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'Fussy' Gansevoort Street Redevelopment Plan Sent Back to Drawing Board

 BKSK is designing five new buildings for the south side of Gansevoort Street betwee Ninth Avenue and Washington Street.
BKSK is designing five new buildings for the south side of Gansevoort Street betwee Ninth Avenue and Washington Street.
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BKSK Architects

CIVIC CENTER — The controversial redevelopment of a full block in the Meatpacking District was sent back to the drawing board by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday.

The LPC told BKSK Architects to come back with a new proposal for its Gansevoort Street project with lower building heights and a less "fussy" design.

Developers Aurora Capital Associates and William Gottlieb Real Estate are revamping the south side of Gansevoort from Ninth Avenue to Washington Street with five buildings reaching up to eight stories tall.

The project caused outrage among neighborhood residents who say the low-slung buildings on that block are the last of their kind in the entire city and an iconic element of the historically protected area.

BKSK architect Harry Kendall has argued that raising the heights of the two westernmost buildings, the major point of contention with neighborhood opponents, is consistent with the block's history because those buildings were taller tenements up until the 1930s.

Opponents have dismissed that historical reach as excessive and disingenuous.

LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said in the interest of the "historic honesty" of that argument, the buildings should not exceed the five-story height typical of tenements.

"I think if that is the argument, it should really be a more pure argument," she said.

To be consistent with the tenement as an historic touchstone, the commissioners also said the architects should do away with the upper floors, particularly the penthouse, of their plans.

"The penthouse looks gratuitous to say the least and I think it should disappear quickly," said Commissioner Fred Bland.

Srinivasan also objected to canopies on the buildings.

"They seem sort of elaborate and fussy," she said.

Ultimately the LPC took no action on the plan, advising the architects to change those elements of their design and return with a new proposal.

Zack Weinstein, one of the leaders of the opposition group Save Gansevoort, said he was happy the LPC listened to the neighborhood's concerns about heights but "disappointed" they are "willing to sacrifice" and allow the developers to increase heights beyond one or two stories.

"That essentially means the loss of a block that was really iconic of the kind of architecture that many of us believe the Gansevoort Market Historic District is about," he said. "I think that's a real loss for the city."

A spokesman for the development said the hearing "was an important step toward ensuring the rich, unique history of the Gansevoort Market Historic District lives on."

"This is an opportunity to tell the complete story of this neighborhood’s evolution over the past 130 years," spokesman Tom Corsillo said.

"We are proud to put forth a plan that will connect New Yorkers to these great, lost periods in the history of the Meatpacking District, and look forward to continuing to work with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to secure the necessary approval.”