Two Federal-style homes on the Bowery considered

One building owner intended to demolish house in order to build seven-story office. On July 13, 2010, Landmarks heard testimony on the possible designation of two separately owned Federal-style rowhouses located at 135 and 206 Bowery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. When the houses were built in the early 1800s, the Bowery was considered a fashionable upper-class residential and commercial district. While both buildings have undergone extensive alterations, they retain their essential forms and characteristics. Landmarks calendared the buildings on June 15, 2010. Council Member Margaret Chin, whose district includes the Bowery, supported designating both structures.

The 3.5-story house at 135 Bowery was built circa 1817 for John A. Hardenbrook, one of the 24 stock brokers who signed the Buttonwood Agreement that formed the precursor to the New York Stock Exchange. Hardenbrook’s daughter, Rebecca Hardenbrook-Somarindyck later lived in the house, and it remained in the family until 1944. The building’s ground floor historically housed commercial businesses while the upper floors were used as apartments.

The building’s owner, First American International Bank, opposed designation. Attorney Adam Rothberg, representing the bank, said the vacant building lacked historical and architectural significance, and its dilapidated condition precluded restoration. The bank purchased the rowhouse in 2007 intending to demolish it in order to develop a seven-story bank building. According to Rothberg, Buildings approved the bank’s plans in 2009. Rothberg stated that the bank had only been notified on June 7 that Landmarks intended to calendar the building. He noted that the bank had entered into a “standstill agreement” with Landmarks and would not take any action on the property without Landmarks’ approval for at least 30 days.

Architect Page Cowley and structural engineer Nathaniel Swift also spoke on behalf of the owners. Cowley testified that the building had undergone at least nine documented alterations that added elements that were “inconsistent with true Federal-style architecture.” She said the storefront had been replaced, the sidewalls had been partially reconstructed, and the interior had sustained fire damage. Smith testified that the building’s floor framing had degraded, that water damage permeated the building’s masonry, and the overall wall stability was in question.

Preservationists supported designation, with a Bowery Alliance of Neighbors’ representative testifying that the building contributed to the “most iconic stretch of the Bowery.”

Chair Robert B. Tierney closed the hearing on 135 Bowery, but kept the record open until August 6.

The second house heard, a 2.5-story rowhouse at 206 Bowery, was built circa 1825 as a speculative investment by the wealthy leather merchant James Meinel. The narrow, three-bay building’s ground floor has been used as a commercial space since its construction, and past tenants include engravers, tobacconists, jewelers, and milliners. Although the 206 Bowery House has undergone extensive alterations, it has retained its original Flemishbond brickwork and its peaked roof, with two pedimented dormers.

Residents and preservationists supported designation. Manhattan Community Board 2’s Jane McCarthy said that only a handful of Federal- style buildings remain relatively intact. Attorney Kenneth Wang, representing the owner, said the calendaring had come as a surprise and that the owner had not yet taken a position on the potential designation. Referring to a standstill agreement signed by the owner, Wang asked Landmarks to keep the record open in order to prepare testimony.

Chair Robert B. Tierney closed the hearing and held the record open until October 5.

LPC: Hardenbrook-Somarindyck House, 135 Bowery, Manhattan (LP- 2439); 206 Bowery House, 206 Bowery, Manhattan (LP-2440) (July 13, 2010).

CITYLAND Correction: In the July 15, 2010 issue on page 96 we reported that Frank Angelino represented the owner of 115 Seventh Avenue South at a March 2009 Landmarks hearing. We failed to report that the owner hired Cozen O’Connor’s Howard B. Hornstein prior to the May 2010 Landmarks hearing, and it was Hornstein who assisted the owner in obtaining approval for the revised proposal.

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