Backyard addition to 1841 Village townhouse approved

Landmarks approved controversial three-story addition. At a March 7, 2006 meeting, Landmarks unanimously approved a three-story rear addition to an 1841 Greek Revival building at 159 West 12th Street in the Greenwich Village Historic District. The initial plan, presented by Hottenroth & Joseph Architects, called for demolition of an existing two-story addition and construction of a new four-story addition approximately 1,300 sq.ft. larger.

At the hearing, the owners, Donna and Paul Ullman, testified that they respected historic preservation, were restoring the building’s facade, and had chosen an architect who would be historically and contextually sensitive. The Ullmans, who have two young children, also said they had purchased the building for its expandability. The Ullmans’ representative, Shelly Friedman of Friedman and Gotbaum, testified that the expansion would leave 40 feet of yard space, that no trees would be harmed by the construction, and that the addition would not be visible from public streets.

Public testimony opposing the plan included Richard Davis, a neighbor who claimed that the addition would block sunlight and views. He called the addition a “threat to the historical character of the Village,” and stated that he had over 40 letters from Greenwich Village residents who opposed the project. Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City argued that “any addition should leave the original roofline,” and worried that a large elm tree in the Ullmans’ yard would be killed by construction.

Jennifer Sage from the City and Country School, which abuts the Ullmans’ property, supported the project and testified that she thought the Ullmans’ addition and restoration would be an asset to the neighborhood. A representative from the James Beard Foundation, located across the street, found the addition’s scale appropriate and also welcomed the facade restoration.

Landmarks approved the project unanimously after determining that the top floor of the proposed addition should not be permitted in order to preserve the original top-story envelope. Commissioner Joan Gerner proposed that a provision be added to protect the yard’s elm tree that might be affected by construction, which was also unanimously adopted.

LPC: Item No. 12, Case No 06-4047, 159 W. 12th Street (March 7, 2006).


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