Facade Demolitions Approved on DOB Recommendation

323 Canal St SM

321 and 323 Canal Street, Manhattan. Image Credit: Google.

Applicants will retain brick from neglected Federal style row houses’ unstable facades on the verge of collapse. On May 21, 2013, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to approve an application for the demolition of two adjacent structures at 321 and 323 Canal Street in Manhattan’s SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District. The action was presented as necessary to prevent the imminent collapse of the vacant buildings. Landmarks’ Deputy Counsel John Weiss explained that the application was before Landmarks without a restoration plan because of the dangerous conditions at the site. The front and rear facades of both buildings would be dismantled, and the materials would be stored on site for later reconstruction.

Department of Buildings’ Executive Director of Forensic Engineering Timothy Lynch stated that both the front and rear facades were unstable, and that he recommended their immediate dismantling. Lynch testified that the lime-based mortar on the facades had disintegrated, and the bricks were now essentially resting on “pure sand.” He also said the facades had separated from the walls shared with adjoining buildings, and would be very difficult to stabilize without dismantling. He added that the walls were “unlikely to stay put in the foreseeable future.”

Architect Page Cowley presented evidence of the buildings’ deterioration and said that documentation would take place to ensure that future reconstruction was accurate. The roof would be shored and braced during the demolition. Structural engineer Stuart Gold stated that the buildings had “a litany of issues” and the floors also required replacement. He detailed the process for dismantling the facades while retaining the roof and making reconstruction possible. He said “whatever we can save, we will,” which would include all face brick, as well as window frames and any salvageable brownstone.

A letter from Manhattan Community Board 2 recommended approval of the application. The Historic Districts Council’s Nadezhda Williams testified that the organization is “wary of the deconstruction of two 1820s row houses without an approved plan for their reconstruction.” She further testified that “demolition of even non-contributing buildings in historic districts are not allowed without an approved new construction.”

Landmarks General Counsel Mark Silberman responded that the Historic Districts Council was correct in that Landmarks did not usually consider demolition applications without attendant plans for reconstruction, but the application before the Commission was brought forward because of the dangerous condition of the site.

Commissioner Michael Devonshire was convinced of the applicants’ good faith, and said he was “quite sanguine” that the process would be conducted properly. Chair Robert B. Tierney emphasized the necessity to “proceed without delay” in closing the hearing and leading the vote. Landmarks voted unanimously to allow the demolition.

LPC: 321 Canal Street; 323 Canal Street, Manhattan (14-2652; 14-2567) (May 21, 2013) (Architect: Page Ayres Cowley Architects).

Leave a Reply

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