70 years ago in The Villager

By Albert Amateau

Volume 73, Number 24 | October 15 – 21, 2003

Meat Market hotel tower is branded a Trojan horse

Even as the Gansevoort Market Historic District was moving toward final approval, preservationists and elected officials this week protested at the site of a proposed high-rise hotel on the western edge of the Meat Market that was excluded from the historic district.

The Tues. Oct. 14 demonstration, organized by Save Gansevoort Market and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, took place at 848 Washington St. in the low-rise manufacturing district where the developer Stephen Touhey is proposing a slender 32-story hotel tower designed by a prominent French architect, Jean Nouvel.

Andrew Berman, head of G.V.S.H.P., joined by Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, City Councilmember Christine Quinn, State Sen. Tom Duane and Assemblymember Deborah Glick along with members of the meatpackers union, urged Mayor Bloomberg to stop the Department of Buildings from issuing a permit for a project he called a “Trojan horse.”

Preservationists contend that residential development threatens the continued existence of the meat wholesale firms and several nightclubs in the manufacturing zone of the meatpacking neighborhood.

Touhey had applied last year to the Board of Standards and Appeals for a variance to allow a residential tower in the low-rise manufacturing zone. But he withdrew the request early this year because the B.S.A. was about to turn him down.

Instead, Touhey told the buildings department the Nouvel tower would be a transient hotel with less than 49 percent of the units for “apartments to be used in conjunction with the transient hotel and available for long-term occupancy,” and thus would comply with zoning

The department ruled on Jan. 16 that the proposal was “O.K. to accept” after a review by department counsel. Berman on Tuesday denounced the ruling.

“With the Department of Buildings’ help, the developer is trying to sneak a 450-ft.-tall Trojan horse into the Meatpacking District and we are here to expose that fraud,” said Berman.

Ilyse Fink, spokesperson for the Department of Buildings, said, however, “In the opinion of department counsel, the zoning resolution does allow long-term apartments as part of a transient hotel.” In any case, the opinion was not a permit to build and the developer has not yet submitted a full application, Fink added.

Berman, however, believes the department intends to expedite a permit for what many people deem an inappropriate building. He said the developer’s new proposal was “a scam and a sham” to evade zoning regulations and would also compromise the integrity of the adjacent low-rise Gansevoort Historic District.

The Nouvel tower would incorporate a stretch of the derelict High Line, the elevated railroad viaduct that runs from Gansevoort to 34th Sts.

Meanwhile, the City Planning Department has endorsed the idea of converting the High Line into an elevated park for a proposed West Chelsea Special District that would accommodate new residential development and maintain a manufacturing zone to encourage art galleries.

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