Gansevoort Market named one of New York State’s “Seven to Save”
Fate of Historic Neighborhood Hinges on Upcoming City Decisions on High Rise Development and Historic District Designation
The Gansevoort Meat Market district in northwestern Greenwich Village, proposed as a New York City landmark historic district by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), was named one of New York State’s ‘Seven to Save’ today (see attached map of district). Gansevoort Market is the only site in the New York City metropolitan region to be so named. The “Seven to Save’ list is the annual catalogue issued by the Preservation League of New York State of the most important endangered historic sites in New York State.
“Gansevoort Market is historic, it is unique, and without quick action by the City, it is about to be destroyed,” stated GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman. “The City must deny the request to build a 400 ft.-tall luxury residential hi-rise tower in the area, approve the proposed historic district protections for the neighborhood, and help the wholesale meat and food businesses that have called this area home for over 150 years to stay here. If we lose Gansevoort Market now, a unique part of New York’s history, its character, and its economy will be gone forever,” added Berman.
On December 11, a proposal to build a 32-story, 400 ft. tall luxury residential hi-rise in the middle of the district will get a second hearing before the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA). Because current zoning does not allow residential development, BSA approval is required to build the proposed tower. However, not only would the tower destroy the scale of the neighborhood, it is widely believed that residential development would displace the existing meat businesses. It is anticipated that the inevitable complaints from the new residents of the multi-million dollar homes about noisy early morning meat truck deliveries and other essential elements of the functioning of the meat market will eventually force the remaining meat businesses out. A decision on the request is expected soon after the December 10 hearing, and a large turnout against the project, coordinated by GVSHP and other community groups, is expected.
“You’re not going to pay millions of dollars for new home and not complain about getting woken up by noisy meat trucks at 5 A.M. every morning and having to step through streets stained with animal blood and guts. And those complaints will force the long-time meat market businesses which have made this neighborhood out of the one area of Manhattan they can still call home,” stated Berman.
In early September, after a three year effort, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation submitted a proposal for designating a historic district in Gansevoort Market to protect area’s unique historic character. In early 2002, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), which must approve such designations, promised to take action on a historic district proposal for the area before the end of the year. While the LPC has stated that they are reviewing the proposal, no formal action has yet been taken.
“We are at the 11th hour,” stated Berman. “The City must act now and designate the Gansevoort Historic district. Otherwise, everything we see around us, the market neighborhood which has thrived for over 150 years, will be gone.”
GVSHP, local merchants, and elected officials have been meeting with the City to discuss ways to ensure that the meat and other wholesale food business are allowed to remain in this area. Some of the area’s market buildings are owned by the City and remain empty, though there is a demand by wholesale meat businesses for space in the neighborhood. Other privately held property is being warehoused and left vacant in the hopes that the City will allow landlords to tear down the existing market buildings and build luxury hi-rise residential buildings. GVSHP is seeking a commitment by the City not to allow residential development, to enact an historic district to prevent destruction of historic buildings, and to continue to allow and encourage wholesale food and meat businesses, which have been the backbone of this area for over 150 years, to operate here.“For 150 years, this neighborhood has served as a market neighborhood, and its cobblestoned streets, its projecting metal shed awnings, and its unique architecture make it like no place else in New York City, or the world,” noted Berman. “However, if a developer gets his way, we’ll have a 400 foot tall luxury residential hi-rise in the middle of it all. The meat businesses will be displaced, and landlords will line up to tear down their buildings and replace them with a sea of hi-rises,” added Berman.
In August, 2002, following lobbying by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the Gansevoort Market district was determined eligible for listing on the State and National register of Historic Places because the district was found to be “historically and architecturally significant.” The determination puts in place a review process for any work in the district which utilizes State of Federal funding; however, it does not regulate projects solely using private or City money, and does not prohibit the demolition of buildings. The determination of eligibility for Gansevoort Market was the first such determination of eligibility for a new area of Greenwich Village for listing on the State and National Register of Historic Places since 1969.
The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s Save Gansevoort Market project has been working for three years to secure the preservation of the Gansevoort Market district. The group has lobbied for:
Historic district designation to preserve the built character of the neighborhood
Denial of applications to build residential buildings in the district
The New York City Planning Commission and Department of Business Services to formulate measures to ensure that Gansevoort Market’s unique mix of businesses can remain in the area
Listing of the area on the National Register of Historic Places, which would provide tax incentives and grants to property owners seeking to maintain or restore their historic properties.
The Save Gansevoort Market effort has involved a coalition of residents, businesses, preservationists, community leaders, and elected officials. GVSHP’s Save Gansevoort Market effort has generated over 5,000 postcards and letters to City officials in support of this preservation effort, and in favor of immediate designation of a Gansevoort Market historic district.
“We are deeply grateful to the Preservation League of New York State for recognizing the value of saving the Gansevoort Market neighborhood – we hope that the City will also see the wisdom of preserving this, Manhattan’s last remaining market neighborhood,” stated GVHP Executive Director Andrew Berman. “This support comes on top pf the strong support we have from local elected officials such as State Senator Tom Duane, City Council Member Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, and Assembly Member Glick and Congress Member Nadler. It also comes on top of support from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Municipal Arts Society, the Landmarks Conservancy, the Historic Districts Council, the American Institute of Architects NY Chapter, and Community Boards 2 & 4, Manhattan.”
The Preservation League of New York State has also provided financial support for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s Save Gansevoort Market effort, including a grant from Preserve New York, a grant program of the Preservation League of New York State and the New York State Council on the Arts.