Another day, hints of another large-scale residential project on the Lower East Side.
Coming up on Monday, May 8, Community Board 3’s landmarks committee will consider a Certificate of Appropriateness for St. Augustine’s Chapel, a New York City landmark and one of the oldest church buildings on the Lower East Side. According to CB3’s meeting agenda, the church property at 290 Henry St., is set to undergo:
“…restorative work, demolition of non-contributing structures (and) new construction on protected lots. Proposed 20-story mixed use intergenerational building providing affordable housing, retail, community facility space.”
St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church opened in 1828 and the building became a city landmark in 1966. The designation report stated, “On the basis of a careful consideration of the architecture and other features of this building, the Landmarks Preservation Commission finds that St. Augustine’s Chapel has a special character, special historical and aesthetic interest and value as part of the development, heritage and cultural characteristics of New York City.” One feature of the building (not mentioned in the report) is the presence of two slave galleries, which were restored a number of years ago to — as The St. Augustine’s Project noted — preserve a “rare artifact of racial segregation in New York City, stand(ing) as a stark, physical reminder of how the boundaries of marginalization were drawn in our State.”
A Certificate of Appropriateness is required by the Landmarks Preservation Commission if, “the proposed work affects the significant protected architectural features of the landmark property” or “the proposed work does not conform to the” rules of the commission.
In the designation report from more than a half century ago, the commission explained:
“By this designation of the Landmark above described and the Landmark Site on which it is located, it is not intended to freeze the structure in its present state or to prevent future appropriate alterations needed to meet changed requirements of use for religious and directly related charitable purposes. The Commission believes it has the obligation and, indeed, it has the desire to cooperate with owners of Landmarks who may wish to make changes in their properties. In this connection the Commission wishes to state at this time that it recognizes that Trinity Parish (today St. Augustine’s is an independent entity) may want to erect new buildings in the future on its grounds at St. Augustine’s Chapel. The Commission recognizes that Trinity Parish may also wish to make exterior alterations to its existing buildings at St. Augustine’s Chapel. The Commission looks forward to working with the representatives of Trinity Parish when the Church desires to erect new buildings on its grounds or to make exterior alterations on its existing buildings.”
UPDATE 5/1/23: Documents posted on CB3’s website Monday provide more details. The project is described as a joint venture among St. Augustine’s Parish, Fulcrum Properties LLC, and NFW Group LLC. The development team plans to “substantially renovate” the church building and to construct a new 21-story tower, connected to the chapel. They envision 119 residential units, including apartments for older adults. As part of the project, an annex building behind the church would be demolished and many of the church’s historic features would be restored. You can view the document here.