Rowhouse conversion for preschool approved

Chabad of the West Side will combine two residential rowhouses to create religious preschool. On September 22, Landmarks unanimously approved an amended proposal by Chabad of the West Side to convert two John Duncan-designed rowhouses into a preschool at 43 and 45 West 86th Street in the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic. Chabad’s original proposal included demolishing the interiors, redesigning the rear facades using glass and masonry, altering the floor plates, and adding a rooftop play terrace and a penthouse. Landmarks rejected the proposal, noting that the realigned floor plates would be visible from the front facade windows and that the overall design would destroy too much of the building’s original fabric. 6 CityLand 110 (Aug. 15, 2009).

Architect Charles Platt presented the revised design, noting that it followed the previous proposal in concept, including demolishing both buildings’ interiors, but addressed the concerns discussed at the prior hearing regarding exterior and interior features.

Platt explained the ground floor plate would still be realigned in order to provide a handicapped accessible front entrance, the second floor’s floor plate would now lie beneath the window’s sill, and the remaining floor plates would align with the originals. The original design called for long horizontal bays at the rear, uniting the two rowhouses, and Platt stated that the new proposal included dividing the windows vertically into projecting bays to indicate the building was once two distinct structures. The revised proposal incorporated further changes to the rear facade, including aligning the new building’s cornice with the neighboring rowhouse and setting the penthouse back eight feet.

Commissioner Stephen Byrns said that the revised proposal addressed his major objections, particularly the floor plate alignment and the visibility of the rooftop elements. Commissioner Roberta Brandes Gratz strongly opposed the original proposal, but said the revised design adequately addressed her objections.

LPC: 43, 45 West 86th St., Manhattan (COFA# 09-7556) (Sept. 22, 2009).

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