Landmarks Asks for Changes to Canal Street Project Identical to a Design Approved for Site in 2004

Credit: Gene Kaufman, Architect, P.C.

Landmarks in 2004 approved design for building at the corner of Canal and Greene Streets, but financing fell through and 2007-issued certificate of appropriateness expired. On June 26, 2012, Landmarks considered Donald Fishoff’s proposal to build a mixed-use, six-story plus penthouse on a parking lot at the corner of Canal and Greene Streets in the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District. The large lot at 341 Canal Street has 172 feet of frontage along Greene Street and 65 feet of frontage along Canal Street.

Landmarks in 2004  approved a similar project proposed by Fishoff for the site. Landmarks approved the original proposal after several revisions, and issued a certificate of appropriateness for the building in 2007. Fishoff also obtained City Planning Commission approval for a special permit to develop the 34-unit project in 2008. However, Landmarks’ certificate of appropriateness expired in 2010 before the project was developed. Fishoff’s current proposal matches the design and massing of the previously approved plan.

At the hearing, attorney Howard Zipser, representing Fishoff, testified that financing for the previously approved development fell through due to the economic downturn. Zipser stated that while the current proposal was “technically a new application,” it was in all ways identical to the previously approved design. Gene Kaufman, the project’s architect then and now, explained that the building would be clad in aluminum and painted yellow. The ground floor would be devoted to retail use, while the upper floors would be residential. He said the building had been designed to fit the language, rhythm, and proportions of other buildings in the district.

341 Canal Street today

Manhattan Community Board 2’s Doris Diether said that CB 2 had generally approved the original application, and had recently agreed to follow that recommendation. The Historic Districts Council’s Nadezhda Williams criticized the project, arguing that new application gave the commissioners the “opportunity to review what might have once been considered appropriate, but may not be seen so now.” Williams called the building “a very flat, watered down” rendition of the district’s architecture, and found it to have the appearance of an “undistinguished midtown office building.” Christabel Gough, from the Society for the Architecture of the City, suggested the plan “could profit from more articulation and depth in the facade.”

Only four of Landmarks’ eleven commissioners from the January 2004 approval remain, and this time Landmarks viewed Fishoff’s proposal with skepticism. Commissioner Fred Bland found the proposal “woefully lacking” in design and presentation. Bland stated that he was “perplexed” by Landmarks’ previous decision to approve the project, and told the applicants “to start over.” Commissioner Margery Perlmutter said that Landmarks has grown accustomed to, and come to expect, high-quality proposals for new work in the district. Perlmutter recommended that the long facade along Greene Street should be “broken down” to reflect the scale of other buildings in the district.  Commissioner Michael Devonshire stated that the proposal did not “reach the quality of materials that this site deserves.” Commissioner Joan Gerner agreed, saying it was “an opportunity to put a better building on the site.”

Chair Robert B. Tierney agreed with the commissioners, and asked the applicants to reconsider the proposal and return to Landmarks at a later date.

LPC: 341 Canal Street, Manhattan (12-9676) (June 26, 2012) (Architect: Gene Kaufman, Architect P.C.).


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