Proposal met with strong opposition from community members, elected officials and preservationist organizations. On June 21, 2016, the Landmarks Preservation Commission considered and heard testimony on an application to replace a 1921 garage building with a new residential structure at 11-19 Jane Street. The site lies within the Greenwich Village Historic District. The garage at the site is two stories tall, and it once replaced two townhouses.
Consultant Ward Dennis, of Higgins Quasebarth and Partners, introduced the presentation. Dennis said the 1920 garage was described as an “intruder” to the district in the designation report, and that the neighborhood had a history of residential architecture. He said the block is home to a variety of building types of differing heights, including residences, commercial warehouses, and former stables.
Architect David Chipperfield presented the plans for the new building, which would rise to five stories and the streetwall, with two penthouse floors set back 15 feet from the front facade, and a substantial rooftop bulkhead. It would rise to a total height of 188 feet and nine inches. The bulkhead and rooftop furniture would be partially visible from some public thoroughfares. Chipperfield said the design intent was to create something of high architectural quality “without trying to be spectacular:” It was not intended as “look-at-me building.” He noted masonry facades were predominant in the area, and that the new building would be faced in cast stone in an off-white color. He also reiterated that, while the proposed building was slightly taller than its immediate neighbors, it was part of a varied streetscape. The arrangement of the façade he characterized as “simple and classical.”
The building would host apartments, a below-grade garage, and a multi-story 1-family residence with a separate entrance referred to as a “maisonette.” Chipperfield said the new building would better engage pedestrians at the street level than the existing garage.
While brick constituted the most common facade material in the neighborhood, Chipperfield said he instead selected cast stone due to the poor quality of most contemporary brickwork. He also stated that the material would lend the building a “strong constructive quality.”
A representative read a joint statement from Assembly member Deborah Glick and State Senator Brad Hoylman arguing that the proposal was excessively large its location, and asked the developers to consider adaptively reusing the existing garage building. A representative of Council member Corey Johnson called the proposal an “out-of-scale building in a historic district slowly getting overwhelmed.”
Attorney Marvin Mitzner, speaking for the owners of 9 ½ Jane Street, argued that that development would negatively impact resident’ quality of life, and the building was unsuitable to the block’s character and scale. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s Andrew Berman testified that, if demolition of the existing garage were approved, “the proposed design should be rethought, scaled-back, and made more compatible with a block like this.” Preservation consultant Gregory Dietrich, retained by the owners of 2 Horatio Street, stated that the existing garage was an “intact example of a 1921 service building designed in a commercial vernacular,” that contributed to the historic district and served as part of the block’s “multilayered history.”
Over two dozen area residents testified at the hearing to oppose the project, criticizing the massing, the design, the loss of the garage, and the potential impact on street traffic. Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan stated that Manhattan Community Board 2 had recommended that the application be denied, and that the Commission had received many letters in opposition.
Chipperfield said looming towers already served as a backdrop to the south side of Jane Street, and the impression of the building’s size from pedestrian perspective would be the 60-foor streetwall, which he said was in scale with the rest of Jane Street.
Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron commented that she would like to see an option that incorporated the existing garage building.
The hearing having extended past the meeting’s scheduled end time, Srinivasan moved to close the meeting, and lay over further discussion of the proposal to a later date.
LPC: 11-19 Jane Street, Manhattan (18-5336) (June 21, 2016) (Architects: David Chipperfield Architects).
By: Jesse Denno (Jesse is a full-time staff writer at the Center for NYC Law)