Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Landmarks Preservation Commission approves hotel project that could potentially damage the city's oldest residential landmark

EVG file photo

The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted yesterday to approve an 8-story hotel next door to the landmarked Merchant's House Museum on Fourth Street between the Bowery and Lafayette, prompting a dire response from museum officials. 

As we reported last week, the development firm Kalodop II Park Corp. has been trying to build the hotel for nearly 12 years; the project has been in limbo for the past three years.

In January 2019, the developers sued New York City, the City Council and Councilmember Carlina Rivera over rejecting their Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application for the project. 

The developers have been seeking a spot rezoning to build an 8-story hotel on the site — higher than the current zoning allowed. The full City Council ultimately voted down the rezoning in September 2019. 

Preservationists, not to mention the leadership of Merchant's House, the circa-1832 building, were concerned that the construction could permanently damage the structure, one of only six residences in NYC that is both an exterior and an interior landmark. Local elected officials and Community Board 2 have all opposed the current application for the 8-story hotel. 

During yesterday's meeting, the LPC did not allow for testimony from the Merchant's House or their engineering team.

The Merchant's House released this statement after yesterday's decision... 
[T]he LPC voted to approve the development next door to the Merchant's House, despite overwhelming and unanimous opposition from the community, preservation organizations, public officials and, of course, from the Merchant's House and our engineers and preservation architects. 

When asked, the developer's engineers admitted that they have no data about what standards are appropriate when dealing with historic decorative plaster. Further, none of the participants today was aware of the plaster study that confirmed irreparable damage will take place. 

The LPC mandated that certain standards relating to vibration monitoring be established. However, even the most state-of-the-art vibration monitoring systems only announce when the vibration limit has been reached — at which point the damage has already occurred. 

Today's vote by the LPC to greenlight a development that is certain to cause irreparable damage to the Merchant's House Museum is a warning to every other landmark in New York City. If the Merchant's House, one of New York's most treasured historical assets, can be subjected to adjacent construction that will destroy its historic fabric, then every landmark in New York City is at risk. 

This decision, even if reversed, will be a permanent stain on the Commission, which has failed in its existential duty to protect Manhattan’s first and New York City’s oldest residential landmark. The Merchant’s House Museum will take aggressive legal action to halt this unacceptable development. 

Thank you to all who wrote letters of support to the LPC and to those who were able to attend or listen to the meeting today. We couldn't do it without you.
You can donate to their legal fund here. (You can support them in other ways here.) You can watch a replay of the meeting here. The Merchant's House proposal starts at the 25-minute mark.


noble neolani said...

The City of Yes (that's if you are a developer lining the pockets of our elected officials) has struck another blow against transparency in government. Laws are apparently only suggestions these days, City of Scam.

JM said...

It looks like the LPC should not be in charge of anything to do with landmarks. Wonder whose hands got greased for this one. (It ranks right up there with the destruction of East River Park when other, cheaper, and perhaps more effective flood mitigation solutions were available. Another typically bad decision by the city.)

The Commission and the entire landmarking process needs to be uprooted and replaced by a panel with some semblance of integrity.

Anonymous said...

Very sad to see how thoroughly the LPC is in the pockets of developers. I wonder how much that "approval" actually cost...

Meanwhile, Merchant's House is LITERALLY irreplaceable (in every sense of the word). It is a fascinating & unique asset to NYC b/c of its provenance and heritage.

But to a developer, it's just some old pile of bricks. That is why developers have the reputation they have.

We DO NOT NEED any more hotels down here. I hope the developer's karma comes around super-fast.


How many people have been paid off to allow this to happen? This building is a treasure.

Anonymous said...

The LPC should be legally dissolved and completely eliminated, since it is not capable of doing the job it was created to do.

This ruling they issued is a huge FU to everyone, and it also indicates to me, certainly, that the LPC is *not* functioning as it was intended to function/ b/c it seems to be in the employ of the developer and of course, the "swaggering" and incompetent Adams administration.

Landmark status no longer has any meaning in NYC, and that should be actively addressed. The city wants budget cutbacks - well then, GET RID of the LPC; NYC can save a ton of money right there by eliminating an agency that is not doing anything of value for the citizens of NYC, and is in violation of its own designations.

Anonymous said...

Grieve, can you try to clarify something - you say we can find info on Merchant's House legal fund at the link you provide, but I only see that it's their regular web page. I don't see anything specific about their legal fund. I certainly would like to contribute to their legal expenses!

Anonymous said...

Troll developers win here!!! Yes the corruption in this city is now even more overt!!!!! LPC, Carolina Rivera, E. Adams, etc. are the nouns on the poster of this wtf decision. Zero logic. Yes, who wants to come visit and stay in bar saturated, over-developed empty buildings, and ugly new aesthetically inclined "hotels" of lower Manhattan? I feel this decision is the "echo chamber" of people who just do not think critically or have any intelligence because we really do need another hotel.

Grieve said...

To 10:04,

I updated the link so it goes directly to the donation Square site. I kept in the link about other ways to support them.

Anonymous said...

@Grieve, thanks! I must've skimmed past the link you have for the legal expenses. Appreciate you setting me right.

djny10003 said...

Not to mention that there is already a glut of empty hotel rooms now.

Xeo said...

Of all the times, we've had a lot of instability caused by construction recently... and it's "never" the construction project's fault. Ignore that pile driving is like having a constant mini earthquake next to you.

I'm pro building more housing (not that this is going to be housing), but there needs to be proper planning and proper accountability. Come on.

noble neolani said...

Does anyone know the names to those in the LPC? Want to send them a holiday present....

I------m said...

this sad situation is squarely from the hands of mayor adams. he appoints the members of the LPC.
current members of th LPC are all tied to the real estate industry.
city of yes...appropriate acronym -- COY.

there has to be an end to destruction of our city's beloved cultural pearls by those looking to line their pockets ...or for future funding potential.


Anonymous said...

Is anyone surprised?

Carol from East 5th Street said...

Google "email address Sarah Carroll LPC. This will lead you to a NYC site where you can send her your message. Do it!

Anonymous said...

Appalling and short-sighted. Hard to understand what the purpose of landmarking is, when it provides no protection against predictable harm.
The developer had never heard about the irreplaceable nineteenth-century plasterwork either during their due dilligence or during the years of hearings? And what is the vibration monitor meant to do? Let the developer say, "Yeah, our bad!" when things crumble?
The LPC should be ashamed.