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Chelsea Market Expansion Could Block High Line Views, Officials Fear

By Mathew Katz | July 25, 2012 3:45pm

DOWNTOWN — The head of the City Planning Commission, Amanda Burden, repeatedly voiced big concerns about Jamestown Properties’ proposal to expand Chelsea Market at a hearing Wednesday, questioning whether views of the sky from the High Line will be blocked by the massive project.

The proposal would create up to a 250-foot-high extension on the building’s 10th Avenue side — directly over the High Line itself — along with a 90,000-square-foot addition on the Ninth Avenue side.

I’m coming at this as a visitor to the High Line,” Burden said to a representative from the developer.

“It’s less about how it matches the building across the street, it’s about how much sky you take away. That’s really crucial for me.”

Amanda Burden, chairwoman of the City Planning Commission, questioned the impact of a proposal to expand the Chelsea Market on views from the High Line.
Amanda Burden, chairwoman of the City Planning Commission, questioned the impact of a proposal to expand the Chelsea Market on views from the High Line.
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Bennett Raglin/Getty Images

Representatives for Jamestown did not immediately respond to the question, but provided several renderings showing a significant chunk of sky being obscured from the High Line by the addition.

The hearing provided the first opportunity for both supporters and opponents of the proposal to speak before the commission, which is responsible for deciding whether to approve, deny and modify the proposal.

In order for the expansion to go through, the commission must vote to move the building at 75 Ninth Ave. into the Special West Chelsea District, a zoning area created to accommodate the construction of the High Line.

Burden, who helped facilitate the creation of the elevated park, has been relatively quiet on the expansion up until this point, but her questions helped shed light on concerns shared by many about the project.

The 10th Avenue building has drawn criticism by those who fear it will cast a wide shadow on the High Line and that it’s out of context with the rest of the complex.

Previously, Community Board 4 asked for the bulk of the extension to be reduced to 184 feet, and Borough President Scott Stringer asked for all development to be shifted to Ninth Avenue.

Jamestown has yet to agree to a compromise on the size of the 10th Avenue building.

However, Robert Hammond, co-founder of Friends of the High Line, brushed off those concerns when speaking before the commission.

“The High Line was designed to interact with neighborhood buildings, even changes in the skyscape that take place around it,” he said.

“People love architectural variations around the High Line. We don’t think they’ll detract from the experience of being on the High Line at all.”

The Friends of the High Line have long supported the proposal, largely because Jamestown would have to donate roughly $17 to $19 million to the High Line Improvement Fund, a city-run pool of cash that pays for maintenance of the park’s infrastructure.

Jamestown COO Michael Phillips also stressed the project's benefit to the High Line when speaking before the commission.

“[The expansion] will continue the legacy of the Bloomberg administration and the commission of supporting the High Line,” he said.

“At this point, Chelsea Market is out of room. We are looking for the opportunity to allow those businesses to grow.”

The City Planning Commission will hold more meetings on the subject, and has until September to issue a decision on the rezoning proposal.