Volume 73, Number 52 | April 28 - May 4, 2004

Furstenberg has designs on Meat Market building

By Lincoln Anderson

Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert

The Gachot & Gachot meatpacking building at 14th and Washington Sts.

Meat has been going out of fashion on the west end of 14th St. for years, largely replaced by fashion. Where workers once lugged sides of beef are now high-end boutiques from Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen.

Now comes word Diane von Furstenberg has designs on the Gachot & Gachot building, home to an active meatpacking business, at the corner of W. 14th and Washington Sts.

For the past few years, the famed fashion designer has lived just south of the Meat Market in a three-story former 1850s stable and blacksmith’s at W. 12th St., with her shop in a small adjoining building.

The red-brick four-story Gachot & Gachot building was originally two. The building on the corner, 440 W. 14th St., was built by the Estate of John Jacob Astor in 1887 as workers’ living quarters and housed 12 families. The adjacent building, 442 W. 14th St., also was once living quarters. By 1935 the buildings were no longer residential, and by 1957 they had been converted to cold-storage warehouses and connected.

The Gachot family, which has been in the meat business 101 years, has been in their building, which they own, over 50 years. Their specialty is dry-aged meat, which they cure on the premises.

Charles Gachot, 72, whose grandfather founded the company, said whether the building is purchased by Furstenberg or not, they plan to sell and leave the Meat Market.

“We’re exploring a lot of options. There’s nothing that’s finalized,” Gachot said. “I’m sure it’ll be sold. It’s too valuable to be there [as just a meat business]. Anything we’d be doing would probably be a year away. I’ve got 30 employees and customers I’ve got to think about.”

Gachot, whose son Chris, in his 40s, now mainly runs the business, said he isn’t sure if they will relocate to Hunt’s Market in the Bronx. However, asked his prognosis on the survival of the Gansevoort Meat Market, he predicted most of it will disappear. All that will remain, he said, will be the meat businesses in the city-owned co-op building between Gansevoort, Little W. 12th and Washington Sts. and Tenth Ave., which he believes has a deed restriction on its use.

“I think the rest of the Market will be developed into shops and retail space and galleries — and eventually some of it will become residential,” he said.

There are still a few meat businesses on W. 14th St., including several just west of Gachot & Gachot. Another spot meat businesses have hung on is Washington St., though sparkling new glass storefronts for galleries and boutiques at the strip’s north and south ends seem like pincers squeezing the remaining meatpackers.

Rumors of the Furstenberg/Gachot deal have spread in the neighborhood in recent weeks. Steve Yanovsky, a Jane St. resident, said he heard Furstenberg was allegedly asking an incredibly high price — $30 million — for her W. 12th St. buildings. Given the development frenzy on the waterfront, he expressed concern the properties could be assembled with a nearby trucking garage into a large development site.

Calls to Furstenberg’s representative were not returned. However Matthew Bautista, of little west 12th street women’s boutique, said he’d heard that Furstenberg is “outgrowing her space.”

Furstenberg was a booster of the effort to landmark the Meat Market, hosting the kickoff fundraiser three years ago for the Save Gansevoort Market organization. The Gachot & Gachot building is in the recently designated historic district.

On May 20, Furstenberg will host a fundraiser at her home for Save Gansevoort Market to raise money for a feasibility study on relocating the Flower Market to the Meat Market.

Asked her thoughts on Furstenberg’s reported plan to relocate to the Meat Market, Jo Hamilton, co-chairperson of Save Gansevoort Market, was enthusiastic.

“I think Diane von Furstenberg has been a wonderful neighbor,” she said. “And her moving into the district…I’m actually excited about what she’ll be doing, restoring the building, returning it to its former glory. I’m glad the building is being sold to someone who lives in the district, and she does everything first class.”

Hamilton said rumors of Furstenberg’s asking $30 million for her buildings sounded way overblown.

Although the Meat Market’s M1-5 manufacturing zoning prohibits residential use, there is a caretaker provision in the zoning, under which a caretaker is allowed to live in the building in a space not exceeding 1,200 sq. ft.

Jennifer Givner, a Department of Buildings spokesperson, said the way the caretaker provision is written, more than one person can inhabit the space.

“It doesn’t specify only one person can live there, so it doesn’t preclude family members from living there,” she said.

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