City Council Committee Approves Chelsea Market Upzoning

Earlier today, the City Council’s Land Use Committee voted to approve Jamestown Properties’ requested upzoning of Chelsea Market to allow the construction of two large towers atop the historic complex (Councilmember Charles Barron voted against, and Councilmember Rosie Mendez abstained). While the full Council will not vote until the 30th, the votes of the Land Use Committee are virtually always approved by the Council, and in this case reflect an agreement reached by Council Speaker Quinn, who represents the area.

We are disappointed in the Council’s vote; GVSHP and a broad coalition of community, preservation, and housing groups had urged the Council to disapprove the upzoning, which will result in large towers being added to the 9th and 10th Avenue ends with about 300,000 sq. ft. of office space.

In response to the concerns that we and others raised about the important historic quality of the Chelsea Market complex, the Council integrated into their approval requirements to preserve the existing buildings, arguing that under the current zoning Chelsea Market could be torn down and replaced with a taller building. While this is theoretically true, under the current zoning any new building would actually have to be smaller (if not necessarily shorter) than the existing Chelsea Market buildings, and thus we believe it would be very unlikely the buildings would ever be torn down and replaced. While including these preservation provisions in the plan is better than not including them, we believe the best way to have preserved the historic Chelsea Market complex would have been to deny the upzoning, maintain the current zoning, and not allow these large towers to be erected on top of it.

I want to thank everyone who wrote and testified against the plan, including Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Richard Gottfried. While we did not ultimately get the result we hoped for in this case — a rejection of the upzoning — through the process the size of the planned development was scaled back somewhat and the design made less outlandish. None of this would have been possible without your help and support.

October 25, 2012