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Chelsea Market Expansion Redesign Not Enough, Opponents Say

By Mathew Katz | December 15, 2011 5:10pm

CHELSEA — The glass cube may be gone, but a massive redesign of the proposed expansion to Chelsea Market hasn't swayed many opponents.

The redesign, released on Wednesday, scrapped putting a large, glass cube on top of the market at 75 Ninth Ave. after neighbors complained it was out of character with the historical building, in favor an addition that will look more like the existing structure. The new design also reduces the overall expansion, shrinking it from 11 floors to nine.

But opponents say that despite the redesign, the expansion is still unnecessary and harmful to the neighborhood.

"The 10th Avenue structure still looks like it was dropped by a spaceship on top of the building," said Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. "It's certainly a change, but I don't think that substantively in terms of the big picture actually changes much."

Berman said that the opposition to the expansion has prompted Jamestown Properties, the building's owner, to change the design, and was confident that it could stop the development in its tracks.

"I think they’re working harder to try to package their plan as being less intrusive, less offensive, less burdensome on the surrounding community," he said. "Whether or not they’ve done that is another question and I’m certainly not convinced."

In order to actually build the proposed expansion, the building's owner, Jamestown Properties, needs to successfully lobby the city to put the building into the Special West Chelsea District, created in 2005 to accommodate the High Line. All of the major opponents to the expansion say they will still oppose that rezoning process when it begins in early 2012.

"While we appreciate that Jamestown has revised their architectural plans, it is very important to remember that this is first and foremost a land use and zoning issue," said Save Chelsea, a citizen's group which has led the charge against the expansion, in a statement. "We continue to feel that the requested zoning change, designed to yield optimum views and maximum revenues for Jamestown, will have numerous negative impacts for the Chelsea community."

The group said those impacts included increasing traffic and congestion, bringing even more large-scale developments, and harming the neighborhood's residential character.

"It offers nothing but harm to the rest of Chelsea, and would leave it less the residential neighborhood we love and more like Midtown," wrote David Holowka, an architect and Chelsea resident, in an email.

"The proposal stinks of greed and the corruption of urban planning by money. If it goes through, it'll be a fine win for the one percent."

Miguel Acevedo, president of the tenant's association at the Fulton Houses, remained one of the few local voices in support of the project. He said that the neighborhood needs to work with Jamestown to get community benefits from the project, and has been working with them to ensure the expansion will provide jobs to Fulton Houses residents.

"Here's Jamestown trying to work with the community," he said. "They're downsizing it. They're willing to work with us, and we need to work with them."