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Developer Won't Save Historic Building at 35 Cooper Square

By Patrick Hedlund | May 3, 2011 12:25pm | Updated on May 3, 2011 12:24pm
The building at 35 Cooper Square dates back to 1825.
The building at 35 Cooper Square dates back to 1825.
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DNAinfo/Patrick Hedlund

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

EAST VILLAGE — The developer who purchased a centuries-old property on Cooper Square has decided not to preserve the historic structure, despite continued pressure by local advocates to save the 1825 row house.

Arun Bhatia, who purchased the three-story building at 35 Cooper Square near the corner of East 6th Street late last year, met with preservationists a few weeks ago to discuss possible measures to keep the property intact.

However, an attorney for the developer wrote East Village Councilwoman Rosie Mendez last week saying the site's size restrictions would not permit him to preserve the building as part of future development plans.

"Unfortunately, it was concluded that it would not be feasible to develop the site with the building or any significant portion of it remaining," said lawyer Stephen Lefkowitz, adding that "any potential relief" provided by construction variances would not change the outcome.

A spokeswoman for Bhatia said there are no specific plans in place for what will replace the historic building.

"All will depend on the market and financing conditions in the future," said  spokeswoman Jane Crotty. "Please be assured that as in all of our past projects, our design will reflect our sensitivity to the historic neighborhood and its surroundings."

Crotty noted after the April 12 meeting with preservationists that it would be "difficult" for Bhatia to retain 35 Cooper Square, given the site's size.

"Arun Bhatia's decision to simply turn his back on the community, as well as history, is reprehensible and disingenuous, since his office has repeated over and over that they have no specific plans for 35 Cooper Square," said David Mulkins, chairman and co-founder of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors, which helped lead the preservation push.

The news does not come as a major shock, seeing as how Bhatia also scooped up two lots adjacent to the property and has the potential to develop something closer to the gleaming Cooper Square Hotel located next door to the site.

He added that the blame also falls on the city, which declined to consider landmark designation for the property. 

"The high-handed behavior of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which refused to even grant us a hearing on 35 Cooper Square, has led us to this grim moment, and has given Mr. Bhatia the confidence to seek the building's destruction, and to destroy it through what we all know is 'willful neglect.'"

That came as cold comfort to Mulkins, who repeatedly stressed the building's significance as the former home to descendants of Peter Stuyvesant and later such luminaries as Liza Minnelli and Beat Generation poet Diane DiPrima.

"The caliber of this building's meaning to this city and street," he noted, "are such that we find his demolition plans completely unacceptable."