Testimony By New York State Senator Thomas K. Duane Before The New York City Planning Commission's Hearing Regarding The Whitney Museum Expansion And High Line Park Maintenance And Operations Facility

Thomas K. Duane

July 02, 2008

My name is Thomas K. Duane and I represent New York State's 29th Senate District, in which the Whitney Museum of American Art's proposed museum and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation's proposed maintenance and operations facility for the High Line public open space are located. Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony before the New York City Planning Commission (CPC) today.

As a longtime elected representative of Greenwich Village, it gives me great pleasure to be able to join Manhattan Community Board 2 (CB2) and many neighborhood advocates and residents in strongly supporting the applications being heard today to facilitate construction of the Whitney Museum expansion and a High Line Park maintenance and operations facility on Gansevoort and Washington Streets in the Meatpacking District. Whitney representatives have shown a great degree of thoughtfulness in the planning of this proposal and, by meeting with the community early and often, have shown a strong and welcome willingness to integrate their institution seamlessly into the neighborhood. I appreciate the Whitney Museum volunteering to not utilize the maximum floor area available and to meet regularly with CB2 and the community to discuss construction mitigation as this project progresses. The result of their efforts has been clear community support for their applications.

Although I usually share the community's skepticism of special permits, the proposed museum is an educational and cultural facility that will add value to this neighborhood and the granting of a special permit to allow this use is certainly appropriate. The Whitney Museum has secured a renowned architect who has created an unusual design gracefully blending the grittiness of the Meatpacking District with the elegance of an art museum. The proposed museum will not only provide additional space for the Whitney to display their large collection of art, it will also allow space for educational programs and cultural events. There will be public open space on an expanded Gansevoort Street sidewalk, public amenities on the first floor including a free gallery, restaurant, bookstore and restroom, and a pleasant array of outdoor terraces accommodating large works of art which will be visible from the High Line. All are welcome.

The applications before CPC also include a new extraordinary benefit for the community: a much-needed maintenance and operations facility for the High Line. This facility will provide the Parks Department with an elevator which will enable a maintenance crew to move equipment to the High Line and will also provide pedestrian access to the park by an elevator and a street level stairway. These amenities are necessary to foster the enjoyment of the High Line Park and certainly warrant CPC's approval.

As an avid supporter of the High Line and the arts, I am excited about these two additions to my district. I understand that the list of requests is long and complicated, but this is a rare and exceptional partnership between the community and a developer resulting in a mutually beneficial proposal. For these reasons, I am proud to endorse these applications and urge CPC to do so as well. Thank you for allowing me to testify today and for your consideration of my recommendations.