By Patrick Hedlund
DNAinfo News Editor
EAST VILLAGE — Preservationists have lost their bid to landmark a pair of 170-year-old row houses on East 4th Street to prevent major changes to the historic properties.
The Department of Buildings issued a construction permit Thursday to the properties' new owner — who purchased the buildings from an artist collective that resided there since 1974 — to build two additional stories above the Greek Revival houses at 326 and 328 E. 4th St. between Avenues C and D.
The permit allows the new owner, Terrence Lowenberg, to move forward with his plans, despite a late landmarking push that could have prevented major redevelopment from taking place.
"Unfortunately, as we gathered in front of the houses on Tuesday to make this last appeal to the city to consider landmark designation, the city was issuing permits to the developer to allow the houses' destruction, effectively foreclosing the possibility of landmark designation," said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Preservation, in a statement Friday.
"This was a tragic mistake by the city, allowing these wonderful pieces of the East Village and the city's history to be destroyed, especially given the very poor track record of the architect in this case."
Lowenberg, a developer, has committed to preserving the buildings' existing façades and said he would attempt to restore them as much as possible to their original look.
One of the row houses previously served as a synagogue for a Hasidic Jewish congregation that operated out of the property for nearly 50 years, and before that both properties acted as a home to shipping merchants connected to what were then the East River docks.
The GVSHP and East Village Community Coalition filed an application with the city's Landmark Preservation Commission in August to review the properties for designation after hearing about the buildings' sale.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission, however, didn't deem them fit for protection.
"Though the city chose to ignore our arguments in this case," Berman added, "I believe we did the right thing by standing up for protecting our neighborhood and our city's history and character."