Elevator at Grant’s Tomb Pavilion Approved

Under threat of funding loss, Landmarks gives approval for elevator in Grant’s Tomb Pavilion. The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the design for an elevator installation at Grant’s Tomb Pavilion, a City individual landmark. The National Park Service sought a certificate of appropriateness for the addition of a glass-walled elevator on the pavilion’s north side. The tomb, including the pavilion, is currently one of the few federal landmarks without restrooms or a visitor center. The elevator, part of an extensive renovation to the deteriorating landmark, was the only work that required a Landmarks hearing. The remainder of the improvements, including stone replacement and structural repair, would be approved at staff level and would not require a full hearing by Landmarks.

At Landmarks’ first hearing on the application on September 14, 2004, the Park Service told the Commissioners that their approval was required by September 26, 2004, or the federal government would redirect the federal funds for all of the pavilion’s renovation work. Members of the Historic Districts Council, Community Board 9 and other preservationists objected to the design and proposed a plan for ramp-access. All of the speakers voiced objection to the acutely tight time frame given by the Park Service for Landmarks’ consideration and stressed that the Park Service had already undergone a related one-year long ULURP process for the pavilion work. That process began in February 2003, ending with the City Council’s August 12, 2004 approval. The speakers argued that the Landmarks application could have been filed in concert with the ULURP action to allow a time frame of up to one year for Landmarks’ review.

Landmarks approved, conditioning the decision on the Park Service making substantial future efforts to relocate the elevator, while Chair Robert B. Tierney noted that the situation was unsatisfactory. Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz expressed her resentment at “having a gun put to [her] head” with the threat of loss of funds.

The final certificate of appropriateness is pending approval of final plans by Landmarks.

LPC: Grant’s Tomb Pavilion (05- 1034) (September 14, 2004).

CITYLAND Note: The retaining wall and monument of Grant’s Tomb Pavilion are the property of the federal government, but the City owns the land in Riverside Park. To make use of federal funds for the renovation, the federal government required that the City transfer the land to the Park Service.

On February 2, 2003, Parks and the Park Service began the process of transferring the City-owned property by two easements. The easements – totaling 41,210 sq.ft. over the open air pavilion west of the tomb and the plaza in front of the tomb – received approval by the Planning Commission on June 23, 2004 and the City Council on August 12, 2004.

Council: Res. No. 547 (August 12, 2004); CPC: Grant’s Tomb Pavilion (C 030331 MEM – rezoning) (June 23, 2004).

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