Controversial 16-story building and garage addition heard

Commissioners and preservationists call for revisions to development. On August 5, 2008, Landmarks heard testimony on a proposal to build a three-story addition to a 1926 garage at 21-25 West 20th Street, and a new 16-story building at 19 West 20th Street in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District. The plan calls for the garage’s parking use to be retained, with a three-story residential addition. The new 16-story residential building would replace an existing parking lot.

Kramer Levin attorney Paul Selver, representing owner Banner Associates, testified that both structures were as-of-right. Architect Jack Beyer of Beyer Blinder Belle presented the design plans for both structures. He stated that the surrounding area is characterized by a variety of uses and architectural styles, including townhouses and loft buildings. While the new tower would rise higher than its immediate neighbors, Beyer claimed it was appropriate for the district and for a block where every building is “distinctively read as individual.” The 25-foot wide tower would be divided into three aesthetically distinct sections at its base, shaft, and top. Facade materials would include granite, limestone, brick, masonry, and glass, with aluminum spandrels and mullions. A penthouse encasing the boiler and mechanical equipment would occupy the 16th floor, and is necessary, according to Beyer, because the cellar would be given over to amenities.

The addition to the garage, whose style Beyer described as utilitarian, would include two stories set back five feet, a third story set back 15 feet, and a brick facade with metal-framed casement windows. As part of the project, the developer would restore the original garage.

Preservationists expressed reservations about the garage addition’s visibility and design aspects of the tower. Leo Blackman, Vice President of The Drive to Protect the Ladies’ Mile District, testified that the tower’s penthouse “should be eliminated entirely or reduced to one story,” and that the glass and steel canopy “is out of character with Ladies’ Mile.” Nadezhda Williams, from the Historic Districts Council, found that the addition to the garage was not sufficiently set back or integrated with the existing structure. Community Board 5 submitted a letter of objection stating that the proximity of residential apartments to the garage’s parking use was inappropriate and the tower’s height was excessive and out-of-proportion.

Commissioner Stephen Byrns said that the project was “headed in the right direction,” but suggested a reduction in the size of both the garage addition and penthouse, and objected to the anodized aluminum canopy. Commissioner Libby Ryan found the addition excessively bulky and visible, and the materials inappropriate. With respect to the overall composition of the project, Ryan claimed it looked like the new tower was “spilling over” on to the garage. Tierney agreed with the general consensus, and asked the applicants to return with an amended proposal.

LPC: 19-25 West 20th Street, Manhattan (COFA #09-0250) (August 5, 2008). CITYADMIN

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.