An update on the fight to save 35 Cooper Square, the 1827 row house threatened with demolition. Community groups and local elected officials finally got a sit-down meeting yesterday with Arun Bhatia, the building’s owner. While reporters were not allowed to participate, several attendees have shared their impressions of the one-hour session with DNA Info, EV Grieve and the EV Local.
The bottom line: Bhatia listened to the pleas from preservationists but did not disclose his plans for the building and gave no indication whether any of the arguments swayed him one way or the other.
Yesterday afternoon we spoke with a meeting participant, Victor Papa of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council. His organization and the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors are co-sponsoring an application to designate the east side of the Bowery an historic district.
Papa called yesterday’s gathering a “sincere conversation.” He said Bhatia did not say much but added “there was no sense of duplicity on anyone’s part.” Noting that Bhatia can “do as he pleases” with the property, Papa said the meeting represented a “good first step.” He suggested the meeting set the stage for future discussions.
These same sentiments were voiced last night by David Mulkins of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, who was the featured speaker at the LES Tenement Museum. He expressed cautious optimism. Other participants, however, were not quite so upbeat. Kerri Culhane, an architectural historian documenting 35 Cooper Square, told the EVL:
“It was great that they came to meet, but this was just P.R. I am sure this building is going to be demolished. I got that from their responses, their reiterations, their glances, that this is just not feasible. I don’t think it’s impossible. From their standpoint, it’s improbable…They‘re going to do what they’re going to do… They’ve made the case that they’ve worked in historic districts, and that that site is so constrained they would not be able to in an economically feasible way develop the site. And they made the case that the building’s been stripped in the interior, and the building is of little value, in their estimation.”
After the meeting, Jane Crotty (Bhatia’s spokesperson said):
“The meeting was pleasant and we wanted to hear what the community had to say and show respect for the process. We mentioned that Arun has built a building in a historic district and is sensitive to preservation. They asked us to save part of the building. We responded that this is a very small and difficult site. We told them that our team would discuss the request and get back to them.”