsea Market, and many good reasons not to. Chelsea Market is an iconic, beloved and successful example of adaptive re-use. The former Nabisco Factory where Oreos were invented, Chelsea Market is a landmark in the truest sense of the word. The proposed additions atop the complex would destroy its character and its aesthetic integrity.

Further, this application does not exist in a vacuum. In recent years, the City Planning Commission has approved enormous rezonings in Community Board 4 – the West Chelsea Rezoning, Hudson Yards and the Western and Eastern Railyards. These have created literally tens of millions of square feet of new development potential in and around Chelsea, only a small portion of which has yet been built. A massive development is planned nearby at Pier 57. As a result, in the coming years we will see an ever-growing swell of traffic and congestion in an area already bursting at the seams from new activity generated by the Meatpacking District, the High Line, West Chelsea’s gallery district and Chelsea Market itself. The neighborhood is hard-pressed to absorb all of this traffic and crowding as it is, and it is hard to imagine how it will handle the millions more square feet of additional development planned for the coming years. To add to this further with this upzoning would be the very definition of poor planning.

The Chelsea Market complex is not suffering as a business endeavor; far from it, it is thriving. There is no need for an upzoning or these large additions on top – the sole motivation is the developer/applicants’ desire for even greater profits. That’s their job; they are businessmen and women. But your job, as the New York City Planning Commission, is to plan for our city’s future and protect the interests of the greater public. We urge you to do so, and to reject the proposed Chelsea Market upzoning.

I am also submitting to the Commission a petition with more than 1,300 signatures urging you to reject this plan.

Bob Trentlyon resident of Chelsea

My name is Bob Trentlyon and I have lived in Chelsea since 1965. I published the Chelsea Clinton News for 29 years. I have learned that city planning is not always a good thing. In fact, city planning done in secrecy is usually a bad thing. If the Chelsea community had been advised six years ago of what was happening, we would not be in the terrible mess we are in now. I want to go on record as being opposed to the expansion of Chelsea Market.

Chelsea Market should be designated a historic building. There are sufficient empty and partially empty industrial buildings in Chelsea to support Jamestown’s growth needs for a very long time. Between the Hudson Yards project and the soon-to-be partially empty office buildings in Lower Manhattan, there is more than enough office space to fulfill the needs of the tech industry for decades to come.

When Chelsea and its environs are allowed to grow organically, producing the Chelsea art galleries or the meat market district, that is when City Planning should enter and protect them from developer onslaught. When the state and city developed a park along the Hudson River and the community was allowed to be involved, something magnificent occurred. I look out at what happened to the New Jersey waterfront where development went down to the water’s edge and realize that could have happened here.

We realize the gold rush is on and the prospectors have found Chelsea. Help us preserve what has happened here both through natural growth and through proper planning. Vote to defeat this plan.

Lee Silberstein, as a spokesperson for Jamestown Properties: A statement regarding the City Planning hearing on the Chelsea Market Expansion

We were encouraged and grateful for the broad spectrum of community, civic, labor and small business leaders that testified in support of our project today. Study after study demonstrates that tech and media companies are the city’s next great economic opportunity and that there is not enough room for them to grow here. Even as we continue to make the case that the expansion of Chelsea Market will help New York City capture the job-generating growth of these firms, we also continue to explore ways of improving the plan by incorporating ideas from the Market’s neighbors and other key stakeholders. We look forward to a successful conclusion of the approval process, which will allow the expansion to move forward – generating additional tax revenue to support city services, new funds for the expansion of the High Line and jobs – all without public subsidy or relocation of existing businesses.

Pamela Wolff, co-chair of the Landmarks Committee of CB4

I speak here for myself, not as a representative of that body.

Dear Chair Burden:

I am co-chair of the Landmarks Committee of CB4. I speak here for myself, not as a representative of that body.

The overwhelming majority of public testimony at Community Board 4’s public hearings on this subject has called for outright rejection of the proposal.

Community Board 4 voted NO, UNLESS to the proposed rezoning based on assurances of various vague benefits to the community, primarily a last minute suggestion that Jamestown would agree to providing a small percentage of their profits to develop affordable housing. At the June 6 CB4 full board meeting, I offered a Substitute Resolution to the letter put forward by the Chelsea Planning and Preservation Committee. I will synopsize that resolution here. My written testimony contains the full text. The vote on my resolution lost by only four votes.

The current zoning is appropriate and adequate for this site. The M1-5 zoning has allowed not only Chelsea Market, but dozens of businesses to thrive on this block and the blocks to the south. New development has taken place, and Lower Chelsea and the adjacent Meatpacking District have undergone a commercial renaissance, all under this zoning designation. The M1-5 district allows for an appropriate density of development, and the proposed increase in density, by 50 percent to a maximum base FAR of 7.5, is inappropriate for this site.

Additions to the existing historic structure would destroy its integrity. Community Board 4 has long supported the designation of a proposed Gansevoort Market Historic District which includes the Chelsea Market complex and block. While the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission did not include Chelsea Market in the Gansevoort Market Historic District it designated (in spite of initial indications that it would), the complex was included by the NY State Historic Preservation Office and the Federal Department of the Interior on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, Gansevoort Market District. The complex’s historic significance is undeniable, which has contributed considerably to its success and popularity. Large-scale additions to either its Ninth or Tenth Avenue ends would ruin the integrity of one of New York’s premiere examples of successful adaptive re-use of a historic structure.

