The Gansevoort Street developers claim that their plan to demolish two buildings and build massively tall new structures is historically appropriate because it would restore Gansevoort Street to its pre-1930’s residential architecture. This misleading argument is clearly driven by their desire to permit the largest and most profitable buildings on this site. In 2003, the Landmarks Preservation Commission chose to landmark Gansevoort Street in its current low-scale market configuration, the form in which it has existed for the past 75 years. The Commission did so for good reason.
The LPC’s designation report is very clear: the Gansevoort Market Historic District – and the Gansevoort block in particular – was designated to preserve the area’s unique market character and history. The Gansevoort block is the only remaining intact block consisting entirely of one- and two-story market buildings in the Historic District.
The 1930’s alteration of the Gansevoort buildings from residential to low-scale market structures, as the designation report explicitly states, represents an essential phase in the district’s history: a time when the market expanded due to innovative new transportation projects and great economic change.
The designation report states that “one of the district’s unique qualities is that earlier buildings were retained and altered to market uses.” The designation report further states that in the 1930’s, “The unusually wide Gansevoort Street assumed its distinctive character of low-rise market buildings with metal canopies at this time, largely through such newly-adapted structures… [as] No. 60-68 (five 1880-81 tenements), reduced to a two-story market building in 1940.” As the designation report emphasizes, “The market buildings in the Gansevoort Market Historic District are among the last remaining examples of this once-popular building type in Manhattan.” The market buildings of the Gansevoort block in their current form exemplify precisely the history and character that the Landmark designation is intended to protect. They should be preserved for posterity, not demolished or transformed beyond recognition.
Any changes to this block must be in keeping with the characteristics described in the designation report. The developer can’t just randomly pick any period from the district’s past as the basis for his proposal. Otherwise, one might equally well argue that the street should be restored to Indian Long Houses, which are what stood in this location when the village of Sapokanican existed on this very site in the 17th Century:
Furthermore, let’s get the facts straight. The developers’ proposed structures would be nearly twice as tall as the 5-story tenements they claim they wish to replicate. The pre-1930’s buildings were almost certainly no higher than 60′. The new structures would be 98′ and 120′ tall (including mechanicals). This is in part because the new structures would be 6 and 8-stories tall, not 5-stories, and partly because of the new structures’ extremely large 14-15′ floor-to-ceiling heights. (Because of these tall floor-to-ceiling heights it’s highly misleading to describe the new structures in terms of the number of stories they contain.)
Please send an email to the Landmarks Preservation Commission asking that they honor the history of Gansevoort Street and preserve it as a low-scale market street.
For more information, please see The Wrong Plan in the Wrong Place.