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Landmarks Commission OKs Backyard Pool for Designer Jeans Mogul

By Leslie Albrecht | August 2, 2011 6:20pm | Updated on August 3, 2011 6:50am

UPPER WEST SIDE — A Turkish millionaire has agreed to scale back plans for a backyard pool and deck behind his Upper West Side brownstone, but neighbors still want to throw cold water on the redesign.

Homeowner Ragip Ersin Akarlilar, who owns denim company Mavi Jeans, agreed Tuesday to shrink a multi-story glass and steel deck and building for the pool equipment that he wants to build along with a pool behind his West 83rd Street brownstone.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission, which must approve changes to the historic building, approved Akarlilar's plans, but asked him to shrink the deck to two stories instead of three, and shave 10 feet off the mechanical building to allow for more greenery in Akarlilar's backyard. The size of the pool remains the same — eight feet wide and 57 1/2 feet long.

Akarlilar, whose pool plan was first reported in the New York Post, wasn't available for comment on Tuesday. Neither was his architect.

Next door neighbor Jonathan Stuart, who gathered closed to 500 signatures opposing Akarlilar's backyard addition, says the modifications don't dampen his dislike for the deck and pool.

He said he'll talk to a lawyer about how to keep up the battle going against his neighbor's backyard make-over.

"We're not going to give up," Stuart said. "I'm not intending on allowing them to ruin my life without a big fight."

Neighbors say the pool and deck will destroy the green, leafy quiet of the backyards surrounding Akarlilar's property and wreck the historic character of their landmarked homes.

Stuart — who's lived on the West 83rd Street block for 40 years and was part of early efforts to preserve 19th-century brownstones — called the glass and steel deck Akarlilar wants to build "an insult to the neighborhood."

"If these people are going to do that kind of addition, what's next, a heliport, a bocce court, a public barbecue pit?" Stuart said. "They're going to turn it into a cement pit. I've been seeing greenery for 30 years, all of a sudden I'm going to see brick."

Stuart's not just worried about his view. He's convinced the excavation for the pool will weaken nearby foundations and lead to water damage from an underground stream.

Upper West Side preservation group Landmark West! criticized the LPC's approval of the pool and deck.

Cristiana Pena, Landmark West!'s senior director of preservation, said the LPC approved an "inappropriate, insensitive and contextually disconnected" design that sets a bad precedent for other landmarked buildings on the Upper West Side.

"The community looks to the LPC to defend the best of New York, and it is unfortunate that the commissioners did not realize the deep impact their... approval will have on backyards going forward," Pena said in an email.