Thursday, January 27, 2011

Developer seeks approval to damage Underground Railroad Station

Here is news from the Hopper-Gibbons advocates. The building on West 29th Street in Manhattan was not only an important stop on the Underground Railroad, it is very important to New York City for its role in the Draft Riots of 1863:

I understand that Mr. Mamounas is planning to appeal the Department of Building's order to demolish the illegal 5th story addition to the Hopper Gibbons house. He has 30 days to appeal this order to the Board of Standards and Appeals. At best, this could delay the demolition of this addition for months. At worst, the Board could well decide to let Mr. Mamounas keep the 5th story addition in place, as they have allowed other owners to do in past rulings. This would be not only a great blow to New York City and American history, particularly that pertaining to the lives of African-Americans and Quakers, but to the architectural integrity of this special oasis of 4 story row houses in Manhattan.


Besides, the Department of Buildings has repeatedly stated that they are concerned that the building must meet fire safety standards and that that's why they let Mr. Mamounas build corridor and apartment walls and doors on the 5th story even after they ordered him to tear it down. However, an 1847 inhabited building can never be brought up to fire safety codes. On that basis alone, apart from the historical importance of the Hopper Gibbons house, the Board of Standards and Appeals must not let Mr. Mamounas get away with retaining the 5th story. It wouldn't be safe. Not only that, but the sliver law only allows a height of only 52 feet.

Also bear in mind that when the building was landmarked in February 2010, Mr. Mamounas' building permit had already been revoked, as I was informed by the Department of Buildings. So, when Mr. Mamounas supposedly amended his plans to conform with the 4 story requirement in February 2010, am I not correct in my assumption that the application should have been under the purview of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, rather than the Department of Buildings?

At this point, I think we have to deluge Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Steven Goldsmith with the message that we need to preserve the original 4 story height of this row house for the above-mentioned historical, architectural, legal, and safety issues.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007
PHONE 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK outside NYC)

FAX (212) 312-0700


Deputy Mayor Steven Goldsmith
City Hall
New York, NY 10007
(212) 788-3000
FAX (212) 788-2460
[ or perhaps MEDIA CONTACT:
Stu Loeser/Marc La Vorgna (212) 788-2958