Landmarks designates one of two West Side stables

Image Courtesy of LPC

Landmarks rejects the designation of the Dakota Stables, which now sits covered in scaffolding. Photos: Morgan Kunz.

Failure to designate stable allows Related Companies’ apartment project to be constructed on site. On November 14, 2006, Landmarks designated only the New York Cab Company Stable at 318 Amsterdam Avenue, but declined to landmark the Dakota Stables at 348 Amsterdam Avenue, now slated for demolition and replacement by the Related Companies with a Robert A.M. Stern-designed apartment complex. 3 CityLand 157 (Nov. 15, 2006).

Landmarks opened the voting with the New York Cab Company Stable, emphasizing the “intactness” of the 1890-built stable and its “exquisite” details, cornice, and rounded windows.

When the vote turned to the Dakota Stables, Landmarks Chair Robert B. Tierney explained that the actions of the owner, Sylgar Properties, had “preempted his ability to exercise judgment under the landmarks law.” Tierney explained that Sylgar planned to demolish the building and had recently obtained valid permits to strip the building and reclad it in stucco. Landmarks Counsel Mark Silberman and the Commission’s research head Mary Beth Betts advised him that the resulting “stucco box” would not be recognizable, and the landmarks law and Charter provided no legal redress. Tierney said that he would “reluctantly follow” the advice and reject designation. In his comments, Tierney explained that he had numerous talks with the owner, architect and developer and remained hopeful that the new design would incorporate significant features of the 1894 Dakota Stables.

Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz strongly disagreed with Tierney’s position. Gratz claimed that Landmarks “was being tested” and advocated sending a signal that developers could no longer stop designation by obtaining permits to strip buildings under consideration. She listed Paterson Silk, P.S. 64, and the City and Suburban Homes as examples where owners destroyed building details to thwart designation. Proclaiming that the Dakota Stables had “visionary simplicity,” Gratz added that it was “not too far gone for designation” since at the time of the hearing Sylgar had not completely defaced it or buried it in stucco.

Commissioners Richard Olcott, Joan Gerner and Pablo Vengochea agreed with Tierney that if the owner retained the right after designation to alter the stable to a stucco box, they would be designating “a ghost,” as Olcott put it. Commissioner Christopher Moore challenged Landmarks to “draw a line in the sand,” commenting that “the developer did what he had to do; we should do what we can do.”

Several commissioners called for changes to the overall process to redress last minute attempts to deface buildings, with Vengochea suggesting that all buildings over 70 or 100 years be reviewed automatically. Tierney commented that such a process would require a multi-agency approach, and that Landmarks had been working with the Department of Buildings to develop a response to the concerns.

Landmarks denied designation of the Dakota Stables by a final 8 to 2 vote.

LPC: Mason Stables aka Dakota Stables, 348 Amsterdam Ave. (LP-2206) (Nov. 14, 2006); New York Cab Company Stable, 318 Amsterdam Ave. (LP-2209) (Nov. 14, 2006).

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