Seward Park Library. Photo via Flickr – wallyg.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission has scheduled a hearing April 2 on a proposal to protect the Seward Park Library, 192 East Broadway. Based on a preliminary agenda the item will be heard at 9:40 a.m. Members of the public are invited to offer testimony.
The 1909, 5-story limestone Renaissance-inspired building was one of 67 branch libraries funded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The item is not expected to be controversial. You may have seen a New York Times piece the other day touching on a plan to sell property in Brooklyn controlled by the Public Library as a way of raising desperately needed funds; the libraries there would be torn down by developers and rebuilt.
There’s no sign of this type of move on the Lower East Side, but preservationists have definitely taken note of the developments in Brooklyn. Another neighborhood branch, the 1903 Chatham Square Library, lacks historic protection.
228 East Broadway.
There was strong turnout this morning at a public hearing concerning an application to protect the former Bialystoker Nursing Home building at 228 East Broadway. The Landmarks Preservation Commission heard from a couple dozen speakers, all in support of saving the 1929 Art Deco building, and Bob Tierney, the panel’s chairman, even played the role of “matchmaker.”
The Bialystoker home, facing a range of financial problems, closed in late 2011, and for a time, the board sought a buyer interested in purchasing the site for redevelopment. Following months of activism by a new preservation group, Friends of the Lower East Side, the board changed course, saying it would not stand in the way of the landmark application. Today, Chairman Tierney thanked the owners for working hand-in-hand with the commission during the past few months in what he called “a productive paertnership.”
Bialystoker Nursing Home, 228 East Broadway.
Here’s a reminder that the Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a hearing tomorrow morning concerning the Bialystoker Building, the former nursing home that was shuttered moe than a year ago at 228 East Broadway. A preservation group, Friends of the Lower East Side, has been fighting to save the building from the wrecking ball.
Public testimony will be heard on the designation application but no decision is expected from the commission tomorrow. Initially the nursing home board opposed designation but a spokesperson for the board told us in December that they had dropped their objections. The board has been trying to sell the site for a luxury condo project.
The hearing takes place at 9:30 a.m. at the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s office, 1 Center Street. Anyone is welcome to testify for or against the application.
Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, 60 Norfolk Street.
Shortly before the December holidays we broke the news that the leadership of Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, a New York City landmark since 1967, was seeking permission to demolish its 163-year old building on the Lower East Side. The synagogue at 60 Norfolk Street has been closed for five years, the victim of a violent summer storm, fire and neglect. Since our initial story, we have spoken with many people who have been involved over the years in efforts to save the building, including the rabbi now advancing a plan to replace the synagogue with a new, modern residential tower and religious center.
We first interviewed Rabbi Mandl Greenbaum last summer, as he was making a final plea to developers to refurbish the building, creating residences or an events center, with room for the synagogue in a portion of the facility. In a more recent conversation, he explained that these efforts had failed and the synagogue was pursuing what he believes is the only realistic option. On December 21, lawyers representing the congregation, filed a “hardship application” with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, a required step anytime the owner of a protected building plans demolition. In place of the 1850 Gothic Revival structure, Greenbaum envisions a 45,000 square foot condo building with room for a small shul and a museum on the ground floor.
Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, 60 Norfolk Street.
There’s big news tonight concerning Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, the historic synagogue at 60 Norfolk Street. The leadership of the shuttered site has filed an application with the Landmarks Preservation Commission seeking permission to demolish the building to make way for a new residential development. Their proposal calls for a mixed-use complex with a new synagogue on the ground floor.
Commission spokesperson Elisabeth De Bourbon confirmed a short time ago that the application has been received, and that LPC staff would be reviewing it. When that process is complete, the matter will be brought before the full commission. Beth Hamedrash Hagadol was declared a city landmark in 1967. In recent years, fire, water damage and a failure to maintain the building have all contributed to the building’s degradation. Rabbi Mendl Greenbaum made the decision to close the synagogue four years ago.
Jarmulowsky Bank building, 54 Canal Street; December 2012.
The restoration of the Jarmulowsky Bank building is one step closer to reality this afternoon. Earlier today the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the plans, which include rooftop modifications but are mostly aimed at returning the structure to its original 1912 glory. The Jarmulowsky, destined to become a boutique hotel, is owned by DLJ Real Estate Partners.
Ron Castellano, a Lower East Side preservation architect, helped lead the successful effort to protect the building in 2009. Now he and restaurant operator Taavo Somer are handling the restoration project for the owners. In a presentation before the commission, Castellano explained what will be involved in the huge overhaul of a building that has been neglected for many years.
Ridley Department Store Building, 319-321 Grand Street.
This morning the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to designate the Ridley & Sons Department Store Building at 319-321 Grand Street. The quirky “pink building” at the corner of Grand and Orchard streets was built in 1886. The enormous department store closed in 1901. The commissioners decided not to protect a newer portion of the building, 59 Orchard Street, that was added in the 1930’s.
A representative of the owner, attorney Bob Davis, testified just before the vote, endorsing the commission’s decision and acknowledging the building’s architectural and historical significance. Last year, Alfred I. Goldman, the property owner, told the New York Times he was not thrilled about the idea of designating the 125 year old structure.
