Volume 75, Number 26 | November 16 -22, 2005

Artist finds he’s painted into corner by zoning

By Albert Amateau

The Department of Buildings imposed a temporary truce last week in the battle between West Village preservation advocates and the artist/filmmaker Julian Schnabel, who is trying to build a 110-foot-tall tower on the three-story former stable he owns at 360 W. 11th St.

The department issued a stop-work order on Thurs. Nov. 10 temporarily halting work on Schnabel’s project, which he began earlier this year under previous zoning that allowed an 11-story building on the site.

But the stop-work order holds only until the Department of Buildings makes a final determination about whether the project may continue under the old zoning or must comply with the new West Village rezoning which would allow Schnabel to add only two stories to his building located a half-block from the Village waterfront.

The buildings department, however, had not made a final decision by The Villager’s deadline on Tues. Nov. 15, and a spokesperson said only that a decision was pending evaluation of more information about the project.

Schnabel and his preservation adversaries were both confident last week that the decision would go their way.

“We’re confident that the buildings department will affirm its previous decision and allow us to proceed with the project as planned,” said Lloyd Kaplan, a spokesperson for the developer.

Andrew Berman, director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said the fact that Buildings had issued a stop-work order last week was reason enough to believe the final decision would please advocates who lobbied so successfully for the new low-rise West Village zoning.

Berman conceded that if the buildings department ruled against the developer’s plan for a 110-foot tower addition, Schnabel could appeal the decision to the Board of Standards and Appeals. “We’ll fight that battle when we come to it,” Berman said on Tuesday. Conversely, if Buildings ruled for the developer, “We’d likely taken him to the B.S.A.,” Berman said.

“This neighborhood fought long and hard for a rezoning to prevent exactly the kind of development that Mr., Schnabel is trying to sneak in here,” Berman said.

The Department of Buildings in late October had ruled that work had progressed far enough by Oct. 11, the day the new zoning became law, to allow the Schnabel project to continue under the old zoning.

However, G.V.S.H.P. and elected officials, including City Councilmember Christine Quinn, charged that the project had progressed as far as it did because there had been illegal construction after hours and on weekends. They submitted documents, videotapes and reports from the Sixth Police Precinct about the illegal work, and the complaints were enough to convince D.O.B. to issue the Nov. 10 stop-work order.

West Village preservation advocates, who lobbied for the new zoning and for Landmarks Preservation Commission designation of two historic districts in the neighborhood, were previously successful in stopping work on a two-story addition to a six-story former garage building at 166 Perry St. begun by Richard Born, developer of two of the three Richard Meier-designed luxury towers at Perry, West and Charles Sts.

Preservation advocates also convinced the buildings department to stop plans for a nine-story building at 163 Charles St. to replace a three-story 1832 building that had been demolished.

Quinn, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and State Senator Tom Duane were instrumental in the effort to prevent evasions of the new zoning.

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