Community Board 1 (CB1) is pushing back hard against a developer’s plan to erect a large apartment building in the midst of the Tribeca East Historic District. At 312-322 Canal Street (between Church Street and Broadway, Trans World Equities wants to construct a nine story residential tower designed by architect Paul A. Castrucci. Although the mass of the building (102 wide and 97 feet tall) is within existing zoning limits, such a plan must be approved by the City’ Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), because it falls within one of Tribeca’s four Historic Districts, and would entail demolishing five existing structures that date from the early 1800s. Moreover, LPC does not rule on such requests until the local Community Board has first issued an advisory opinion.
At the CB1’s May 23 monthly meeting, James Sanders, who lives on nearby Lispenard Street, spoke on behalf of a group of concerned Tribeca residents. “I’m an architect and resident of Tribeca since 1992,” he began. “My neighbors and I care a lot about our City and this neighborhood.”
“The proposed building is completely inappropriate to its context,” Mr. Sanders continued. “It is to be built on the site of five row houses from 1826. These row houses have been altered over time and are now only two stories tall, but their walls remain. And you could see this history until 2010, when owners who are currently proposing the nine-story building performed illegal work on these buildings, with no permission from the Department of Buildings, or the Landmarks Preservation Commission.”
“When they went to Landmarks to retroactively legalize what they had done, the Commission rejected them,” he added. “They now propose a nine-story building clad in a pre-fab brick panelized system. We believe the height and scale of the building have no reference to Tribeca or its history.”
These themes were taken up by Jason Friedman, a member of CB1’s Landmarks and Preservation Committee, which earlier in May voted seven-to-zero to reject Trans World Equities’ proposal. As he summarized the discussion for CB1 as whole, Mr. Friedman said, “we felt that the proposed building did not capture the street wall that is part of the Historic District. It’s not respectful to history of the lot, and neighbors were worried about effects on light and air.”
CB1 then discussed the resolution passed earlier by its Landmarks and Preservation Committee, which called the proposal, “unacceptable on almost every level,” describing it as a, “long blockhouse,” and comparing it to a, “mini-33 Thomas Street,” in a reference to the widely reviled ATT Long Lines Building at Thomas and Church Streets, the early 1970s construction of which first catalyzed the movement to preserve Tribeca’s architectural history.
In unusually strong wording for a CB1 resolution, the measure also compared the proposed design to a Hilton Garden Inn and said, “one wishes more could be said in favor of this proposal,” adding that, “the committee is at a loss here.”
The resolution concluded with an unequivocal call: “CB1 urges that the Landmarks Preservation Commission reject this application.” When the vote was called, the resolution passed CB1 as a whole unanimously.
The proposal by Trans World Equites will next come before the City’s LPC, which is scheduled to discuss it in early June.