Housing Advocates Rally Against Chelsea Market Expansion

By Mathew Katz on September 28, 2012 7:09pm 

CHELSEA — A plan that would create a roughly $5 million affordable housing fund in exchange for the expansion of Chelsea Market is not worth it, affordable housing advocates argued at a rally outside the historic building on Friday.

The plan, approved by the City Planning Commission on Sept. 5, would create a zoning change to allow developer Jamestown Properties to expand Chelsea Market's Ninth and Tenth Avenue sides. In exchange, the developer would have to contribute $5.1 million to an affordable housing fund, along with a large donation to the High Line Improvement Fund.

But affordable housing advocates claimed the upzoning, which would place the market in the Special West Chelsea District, would crowd the neighborhood and raise rents and is not worth the trade-off.

"It's a fraud, it's an absolute fraud," said Michael McKee, the treasurer of the Tenants Political Action Committee, adding that the affordable housing that would be created "would not be worth swalling this horrible, hideous development."

The rally of about two dozen people included longtime expansion opponents such as Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and Save Chelsea, along with members of TenantsPAC, the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club, the Chelsea Coalition on Housing, and the London Terrace Tenants Association.

The group called on City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who represents the district, to oppose the proposal when it comes before the City Council in October.

Andrew Berman, Executive Director of GVSHP, argued that the original upzoning that created the Special West Chelsea District in 2005 had promised significant amounts of affordable housing that the city had yet to deliver.

"We will not stand for this," Berman said. "We want the affordable housing, but we don't want to pay for it twice with upzoning that we don't want or don't need."

The affordable housing fund was a condition of Community Board 4's tenuous support for the project and was also recommended by Borough President Scott Stringer.

Jamestown responded to the protest by touting the community and economic benefits it claims the expansion will have on the neighborhood.

“We continue to listen to the voices of all stakeholders as we move toward the conclusion of the land use process," said spokesman Lee Silberstein in a statement. "Their input is reflected by the fact that the design of the plan has been amended and that as requested by the Community Board it now supports the creation of affordable housing for the neighborhood."

The City Council has until Oct. 29 to make a decision on the proposal.

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