Community Board 1 (CB1) is taking exception to a newly abbreviated process at the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), which sometimes pushes developers’ proposals through the approval process before local leaders have had a chance to comment.
This appears to have been the case with the building planned for 14 White Street, a long-vacant triangular lot, located on Sixth Avenue, between White and Walker Streets. Real estate development firm NAVA plans a seven-story, 85-foot-tall apartment building for this plot. This location is within the Tribeca East Historic District, which legally mandates that new buildings blend into the architectural context of the surrounding streetscape.
At the March 28 meeting of CB1, Roger Byron, chair of the Landmarks Committee, described NAVA plan as, “a well thought-through design,” but added, “it has too much glass, and is too complicated.”
Although the Landmarks Committee recommended that the LPC approve the NAVA proposal, they did so with several caveats. According to a resolution drafted by CB1’s Landmarks Committee, and enacted at the March 28 meeting, the panel felt that the building’s height, the large amount of clear glass in the facade, and the multiple entrances at ground level (for residents, for a retail space, and for a garage) all caused the proposed structure to clash with the surrounding architectural milieu.
In one sense, CB1 might not have bothered to comment on the proposed design, because LPC signed off on it less than 24 hours after CB1’s Landmarks Committee met, and weeks before CB1 as a whole could vote on the resolution.
“LPC, as is now their fashion, approved this without any comments at the first hearing,” Mr. Byrom said at the March 28 session. “This is an amazing thing. In the 18 years I’ve been attending LPC hearings, something like would have gone through three or four rounds of revisions before approval. And this one had no discussion. It was approved in the first presentation.”
CB1’s vice chairman, Paul Hovitz, asked Mr. Byrom, “what do you think of that?”
Mr. Byrom replied, “I think it shows that the LPC is too biased towards development. And that we have to pick our battles.” He added that opposition to new buildings, “is very difficult. As you now, LPC tends to approve new buildings without any comment, which is a very sad trend.”
Returning to the proposed design of 14 White Street, he added, “there are some good ideas here. When we were reviewing this application, the day before it went to LPC, we were hoping they might take into account our comments, as they used to. But clearly not this time.”
The March 28 resolution noted that, “CB1 is distressed that the LPC voted on this application prior to receiving community board comment,” and added, “in the future, CB1 would like the LPC to allow community board comment before it votes on an application.”