Council approves Battery Maritime addition

Battery Maritime Building. Image: Courtesy of NYCEDC.

Restoration of Battery Maritime Building along with addition of boutique hotel wins approval. On March 11, 2009, the City Council voted to approve the Economic Development Corporation and Dermot Company’s redevelopment plan for the Battery Maritime Building, located on the southern tip of Manhattan just east of Battery Park.

The 1909 building, once part of the original Whitehall Ferry Terminal, was designated as an individual City landmark in 1967. EDC recently renovated the City-owned building at a cost of about $60 million, and sought proposals for redevelopment and reuse of the site. In July 2007, EDC awarded the interior redevelopment contract to Dermot. Plans for the building include a multi-use venue and public space for the former waiting room on the second floor, and a three-story glass addition and one-story penthouse that will house a 138-room hotel and an indoor/outdoor roof-top bar and restaurant.

At Council’s March 4th public hearing before its Subcommittee on Zoning & Franchises, Dermot attorney Melanie Meyers called the project “a public/private partnership,” and stated that the public space would serve as a “living room” for lower Manhattan and restore waterfront access at the site. Meyers added that the proposal had received support from the Municipal Art Society, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, and the American Institute of Architects.

Subcommittee Chair Tony Avella stated that his first reaction to the proposal was that the addition was a “monstrosity.” Avella found it difficult to believe that the applicants could not build an addition that more closely matched the “unique architecture” of the existing structure. Avella further stated that developers had assured him that no preservationist groups opposed the project, but he later learned that the Historic Districts Council staunchly advocated for the project’s denial. Avella called the misrepresentation a “disgrace.”

Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council, called the proposal “unacceptable,” and argued that a reuse of the structure should not include an addition. He believed that approval would set an unfortunate precedent for the adaptation of landmarked buildings.

Council Member Alan J. Gerson, in whose district the building lies, testified that he knew the principals behind the development to be people of integrity, and that the project was an integral part of the City’s reclamation of the waterfront. Gerson believed the addition would not detract from the structure’s aesthetic qualities, and argued that it would not set a precedent, as it was “a unique structure in a unique location.”

Avella disagreed, and, when the Subcommittee reconvened on March 9th, was the sole dissenting vote. Avella remained the lone vote in opposition at the Council’s stated meeting.

Council: Battery Maritime Building (March 11, 2009).

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