Ridley & Sons Department Store building, 315-321 Grand Street.
The Ridley & Sons Department Store building at 315-321 Grand Street is looking pretty good these days. As you may recall, a fire broke out in the “pink building” last December, raising concerns that the quirky 125-year-old structure would be allowed to wither away. But a fresh coat of paint, new windows and interior renovations have done wonders. It just so happens there’s a bit of news about efforts to protect the building from the wrecking ball.
Next week, the Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a public hearing on the Ridley & Sons application. The initial hearing took place in 2009. Lisi de Bourbon, spokesperson for the commission, tells us the session next Tuesday, September 11, was scheduled to give the building owner an opportunity to testify. She said it’s possible the commissioners will vote on landmarking the Ridley building following the testimony.
Jarmulowsky Bank building, 54 Canal St.
Earlier this summer we brought word that the new owner of the Jarmulowsky Bank building was converting it to a boutique hotel. Ron Castellano (The Forward Building, Hester Street Fair, etc.) and Taavo Somer (Freemans, Peels, etc.) began working on the historic building at 54 Canal/9 Orchard a few months ago. The team is now moving forward with an application to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, a necessary step anytime changes are proposed to a New York City landmark.
As a first step, they will go before Community Board 3’s landmarks subcommittee next month (September 10). Castellano and Somer are seeking a “certificate of appropriateness” in order to complete renovations on the Jarmulowsky. It entails, according to the community board agenda released today:
(Raising) the parapet, (Installing) new mechanical equipment, convert(ing) existing mechanical room to occupiable space on roof; install(ing) new storefront infill, (installing) new masonry balustrade in existing bay ground floor; install(ing) new balconies at rear (and removing the building’s fire escapes).
Proposed East Village Historic District.
A packed public hearing held yesterday by the Landmarks Preservation Commission on the proposed East Village/Lower East Side Historic District drew enthusiastic support and passionate opposition. Local elected officials and preservation organizations spoke in favor of the plan. A smaller group led by neighborhood churches argued that it could threaten their very survival.
The district would be bounded roughly be East 2nd and East 7th Street, and 1st Avenue and Bowery. It would establish official landmark status for more than 300 buildings, preventing any aesthetic alterations to those sites without the consent of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Bowery Mission, 227 Bowery.
There’s news from the Landmarks Preservation Commission this afternoon. Today commissioners voted to designate two Lower East Side buildings — the Bowery Mission and the Bowery Bank of New York.
The Bowery Mission, 227 Bowery, a neo-Greco style building, has been the home of one of New York’s oldest social service organizations since 1909. The five story red brick structure was designed by William Jose, a Prussian born architect.
Photo credit: Friends of the Bialystoker Home
Here’s an update on the fate of the Bialystoker Nursing Home building at 228 East Broadway. As we have reported, the troubled home closed late last month after the last of its residents found new accommodations. Facing what they characterize as a dire financial situation, the board of directors is pedaling the property to prospective buyers as a luxury condominium site. But a new coalition, Friends of the Bialystoker Home, has asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission to protect the 1929 Art Deco building, which would prevent its demolition.
Earlier this week, State Senator Daniel Squadron addressed the issue during a town hall meeting at a senior center on Delancey Street. Responding to a question from coalition member Mitchell Grubler (of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors), Squadron suggested he’d like to see the building saved. He said the home had its shortcomings but that closing it was not the right thing to do.
Squadron added that his office is “looking at whether we can make a strong case for landmarking.” He indicated there were some issues that needed to be resolved before he decides whether to support the application requesting landmark status for the building. Squadron was not specific about what those issues are.
This morning, the Wall Street Journal files a report on 135 Bowery, an 1817 row house that was declared a New York City landmark in June but now faces a new threat. As we reported last month, City Councilmember Margaret Chin is seeking to overturn the decision by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. An excerpt:
“There is opportunity on the site to build commercial space that is so needed in the Chinatown community for the small businesses,” Ms. Chin said in an interview Wednesday. At a hearing in June, Ms. Chin’s chief of staff expressed support for the designation. A spokeswoman for Ms. Chin said that he hadn’t been authorized to speak her behalf. Ms. Chin said in an interview that she signaled her support initially but she was ultimately impressed by the developer’s plans to use the site, which could include a new seven-story building offering retail and office space at below-market rates.
In late June, neighborhood preservation activists felt they had reason to cheer. They had, after all, just received word that the Landmarks Preservation Commission had voted to protect 135 Bowery, a federal style row house built in 1817. It turns out those celebrations were premature. In the past few days, the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, in partnership with the Historic Districts Council, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Presrvation, the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, has been circulating a petition, urging the City Council to “uphold the landmarking of 135 Bowery.”
The reason for their concern? The building owner, First American International Bank, is reportedly asking for an economic “hardship exemption,” in a bid to demolish the historic row house — or to get the City Council to intervene. Any property owner has the option of seeking an exemption at any time. But activists are particularly concerned in this case because the City Planning Commission and City Council have not yet voted on 135 Bowery’s landmarking.
(The Council’s approval is not required but lawmakers have the power to overrule the LPC or amend any of its decisions).