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Dilapidated TriBeCa Landmark Is on the Road to Repair

By Julie Shapiro on December 14, 2010 6:43pm 

The landmarked building on the corner of Canal and Greenwich streets has fallen into disrepair.
The landmarked building on the corner of Canal and Greenwich streets has fallen into disrepair.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

TRIBECA — The owner of a dilapidated TriBeCa landmark is taking steps to repair it after the city expressed concerns that parts of it could collapse.

The 191-year-old building at 502 Canal St. caught the city’s attention over a year ago, when inspections revealed that the front and rear facades had "deteriorated to a point where their architectural and structural integrity could be compromised," said Lisi de Bourbon, spokeswoman for the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The LPC could have filed a demolition by neglect suit, which would accuse Ponte Equities, the building’s owners, of allowing the landmark to fall apart on purpose.

But the Ponte family agreed to "extensively restore" the building and has hired an architect and a preservation consultant, which satisfied the LPC, de Bourbon said.

So far, no work has been done on the modest three-story brick building at Canal and Greenwich streets, but the owners have applied for their first permit to remove metal shutters, de Bourbon said.

The landmark, which also has an address at 480 Greenwich St., was built in 1819 for John Y. Smith, who manufactured starch and hair powder on the ground floor and lived above with his family, according to the LPC.

"Its presence is a striking reminder of the initial phase of the development of New York City in the years of the early republic," the LPC said in its designation report.

Today, scaffolding rings the facade, graffiti-scrawled shutters block the entrances and plywood covers the upstairs windows.

Concerned that the building could be in danger, Community Board 1’s Landmarks Committee decided last week to contact the LPC and the city Department of Buildings to ask them to intervene.

"It’s been neglected and abandoned for years," said Andy Neale, a TriBeCa resident and public member of Community Board 1. "It looks like the building is in imminent danger of collapse."

Neale was relieved to hear this week that 502 Canal St. was on the road to repair, but he said it should never have been allowed to fall apart in the first place.

The three-story building at 502 Canal St. and its neighbors, shown in 1965.
The three-story building at 502 Canal St. and its neighbors, shown in 1965.
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John Barrington Bayley/Courtesy of Landmarks Preservation Commission

The adjacent 504 Canal St., another landmark owned by the Pontes, is also in disrepair and is slated to be restored as well, de Bourbon said.

Vincent Ponte, president of Ponte Equities and owner of the nearby Filli Ponte Ristorante, did not return calls for comment.

In 1997, Ponte pleaded guilty to paying a bribe to obtain a government construction contract, and his father Angelo Ponte pleaded guilty to working with the Mafia to inflate garbage collection prices.

The grills on 502 Canal St. are tagged with graffiti.
The grills on 502 Canal St. are tagged with graffiti.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

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