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Chelsea Market Expansion Opposed in Poll Conducted by Project Supporters

By Mathew Katz | March 14, 2012 9:47am
A rendering of what the expanded Chelsea Market will look like from the southwest.
A rendering of what the expanded Chelsea Market will look like from the southwest.
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Jamestown Properties

CHELSEA — A poll commissioned by a pro-business group that supports a proposal to build on top of the Chelsea Market has found opposition to the project that would construct hundreds of thousands of square feet of new office space and a hotel on the property.

In February, developer Jamestown Properties sent out the results of a poll indicating that a majority of Chelsea residents supported the proposed expansion — but a closer look at the numbers shows a majority of those surveyed were uncomfortable with the two biggest changes to the building.

Jamestown's proposal, which could change before likely being certified by the Department of City Planning later this month, would add 240,000 square feet of new office space to the building, along with a 90,000-square-foot hotel on its Ninth Avenue side.

According to the poll, conducted in January by Global Strategy Group for the Chelsea Market Coalition and forwarded to DNAinfo by a spokesman for the group, 64 percent of all those surveyed found the idea of a new boutique hotel on at the market to be unappealing.

The poll also showed that 55 percent of those surveyed are turned off by the idea of new office space on the west side of the historic building, located at 75 Ninth Ave., between West 15th and 16th streets.

Among those who live near the building — a geographic area that the group did not specfically define — 52 percent of respondents found the proposed office space unappealing, and 69 percent did not like the idea of the hotel, the poll showed.

According to recent reports, City Councillor Speaker Christine Quinn, whose district includes Chelsea Market, is concerned about huge community opposition to the proposal and may be working with Jamestown to eliminate the hotel from the plan in exchange for more office space.

The proposed nine-story addition requires a zoning change, which the City Council needs to OK for it to move forward.

Opponents who have questioned Jamestown's poll numbers have been unrelenting in their criticism of the project, saying it would be out of character with the building, as well as causing higher rents and increased traffic in the area. A group of opponents claimed to have collected more than 2,000 signatures against the project in a paper petition, along with over 1,000 names included in an online petition.

Jamestown claims to have amassed similar numbers in their own online petition, but that hasn't made the developer's proposed changes any more palatable to Chelsea Market's neighbors, according to the poll.

But there appears to be a silver lining in the poll for Jamestown: Many of those polled said they liked the sound of other aspects of the proposal, including several public benefits stemming from the project.

When it came to adding public restrooms and concessions within Chelsea Market for the High Line, 77 percent of poll respondents said they liked the idea. According to the poll, 72 percent also found public space for events, concessions and other activities appealing.

A spokesman for the developer said the public sees the combined benefits of the project as worthwhile.

"People understand that the expansion will create jobs and boost revenue to the city and state, and that it will preserve the beloved ground floor Market for food related uses, and that it requires no subsidy, relocation or condemnation, and that it provides more than [$17 million] for the very popular High Line, a majority of folks support it," the spokesman said.

The survey interviewed 429 people living in Chelsea, Midtown and the West Village, with 154 of them living near Chelsea Market itself. The majority of respondents acknowledged they had not heard much about the proposed expansion.

The poll gave an oversampling to people living in Chelsea, with 42 percent of those interviewed from the neighborhood, 34 percent from the Village, and 23 percent from Midtown. It had a margin of error of 4.7 percentage points.