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April 29th, 2003

Gansevoort Market

by SoHo Journal Staff

The valuable efforts of GVSHP-The Greenwich Village Society for historical Preservation- To save an historical community in lower Manhattan.

The dangerous plan for a luxury, 433 ft. tall residential hi-rise in the heart of the Meat Market has returned. Such a building would not only shatter the scale of the proposed Gansevoort Market Historic District, but the luxury residential use would force out the existing meat businesses and other businesses which make the unique mix of this neighborhood.

The project must come before the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) for approval because the current zoning for the area does not allow residential uses.

The Gansevoort Meat Market district in northwestern Greenwich Village, proposed as a New York City landmark historic district by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), was named one of New York State’s “Seven to Save” on November 19th, 2002. Gansevoort Market is the only site in the New York City metropolitan region to be so named. The “Seven to Save” list is the annual catalogue issued by the Preservation League of New York State of the most important endangered historic sites in New York State.

“Gansevoort Market is historic, it is unique, and without quick action by the City, it is about to be destroyed,” stated GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman. “The City must deny the request to build a 400 ft.-tall luxury residential hi-rise tower in the area, approve the proposed historic district protections for the neighborhood, and help the wholesale meat and food businesses that have called this area home for over 150 years to stay here. If we lose Gansevoort Market now, a unique part of New York’s history, its character, and its economy will be gone forever,” added Berman.

In early September of last year, after a three year effort, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation submitted a proposal for designating a historic district in Gansevoort Market to protect the area’s unique historic character.

In early 2002, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), which must approve such designations, promised to take action on a historic district proposal for the area before the end of the year. While the LPC has stated that they are reviewing the proposal, no formal action has yet been taken.

“We are at the 11th hour,” stated Berman. “The City must act now and designate the Gansevoort Historic district. Otherwise, everything we see around us, the market neighborhood which has thrived for over 150 years, will be gone.”

GVSHP, local merchants, and elected officials have been meeting with the City to discuss ways to ensure that the meat and other wholesale food business are allowed to remain in this area. Some of the area’s market buildings are owned by the City and remain empty, though there is a demand by wholesale meat businesses for space in the neighborhood. Other privately held property is being warehoused and left vacant in the hopes that the City will allow landlords to tear down the existing market buildings and build luxury hi-rise residential buildings. GVSHP is seeking a commitment by the City not to allow residential development, to enact an historic district to prevent destruction of historic buildings, and to continue to allow and encourage wholesale food and meat businesses, which have been the backbone of this area for over 150 years, to operate here.

“For 150 years, this neighborhood has served as a market neighborhood, and its cobblestoned streets, its projecting metal shed awnings, and its unique architecture make it like no place else in New York City, or the world,” noted Berman.

In August, 2002, following lobbying by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the Gansevoort Market district was determined eligible for listing on the State and National register of Historic Places because the district was found to be “historically and architecturally significant.”

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s Save Gansevoort Market project has been working for three years to secure the preservation of the Gansevoort Market district. The group has lobbied for:

a. historic district designation to preserve the built character of the neighborhood-

b. denial of applications to build residential buildings in the district-

c. the New York City Planning Commission and Department of Business Services to formulate measures to ensure that Gansevoort Market’s unique mix of businesses can remain in the area-

d. listing of the area on the National Register of Historic Places, which would provide tax incentives and grants to property owners seeking to maintain or restore their historic properties.

The Save Gansevoort Market effort has involved a coalition of residents, businesses, preservationists, community leaders, and elected officials. GVSHP’s Save Gansevoort Market effort has generated over 5000 postcards and letters to City officials in support of this preservation effort, and in favor of immediate designation of a Gansevoort Market historic district. The needs of the Gansevoort Market area are indicative of the needs of many of Lower Manhattan and New York’s older, industrial, and formerly industrial neighborhoods, like Soho, Tribeca, and Hudson Square — enforcement of existing zoning laws, sensible planning which separates out incompatible uses, a preservation ethic which includes not only preserving the shells of buildings but, where appropriate, the functions which shaped that neighbiorhood and continue to contribute to the economic lifeblood of the city.

-SJ

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