In a unanimous vote today, the New York City Planning Commission approved Jamsestown Properties’ plans for expansion at Chelsea Market with few modifications. The building was rezoned to be included in the Special West Chelsea District, thereby allowing developers to increase density after a significant contribution is made to the High Line. Much to the quite literal relief of High Line visitors, this likely means bathrooms will finally find their way to the southern section of the park.
The latest designs by Studios Architecture set the massing of the Tenth Avenue addition back away from the park, which Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden expressed concern about during a review session. Jamestown Properties has also agreed provide funds and space for park amenities, like bathrooms, as well funds for affordable housing in Community Board 4 district. “While affordable housing bonuses are not normally associated with commercial buildings, there are special features of the West Chelsea district regulations which make this possible,”said Burden.
“I believe this will be a great addition to the West Chelsea neighborhood,” she continued. “The additional office space will serve what has become a destination for creative and technology industries, and this new development will provide critical amenities to the High Line.”
Nevertheless, community activists remain concerned about traffic and congestion from the park and resulting building boom. This was no secret to those attending CB4 meetings, but the controversy roared into the open with Jeremiah Moses’ oped piece in Sunday’s New York Times under the head, “Disney on the Hudson,” which claimed “the park is destroying neighborhoods as it grows.” The sound-off got a swift response from the many, including Friends of the High Line founders Joshua David and Mark Hammond who found Moses’ claims “an unfortunate simplification of our past and current reality.”
The current reality for parks is a public/private financing model, thus David and Hammond’s support for the Jamestown project and the resulting park amenities it provides. “This is clearly a deal between the Friends, City Planning, and Jamestown,” said Save Chelsea’s David Holowka. He noted that the majority of the massing will gravitate toward the park rather than the Ninth Avenue. Regardless of where the bulk will land, some will never be appeased with further expansion. “The amenities are cold comfort,” said Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. “The development will increase traffic and congestion to an area that’s already busting at the seams.” Berman added that the West Chelsea Special District already allows for substantial growth for many years to come.
The measure will now go before City Council and speaker Christine Quinn, whose district includes the Chelsea Market. The expansion is considered by some to be a litmus test of where the mayoral candidate’s loyalties lie, with the NIMBYs or the development community.