Chelsea Market Owner Slammed for Withholding Expansion Plan Details

By Mathew Katz on May 3, 2012 11:39am 

A rendering of the reduced-height office expansion on the Ninth Avenue side of Chelsea Market, presented to Community Board 4 on May 2, 2012.
A rendering of the reduced-height office expansion on the Ninth Avenue side of Chelsea Market, presented to Community Board 4 on May 2, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

HELL’S KITCHEN — Chelsea residents are angry that the landlord of the Chelsea Market won't commit to changes they want to scale down the controversial expansion.

Though Jamestown Properties revealed Wednesday more details on ways to shrink the project's girth, opponents and Community Board 4 members slammed the developer for not backing a number of requests they've made at previous meetings.

Last month, the developer said it would consider changes brought forward by board members, including eliminating a proposed hotel on the building’s Ninth Avenue side, promising to keep half the ground floor concourse dedicated to food retailers, redesigning the façade of the 10th Avenue side and redirecting some of a required donation from the High Line toward affordable housing.

The developer did bring renderings demonstrating a shift from an 11-story hotel to a 7-story office space, but it failed to show any new designs for a bulky, glass 240,000 square foot 10th Avenue expansion that residents have criticized as out of context with the rest of the building.

Melanie Meyers, an attorney for Jamestown, said it was in the works.

“We’re looking at a treatment that’s more reflective of the masonry buildings of the surrounding areas,” she offered.

Several furious board members said they wanted to have a better idea of what it would look like, and criticized the developer for not committing to the changes with their final vote on the project coming up in June.

“We have to vote, we have to vote a month from now. When will we have something more concrete?,” asked board member Burt Lazarin.

“When will we have something more that we can bite into?”

The board also wants Jamestown to give a significant chunk of a required $19 million donation to the High Line Improvement Fund to an affordable housing fund. The developer seemed ambivalent.

“If you’re doing a commercial project, it’s questionable whether it’s appropriate to allocate a fund to affordable housing," Meyers said. "From our perspective, we’re agnostic.”

The developer also shrugged off requests from the board to push for the existing building to be landmarked, claiming that it would be difficult because of the amount that the complex has changed since it was initially built in the 1890s.

The board wanted to pursue landmark status for the market to protect the building in case Jamestown sells it.

"The fact that the building is not pristine and perfect is the exact reason why it’s an historic resource," said board member Joe Restuccia.

Dozens of community members turned out for the hearing, with the majority speaking against the project, including State Assemblyman Dick Gottfried.

"The negatives of the project strongly outweigh any potential gains the community might receive by its expansion," Gottfried said. "The plan would dramatically alter an important historic building, with little guarantee of long-term community job creation."

But a number of union workers from the construction trades voiced support because of the work it would bring.

The proposal will next come before the board’s Chelsea Preservation and Planning Committee on May 31, at which time Jamestown hopes to have more details on their amended plans — and according to board members, they'd better if they want the proposal to pass.

“How can I vote on something if I don’t know what it’s going to look like?,” said Lisa Daglian.

”I’d rather have more of a commitment from you on all of this.”

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