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Projects & Proposals > Resilient Neighborhoods > West Chelsea

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West Chelsea


On October 22nd, 2015, the Department of City Planning released a guide on Resilient Art Spaces, a how-to guide for the operators and owners of arts and cultural spaces on measures they can take before, during and after a storm to protect from storm damage and recover more quickly. The report is part of the agency’s work in West Chelsea under the Resilient Neighborhoods initiative and was developed in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, NYC Emergency Management, NYC Department of Small Business Services, and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. PDF Document Read the report.

As part of the Resilient Neighborhoods initiative, the Department of City Planning is working with the community in West Chelsea to identify localized planning strategies to increase the neighborhood’s ability to withstand and recover from coastal storms and flooding. West Chelsea was selected for the study not only because it was severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy, but also because of the neighborhood’s distinctive mix of land uses, unique built character, and economic vitality.

West Chelsea Map
Study Area and Flood Risk (FEMA Flood Zones)
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Community Profile

What defines the neighborhood?
The West Chelsea study area encompasses approximately 24 blocks in western Manhattan’s Community District 4. The study area is home to around 5,300 residents in 3,400 housing units.  Its land uses are diverse and include an increasing number of residential and commercial office properties, some warehouses, light manufacturing, and large utility or infrastructure facilities. Commercial uses account for approximately 76% of building floor area. Some of the neighborhood’s notable features include the High Line, a segment of Hudson River Park, and Chelsea Piers.

West Chelsea is also home to the city’s largest gallery district, with approximately 286 active galleries that contribute greatly to the area’s social vitality and economic strength. 

The area additionally includes two Landmarks Preservation Commission-designated historic districts – the formerly industrial West Chelsea Historic District and residential Chelsea Historic District.  West Chelsea is also experiencing a significant amount of new development with over 20 projects under construction.

The High Line as seen from the Chelsea Arts Building
The High Line as seen from the Chelsea Arts Building
Tenth Avenue and West 23rd Street
Tenth Avenue and West 23rd Street
Flood Risk and Neighborhood Resiliency

What type of flood risk exists?
West Chelsea, like many other areas in the flood zone, is low-lying, infill land. It is vulnerable to flooding because of its unique topography and subsurface geography. Flood risk varies across the study area due to changes in elevation. During Hurricane Sandy, flood levels of 6 to 8 feet were recorded in the low lying areas and up to 3 feet in areas at higher elevations. The neighborhood is susceptible to flooding from storm surge and other extreme weather events, which will be exacerbated by climate change and rising sea levels. Following FEMA’s issuance of new flood maps in December 2013, the number of properties in the flood zone increased by 55%.

100 Year Flood Risk Map
100 Year Flood Risk Map
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Sandy Surge Depth Map
Sandy Surge Depth Map
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What are the challenges to resiliency?
In 2005, DCP led a rezoning of a portion of West Chelsea and the Special West Chelsea District was established. The Special West Chelsea District text aimed to encourage a diverse mix of land uses, carefully direct residential development, facilitate reuse of the High Line as a public park, and bolster the area’s built character in the location and massing of new construction. While these goals are still pertinent, it is necessary to revisit underlying special district regulations to ensure that they facilitate buildings becoming more resilient without adversely affecting the streetscap.

The study area includes the LPC-designated Chelsea and West Chelsea Historic Districts, where buildings are subject to preservation regulations with the goal of maintaining their significant historic character. In coordination with LPC, the study will analyze flood-proofing and retrofitting measures options for historic buildings. Analysis of flood-proofing and retrofitting measures to meet LPC requirements will also address consistency with West Chelsea’s existing structures and character.

In addition, the museum and gallery sectors have a unique set of operational needs that are addressed by their location and physical surroundings. They experienced significant damage from flooding and loss of art work stored in below-grade spaces. Through the lens of land use, zoning and urban design, the study will identify galleries’ operational needs and develop options and best practices for the galleries to become more resilient.

Gallery space beneath the High Line –  West 24th Street
Gallery space beneath the High Line West 24th Street
Chelsea historic district – West 22nd street
Chelsea historic district West 22nd street
How Are We Working With Communities?

The Department is working with Community Board 4 to identify resiliency strategies that complement the goals of the Special West Chelsea District and encourage new development, restoration, and growth that reinforce the area’s strengths and energy. DCP is also working with arts organizations and galleries to address their needs and support the continuing vitality of West Chelsea’s creative community and strengthen the neighborhood’s unique character.  DCP will also coordinate with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to share knowledge and help to identify appropriate retrofitting tools.

June 12, 2014: Manhattan Community Board 4 |Joint Committee Meeting

For more information contact: 

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