Major forum to consider West Chelsea’s future

By Albert Amateau

The future is about to unfold for the West Chelsea manufacturing district between 10th and 11th Aves. from 16th to 30th Sts., where art galleries have flourished for the past 10 years among warehouses under the derelict High Line.

Community Board 4 and the Department of City Planning will hold a public forum on rezoning the district at 7 p.m. Thurs. Sept. 18 at the Fulton Senior Center, 119 Ninth Ave.

City Planning foresees the development of at least 20 sites for a total of more than 4,000 apartments, nearly 250,000 sq. ft. of retail uses and 200,000 sq. ft. of community facility space, according to Community Board 4’s Web site, which quotes City Planning. City Planning also expects that some manufacturing uses would remain in the mid-blocks and that the High Line would be preserved as an elevated park running north to the Javits Convention Center and south to the Gansevoort Market.

Community Board 4 has suggested that a West Chelsea Special District be created to fulfill special needs and to control height and density of future development to reflect the connection between the residential areas to the east and the waterfront and the old industrial area to the west.

While City Planning has proposed that owners of property beneath the High Line be allowed to transfer development rights to adjacent space, the community board is calling for additional transfer sites to preserve the low-rise scale of the neighborhood. The board wants to preserve light and air around the railroad viaduct.

The community board also wants to control demolition of existing residential buildings and to prevent displacement of existing residents and businesses.

A substantial amount of affordable housing to be built in the West Chelsea district is a key element in the board’s agenda.

As part of the Special District, the board also wants the Landmarks Preservation Commission to establish a Chelsea Waterfront Historic District to preserve distinguished buildings and industrial streetscapes.