New project poses challenge to Market District

By Elizabeth O’Brien

The newly designated Gansevoort Market Historic District appeared to fend off its first construction challenge on Tuesday at a city landmarks hearing where a six-story building was proposed for 36-40 Gansevoort St.

Community members who testified against the project objected to the proposed building’s height, proportions and design. Not only was the building too tall and bulky, but the glassy design of the upper floors would also be out of context with the neighborhood, said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. The proposed building would have commercial and retail uses, he added.

Berman said he was heartened by city commissioners’ comments at the hearing, which echoed concerns raised by the community.

“This district has a truly unique feel to it and we’re very glad the commissioners indicated that anything new must respect that,” Berman said.

No final decision was reached at Tuesday’s hearing, Berman said. Building representatives were told to rethink parts of the design and come back before the commission, he said.

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Gansevoort Market Historic District last month. Its parameters are 14th and 15th Sts. on the north, Horatio St. on the south, West St. on the west and Hudson St. on the east.

New construction and modifications to existing buildings are restricted in historic districts. The owner of 36-40 Gansevoort St. can propose a new building on the site, currently home to a two-story building, because the original building was marked as a “no-style” structure that does not contribute to the character of the district, Berman said.

Jo Hamilton, co-chairperson of Save Gansevoort Market, said she was “thrilled” with the outcome of Tuesday’s hearing. While no decisions were reached, the commission indicated that it wanted to proceed slowly with the first application for new construction since the district was designated, she said.

Hamilton stressed that community members understand there will be development in the area: They just want to ensure that construction proceeds in keeping with the character of the historic neighborhood.

“You know something is going up” on the site, Hamilton said. “But it’s such an important site — whatever the commissioners approve is going to have big implications for the future.”

A spokesperson for the Landmarks Preservation Commission did not return a call for comment. A representative of 36-40 Gansevoort St. did not return a call for comment.