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Stone Eagles, Clock Tower in Danger of Falling Off TriBeCa Court Building

By Julie Shapiro | October 20, 2010 5:53am | Updated on October 20, 2010 10:45am

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

TRIBECA — A crumbling city court building in TriBeCa poses a danger to the public and requires emergency repairs, a city contractor said Tuesday.

The landmarked building features two clock towers and other decorative elements on the roof, including four large stone eagles. The eagles and the eastern clock tower, along with portions of the parapet, have decayed and are in danger of falling into the street.

"It’s just in terrible condition right now," said Joseph Donovan, senior principal at Stantec Architecture, referring to several rooftop structures at 346 Broadway.

After Donovan described the building’s state to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission Tuesday morning, the commission approved emergency measures to stabilize the rooftop.

"This is dangerous to the public and needs to be remedied immediately," said Joan Gerner, a member of the Landmarks Commission. "This needs to get started as soon as possible. It would be irresponsible not to move quickly."

The city plans to complete the work within six weeks, said Mark Daly, spokesman for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which is in charge of the building.

The city will remove a deteriorating brick and terra cotta chimney and will use steel and supportive fabric to keep the eagles, eastern clock tower and other rooftop elements in place, Donovan said.

Early next year, the city will do a more in-depth inspection and develop a permanent plan to stabilize the building, Donovan said.

It is unclear, however, if the city will put money toward a major restoration, and that worried the Landmarks Commission.

"If [the eagles] were bandaged on a permanent basis, it would be a great loss," said Elizabeth Ryan, a member of the commission.

Commissioner Roberta Gratz added, “We can’t let preservation be the victim of a severe budget, particularly in a building as important as this.”

Designed by Stephen D. Hatch and McKim, Mead & White, the building was constructed between 1894 and 1898 as headquarters for the New York Life Insurance Company.

A skyscraper in its day, the 13-story building “was intended to project an image of prosperity, integrity and permanence,” according to the Landmarks Commission.

The city bought the building in 1967, and today it houses the summons part of the New York City Criminal Court, along with other city offices, said Daly, the DCAS spokesman.

Daly declined to comment on the maintenance of 346 Broadway, but he said in an e-mail that the city deferred maintenance on many buildings during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s.

"It’s a beautiful building," said Roger Byrom, chairman of Community Board 1’s Landmarks Committee. “This is very unfortunate.”