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Opponents Fear High-Rise Will Ruin Meatpacking District

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The face of Manhattan's Meatpacking District has been changing for years. Bars, restaurants and trendy shops are taking over, as rising operating costs drive the meatpackers out.

Now a proposal to build a 32-story luxury apartment building would add height and residents. But some are worried it will ruin the neighborhood's character.

“You have low buildings and you have a very strong community feel that's sort of low to the ground, and that's very different than what you find south of there and north of there,” said one resident.

The high-rise would go up on West Street, from 13th to Little West 12th streets. Developer Stephen Touhey says the architect has taken special care to preserve the open feel of the area.

“You're trying to develop a substantial amount of square footage in an area that historically has low buildings and a lot of light coming down to the street,” Touhey said. “So you can't just put a big, bulky building in the middle. You have to tie it in to what surrounds it. And we've done that by creating smaller buildings on Little West 12th Street and by keeping the height down on Washington Street and the eastern side of 13th Street.”

The developer says one of the concessions he made when designing the building was to make the entrance face the West Side Highway, so it won't interfere with the trucks loading and unloading at the meatpacking plants. The plan would also preserve a portion of the Highline railway tracks, turning it into a promenade that could one day be part of a pedestrian walkway above Chelsea.

Even so, opponents say they will turn out on December 11 for a Board of Standards and Appeals hearing to argue against allowing a residential building in the neighborhood. They say the residents of the new building, if it is built, would not fit in.

“They will complain,” said Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. “They'll demand that the truck deliveries stop. They'll complain about the smell of animal carcasses on the street as they’re brought in and out of the buildings. What you'll have is the longstanding businesses that made this neighborhood what it is forced out.”

Touhey says he has the support of five meatpacking businesses. If he gets the go-ahead from the city, he plans to start construction next fall.

- Marjie Mohtashemi
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