Addition near High Line criticized as too large

View of project from Gansevoort Street.

Dilapidated two-story building across from the High Line would serve as base for seven-story tower. On November 9, 2010, Landmarks considered Taconic Investment Partners LLC’s proposal to build a seven-story addition on top of a two-story building constructed in 1938 at 837 Washington Street in the Gansevoort Market Historic District. The site lies at the edge of the historic district and faces the High Line elevated park.

The Morris Adjmi-designed addition would include a rear corner tower of masonry and a larger steel and glass section with angled beams that would give the structure a torqued effect. The addition’s balconies would feature plantings in homage to the property’s deceased former owner, Robert Isabell, who kept the existing building’s metal canopies planted with flowers for the pleasure of High Line visitors.

At the hearing, Adjmi and consultant Bill Higgins presented the proposal. Higgins explained that the Gansevoort Market area intersected the orthogonal street grid of Manhattan and the older Greenwich Village diagonal grid. Higgins explained that due to the angles created by the intersection, the neighborhood’s buildings often took odd shapes and buildings of varying sizes were built side by side. Adjmi testified that he attempted to incorporate this juxtaposition into his design, and he claimed that the addition’s metal and glass echoed the High Line’s rail tracks.

Higgins stated that the existing building’s restoration would be in keeping with its historic character. According to Higgins, the original building would remain “thoroughly legible,” and there would be “a sense of dialogue” between it and the addition. Taconic’s Paul Pariser testified the existing building was in disrepair and uninhabitable in its current condition.

Manhattan Community Board 2’s Jane McCarthy praised the glass and steel portion of the proposal as “bold, inspiring and innovative,” but found the masonry tower “clumsy and disharmonious.” A representative of the Greenwich Village Community Task Force testified that the proposal bore no relationship to other buildings in the district, and was concerned about the precedent that would be set if the project was approved. Assembly Member Deborah J. Glick also submitted a letter opposing the project.


View of project from intersection of Greenwich and Gansevoort Streets.

Speakers in favor of the addition included the owner of the P.F. Collier & Son Building at 416 West 13th Street, who said the proposal had been created with sensitivity to the surrounding district. A representative from Romanoff Equities, a developer that obtained a BSA variance in November 2009 to build a twelve-story building across the street, also expressed support. Darryl Romanoff said the “graceful, well-crafted design” would blend with the area’s “industrial palette.” Several local business owners also submitted letters in support.

Chair Robert B. Tierney was appreciative of the design, but said there were issues of scale and precedent which needed to be resolved. Based on the presentation, Commissioner Margery Perlmutter found it hard to justify simply using the existing building as a base. Commissioner Libby Ryan praised the design, but could not support the proposal’s current size. Commissioner Diana Chapin described the design as “very exciting,” but wanted more evidence indicating that the building would be contextual with the surrounding district.

Landmarks lacked a quorum to vote on the proposal, and Tierney closed the hearing.

LPC: 837 Washington Street, Manhattan (11-3143) (Nov. 9, 2010) (Architect: Morris Adjmi Architects).

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