Volume 77 / Number 49 - May 7 - 13, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since
1933


Villager photo by Bonnie Rosenstock

For-sale signs were illegally bolted to former Cabrini Stuyvesant Polyclinic’s landmarked exterior.

Poly owners pitch ‘eco-manse’ or club, but are nailed on signs

By Bonnie Rosenstock

In less than two years, the former Cabrini Stuyvesant Polyclinic has more than tripled in value without having become anything but defaced. The building at 137 Second Ave. and Ninth St. has been vacant since August 2006 when Cabrini Medical Center sold it to a private developer for $4.8 million. Three owners later, it is again on the market — asking price $13 million — until recently publicized by three imposing signs nailed into the building’s facade, in violation of its landmark status, declaring “Nest Here – Buy this mansion.”

Melissa Baldock, director of preservation and research at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, stated last week in an e-mail, “Those three signs on the Polyclinic building are in gross violation of the Landmarks Law. The Landmarks Preservation Commission must approve signage on landmarked buildings, and they would never approve signs like these. They are particularly troublesome because they are bolted into the masonry and the decorative terra cotta of the individual landmark, potentially causing serious damage to the building’s architectural fabric.”

G.V.S.H.P. reported this condition to L.P.C.’s violations department and would be following the agency’s inspection closely, said Baldock. Diane Simonson, L.P.C.’s enforcement officer, stated in an e-mail that on April 8, the agency issued a warning letter to the owner for “installation of signs on building facade without permit(s).”

By Saturday, all three signs had been removed from the building’s exterior.

When developer Herbert Hirsch bought the building from Cabrini, he declared his intention to convert it into residential condos. Then on Dec. 14, 2006, Hirsch filed an application with the city’s Department of Buildings to convert the three-story structure into a student dormitory and add three additional floors on top. Hirsch didn’t follow through with the application process to Landmarks, which would have been hard-pressed to approve his requests given the building’s landmark status. In May, Hirsch attempted to lease the former Polyclinic as a restaurant/bar.

Finally, 13 months after running out of options, on Sept. 4, 2007, Hirsch sold the historic property to Lower East Side Equities LLC and 135 2nd Avenue LLC, a consortium of investors, for $9 million. The convoluted nature of the limited liability corporations has made it difficult to locate the owners.

The owners’ real estate agents, Moss Real Estate Group, at 419 Lafayette St., put up the signs. In the prospectus, obtained from the realtors, the building’s potential uses are variously listed as “an eco-mansion” (“a great opportunity to think green about the way this home will interact with the larger environment”) with “indoor/outdoor saltwater swimming pool exiting to your gigantic organic garden,” or “private club (a la Soho House), boutique hotel, spa, flagship office or retail.”

On April 24, architects representing the owners received permission from D.O.B. to begin interior demolition of the three floors and basement. The 124-year-old building, which is marked with graffiti at the base of its locked iron gate, is landmarked only for its exterior, but has some extraordinary interior details.

Referring to the signage, Andrew Berman, G.V.H.S.P.’s executive director, declared, “It is not a great way to introduce a sales pitch to the world.” As to the prospectus, he added, “On one hand, a nightclub and dormitory no longer seem to be on the table. But I am saddened that it’s not going to be utilized for public service, especially given the hyper acceleration of changes in the neighborhood.”

 

 

 

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