Volume 75, Number 9 | July 20- 26, 2005

Plan for tower near Tredwell doesn’t go over well

By Albert Amateau

The developers who control the landmarked but dilapidated Tredwell Skidmore House on E. Fourth St. near Cooper Square, asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission on July 12 for permission to build an 18-story residential tower on the adjoining vacant lot.

But the commission declined to take any action after expressing serious concerns about Atlantic Development Group’s plans, especially since court-ordered repairs on the 1845 Tredwell Skidmore house at 37 E. Fourth St. have not been completed.

Preservation advocates who testified at the July 12 hearing also objected to the new building proposed for the parking lot to the east and north of the landmark.

“We complained bitterly last April that the landmark building had been allowed to deteriorate for 20 years in the hopes [by the owner] that it would eventually prove to be unsaveable,” said Doris Diether, a member of the Community Board 2 landmarks committee. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the Historic Districts Council, the Municipal Art Society, the Society for the Architecture of New York and the Noho Neighborhood Association chimed in on the chorus of protest.

Indeed, the Landmarks Preservation Commission went to court last year to compel the then owner, the Sol Goldman Estate, to stabilize the building and make repairs. The Goldman Estate put a new roof and added structural steel supports to stabilize the Tredwell Skidmore house but other court-ordered repairs have not been done.

Meanwhile, Atlantic Development acquired a 99-year lease on the building and the adjoining lot to the east. Atlantic also acquired the development rights of the vacant property to the west, between the Tredwell House and the Old Merchant’s House, a designated landmark built 13 years before the Tredwell House. The latter of the two lots, where the Department of Environmental Protection is constructing a shaft for the city’s Third Water Tunnel, is to become a city park when the water tunnel project is completed at the end of 2007.

Atlantic seeks to transfer the development rights to the vacant lot east of the Tredwell Skidmore house for the new project and proposes to completely restore the landmark for use as a single-family dwelling. The developer, however, needs L.P.C. approval before it can go to the City Planning Commission for special permits for residential use on the parking lot site, waivers for setback requirements and an underground parking garage for the new project.

“We think this application is premature,” said Melissa Baldock, preservation and research director of G.V.S.H.P., adding, “The owner has not satisfactorily completed the necessary stabilization work and repairs ordered by a State Supreme Court justice last December, yet is asking for permission to build an out-of-scale development on an adjacent property.”

Simeon Bankoff, Historic Districts Council executive director, said he feared the excavation for the new building would undermine the structural integrity of the landmark.

The landmark commissioners also said they found the size of the proposed building, 177 feet tall on the Cooper Square side, to be excessive. They also said that the proposed entrance to an underground garage adjacent to the Tredwell Skidmore House was inappropriate. Although the height of the new building would step down to six stories next to the landmark, commissioners suggested the height should step down even further.

Commissioners also objected to the synthetic limestone facade of the proposed building. But they were especially unwilling to sign off on the project until the Tredwell House is restored to as good a condition as it was when it was designated a landmark in 1970.

The Samuel Tredwell Skidmore House was built in 1845 by a merchant cousin of Seabury Tredwell, who owned what is now known as the Old Merchant’s House, built in 1832 at 29 E. Fourth St. The Old Merchant’s House, also a designated landmark, was restored to nearly original condition, with furnishings from the period, and is maintained as a museum by a nonprofit organization.

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