Volume 74, Number 27 | November 10 - 16, 2004

Bricks by Leibovitz buildings raise some suspicion

By Hemmy So

A dumpster full of discarded bricks and a large hole in the Greenwich St.-side facade of three landmarked buildings owned by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz raised a few eyebrows this past weekend. After the Landmarks Preservation Commission had assured Greenwich Village community members that restoration of the building facades would include the original bricks, the scene at the repair site didn’t bode well.

“I got calls from neighbors over the weekend, and I went down there myself to take a look, and I did in fact see the very large hole and the dumpster in front of it with old bricks,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

Berman immediately called the contractor and owner’s representative to get an explanation, and he brought the matter to L.P.C. chairperson Robert B. Tierney’s attention last Monday.

According to Richard Mand, president of subcontractor Five Boro Roofing, the discarded bricks came from inner layers of the building facade, not the historic exterior that Greenwich Village residents and G.V.S.H.P. seek to save. Three layers of brick, or “wythes,” comprise the facade. F.B.R. plans to replace the two inner wythes with structural block and reinstall the facade brick on the outer wythe, Mand said.

“What [Berman] sees is the demolition phase. This is exactly what we did on the east wall, which would be seen from the court. If you see that wall, we reused that brick,” he explained. Viewing will be easier after F.B.R. takes down the steel scaffolding on the building’s east side on Nov. 9. The external steel on the Greenwich St. and W. 11th St. sides will come down in two to three weeks, depending on weather, Mand said.

While F.B.R. tears down the inner wythes, it is storing the outer bricks inside the building.

“If this is correct, that is satisfactory,” said Berman about Mand’s explanation. “However, what we have asked L.P.C. to do is inspect the site and independently confirm that is the case.”

L.P.C. has agreed to send an inspector to the site, said commission spokesperson Diane Jackier, though she did not know when the visit would take place.

The inspection may be made easier by the fact that the exterior bricks differ from those used in the inner wythes. “The two inner wythes of brick are just regular, red common brick,” Mand said. “The outer wythe is a more orangey, more geometrical, larger brick. One is just used for general, construction and fill, and the other is used for finish work.”

The repair and restoration work on the three buildings resulted from a sunken interior wall between the two residential buildings at 755 Greenwich St. and 311 W. 11th St. Illegal construction work inside 755-757 Greenwich St. in October 2002 caused the sinking, rendering the buildings unsafe. Leibovitz agreed to buy the W. 11th St. residence in June 2003 as part of a legal settlement with the building’s former owner.

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