A rendering of the proposed 775-foot Extell Development tower on W. 66th Street - Grey areas show voids - Rendering courtesy of George Janes
City Moving to Close "Voids" Loophole to Developers

After legal challenges from neighborhood groups, and a large public outcry over zoning loopholes that allowed developers to boost residential building heights, the City is finally moving to void “voids.” Developers have built extra high mechanical spaces—some higher than the ceiling at Grand Central—because these spaces have not counted towards the building’s allowable size. 

On Monday, the City Planning Department (DCP) proposed making voids that are taller than 25 feet count as part of the building size . This follows a recent Buildings Department warning that it will revoke building permits for a West 66th Street development unless the developer, Extell, could explain why 160 foot tall mechanical space is necessary.

LANDMARK WEST! had legally challenged the Extell proposal, which would be the tallest building in that neighborhood. The Conservancy is part of a large coalition of groups that pressed City Planning to regulate a variety of zoning loopholes that developers have used to boost the height of buildings and erect more valuable apartments with views .

While this is a welcome first step, DCP’s proposal only covers residential buildings and does not apply to the entire City. The proposal is at the start of a public review process. We will update you as it moves along.
Eltingville, Staten Island
Rescue Meeting at Frederick Law Olmsted's Historic Home

Our efforts to save Frederick Law Olmsted’s home on Staten Island took another step forward with a kickoff meeting on January 9th to start the rescue. We were joined by our architectural team from Jan Hird Pokorny Associates as well as representatives from the Department of Parks and Recreation, The Historic House Trust and the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The architects took measurements of the house, inside and out, to prepare base drawings. They also re-inspected the interior to update the initial 2018 conditions report. Shoring up the first floor of the house is a top priority. Once the drawings of the cellar are prepared, a structural engineer will visit the site to determine how exactly to do that. 

We also anticipate building a temporary roof over the open ditches surrounding the house where the porches once stood to prevent water penetration into the basement. The Conservancy is funding the work thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign and generous grant from the Achelis and Bodman Foundation. We are continuing to fundraise.  

Brooklyn Heights
Opponents Developing Better Alternatives to Promenade Plan

 Momentum continues to grow against the City’s plan to destroy the landmarked Brooklyn Heights Promenade and threaten five thriving historic districts as part of repairing the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

Council Member Steve Levin told WNYC Radio this past Monday: “We need to be looking at alternatives. We need some real transparency to the process.” Levin also praised the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) and A Better Way for trying to develop an alternative. He joins City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who already spoke against the city’s plans. 

Opponents are developing alternatives. Those efforts were highlighted in a Times story last Thursday describing BHA’s plan. It calls for a temporary, two-tiered roadway alongside stretches of the B.Q.E. in a “parallel bypass” method. This would allow the Promenade to remain open during much of the construction and move vehicles on the B.Q.E. farther away from homes. A Better Way is engaging transportation experts to “find an innovative solution.”

The Conservancy has dubbed the City’s proposal “Robert Moses revisited.” Two new videos from Brooklyn resident Andrew Carr describe the history of the highway and remind us that Moses did indeed try to promote an earlier, similarly destructive plan.


Lower Manhattan
Conservancy Staff to Participate in SoHo/NoHo Advisory Group

The Conservancy was asked to participate in a SoHo/NoHo Advisory Group to examine existing land use and zoning, promote public discussion of neighborhood priorities, and recommend zoning changes to reflect these thriving residential and commercial neighborhoods. The current, 48-year old manufacturing zoning does not reflect how the districts are used today.

The Group was formed by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Member Margaret Chin and the Department of City Planning. It includes a variety of stakeholders ranging from Community Board 2, to the NYC Loft Tenant’s Association, the Broadway Residents Coalition and the Real Estate Board of New York.

Historic Districts cover much of both neighborhoods. The Conservancy will seek to ensure that landmarks are protected and that any opportunities for new development respect the neighborhood’s character and unique sense of place.             

Borough President Brewer, Council Member Chin, and Department of City Planning Director Marisa Lago are hosting an open house next week to launch the SoHo/NoHo community engagement process . Attendees will be welcomed to provide input on their experiences of living, working, creating, and visiting in SoHo and NoHo. 

Conservancy Staff Spreading the Word at Public Panel Sessions

The Conservancy’s staff was out and about this month spreading the word about our loans, grants and technical programs at public information sessions about landmarking.

Our Sacred Sites team, Ann Friedman and Colleen Heemeyer, are on Long Island today discussing our grants for historic religious properties at a workshop sponsored by The Robert David Lion Gardner Foundation. 

Technical Director Alex Herrera discussed our emergency grants for non-profits and our grants for non-profit community developers at a gathering yesterday co-sponsored by the Municipal Arts Society and Preservation League of New York State. 

We co-sponsored an outreach session in Harlem on January 24 with the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and Community Board 10. Jim Mahoney, project manager of our loan program, described how to apply for our assistance. Audience members were very interested in how buildings could become landmarks and asked specific questions about repairs.

While we enjoy meeting people, you don’t have to go to a public session to get answers. We field hundreds of calls each year from property owners asking about building issues and looking for skilled professionals who can help them. Who ya gonna call? Us!
Great Blizzard 1888, New York City
Don't Salt Your Steps: Winter Technical Tips

‘Tis the season for snow and the Conservancy’s Technical staff has tips on protecting your steps and sidewalk. This is just one of the ways the Conservancy offers free advice to property owners throughout the year. Using a shovel may be the safest way to remove snow and ice from stoops and sidewalks without damaging the masonry of a building, but sometimes it is not enough. For this reason, de-icing products can provide additional help with the task of cleaning snow and ice. But they should be used with caution since they can potentially damage masonry surfaces, degrade mortar joints, and harm surrounding vegetation.

Mystery Landmark
Did You Identify This Mystery Landmark?

It’s the American Radiator Building , now the Bryant Park Hotel at 40 West 40th Street in Manhattan. Designed by Raymond Hood in 1923 and designated a City Landmark in 1974, the skyscraper is unique in that it features black brick and a gold crown to simulate the glow of a hot radiator.

The building was correctly identified by Marilyn Serge and her favorite landmark is the Chrysler Building.
This month’s Landmark News is sponsored by   Stribling and Associates
This newsletter is made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.  
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