In spite of angry protests from neighborhood advocates and preservation groups, New York City Council unanimously approved plans Tuesday afternoon to upzone Chelsea Market. The developer, Jamestown Properties, intends on building 300,000-square-feet of office space designed by Studios Architecture that will sit right on top of current Chelsea Market. To move things along in their favor, Jamestown had agreed to give around $12 million to the High Line and $5 million to a fund to build affordable housing, in addition to another $1 million to help launch an internship program at the nearby Fulton Houses. Jamestown called this decision a win for the city’s economy: “As approved today by the New York City Council, the expansion of Chelsea Market will provide an important economic boost to New York City, creating more than 1,200 long-term jobs and 600 construction jobs.” Several local organizations, however, are upset with the outcome. In an email sent to Chelsea Now, Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, released this statement: “It’s deeply disappointing that they are allowing a beloved New York City landmark to be disfigured and one of the city’s most congested neighborhoods to be further overdeveloped. In spite of the pleas of the vast majority of this neighborhood’s residents, once again the interests of real estate developers have won out.”
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Curbed directed us to a travesty in the Village today, albeit an unsurprising one. It appears NYU, in constructing a new building for the law school, damaged the shell of the Provincetown Playhouse, which it had promised to preserve. We say this is unsurprising because, as we recall and Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation again confirmed, this is precisely what preservationists feared would happen. You see, a lot of people assume, that like the rest of Greenwich Village, that NYU's Washington Square Park campus is also landmarked, and therefore protected from overdevelopment, especially from the at-times over-zealous educator. Trying to improve its image and community relations, however, the school sometimes agrees to preserve buildings it technically would have to, though with little oversite. In the case of the Provincetown theater, which we covered last June, NYU declined to save the entire building on MacDougal Street—it's being replaced by Morris Adjmi—but they would retain the shell of the Provincetown Playhouse, the launchpad for Eugene O'Neill and Off Broadway theater. Berman and other preservationists were suspicious of the deal, however, because a similar one had been cut at the start of the decade, when NYU promised to save the facade of Edgar Allan Poe's home on nearby West Third Street as part of another law school building, Furman Hall. After a long court battle to save the building, with such bigs as E.L. Doctorow and Lou Reed weighing in, NYU was told it could demolish the "non-contributing" building, but it agreed to incorporate pieces of the original into the new building. But just as happened earlier this month at the Provincetown, the Poe house was damaged during construction, and had to be replicated from scratch. Berman, in an email, called it "classic NYU:"
This is exactly what happened with the Poe House, and it's classic NYU. I have some pictures from the early stages of their doing this (see attached—I don't know if they've done more since then). There is no recourse with LPC because the building is not landmarked (the city refused to). Our hope is that this will make city and local elected officials take a closer look at NYU and their lack of honesty and willingness to abide by their own commitments, and in the future will not support such plans as happened in this case.NYU told The Villager the damaged wall "was found to be made partly of rubble and unstable." The school says it has put construction on the south side of the building on hold—it will continue on the north side—while a report is prepared. Among other unsurprising surprises is that NYU did not know about the damage until last week, weeks after the damage was done, as though preserving that wall were somehow not one of the prime directives for the contractors on the site. Apparently, NYU's priorities remain their own and no one else's.
In her 1961 book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” Jane Jacobs documented and analyzed the urban street life visible outside her home in Greenwich Village, revolutionizing the way people and planners think about cities, urban planning, and development. In honor of her legacy, the preservation group which she helped found, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), initiated a proposal for the street in front of her former home at 555 Hudson Street between Perry and West 11th Streets to be renamed “Jane Jacobs Way.” In a released statement by the GVSHP, Executive Director Andrew Berman said, “Jane Jacobs had such a profound effect upon our city and our lives; there are few people more worthy of the honor of having a street co-named in their honor.” Approved in 2006 by the local Community Board and the full City Council, the naming will take effect early next week with the installation of the official “Jane Jacobs Way” signs.