City Council held a public hearing this morning, giving neighborhood residents a chance to air their grievances about Jamestown Properties' proposed Chelsea Market expansion. They had many, the most common of which included the increased traffic congestion the project would bring, the affordable housing funding that had already been promised in the 2005 West Chelsea rezoning (more on this later), and the large addition that would block out the skyline and, in their view, compromise a building that contains both architectural and historic (birthplace of the Oreo!) significance. Jamestown, for their part, touted the jobs that the project would create, the fact that it would further establish the area as the city's tech and media center, and the money that would be provided to affordable housing and the High Line. They brought along a large group of union workers who support the project as well as High Line co-founder Joshua David, who made clear that he is for both jobs and the High Line getting millions of dollars.
"I'm very happy there will be public art [displayed]. Perhaps it will be of views of the sky." ?Assembly Member Deborah Glick
The two things said by Jamestown's lawyer that prompted the most sarcastic guffaws from the audience:
On the increase in traffic congestion: "We do not think it will cause any impact."
On what percentage of the community's concerns were addressed: "We acted on about 90 percent."
Least Interested in Public Testimony:
Every City Council member other than the chair of the committee, who all left as soon as the public testimony began
Best Description of Jamestown That Made Them Seem Like the Villain in an Indiana Jones Movie:
"The deep pocketed and greedy German developer." ?neighborhood resident
Best Seafood Related Quip:
"My wife used to shop [at Chelsea Market]. She no longer does. She says it costs too many clams to buy a scallop." ?neighborhood resident
Best Reaction to Public Testimony:
"I gotta wrap you up. We're gonna get you a job reading disclaimers at the ends of drug ads, though." ?Chair Mark Weprin to a neighborhood resident who (unsuccessfully) attempted to power through his testimony in under two minutes by reciting it as quickly as possible
While the opposition to the proposal had signs, the union members had signs and tee-shirts, and they also staged a mini-rally outside the building prior to the hearing. The opposition, however, made much more use of their signs during the meeting, and were in general way more vocal. They also outnumbered the people speaking in support by a significant margin. (Full disclosure: life being relatively short, we left after 28 people had spoken.)
A Little More About That Affordable Housing Thing:
During the 2005 West Chelsea rezoning, developers cut a deal where for each square foot of new development, $50 would be donated to the West Chelsea Affordable Housing Fund. However, as Jamestown's lawyer explained it, that was "more of an option," where money could be donated to the High Line instead. Hence, as it stands today, the West Chelsea Affordable Housing Fund is holding steady at zero dollars. This is troubling to affordable housing advocates. However, as a condition of Community Board 4's tenuous approval, the money Jamestown would be required to donate from the first 80,000 square feet (around $4.7 million ? it's now up to $59.70 per square foot) would go to the Affordable Housing Fund. And then the rest ($12.8 million) would go to the High Line Fund.
The City Council's deadline for voting on the proposal is November 2.
· Chelsea Market coverage [Curbed]