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Chelsea is 'Becoming Midtown,' Say Neighbors Who Oppose 10-Story Building

 A proposed building at 142 W. 19th St. would be taller than its six-story and seven-story neighbors.
Chelsea is Becoming Midtown, Neighbors Who Oppose 10-Story Building Say
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CHELSEA — A developer’s plans for a 10-story building on West 19th Street received approval from the local community board Monday — despite neighbors' concerns it would contribute to Chelsea's transformation into an area that feels more like Midtown.

Real estate firm Urban Standard Development is seeking a variance from the city that would allow it to build a 10-story residential building on West 19th Street, situated between a six-story building and a seven-story building.

The city’s Sliver Law keeps developers from constructing buildings that are taller than their adjacent buildings on narrow lots, but the Board of Standards and Appeals can make exceptions if the lot poses certain hardships for a developer.

The irregular shape and narrowness of the site at 142 W. 19th St., between Sixth and Seventh avenues — as well as metals found in the soil there that will need to be removed — warrant an exception, attorney Richard Lobel said.

“This is not a block where we have smallish brownstones and we’re going to be disrupting [the neighborhood’s] character,” he told Community Board 4's Chelsea land use committee, which makes recommendations to the BSA, at a Monday meeting.

Without a variance, Urban Standard Development could only construct a six-story building, losing the developer money, Lobel said.

Neighbors, however, implored the developer to reconsider the height of the building.

“It’s about the overbuilding of Chelsea,” said an attendee named Karen, who lives across from the proposed building. “We’re getting closed in like sardines in a can.”

If the developer reduced the proposed building’s height to match those of its neighbors, there would be no objections, she added.

“As a resident, I think everything’s getting too high in Chelsea,” meeting attendee Inge Ivchenko said. “It is becoming Midtown.”

Urban Standard Development President Seth Weissman acknowledged residents’ concerns, but noted the firm’s application before the BSA includes more than 50 letters of support from neighbors who back the plans.

Committee member Walter Mankoff suggested leaving the decision up to the BSA, while apprising the agency of the committee and community members' “major concerns” about the proposed height and the developer's use of the variance.

Seven members voted in favor of the motion, while three were opposed.

“To me, looking at this, it’s simply a classic example of what the Sliver Law was intended to prevent,” committee member David Holowka maintained.

Diane Nichols, a Chelsea resident of more than three decades, said she was “incredibly angry” about the plans.

“We do not want to live in Midtown,” she said. “This is a precious neighborhood, and [with] these horrible, ugly, tall buildings… we are being ruined.”