Owners challenge designation

Experts clash over rehabilitation cost for 1811-built Lower Manhattan townhouse. On April 21, 2005, Landmarks held a public hearing on the proposed designation of the four-story Robert Dickey House, a 41-foot wide Federalstyle townhouse located at 67 Greenwich Street and Trinity Place. The Dickey House, constructed in 1811, is the only surviving Federal-period, bowed-facade townhouse in Manhattan and one of only two intact townhouses of this period remaining south of Chambers Street.

The Schessel family, owners of the Dickey House for the past 45 years, had four experts testify at the hearing to the cost of rehabilitating the vacant 9,000-square-foot building, including structural and soil engineers, a development consultant and their land use counsel. Calling it “not bankable or investment worthy,” the owners’ experts asserted that reuse of the Dickey House would cost $6 million due to the building’s failing foundation, weak supporting soil, proximity to the Hudson River waterline and the need to completely gut the interior, which had been converted to a boardinghouse with, as one expert noted, “bathtubs in the kitchens.”

Tim Lynch, Landmarks Conservancy’s structural engineer who has restored several Front Street, Federal-style wooden houses, stated that the building was well built and showed no structural deterioration or distress. Several supporters of the designation testified that the Schessels could sell the remaining 35,000 sq.ft. of development rights to other lots being redeveloped in lower Manhattan, rendering its reuse feasible. Supporters appealed to Landmarks to protect a “Robert Moses survivor,” a reference to the construction of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, which caused the demolition of many Lower Manhattan townhouses.

Responding to the value of a potential transfer of development rights, Jay Segal, the Schessels’ counsel, explained that the transfer was not as-of-right and, because of the year-long ULURP review, would be undesirable and consequently unlikely.

Landmarks Chair Robert Tierney held the record open until April 26, 2005. No date was set for a vote on its designation.

LPC: Robert and Anne Dickey House, 67 Greenwich Street (LP-2166) (April 21, 2005) (Jay A. Segal, Greenberg Traurig, LLP, for Schessels; Jack Freeman, Development Consultant).

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