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Landmarks Investigates NYPD Construction at Historic TriBeCa Stable

By Julie Shapiro | December 5, 2011 8:18am | Updated on December 5, 2011 9:29am

TRIBECA — The NYPD may have violated city landmarks laws and has created a nuisance for neighbors after it chopped out part of a brick wall at a historic former police stable to construct a staircase for a new entrance to the building, residents and officials said.

The stable, at 19 Varick St., sits in the TriBeCa West Historic District, and any alterations to its facade must be approved in advance by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Over the summer, without notifying the commission, the NYPD carved a new entrance into the 99-year-old building and constructed a metal staircase leading up to it, to ease the flow of officers to the police department's new World Trade Center command post located there.

"We're on to them," said Roger Byrom, chairman of Community Board 1's Landmarks Committee, who was dismayed to see alterations he believes were done illegally. "We're going to keep on them. It's gone to the enforcement unit [of the LPC], and we'll do what we can."

Although the new entrance and staircase are located at the rear of the building, they are visible from the sidewalk around the corner on Ericsson Place, so they should have gone through the Landmarks Preservation Commission's meticulous review process, Byrom said.

An LPC spokeswoman said the agency, whose commissioners are appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is uncertain whether the NYPD violated any rules.

"We received a complaint and are looking into it," spokeswoman Lisi de Bourbon said in an e-mail.

The new entrance and staircase are also creating quality-of-life issues for tenants of the adjacent condo building at 27 N. Moore St., residents said. 

"It was built very quickly, without any notice," said Michael Connolly, president of the condo board at 27 N. Moore St. "It disturbs residents of the building with windows directly overlooking the alley [leading to the staircase]."

One resident of the building, a 36-year-old woman who has a young son, claimed last week that lights from the staircase shine into her three-bedroom apartment around the clock, and police officers smoking or using their cell phones on the staircase landing keep her awake at night.

"It's a huge nuisance," said the resident, who declined to give her name. "It's ridiculous. It's this enormous structure three feet from our window."

After residents complained, the NYPD used black paint to dim the sides of some of the lights and on Friday afternoon installed a screen to separate the staircase from adjacent apartments. 

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne declined to directly address the new staircase, but said in an e-mail that the police department had not made major changes to the building.

"None of the exiting exterior doors were changed or eliminated at the location," Browne wrote. "Inside, the old stables were dismantled and stored. It’s anticipated that the stables will be restored to the original purpose when the WTC command expands and moves into larger quarters."

The NYPD closed the popular Varick Street horse stable last summer to make way for the temporary World Trade Center command post until officers can move to a permanent post in WTC Tower 4 in about two years.

In a letter to Community Board 1 last spring, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly also committed to eventually returning the horses to the TriBeCa stable.