Two Important Meatpacking District Victories
9-19 Ninth Avenue (Little West 12th Street): Last week the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) heard the proposal to add a large glass addition atop this iconic building (which for years housed Pastis Restaurant) at a key location in the heart of the Gansevoort Market Historic District. GVSHP, among many others, raised strong objections to the proposal, which we felt would overwhelm the existing building, negatively impact key features of the historic district, and relate poorly to its surroundings. Because GVSHP was able to help get this and surrounding sites landmarked in 2003, the project cannot move ahead without LPC approval.
Fortunately, the Commissioners appeared to agree with many of our concerns, telling the applicant they could not approve the proposal as is, and to significantly re-work it with more sensitivity to the existing building and its surroundings. Several of the Commissioners also said the proposed addition was too large. It is now up to the applicant to submit a new design to the LPC responding to their comments.
See GVSHP's webpage for further information on the application and its status, to be informed of when revisions may be proposed, and to view the video of the presentation, public testimony, and Commissioner deliberations of this application at the LPC.
40-56 10th Avenue (13th Street): Yesterday the Board of Standards and Appeals took a final vote on a zoning varaince application for this site, where a developer originally requested a 34% increase in the allowable size of a new development (full application here). The developer claimed the presence of the High Line on the site and landfill undeground created a "financial hardship." GVSHP, among many others, argued strongly against this logic, pointing out that the High Line's presence made this site uniquely desirable, and that other developers had built on the same subsurface conditions without any "hardship."
Fortunately the Board of Standards and Appeals agreed with us; while they granted the developer some waivers to allow more light and air to reach the High Line (to which GVSHP had no objections), they did not grant the developer any of the originally-requested increase in the size of the planned development. This is an important victory for our efforts to preserve the scale and character of the Meatpacking District.
St. Luke's Proposal Shortened Slightly, Approved
We are less happy to report that last week the Landmarks Preservation Commission also approved the proposed tower at 100 Barrow Street on the St. Luke's block, as well as additions to the St. Luke's School, with relatively minor modifications. In the case of the tower, it was shortened slightly, though made no smaller, as the mass of the building was simply added to the lower portion. The design was changed somewhat, but the changes failed to address many of the serious concerns we and others expressed about its problematic relationship to its surroundings.
Similarly, the additions to the school were approved with only changes to the color of the materials, but without addressing the shortcomings in the proposed addition's design. Perhaps worst of all, the LPC voted the approvals without giving the public any opportunity to review or comment upon the new designs, which has become common practice by the Commission in recent years -- a practice to which GVSHP has long objected.
While GVSHP supports the ability of St. Luke's Church and School to grow, and believes that sensitive additions could be appropriate at these locations, we felt that the proposed designs were jarring and out of place in their special, historic context. In spite of hearing from GVSHP and scores of others to this effect, we are disappointed that the LPC voted to approve the revised designs.
See GVSHP's webpage on this application to view the original and approved designs, as well as to access video of the two LPC meetings on this application.
Reaching Out to Mayor de Blasio on Housing Plan, Improving the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC)
Housing Plan: GVSHP has written to Mayor de Blasio about his recently announced five-borough, ten year housing plan, which is intended to create and preserve affordable housing throughout our city. The plan is a general outline with greater detail regarding how it will be implemented -- and how it would affect our neighborhoods -- still to be determined. The plan appears to be a centerpiece of the new administration's policies and planning.
The Mayor should be lauded for tackling the increasing unaffordability of New York City, and for seeking ways to address it. And we were pleased to see that a large component of the Mayor’s plan involves strategies for preserving existing affordable housing, which has been disappearing from our neighborhoods.
But a significant component of the Mayor's plan does also entail the creation and construction of new affordable housing, and calls for allowing greater density than current zoning allows at certain (as yet unspecified) locations to allow affordable housing to be built. GVSHP has reached out to the Mayor to point out that the zoning in much of our neighborhoods already allows too great a density of development, and to urge him to work closely with us and other community groups to identify which, if any, locations in our neighborhoods are appropriate for greater density. We also urged him to work closely with us and other community groups to explore options for the creation of new affordable housing that does not require increasing the allowable density of new development. Read the entire letter here.
Improving the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC): GVSHP has also reached out the Mayor and LPC Chair to suggest ways in which the LPC could work better with the public, improve the accessibility of information about landmarks applications and the status of landmarks complaints, make attending public hearings easier, and generally allow the public to get information and participate in the landmarks review process more easily.
Among these suggestions are posting updates to its Twitter feed about where the Commission is on its public hearing schedule (the Commission often runs hours behind or ahead of schedule at its public hearings, making it difficult for members of the public to participate in these hearings in the middle of a work day), providing images of landmarks applications on their website (currently one can only see the actual applications at a public hearing or by coming to the LPC the Friday before a public hearing), and posting the status of responses to landmarks violations complaints on their website. All could easily be done with existing technology and little burden upon the LPC. Read the entire letter here.