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Chelsea Market Plan Needs Work, Stringer Says

By Mathew Katz | July 19, 2012 3:29pm

CHELSEA —The proposal to expand Chelsea Market is no good enough in its current form, according to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.

In his recommendation to the City Planning Commission, Stringer asked the group to deny the application to rezone and expand the market unless the proposal is significantly changed, including shifting the development from the building's 10th Avenue side to Ninth Avenue.

Market landlord Jamestown Properties’ original proposal for the market at 75 Ninth Ave. would add nine floors and 240,000 square feet of office space on top of the building’s 10th Avenue side, and a 90,000 square foot hotel on the Ninth Avenue side.

The developer would need a zoning change shifting Chelsea Market into the Special West Chelsea District in order to build the expansion, something that requires the approval of the City Planning Commission and the City Council.

Citing many of the same concerns about density and height that community members expressed for months, Stringer's recommendation calls on Jamestown to shift the development of the expansion to the Ninth Avenue side of the complex, so it avoids blocking light to the High Line, and capping the addition's street-side height to 170 feet, and total height overall to 184 feet.

"While the potential economic impact of the Chelsea Market expansion will undoubtedly provide a financial benefit to New York City, it must co-exist with, not overwhelm, the local neighborhood," Stringer wrote.

The borough president also recommended the developer commit — in writing — to creating an affordable housing fund and preserving the character of the building's retail concourse, as well as agreeing to abandon plans for constructing a hotel.

Representatives for Jamestown were amenable to many of those modifications in meetings with Community Board 4, though the plan certified earlier this year contains none of them.

A spokesman for Jamestown was unable to comment specifically on the proposal to shift development to Ninth Avenue.

“The expansion of Chelsea Market will create some 1,200 jobs by providing much-needed room for rapidly expanding technology and media companies to grow in New York City. The expansion will be achieved without relocating existing tenants or any public subsidy, and will in fact generate some $7 million of new tax revenue annually as well as nearly $20 million to benefit the High Line," said Lee Silberstein, a spokesman for the developer.

"We will continue to make the case that the expansion should be viewed favorably as we move through the review and approval process.”

Stringer's recommendation garnered a mixed response from project opponents, who continued to say that any expansion to the historic building was inappropriate.

"We are glad the Borough President recognized that the huge proposed 10th Avenue tower would be damaging to this neighborhood’s character; but shifting that bulk to Ninth Avenue is not a solution either," said Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, in a statement. 

"A nearly 200 foot tall addition on 9th Avenue would be a disaster, and still nothing more than a giveaway simply to enrich a developer."

The proposal now goes to the City Planning Commission, which has 60 days to make a decision on it.