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Landmarks rejects developer’s plan to demolish 2-story house in Greenpoint Historic District

Rendering for 111 Noble Street. Photo via NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

Sept. 16, 2017 By Nathaly Pesantez

Plans to build a new three-story penthouse building on Noble Street where a two-story landmarked house currently stands have come to a halt since the developers have been unable to convince the Landmarks Preservation Commission that it should be demolished.

Developers filed plans proposing a new three-floor building at 111 Noble Street in July, where a wood-framed, two-story building that went up in 1855 stands. The house is in the Greenpoint Historic District, an area that was landmarked by the city in 1982.

At a Landmarks Commission hearing on Sept. 12, the developers claimed that the house had been heavily altered and that it no longer fit the historical aspects of the other homes in the Historic District. They claimed that structural condition of the house is “unstable” , arguing that the floors were warped and the brickwork was improperly done.

“Due to the extent of what was seen and the nature of the stability issues…we recommend the structure be rebuilt,” said Muhammad Rahal, an engineer at Severud Associates.

Rahal went on to describe plans for the proposed building and displayed renderings of the 35-foot structure with three duplex units totaling 4,975 square-feet. The gray, blue, and green colors of the new building, Rahal said, would blend with the colors of the surrounding homes in the historic district, and a roof terrace and penthouse at the very top would be blocked from street view so as to cause minimal disturbance to the pattern of homes.

Several members from historical and preservation societies testified at the hearing and were extremely critical of the proposal. They claimed that the destruction of the historic house would be for the sole benefit of lining the developer’s pockets.

“It is sad to see this first step in the destruction of the Greenpoint Historic District,” said Christabel Gough of the Society for Architecture of the city. Gough said the demolition of the building on 111 Noble Street would pave the way for other developers to do the same, and accused the developers of exaggerating the structural deficiencies of the house.

Peter Ehrman, a resident of Noble Street, said that the physical problems cited in the proposal can be found in any house in Greenpoint, and that the building should be restored or fixed up instead.

“This specific proposal is a Trojan horse threatening every building in the Greenpoint Historic District and the integrity of the concept of landmarks,” Ehrman said.

The Landmarks Commission remained unconvinced that the building warranted tearing down, and also said that the described conditions of the house are items that could be solved through repairs or reworking instead.

The commission recommended the developers and owner of the site think through the proposal and plans for the building, noting that the “bar was set high” for demolition applications in historic districts. Suggestions for the building included a combination of restoration and expansion rather than full on demolition.

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