Partial demolition of East Side rowhouses approved

Rowhouses at 110 – 120 East 76th Street in the Upper East Side Historic District. Photo: CityLand.

Landmarks approved plan to partially demolish deteriorating rowhouses, but expressed concerns about developer’s townhouse conversion proposal. On January 5, 2010, Landmarks approved part of the Chetrit Group’s redevelopment proposal for six 1885-era rowhouses at 110 through 120 East 76th Street in the Upper East Side Historic District. The proposal required two separate applications. Chetrit Group requested approval to partially demolish at least two of the deteriorated rowhouses, while retaining and stabilizing the front facades. Landmarks also considered the developer’s plan to convert the six rowhouses into three large townhouses with two-story additions.

At the hearing, Tim Lynch, director of Buildings’ forensic engineering unit, testified that the interiors of 112 and 114 East 76th Street were structurally compromised and progressively degrading. He said there was no way to salvage the two buildings beyond shoring and bracing their facades, and that the situation needed to be stabilized “immediately.” Lynch noted that the rowhouses rely on each other for stability and said 116 and 110 East 76th Street would be at risk as well.

Architect Gavin Macrae-Gibson presented the redevelopment plans. After stabilizing the rowhouses, the developer would reconstruct the interiors of the six buildings and alter their facades to create three large townhouses. The facade alterations included creating new street-level entrances and adding ornamental second-floor balconies. In addition to the proposed two-story rooftop additions, the plan included adding rear-yard extensions and new rear facades for each townhouse.

Residents and preservation groups opposed the proposal. A representative of Friends of the Upper East Side claimed that the buildings had been allowed to fall into disrepair and argued that the owner should be responsible for repairing the rowhouses before proceeding with any redevelopment plans. Nearby resident Robert Atkins said the rowhouses were “an oasis of 18th century architecture” and described the proposed townhouses as “bloated, oversized McMansions.”

The Commissioners expressed concerns about the redevelopment proposal. Vice Chair Pablo Vengoechea said the proposal was a “nonstarter” without more of an effort to preserve the identities of the individual rowhouses. Commissioner Fred Bland stated that the additions would be “overwhelmingly large” and that the facade alterations “went against preservation interests.” Commissioner Diana Chapin stated that one-story additions might be more appropriate.

The Commissioners agreed with Buildings’ recommendation to partially demolish the damaged buildings. Landmarks counsel Mark Silberman noted that Buildings would determine on a building-by-building basis, in consultation with Landmarks, which structures would need to be demolished.

Landmarks unanimously approved the demolition application, and asked the developer to return with a revised plan.

LPC: 110-120 East 76th Street, Manhattan (10-4794, 10-4437) (Jan. 5, 2009).

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