The proposed developments would increase traffic and congestion and tax the infrastructure and services in an already-overburdened area. Due to the dramatic transformation of the nearby Meatpacking and West Chelsea Districts in recent years, traffic, congestion and utilization of infrastructure and services in the immediate area has skyrocketed. This is especially worrisome as this block directly borders entirely residential blocks to its north, northeast and southeast. The rapid commercial development in this area, allowed under the current zoning, has already had a marked impact upon quality of life for nearby residents. To change the zoning to allow further expansion of the commercial presence in the area, and the impacts which come with it, would be a mistake.

The impact of currently planned developments and rezonings in the vicinity will already be challenging to absorb. Pier 57 is expected to be developed in the coming years, just a block and half away from Chelsea Market; its development is expected to generate a considerable amount of new traffic and congestion in the area.

Additionally, as a result of the (already approved) West Chelsea rezoning, there are still hundreds of thousands, if not millions of square feet of development potential in the directly adjacent blocks, which will likely be developed in the coming years. To the north, the Eastern and Western Railyards rezonings will allow tens of millions of new square feet of development, the impacts of which will be felt throughout Chelsea. Absorbing all of this new development and its impacts will be challenging enough for this area; to further upzone this area and increase the allowable development and its impacts beyond the considerable amount already allowed and expected in the coming years would be a mistake.

The proposed upzoning is not needed for the continued success of Chelsea Market. Chelsea Market is a valued piece of the character, functioning and success of our neighborhood. Its establishment has added a great element to our neighborhood and we wish to see its continued success (it should be noted that the evolution of Chelsea Market under Jamestown Properties’ ownership away from a food market composed of independent stores and towards a generic mall with chain stores is of concern to Community Board 4). Were the Market’s continued operation under the existing zoning threatened, the board would of course carefully consider suggestions for changes, which might help ensure its continuation.

However, Chelsea Market is thriving, and has been a tremendous economic success under the existing zoning. There is no contention that additional development is needed to support this wonderfully successful combination of food services and offices. The main reason for Jamestown Properties’ application is simply increased profit. And while Jamestown has every right to pursue increased profits, public policy need not accommodate that desire, and should only do so when there is a clear planning rationale and benefit to the public and local community which is not outweighed by the negative impacts the proposed zoning change would have. We do not feel this is the case.

The proposed development would cast a shadow on the High Line, and run contrary to the stated purpose of the Special West Chelsea Zoning District of which it is supposed to be a part. The proposed Tenth Avenue addition to Chelsea Market would cast a considerable shadow upon the High Line, especially the critical “Tenth Avenue Square” section. One of the main stated purposes of the Special West Chelsea Zoning District is to prevent development, which would shadow the High Line Park.

Any benefits the proposed developments would bring could be achieved elsewhere, or are one-shot deals which do not justify the imposition in perpetuity of these burdens upon the community. Jamestown Properties has argued that their proposed rezoning would create jobs. While this is probably true, given the considerable amount of allowable development not only in the immediate vicinity but in other appropriate areas of Manhattan, it is reasonable to assume that if there is a market for the proposed development, it could easily be accommodated at other locations where it would be allowed under the existing zoning.

Beyond this, the main purported benefits of the proposed zoning would be a one-time contribution to the High Line, as well as the creation of storage facilities and bathrooms for the High Line. Community Board 4 values the High Line and the unique amenity it provides, and supported the rezoning to allow its development. However, it is our belief that there are other ways to fund the development and maintenance of the High Line and to provide needed storage and bathroom facilities without allowing a development which would permanently loom over and cast a shadow not only on the High Line park but the nearby park at 15th Street and 10th Avenue, and would not have the other previously mentioned negative impacts.

In conclusion, I feel strongly that the negative impacts and lack of sound planning rationale of the proposed rezoning and development far outweigh any purported benefit, which I believe could be more appropriately achieved through other means. I therefore strongly recommend denial of this application.

 

Richard N. Gottfried

(NOTE: These comments were read by a representative of Gottfried)

My name is Richard N. Gottfried, and I represent the 75th Assembly District, which includes Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, Midtown, Murray Hill and part of the Lincoln Square area. I appreciate the opportunity to present testimony before the City Planning Commission regarding the proposed Chelsea Market expansion by Jamestown Premier Chelsea Market, LP. I regret that I cannot present this testimony in person because I am at a conference out of town.

The 2005 Special West Chelsea District will create a corridor of large commercial and residential buildings running north from Chelsea Market, intended largely to compensate property owners for the preservation of the High Line.

At the time of the Special West Chelsea District rezoning, Chelsea Market asked to be excluded. The building is now owned by Jamestown Properties, which focuses on high-profile real estate ventures.

Jamestown is now asking to add Chelsea Market to the increased zoning of the Special West Chelsea District.

The proposal calls for 240,000 square feet of building on the Tenth Avenue side and 90,000 square feet of building on the Ninth Avenue side. Jamestown would also be providing the High Line Park with freight elevator access, bathrooms, a public education program space and a one-time financial contribution, depending on the size of the project, of up to $17 million to the High Line Capital Improvement fund. The Capital Improvement fund is administered by the City and would be used for maintenance of the High Line structure.

I oppose the project. This proposal is simply too large for the neighborhood. Even after some changes, this is still a massive development being added to a development corridor in the neighborhood that is already overburdened by expansions.

Part of what is inappropriate about the proposal is the devastating effect it would have on the architectural quality of the Chelsea Market building. The Landmarks Preservation Commission should have landmarked the Chelsea Market long ago, and it is distressing that it has not. But even in the absence of landmark protection, the Commission can and should protect the building.

The project would also have a visually jarring and disruptive effect on people enjoying the High Line Park.

The negatives of this project strongly outweigh any potential gains the community might receive from this expansion. This plan would dramatically alter and scar an important historical building, with no guarantee of long-term community job creation. I ask the City Planning Commission to reject this application.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

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