After-the-fact, illegal restaurant facade considered

47 West 8th Street in the Greenwich Village Historic District

Restaurant owner replaced stucco, altered windows, and installed fake ivy without obtaining Landmarks’ approval. On October 19, 2010, Landmarks considered a proposal to legalize facade alterations to the storefront of a Greek Revival townhouse at 47 West 8th Street in the Greenwich Village Historic District. The four-story townhouse was built in 1845, and the first two stories of its facade were altered in the early 20th century using stucco. The Rabbit in the Moon restaurant currently occupies the space. The restaurant owner, Michael Santora, replaced the stucco with stone cladding, altered the ground floor entrance, removed a display window on the second floor to create a dining balcony, and installed artificial ivy.

At Landmarks’ hearing, Santora testified that he was unaware that separate Landmarks approval would be required after his engineer filed a self-certified application with Buildings. He explained that the exterior stucco was in disrepair when he purchased the property and the stone cladding matched the original stucco. Santora said he intended to grow ivy to replace the artificial ivy and claimed the renovated facade had become “a defining part of the restaurant.”

Chair Robert B. Tierney told Santora that he had been “misled,” and the Commissioners vowed to report the engineer to Buildings.

Manhattan Community Board 2’s Jane McCarthy opposed legalization, as did John Moody of the 8th Street Block Association, who said the alterations were “not in keeping with the block.” The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s Elizabeth Finkelstein also spoke in opposition, noting that the stone face and artificial ivy had no precedent in the district.

The Commissioners believed that the artificial ivy was inappropriate and found the work impossible to approve as presented. Commissioner Diana Chapin said the work included “several atypical features” but suggested it could be legalized if modified. Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz argued that there was no precedent for balcony restaurants in the area and recommended that it be returned to a window. Commissioner Libby Ryan pointed out that the neighborhood was home to many “ kitschy ” storefronts, while Commissioner Joan Gerner noted that the alterations did “provide character” to the restaurant.

Tierney asked Santora to consult with Landmarks staff and return with necessary alterations.

LPC: 47 West 8th St., Manhattan (11- 0368) (Oct. 19, 2010).

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