Championing Chelsea (Market) Change

With summer almost gone and fall just ahead, September 5 seemed an appropriate time for the City Planning Commission (CPC) to weigh in on the proposal by Jamestown Properties to vertically expand its iconic Chelsea Market property. Seasons change, and plans evolve.

Jamestown’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application now sits with the City Council, which has just a few more weeks to reach a decision and bring this long, contentious process to a close.

We support the plan and hope to see the City Council approve it — with all the agreed upon changes, and some additions of their own.

The suggested ULURP alterations that emerged from vetting by Community Board 4 (CB4), Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and the CPC were the products of forward-thinking leadership and imperfect but reasonable compromise. They were also the result of many well-attended public forums where issues raised by community groups and local residents compelled the applicant to make aesthetic and economic concessions. We applaud all involved for the long hours and hard work they’ve invested in this process.

By the time the plan was voted on by the CPC, the alterations agreed to by Jamestown addressed concerns regarding the quality of life for both residents and visitors to the High Line. The criteria that visual elements of the project complement the character of the neighborhood will, we hope, streamline future development by compelling ULURP applicants to incorporate community standards into their initial design — and provide an equitable amount of benefits to the area they wish to become a part of.

The City Council now has, in its hands, a scenario that meets many concerns of the community while allowing for the sort of economic growth and physical change that is a reality of urban living. The zoning variances necessary to allow the Jamestown plan are unprecedented — but so are the concessions agreed to by the applicant.

The eleventh hour addition of funding for affordable housing was an unexpected and welcome change to the plan. Just as surprising, but somewhat disheartening, is the refusal of community groups to demonstrate the same capacity for compromise that they’ve demanded from Jamestown. By continuing to petition Quinn to reject the project outright (a highly unlikely scenario this late in the game), they risk parlaying the cards of righteous indignation and steadfast opposition into a losing hand.

Fighting the good fight is noble, and necessary. But it is now apparent that some form of construction is likely to take place atop Chelsea Market. This is the point at which the combined assets of the opposition’s knowledge, passion and influence should be put towards securing the most amount of public good that can be wrung from the process. If the same uncompromising strategy persists, it will be difficult to take seriously an opponent’s rightful place at the bargaining table when the next proposed change comes to Chelsea.

As we look to the City Council to complete the URULP process, we hope that Speaker Quinn (with both her Chelsea constituents and mayoral ambitions in mind) will compel the council to put their own stamp on this project.

Ensuring landmark status for the original building and securing an even larger Jamestown donation for the affordable housing provision are within the council’s sphere of influence, and worthy additions to the CB4 and CPC contributions. Additional community “gets” might include job training necessary for locals to secure employment with the incoming tech companies.

Led by CB4, all of this project’s stakeholders have fought hard to create a solution that allows for a strong tomorrow built on the ideals of the past.

We urge Speaker Quinn and the City Council to secure these improvements — then approve this project.

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