In this Issue:
Complicity in the Demolition of Properties on Park Place
Debacle at 75 West Broadway: Who Should Tribecans Blame?
AIA Historic Buildings Committee Vandalizes Tribeca
Complicity in the Demolition of the Properties on Park Place
Remember the Ground Zero Mosque at 45 Park Place that was heavily debated in 2010? Although the building is now gone, there was a great review story on it in The Awl in 2015 that we recently found on the bottom of a pile of clippings. We haul it out now because it conveniently summarizes how the real estate game is played in Lower Manhattan and how even religion gets used as a screen for real estate games. It is an object lesson in how Tribecans need to have sharper eyes going forward if we are to preserve what we have left of our neighborhood. And we have to watch everywhere, as even our Community Board played the bad guy in this story.
Recall that the now-demolished five-story building was built in the 1850s and became a Burlington Coat Factory store in the 1990s. During 9/11, a piece of one of the airplanes fell into the building, crushing two floors and leading to the abandonment of the building for eight years. In 2010, there was an intense battle about proposals for a mosque and Islamic community center nearby the site of the WTC, with even the Christian right getting its knickers into a twist about the mosque.
In that idiotic debate in which religion was apparently just a screen for a real estate play, our own Community Board voted to demolish the building and thus green-lighted a tower. Apparently, the presence of a religious institution inside a tower was sufficient to undo the harm that a tower and its excessive density and shadowing would cause to the rest of the neighborhood. Margaret Chin, our Councilmember, supported the tower. As did then Borough President Scott Stringer (now Comptroller).
During the mosque Hysteria, it was shocking that nobody on the Community Board took leadership of this point: the Landmarks Preservation Commission had once told neighborhood leader Hal Bromm that they would consider landmarking the building, a promise had been made well before the whole mosque debate. Due to lack of local leadership on the issue, the landmarking idea was revived not by our community board, but by a right wing hedge-funder Robert Mercer (also advisor to the Trump campaign), who hired a NY consultant to do the research on the building and then tried to shove it through the Landmarks Commission (LPC). Well in NY, the press frenzy’s ignorant take on the issue (ignoring the real estate play and obsessing on the relgious angle) meant that nobody local would stick their necks out for a non-demolition plan for the building, leaving the field open for the people like Robert Mercer. The LPC didn’t like who was behind it either and instead of considering the building’s merits, summarily voted 9-0 to oppose designation (even though they had promised to designate it just a few years before).
And nobody in the midst of all mosque Hysteria pointed out that not just the one, but four of the buildings on that block ought instead to have been legitimately made part of Tribeca South Historic District. Of course, a year later Tribeca Trust was formed. Hoping to take advantage of financial problems that the developer was facing, Tribeca Trust tried to revive with LPC the historic district extension idea for this segment of Park Place. That effort failed: LPC dithered and delayed long enough for demolition to take place, forcing Tribeca Trust to drop Park Place from their ask at LPC.
Seen above is the original rendering of the tower-with-a-mosque that the community board approved. But as often happens, a different design emerged. It will still feature luxury condominiums: a 43-story, 665-foot high building with 50 high-end units to be precise. Our neighborhood will be even further cast into shadow.
Here is a before/after photo from one of our earlier postings about the buildings next to the coat factory that also should have been saved if our Community Board had shown better leadership at the time.
And as reported in the Citizen, building construction on the site, which started this past summer, is also causing problems: neighbors have restored to throwing objects at the construction site. Unfortunately, the object-throwing mission does not seem to have stopped construction.
Letter to 50 Murray residents (Source: http://tribecacitizen.com)
The upshot: look below at what we will soon get
And to add insult to injury, the owner of the building is a Trump supporter: Sharif El-Gamal of SoHo Properties is quoted in the Dec. 2016 issue of The Real Deal concerning Trump’s win: “I believe that only good is going to come out of this.”) Gee…. that’s comforting….
Debacle at 75 West Broadway- Cape Advisors joins our Electeds as the Bad Guys Who Did This
Cape Advisors has proven to be architectural know-nothings and gets the prize-of-the-month as top destroyer of Tribeca. They are of course moving forward on the 21-unit apartment building at 75 West Broadway (also listed at 59-61 Warren Street). The eight-floor building will be located a block away from other Cape Advisors property at 30 Warren Street. The 30 Warren Street building will be 23-units and 12-stories tall.
Who do we blame for such destruction of historic fabric?
- Blame Mayor De Blasio – he’s been messaging the Landmarks Preservation Commission to ‘stand down’ and let developers build over historic districts. He ignored all our petitions. Pretty sure he didn’t even read them.
- Blame our City Councilmember, Margaret Chin – Shouldn’t she have fought for us, a lot harder? Shouldn’t she have run interference on our behalf with the Mayor?
- Blame the Landmarks Preservation Commission: for becoming the lapdog of the Real Estate industry rather than an independent regulatory body with a modicum of actual standards.
Feast your eyes on what we get instead.
Rendering of the new apartment building at 59-61 Warren Street (Source: Cape Advisors)
Rendering of the spectacularly ugly new apartment building at 30 Warren Street (Source: Cape Advisors)
AIA Historic Buildings Committee Vandalizes Tribeca Historic Building
171-173 West Broadway, (also 33 Worth Street), Tribeca
Take a look at the travesty that is 173 West Broadway in Tribeca. Located on the corner of West Broadway and Worth Street, the building, alas, is just outside of our historic districts.
Map: Colored areas are Historic Districts, red circle is 173 West Broadway (Source: NYC.gov)
Here is the Photo Comparison
Before Photo: masseyknakal.com; After Photo: trastudio.com/tribeca-loft
The Italianate mixed-used, 5-story building was built sometime in the early 20th century. Although in need of some restoration work, 173 West Broadway embraced the historic character of our neighborhood. Yet in 2015-2016, Caterina Roiatti, chair of the American Institute of Architects NY “Historic Buildings Committee” and founder of the architectural firm “TRA Architects, got the contract to renovate this building. Oddly, her architectural firm claims that it “embraces the responsibility that comes with working in the Historic Districts”.
Yet this is anything but a responsible renovation. The building has been irredeemably harmed. Roiatti has inserted an over-scaled glass projection and adopted a harshly contrasting architectural language while vandalizing three of the original windows. The new window looks directly out to the World Trade Center, since the original window looking at the World Trade Center wasn’t enough of a view. Why did they do this? Here is Roiatti’s explanation:
“The striking corner atelier oriel, which recognizes that a view is the ultimate New York luxury, takes full advantage of the fact that the structure is curiously not landmarked, gives character and presence to the corner building and adds balance to the somewhat odd “too tall “proportions, as seen in the original conditions photograph.” –TRA Architects
“Gives character and presence”? Puhleeze. Isn’t this the architectural world’s version of “alternative facts”?
To make matters worsee, they changed the density of this building. Originally it was a storefront with 4 units, TRA Architects reduced the density of the building, making it into a storefront and only 2 units. Isn’t the reason for building so many skyscrapers in Tribeca agreed to because of the argument of density?
Yes, we are angry: the casual and senseless destruction of Tribeca’s historic fabric has got to stop.
Photo Source: TRA Architects