Successes and challenges in moving ahead on Gansevoort Market Historic District
Late 2002 promises to be a critical time for our campaign to preserve the history, scale, and character of the Gansevoort Market neighborhood, Manhattan’s last remaining historic market district.
Last fall we presented the New York City Landmarks Preservation (LPC) Commission with a persuasive argument, prepared by architectural historian Thomas Mellins and funded by Preserve NY (a grant program of the NY State Preservation League and NY State Council on the Arts), for the area’s historical and architectural significance. Since then, we have met regularly with the LPC Chair and staff to update them on our efforts and meet their requests for informationnecessary to move forward on consideration of a district designation. As a result, we are presenting them with thorough building-by-building research on the entire district, photo-documentation and current use surveys of all buildings, and documentation of the area’s critical industrial history.
Early this year, the LPC Commissioner committed to take action in Gansevoort by the second half of 2002. Our completed case for designation will be submitted to the Commission in early September. It is our hope that shortly thereafter the Commission will vote to calendar our proposed Gansevoort Historic District for a formal hearing.
We also hope to meet with the Department of City Planning to discuss zoning tools which, in addition to landmarking, could be helpful to preserve Gansevoort’s unique character. We have taken senior staff at the Department of Business Services Commissioner on a tour of the area, to demonstrate Gansevoort’s vital and diverse small business base and to work with them to formulate ways to protect it. In July, we secured a determination of eligibility for Gansevoort Market for listing on the State and National Register of Historic Places, which can provide some protection for the area, along with incentives and assistance for building preservation. This is the first determination of eligibility for a new area of Greenwich Village for listing on the National Register in over a generation. (Click here for more information.) We will be filing an extensive application for listing of the entire district in the fall (this is the first determination of eligibility for a new area of Greenwich Village for listing on the Register in over a generation). Lastly, Council Member Christine Quinn has requested on our behalf that the City’s Independent Budget Office prepare an analysis of Gansevoort’s economic output and growth, especially from its industrial base, to help make the case for preserving the businesses which provide the area’s 1,000+ blue-collar jobs.
Meanwhile, we continue to firm up support for our campaign among preservationists and elected officials citywide, and have demonstrated our broad public support with over 5,000 postcards sent to the LPC by individuals supporting our historic district designation plan. We have also been successful in keeping a high profile for Gansevoort in the mainstream and preservation press, securing coverage in the New York Times, on ABC News, and in Preservation Magazine, among others. We have also produced a 28-page self-guided walking tour booklet of the neighborhood, highlighting the area’s unique features and further building a constituency for its preservation, (call the GVSHP office at (212) 475-9585 if you desire a copy).
Of course, the threats to the district which originally spawned this campaign continue. The proposal for a 32-story, 400-foot tall luxury high-rise development at 848 Washington Street (at 13th Street) remains under consideration by the City’s Board of Standards and Appeals. However, our strong opposition and that of a broad range of community leaders, elected officials, and even the City’s own Department of City Planning, has delayed any further movement on that proposal. We are keeping a watchful eye on that process. To our disappointment, the City’s Department of Environmental Protection has decided not to use the parking lot, located between Gansevoort, Hudson, 13th Street and 9th Avenue, as a staging area for water tunnel construction. This would have precluded development on the site for some time and possibly facilitated the development of a park there, a prospect which we strongly supported. Instead, the parking lot site has been cleared and the property owner has resurrected a plan for a hotel development. We are working closely with our local elected officials and the Community Board to see if the City acted appropriately in reversing its original decision to use this site, and will closely monitor the situation and any new development plans. Beyond that, several alterations and additions to buildings in the district have moved forward or been announced recently, underscoring the need for designation quickly in order to ensure that building changes maintain the area’s distinctive and historic character.
We have begun a new postcard campaign calling upon the LPC to immediately schedule a hearing for designation. Kicked off at the Meat Markets’ Annual Bastille Day celebration, our postcard campaign gathered hundreds of signatures in its very first day. If you would like hard copies of the postcard for yourself or to distribute, please contact us at (212) 475-9585.
We ask that you please send short note or letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair and the Mayor expressing similar sentiments. You can use as a model (or print out) the letters accessible below.
The next few months will be critical to building on these efforts and securing the protections the Gansevoort Market area needs. If we do not succeed now, we may not get a second chance to save this unique and treasured part of New York.
We hope that you will continue to remain interested in our efforts, and we expect to have more developments, and hopefully more successes, to report to you soon.