Former stables trigger West Side landmarking debate

Upper West Side’s Dakota Stables, currently used as a parking garage. Photo: LPC.

Developer had received building permits on historic stable prior to landmarking hearing. On October 17, 2006, Landmarks held hearings to consider the designation of two Upper West Side buildings originally used as livery stables, the Mason or Dakota Stables at 348 Amsterdam Avenue between West 76th and West 77th Streets, and the New York Cab Company Stable at 318 Amsterdam Avenue at West 75th Street.

Opening the hearing on the Dakota Stables, Landmarks Chair Robert Tierney stated that the current owner, Sylgar Properties, had received permits from the Department of Buildings to make “fairly significant facade alterations” to the five-story Renaissance-Revival style stables and that Landmarks knew of the permits’ issuance when it voted to consider designation. The Dakota Stables, designed by architect Bradford Gilbert, was one of the largest livery stables in the city when constructed in 1894. During public testimony, a current photo showing the building covered in tarps and scaffolding remained projected on the hearing room wall.

Jeff Blau, a representative from the project’s developer, Related Properties, testified that $36.7 million had already been invested in the proposal to convert the Dakota Stables and an adjacent building into an apartment complex. Blau explained that the as-of-right project included an off-site affordable housing component and that he believed the building could be “next century’s landmark.” Robert A.M. Stern, the project’s architect, testified to his commitment to preservation. He stated Upper West Side’s Dakota Stables, currently used as a parking garage. Photo: LPC. that they “would not have undertaken the project had they thought it merited landmarking,” and emphasized that the building was omitted from the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District.

The New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Roger Lang called Related’s actions an “11th-hour defacing to prevent the building’s day in court,” and Evan Mason of Landmark West! emphasized that the stables had been on the group’s designation “wish list” since 1986. Several elected officials appeared to testify in support of the Dakota Stables’ designation, including State Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and City Council Members Tony Avella and Gail Brewer.

In opposition, Carol von Guilder, of the Real Estate Board of New York, called it “disturbing” that the property was only proposed for designation after Related spent significant amounts of time and money preparing the project.

The second stable, the New York Cab Company Stable, was built between 1888 and 1890 by C. Abbott French in the Romanesque Revival style. It was one of ten stables owned by the New York Cab Company and was possibly the largest stable in the country. Like the Dakota Stables, it was converted into a parking garage as automobiles replaced horses. Evan Mason explained that it was the first cab company to use the black and yellow colors, and the first to prowl the streets in search of fares. Architectural historian Gregory Dietrich called the building an “important symbol of New York City’s transition from horse-drawn cabs to the modern day taxicab.” The Municipal Art Society, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, the Historic Districts Council, and Cultural Resources Research Group also supported designation.

Landmarks closed both hearings without any comments by commissioners.

LPC: Mason Stables aka Dakota Stables, 348 Amsterdam Ave. (LP-2206) (Oct. 17, 2006); New York Cab Company Stable, 318 Amsterdam Ave. (LP-2209) (Oct. 17, 2006).

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