Volume 75, Number 35 | January 18 - 24, 200

Schnabel gets artistic license; city says he can build tower

By Albert Amateau

West Village preservation advocates demonstrated at the entrance to the Department of Buildings office on Tuesday to protest the department’s approval of an 11-story addition on top of a three-story former stable in the West Village.

The department earlier this month lifted a stop-work order, allowing construction to proceed at 360 W. 11th St. where Julian Schnabel, the designer and filmmaker, had begun building the high-rise addition in the West Village district that had been rezoned in October for low-rise development.

A developer who completes the foundation of a project while old zoning is in effect is allowed to continue as planned after the new zoning is adopted. And Schnabel continued on the high-rise project claiming the foundation was completed before the Oct. 11 date of the new zoning.

But the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation protested that work on the Schnabel project foundation was done illegally on weekends and after hours in order to beat the clock on the rezoning.

After protests by G.V.S.H.P. and elected officials including City Councilmember Christine Quinn, the department issued a stop-work order for 360 W. 11th St. last year. The department, however, found the complaints about illegal after-hours work were “unsubstantiated,” and rescinded the stop-work order pending further information from the developer.

“We provided the Department of Buildings with the documentation and detailed information requested and we’re pleased that as a result the department has lifted its previously issued stop-work order,” said a spokesperson reading a statement for Schnabel

However, preservation advocates at the Jan. 17 demonstration at the Chambers St. office of the department handed out printed records of 311 calls to the city complaint hotline about illegal work at the site between Sept. 22 and Oct. 8.

“None of them got a D.O.B. response the same day, the next day or the day after,” said Andrew Berman, G.V.S.H.P. director. “Five days were the quickest and the rest took 18 to 33 days or were never followed up — that’s why the department found our complaints unsubstantiated,” Berman said.

“It’s a Catch-22 that rewards law breakers and makes it virtually impossible for the public to prove law breaking to the department’s satisfaction no matter how frequent or blatant,” he said.

G.V.S.H.P. sent a letter on Jan. 13 to Mayor Bloomberg and City Planning Chairperson Amanda Burden protesting the flawed 311 complaint system as it relates to illegal construction work done to sidestep zoning rules.

In his statement, Schnabel, who designed his own project, said he “is confident the building will make a unique and positive contribution to the character and vitality of the West Village community where I’ve lived for more than 15 years.”

The building will contain Schnabel’s studio and home, a public community space devoted to art and three other residences.

Berman said on Tuesday that he still hopes the Department of Buildings will reverse its decision and reinstate the stop-work order at 360 W. 11th St. He noted that the society was able to stop work on a two-story addition to a six-story building at 166 Perry St. begun by Richard Born, developer of two of the three Richard Meier-designed glass residential towers at Perry, West and Charles Sts. in the new West Village zone.

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

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