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Landmarks Preservation Commission Loses Race to Protect East Village House

By DNAinfo Staff on January 17, 2012 5:43pm

The Landmarks Preservation Commission was unable to block a developer's attempt to add a story to this building at 315 East 10th St.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission was unable to block a developer's attempt to add a story to this building at 315 East 10th St.
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Landmarks Preservation Commission

MANHATTAN — The Landmarks Preservation Commission lost a race to protect a 165-year-old house in the East Village on Tuesday, its efforts scuttled by another city agency.

Hours before the LPC was to vote on designating a block of East 10th Street as a historic district, the Department of Buildings announced that it had issued a permit for construction at 315 E. 10th St.

“The city fumbled the ball,” said Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. “It’s truly a shame that these city agencies could not coordinate their efforts to prevent this from happening.”

The historic district had been under consideration for months. But in December, Berman's group got word that the developer, Benjamin Shaoul, had filed an application to add a story to the five-floor house at 315 E. 10th St. Berman alerted the LPC, which scheduled an emergency meeting to try to head Shaoul off.

But LPC officials said they couldn't interfere with the permit application, which must be acted on within a strict regulatory timeline, and they couldn't prepare fast enough.

“We moved as quickly as we could, and today was the earliest possible day we could hold the hearing and vote based on the amount of research needed to complete the report and justify the designation," LPC spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon said.

Berman disagreed.

"Things could have been done today and over the last couple days to prevent this from happening," he said. "I think it was a failure on the part of both agencies to ensure that the integrity of this district was preserved. I hope the LPS will redouble efforts and do more and do better to protect this neighborhood."

To that end, the LPC voted unanimously to create the district, which covers 26 single-family row houses dating as far back as the 1840s and lines the northern edge of Tompkins Square Park.

The Department of Buildings did not return a message seeking comment.

LPC Chairman Robert B. Tierney said after the vote that he didn’t think the construction would “compromise the integrity of the district.”

Shaoul wants to convert the five-story building at 315 E. 10th St. into a residential building and add a floor, records show. He did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

But Shaoul's lawyer later contacted the LPC to say his client wanted to meet with officials to "discuss suggestions for the design of the one-story addition," de Bourbon said.

She noted that rooftop additions are "not unheard of" in historic districts anyway. The LPC routinely approves them, provided they are not visible from the street.

“It sounds like they want to be good neighbors," de Bourbon said. "It sounds like they’re making an attempt to build something that could be compatible to the district and sympathetic to the district."