October 18, 2007

Robert Tierney, Chair
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
One Centre Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10007

Dear Chairman Tierney:

As the State Senator representing the area that is being studied for a proposed West Chelsea Historic District, I commend the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) for following up so expeditiously on the City Administration's commitment, during negotiations over the West Chelsea rezoning, to conduct such a study.

I am grateful to LPC's research team for its careful and extensive study, and for taking recommendations made by Manhattan Community Board Four (CB4) into account in this prospective historic district's draft, general boundaries. As you know, development pressure threatens to eliminate the many magnificent buildings in this portion of Western Chelsea that hearken to its legacy as a warehousing and manufacturing center served by street-level and elevated rail. Preservation through an historic district is crucial to maintaining the memory of West Chelsea's vital role in the development of our City and the preservation of the handsome and architecturally significant buildings which exemplify this important period of our city's economic legacy.

Beyond the draft boundaries LPC has drawn, there are four additional buildings that I believe deserve further consideration for the proposed West Chelsea Historic District. The block bounded by West 27th Street, West 28th Street, 10th Avenue and 11th Avenue, holds three of these buildings. One such building is 262 11th Avenue, between West 27th Street and West 28th Street. Its fine cornice work and its functional and architectural relation to the highly important Terminal Warehouse Central Stores building across the street make its historic value worthy of further careful examination.

Directly to the East lies the Berlin and Jones Envelope Company Building (at 547 West 27th Street), which is arguably among the most valuable and noteworthy of the buildings in the immediate area. Completed in 1900 as a warehouse, this handsome brick building stands out due to its ornamental tieplates and its wonderfully preserved original details. It would be a shame to lose this clearly eligible building, which because of its relatively small scale for the area, would inevitably be demolished if not included in the Historic District.

The E.R. Merrill Spring Company Building (at 525 West 27th Street) is another on this block that merits addition to the proposed Historic District. A block-through building, it is unique in that its West 28th Street and West 27th Street facades are radically different. The West 28th Street view shows three stories of handsome brickwork that alone should qualify it for inclusion and would tie the Historic District to the streets to the north, which have their own industrial rail history. The West 27th Street face has three tiered, step-down stories, culminating in a one-story former loading dock at the property line. It is very interesting as it conforms in use with other loading docks in the proposed District, but contrasts with the others' larger size. Once again, the very low scale of this building makes it a very likely candidate for demolition unless it is protected.

On the Southern end of the proposed West Chelsea Historic District lies 516 West 25th Street, a small building full of detail and clearly compatible with those buildings to its north that have been proposed for inclusion. Unfortunately, a rooftop addition has partly marred its value, but I believe the building is still significant. In any case, the buildingfs addition serves as a warning of the areafs high development pressure, and a cautionary note that all buildings in the area should be considered at risk.

These four buildings, I believe, are not only historically and architectural worthy in their own right, but also close enough in both character and physical proximity to the proposed West Chelsea Historic District to deserve inclusion. In addition, as CB4 has noted before, there are buildings to the north as far as West 30th Street that are stellar examples and reminders of the industrial rail history of the area. While they are too far north to be considered for the Historic District, they should be studied for individual designation as landmarks in the near future. This area is very close to Hudson Yards, for which there is planned significant development and investment that would make these buildings extremely vulnerable.

I would like to stress again how pleased I am that LPC has set such a fast timetable for following up on the City's commitment after the West Chelsea rezoning, even while I am asking for specific additions to the proposed West Chelsea Historic District. As the West Side Yards are covered over, the most striking visible reminder of what West Chelsea was will be lost. The West Chelsea Historic District will be all that is left to remind and educate present and generations to come of West Chelsea's valued and significant past for our city.

Thank you for your time and consideration. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please contact my office at (212) 633-8052.


Thomas K. Duane

New York State Senate
29th District

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