Challenge to Landmarks’ Approval of Gansevoort Redevelopment Fails

Blockfront on Gansevoort Street in Meatpacking District. Image credit: GoogleMaps

Landmarks Commission approved redevelopment of five buildings in the Gansevoort Market Historic District. On June 7, 2016, the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted, in a divided decision, to award Certificates of Appropriateness to redevelop a block face in the Gansevoort Market Historic District between Greenwich and Washington Streets in Manhattan. The work, spanning five buildings and three tax lots, entailed the construction of three additional stories onto a two-story building at 60-68 Gansevoort Street, a new 82-foot-high building  at the corner of Washington Street replacing  a bus depot, and a new four-story building replacing a former market structure at 50 Gansevoort Street. The project also included the restoration of a Moderne-style market building, and the retention of historic facades. The developer lowered the height of one building and altered facade arrangements to better integrate with historic architecture, after comments by commissioner after the initial hearing.

The application was widely opposed by elected officials, area residents and preservation advocates.

Save Gansevoort LLC and the Historic Districts Council filed an article 78 petition challenging the approval, arguing that Landmarks permitted changes so significant that they altered not just the subject buildings, but the entire character of the historic district as a market district. The petitioners claimed that approving such work was tantamount to rescinding or redefining the historic district designation without going through the necessary procedures as defined in the Landmarks Law.  The petitioners contended that the district’s history as a market was intended to be protected by designation. Jay Shockley, formerly of the Landmarks’ Commissions research department and the author of the original Gansevoort designation report, agreed with the petitioners in an affidavit.

Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Joan B. Lobis dismissed the petition. In an Article 78 challenge, a court may only overturn the decision of a City agency if it is irrational, an abuse of discretion, or a violation of its legal duty. Judge Lobis noted that Landmarks held a hearing that spanned a full day and more, that the commissioners discussed the project’s impact at length, and that the develop adopted changes to make the project’s design and scale more consistent with district.  The agency’s review was not cursory or irrational. Lobis further noted that in a district composed of 104 buildings, the demolition of two did not amount to a rescission of the district’s designation.

Save Gansevoort LLC v. City, 2017 N.Y. Slip Op. 30563(U) (N.Y.Cty.Sup.Ct. Mar. 27, 2017) (Attorneys: Michael Hiller, for Save Gansevoort; Zachary W. Carter, Sheryl Neufeld, Mark W. Muschenheim, Mark A. Silberman, for City; Karen Binder, for Developers).

By: Jesse Denno (Jesse is a full-time staff writer at the Center for NYC Law).

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