City Planning Commission Approves Application to Increase Building Height in Tribeca

Image Credit: LPC/HubbNYC

Applicants will continue to preserve and restore the building in exchange for the approval to increase the building’s height. On August 28, 2019, the City Planning Commission voted to approve an application for a special permit for 121 Chambers Street in Tribeca South Historic District, Manhattan. The special permit would allow for the addition of two stories to the existing five-story building.

The building, 121 Chambers Street, is located in the Special Tribeca Mixed Use District within the historic district. The building is a through lot building between Chambers and Reade Streets. The building was built in the 1860s as an Italianate style store and loft building. It was built for commercial use but it was converted to a mixed-use building. The building is currently vacant.

With the two-story addition, the building will be seven stories with ground floor retail and eight residential units. The applicant plans to build to a height of 93 feet and 4 inches which is three feet and three inches above what is permitted as-of-right for narrow buildings in the special district. Setbacks of 20 feet or more in each new floor on both streets will ensure light and air continues to get on the street from the enlargement and to ensure the additions are not visible.

Robin Kramer, a land use attorney from Duval and Stachenfeld, presented the application to the commission on behalf of 121 Chambers Street, LLC. She stated that the proposed enlargement will not have an adverse impact on the area as many of the buildings on the block have already increased in height, including three of the four adjoining buildings.

The applicant will undertake a significant restoration of the historic building as required in connection with the special permit. Jason Friedman, architect and preservation consultant from Lombardi, Architects, presented the specific proposed preservation works. A restrictive declaration would be in place to keep the building in first-class condition with the same style and detailing the building had during the 1860s. Windows will be replaced with wood windows. All the storefronts will be replaced and all the cast iron will be fixed and replaced as necessary in cast iron. A fire escape on the Reade Street façade of the building will be removed as its removal would restore the façade to its original appearance and allow for the façade’s full repair.

On May 7, 2017, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to grant a certificate of appropriateness for the project. Landmarks stated that the proposed enlargement relates harmoniously to the existing building. For CityLand’s prior coverage of the May 2017 public hearing, click here.

On May 28, 2019, Manhattan Community Board 1 voted to unanimously approve the application.

On July 22, 2019, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer approved of the application, stating the special permit “will only allow an increase of 3’3” above what is permitted as of right and is contextual with the surrounding buildings.”

On July 31, 2019, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing for the application. No members of the public spoke at the meeting.

At the public hearing, Commissioner Anna Hayes Levin stated, “It is pretty remarkable to end up with recommendation for approval without any conditions or discussions or what-ifs from the community board or the borough president.”

On August 28, 2019, City Planning unanimously voted to approve the application.

By: May Vutrapongvatana (May is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2019).


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