By Andrew Berman
More than 100 people attended an October 15 Community Board public hearing on an application to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for some pretty dramatic changes to the south side of Gansevoort Street in the Gansevoort Market Historic District. Located on the block between Washington and Greenwich Streets, the proposal seeks to demolish two buildings, replace them with exponentially larger ones, and build additions atop several others, more than quadrupling their height. The public sentiment at the hearing was unanimous in opposition, and the Community Board has come out strongly against the proposal.
But the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) will ultimately decide the fate of this proposal. Low-rise, cobblestoned Gansevoort Street, with its uniquely intact ensemble of market buildings, is at the heart of the Gansevoort Market Historic (landmark) District, which the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation first proposed in 2000, and which many, many successfully fought to secure designation of in 2003. It forms a gateway to the High Line, the new Whitney Museum, the Hudson River Park, and the West Village. The LPC will occasionally allow demolition of “non-contributing” buildings in a historic district, and new construction or additions if it deems them “appropriate” to the area’s character and to the site. The Commission has been especially liberal in its allowances in the Gansevoort Market district, on the premise that many of its buildings have evolved and changed over time, and should continue to be allowed to evolve and change.
We agree. But there’s ‘change,’ and then there’s complete and utter obliteration.
The proposed development would eliminate two market buildings which are an integral part of the history of this street, in one case replacing a one-story building with a 122 ft. tall one. A row of four intact two-story market buildings would have four stories added on top of them, bring their height to 98 feet, subsuming the historic buildings and the market character which defined the street.
Surely none of this could be considered consistent with landmark designation. But the developer claims they have met with the Landmarks Preservation Commission and received initial positive feedback about the proposal. What the Commission thinks, and decides, will only become clear through the public hearing process, which is scheduled to begin on November 10th.
If approved, the proposed developments would not only destroy the scale and sense of place of Gansevoort Street, but undermine the entire meaning and purpose of landmark designation, which protects so much of Greenwich Village from inappropriate demolition and out-of-scale, out-of-character new development.
As we go to press, the public hearing on the plan is tentatively scheduled for November 10. To find out more about the proposal and confirm hearing dates, go to www.gvshp.org/gansevoort. To send letters to city officials on opposition to the proposal, go to www.gvshp.org/savegansevoort. And to view the full proposal, go to www.gvshp.org/gansplans.
Andrew Berman is the Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.