Owner defends right to demolish structure

Owner of Crawford Clothes Building justifies tower demolition based on contract to construct new building. On April 21, 2005, Landmarks held a second public hearing on the proposed designation of the Morris Lapidus designed Crawford Clothes Building, also known as the Paterson Silk Building, at East 14th Street and University Place. At the hearing, the owner responded to accusations that the building’s central glass tower was demolished to quash Landmarks interest in its designation. See 2 CityLand 42 (April 15, 2005).

The building owner, Lloyd Goldman, testified that he was in contract with the Claremont Group, as developers, to demolish the building, purchase adjacent air rights, and construct a 14-story residential building with ground floor retail space, which had already been leased to Bank of America. Claremont’s counsel, Robert Davis, explained that negotiations had commenced in March 2004 on the development agreement, and that the final sale agreement was signed in December of 2004. Claiming that over $11 million had already been spent or incurred, Davis stated that the construction loan closed on February 28, 2005 and further claimed Claremont first learned of Landmarks’ interest in the building in The New York Times’ March 9th article. Landmarks Chair Robert Tierney responded that a letter of interest was sent from Landmarks to the property owner on February 7, 2005. Davis asked that Landmarks consider the effect that a designation would have on adding uncertainty to the lending and development markets.

Frank Sanchis, the Municipal Art Society’s Senior Vice President and Landmarks’ former Executive Director, countered that developers have a responsibility as part of a thorough property investigation to call Landmarks staff or commission members to inquire about the potential interest in a building’s designation.

Davis responded that under the landmarks law a building is protected only on the date that it is designated, and not before. The existing inter-agency procedure between Landmarks and Buildings, which puts a hold on the issuance of any building permits from the date that Landmarks calendars a designation hearing, is already beyond the explicit protection of the landmarks law, Davis added. He further argued that no obligation should be imposed on owners to determine “what might be in the minds” of Landmarks Commission members. Shelly Friedman, the owner’s attorney, added that private telephone calls to the agency “run in the face of a regulated system.”

Landmarks closed the public hearing. No vote was taken on the designation since Landmarks did not have a quorum.

LPC: Crawford Clothes Store, 36 East 14th Street (LP-2176) (April 21, 2005) (Shelly Friedman, Friedman and Gotbaum, LLP, for Goldman; Robert Davis, Esq., Bryan Cave LLP, for Claremont Group).

Leave a Reply

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