Puck Building rooftop additions proposed

Penthouses would add six apartments to landmarked commercial office building. On September 20, 2011, Landmarks considered Kushner Companies’ proposal to build two, two-story additions on top of the landmarked Puck Building at 295 Lafayette Street. The red-brick Romanesque Revival building occupies the entire block bounded by East Houston, Jersey, Mulberry, and Lafayette Streets. Landmarks designated the Puck Building as an individual City landmark in 1983.

Jared Kushner, principal of Kushner Companies, testified that the proposal was part of an ongoing effort to refurbish and modernize the Puck Building, which his family purchased in the 1990s. Cas Stachelberg, an architectural historian representing Kushner, testified that the building had undergone significant alterations. Stachelberg noted that the building had been seven stories when it was built in 1886, and a nine-story extension was added to the southern facade in 1893. Four years later, nearly 50 feet of the building’s northern facade had to be removed to make way for the opening of Lafayette Street. Stachelberg gave examples of other significant buildings from the time period that had vertical additions, such as the Cooper Union and Carnegie Hall, and he cited the American Museum of Natural History’s Rose Center for Earth and Space as an example of contemporary design added to a 19th-century structure. 

The project’s architect, Sherida Paulsen, of PKSB Architects, stated that the two-story glass additions would be built on each of the building’s roofs. The addition on the roof of the seventh story would be “tucked into” the brick wall of the 1893 extension. Both additions would be visible from the street, but Paulsen argued they would not detract from the historic architecture.

In addition to building the rooftop penthouses, the proposal included restoring some the building’s historic crenellations that had been removed from the cornice in the early 20th century. The windows along the building’s Jersey Street facade would also be restored and a new entrance would be created on Lafayette Street.

Paulsen claimed that the proposal would contribute to the Puck Building’s growth as a multi-use development and would complement the streetscape. An REI outdoors retail store would occupy the building’s ground floor, the upper stories would continue to function as office space, and the rooftop additions would create six apartments.

Manhattan Community Board 2 and preservation groups responded negatively to the plan. CB 2’s Jane McCarthy and the Historic District Council’s Nadezhda Williams testified that the additions would be too visible and out-of-context with the building. Elizabeth Finkelstein of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation argued the proposal failed to harmonize with the rest of the building, and was “grossly out of scale.”

Chair Robert B. Tierney stated that the Commissioners would refrain from a full discussion of the proposal until they were able to re view a mock-up of the additions, which had been damaged during Tropical Storm Irene.

LPC: Puck Building, 295 Lafayette St., Manhattan (12-3229) (Sept. 20, 2011) (Architect: PKSB Architects).

CITYLAND Comment: At Landmarks’ meeting on October 4, the Commissioners declined to vote on the application, citing concerns about the proposal’s bulk and scale. Chair Tierney asked Kushner to return with a revised design.

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