On W. 14th St., greenery to replace grittiness

A design rendering showing new tree planters slated for W. 14th St. under a plan supported by the Meatpacking Business Improvement District. Courtesy Ken Smith Workshop

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | Along a stretch of 14th St. between Ninth and Tenth Aves., the Meatpacking Business Improvement District plans to add greenery planters and about a dozen trees to the wide, often empty streets on that portion of the border between the West Village and Chelsea.

“We wanted to enliven the streetscape,” said Jeffrey LeFrancois, the BID’s operations and community affairs director.

The idea, according to the Meatpacking BID, is to visually connect the “Chelsea Triangle” and Gansevoort Square to the High Line with trees and planters.

“Oftentimes, people are walking down 14th St., they get to Ninth Ave., and they see this big wide street with not a lot of life, not a lot of things going on,” Amy Tse, the BID’s neighborhood engagement director, told C.B. 2. “They do not continue walking down that street.”

The crosstown thoroughfare is slated for extensive changes this season and into next year amid the L train shutdown beginning next April 27, but LeFrancois said the BID will finish the work ahead of the subway’s shutdown.

“We’re timing it with our goal [of having] this done by the time the L train shuts down — so that way, the neighborhood is in the best possible condition it can be,” he said. LeFrancois is also a Community Board 4 member, but recused himself from votes at C.B. 4 on the issue.

Pending final approval by Boards 2 and 4, the BID will move forward on obtaining city approvals. The community boards’ Parks committees signaled support last week. However, one C.B. 2 member, Susanna Aaron, the C.B. 2 Parks and Waterfront Committee co-chairperson, questioned the entire basis of the designs.

“That part of the street is devastated, and partly because there’s no real destinations,” Aaron said. Plus, she added, the street’s historical character is industrial — not garden-like.

“To me, I feel like it brings a very corporate tinge to everything,” she objected. “It doesn’t seem to have any of the real, gritty texture.”

Ken Smith’s design firm is working with the BID on the greening project.

“We’ve tried to keep it very simple and very straightforward,” he told C.B. 2, “and we’ve tried to make it have as much grit and not be fancy to the degree that we can do that.”

One apparently gritty aspect of the design includes Cor-Ten steel planters, a metal that makes the planters appear rusty, Smith said.

“We think it fits with the Meatpacking District,” Smith said. “It will link it to the High Line and fit the character of the neighborhood.”

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