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Preservationists: New Tall Buildings Will Block High Line Views

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Preservationists have been taking issue in recent days with developments they say will block the open views of the High Line.

On its "Off the Grid" blog, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation complained that the southern end of the High Line in the Meatpacking District will soon "transform dramatically."

Currently, the south end of the High Line is "bathed in sunlight" with panoramic views of the low-rise Meatpacking District to the east and the Hudson River to the west, the society said. But work was soon set to begin as of January on a 175-foot, glass-walled office tower just to the east of the High Line at 437 W. 13th St., and to the west, a developer has planned a 199-foot building between 13th and 14th streets along the High Line.

Between the new buildings and two existing buildings – the Standard Hotel, 848 Washington St., and the High Line Building, 450 W. 14th St. – "one will be surrounded on all four sides by glass and concrete high-rises" in what is now the area with the open vista, the society said in "Off the Grid."

The society complained further that the city cut out the sites for the four tall buildings from the Gansevoort Market Historic District, a designation that the society itself proposed in the early 2000s.

While the Landmarks Preservation Commission exercises control over demolition and construction in the historic district, the fact that these buildings were excluded meant the old Swifts Meats Building could be demolished and replaced with the Standard Hotel, and the High Line Building could be erected as an addition on top of the old New York Central Building at 450 W. 14th St., the society said.

The Atlas Meats Building at 437 W. 13th St. was also demolished recently, and the owners of the remaining buildings at 40-56 Tenth Ave. are also seeking permission to clear the space and build a new building 34 percent larger than current zoning allows, the society said. The society claimed that such a building "would be more than large enough to completely block off views to the west from the High Line."

"So if you like the openness you can now experience at the southern end of the High Line, enjoy it while you can," the society said in its blog. "It won't be around much longer."

The Standard Hotel has generated controversy since it opened, but not because of its height. The hotel made headlines last September, due to its 18th-floor restroom with an 18th-floor bathroom with 10-foot-high ceiling-to-floor windows that allow people on the street to look up and see Boom Boom Room clubgoers relieving themselves.

Black curtains were later installed in the restrooms, according to published reports.

Meanwhile, the High Line itself is also set for an upgrade, with work underway to extend the linear park from 30th Street to the Javits Convention Center. The first phase of the face lift is expected to open in 2014.

Do you think the new buildings will ruin the views on the High Line? Please leave your comments below...

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