Sunday, September 14, 2014

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Residents Blast Plans to Build Over Chelsea Church

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TWC News: Residents Blast Plans to Build Over Chelsea Church
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Some Chelsea residents gathered Sunday to voice their opposition to a local church's decision to sell its air rights to an apartment developer. NY1's Mahsa Saeidi filed the following report.

Inside the French Evangelical Church in Chelsea on Sunday, parishioners prayed and song filled the air:

Outside was a different story. Residents gathered on the sidewalk, upset about plans for an 11 story residential building at 124 West 16th Street.

"Enough of these fake air rights!" shouted one protester.

Einhorn Development Group says the plan to build the 14 residential units has been fully approved, and the foundation is in place.

"It's just atrocious," said one resident.

"Outrage I think sums it up pretty well," said another resident.

"The idea as you can see here is not to cantilever, but really to encase this church in concrete," said Jennifer Ollman of Save 16th Street Coalition.

That, residents say, along with the architectural style, is visually unappealing and out of context with the block. Moreover they say the building will tower above nearby apartments, most of which are six stories or fewer. And so they came holding umbrellas.

"It's symbolic for the way this building is going to loom over all of us, shading us," said one resident.

"This is not something that happened overnight. This has been in the works and in consultation with the Presbytery of New York for the last eight years," said Pastor Charles Atkins Jr. of the French Evangelical Church.

Atkins Jr. says the church sold its air rights and the now demolished building next door. The sale, the pastor says, was necessary to upkeep the church which dates back to 1835.

"That building was falling apart. It became a hazard, but we as a church did not have the funds necessary to renovate it," the pastor said.

Atkins Jr. says this also helps the church continue its work in the community and globally and offered up a message for his neighbors.

"We love you with the love of Christ, we are here to keep on as this church has done for the last century, to continue to work with and enhance this community," Atkins Jr. said.

Residents say at a meeting with the developer last year, they were told the building would be only six stories. It wasn't until last month that they saw the new plans, which they just refuse to accept.

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