Replica of illegally removed balcony approved

Condo board demolished eleventh-floor balcony during facade restoration without Landmarks’ approval. On June 15, 2010, Landmarks approved a proposal to reconstruct an illegally demolished balcony on a twelve-story condominium at 105 West 72nd Street in the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District. The condominium board removed the eleventh-floor balcony of the building in 1992 without Landmarks’ approval. In 2004, Landmarks denied the board’s application to legalize the demolition. Four years later, the board filed plans to reconstruct the terra cotta and brick balcony, but later determined the project was not feasible due to engineering problems. The board instead applied to Landmarks to build a fiberglass balcony with different dimensions than the original.

At a June 15 public hearing, Shelly Mazor, president of the condominium board, testified that the original balcony had been removed because it presented a hazardous condition. Mazor said the board had tried to recreate the original balcony, but safety issues derailed the plan. She claimed the proposed fiberglass balcony, a purely decorative element, would be aesthetically correct and replicate the original balcony from street views. Architect Robert James explained that the original balcony projected 36 inches from the facade, and it was supported by outriggers built into the wall. Because these outriggers were removed with the original balcony, there was no longer a structurally safe way for the masonry wall to support the weight of a new brick and terra cotta structure. James proposed building a decorative balcony that would only project ten inches and would be inaccessible to tenants. The non-functioning balcony would be painted to emulate the original brick and terra cotta pattern.

Landmarks Chair Robert B. Tierney noted that local Council Member Gail Brewer had submitted a letter in support and that Manhattan Community Board 7 also approved. A Landmark West representative testified that the illegal removal was a result of the owner’s “cavalier attitude toward landmark regulation.” The Historic District Council’s Nadezhda Williams opposed the use of fiberglass, noting that lightweight terra cotta castings could be used.

Commissioner Joan Gerner supported the proposal, noting that Landmarks had approved the use of fiberglass for decorative features numerous times. Commissioner Libby Ryan, however, argued that because the condo board was asking Landmarks to make a “significant” compromise by accepting the use of fiberglass, the board should recreate the balcony to its original dimensions.

Landmarks approved the plan, with Commissioners Roberta Washington and Libby Ryan opposing.

LPC: 105 West 72nd Street, Manhattan (10-8871) (June 15, 2010) (Architect: Robert James).

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