Proposed Tower A Challenge To Neighborhood's Past
A development project in the Meatpacking District is raising concerns from residents over the impact it will have on the neighborhood's architectural direction. NY1's Rebecca Spitz filed the following report.
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
The site on the corner of West 13th Street and Washington Street is at the heart of another clash between the community and the forces of change.
At issue is whether or not a developer can put up a retail and office tower -- one that's significantly larger than zoning currently allows.
"We feel that the fabric of the building that we're proposing will enhance the neighborhood and enhance the commerce in the neighborhood," said Developer Darryl Romanoff.
Romanoff says the project can't turn a profit without special permission to put up a building 12 stories high instead of nine. He says not only are there problems with lead contamination and poor soil, there's also the High Line -- the much anticipated park that's opening soon on a long-abandoned train trestle that runs through the neighborhood.
"There's a significant cost related to having the High Line eclipse a portion of the property," said Romanoff.
Since the High Line goes through part of the site, Romanoff says he can only build up, not out.
The proposed project, meanwhile, is already generating controversy throughout the neighborhood.
"It's going to be a 215 foot tall glass walled building with a huge big box retail space in the bottom and that's just really not what the Meatpacking District is. It's not giant huge office towers, it's not retail emporia," said City Preservationist Andrew Berman.
Berman's concerns were echoed by some residents who testified Tuesday before the city's Board of Standards and Appeals.
They suggest that each new building steals a piece of the area's identity.
"Since 1966 when I first bought my house, the changes have been tremendous and I have to kind of laugh to myself that they're still calling it the Meat District," said Richard Merryman, a Meatpacking District resident.
The Romanoff family has been in the Meat Packing District for 80 years -- first working, then building there.
As the neighborhood has transitioned from brick warehouses to glass mid-rises, people who've worked with the family say it is committed to the area's success.
"We can't fight progress, this is progress and we're going to have a beautiful building to show for that," said Meatpacking District Initiative Executive Director Annie Washburn.
It will be a little while before residents know what kind of building will go up on the site, as BSA members raised a lot of questions for the developers. It is expected to get some answers when the hearing continues on June 16th.