Chelsea Market opponents meet with Stringer reps

BY SCOTT STIFFLER  | With Community Board 4 (CB4) having recently issued a non-binding “No, Unless” verdict, Jamestown Properties’ Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application is currently snaking its way through the Borough President and the City Planning Commission en route to ultimate rejection or approval by the City Council.

On or before July 18, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer must weigh in on Jamestown’s controversial plan to vertically expand Chelsea Market by adding as much as 330,000 square feet of office and hotel space onto the iconic building’s Ninth and Tenth Avenue sides. Plenty of people opposed to the project are talking about it – but the ULURP applicant and Stringer are playing it close to the vest…for now.

Jamestown Chief Operating Officer Michael Phillips was, according to his representatives from The Marino Group, “unavailable for comment” as to whether they’ve had any recent communications with Stringer’s office, members of CB4 or groups who oppose the project. Josh Getlin, Stringer’s Director of Communications, also declined to provide any details.

In anticipation of Stringer’s impending July 18 deadline to go public with his opinion, Save Chelsea co-presidents Lesley Doyel and Justin Hoy had a July 10 meeting with four members of Stringer’s staff (Senior Advisor and Director of Digital Strategies Shaan Khan, Director of Land Use Brian Cook, Director of Community Affairs Jessica Silver and CB4 liaison David Czyzyk).

Save Chelsea was joined by Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation Executive Director Andrew Berman, outspoken blogging architect (and Save Chelsea board member) David Holowka and Paul J. Groncki (representing the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club). The group, whom Doyel refers to as the “Save Chelsea Market Task Force,” emerged further entrenched in their opposition to the project.

Immediately following the meeting, Doyel and Hoy spoke with Chelsea Now. It was, they noted, the third time in recent months that Save Chelsea and other likeminded opponents have met with the Stringer or his staff.

“I think there’s concern,” said Doyel regarding her speculative take on Stringer’s position. “I would say they feel it’s likely to happen in one form or another, but I also think they really want to be on the same page as the community. They’re concerned that whatever goes forward has community benefits aside from the High Line. They’re also very concerned about development subsequent to this project, including Pier 57. They understand how congested the area is, and that this is a densely residential neighborhood.”

Growing concerns regarding funding for affordable housing were also alluded to by Doyel, who noted that this local “get” (which was put on the plate late in the CB4 vetting process) is “an add-on that is dubious, at best.” As for the notion that the project is inevitable and some amount of capitulation is necessary to secure community benefits, Hoy asserted that his group has “no plan to shift strategies. At one end of the spectrum, you have to consider the fact that every ULURP project approved during the Bloomberg  administration has happened in some form or another. But we are philosophically opposed [to the Jamestown plan]. I don’t think there’s any time we’re going to sit down at the bargaining table. We think our last resort is the City Council, and we hope we will be the first project that was [ULURP] certified and does not get built.”

Regarding a conversation Save Chelsea had with Melanie La Rocca (Quinn’s District Office Chief of Staff), Doyel recalled that Quinn’s office “thinks it would be more beneficial to meet once it leaves City Planning and goes to the City Council, as the final stage of the ULURP process.” Doyel also said that Stringer’s office has “encouraged us to speak with the [City Council] Speaker [Christine Quinn], and I have reason to believe she may meet with us in the relatively near future.”

NOTE: This article is an expanded version of what appears in the July 11 print edition.

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