GREENWICH VILLAGE — A bid to erect a nine-story commercial building next to the historic Merchant's House Museum on East Fourth Street was shot down Monday night amid fears the construction could damage the 19th century landmark.
The Landmarks Committee of Community Board 2 unanimously voted to deny an application to demolish a small garage at 27 E. 4th Street and replace it with a nine-story building that could become a hotel.
While some opponents expressed concerns about the appearance of the planned building, the majority of those who spoke expressed alarm at what problems neighboring construction could wreak on the fragile museum, a city landmark.
"I am asking everybody on this committee, in this room, to think very carefully before you touch the fabric of something so delicate," said Nicholas Nicholson, the chairman at the museum at 29 E. 4th Street. "Without a doubt it [the museum's building] would suffer."
Nicholson said architects hired by the museum were currently accessing whether the 1832 building, which is owned by the city, would have to be vacated if construction goes ahead, citing safety concerns for visitors, staff and its collections.
"… we would never endanger New Yorkers by letting them in," said Nicholson, who said the museum only found out about the proposal ten days ago.
The committee recommended the proposed new structure be limited to four stories, as well as provide protection for the museum, such as emergency planning, paying to store delicate artifacts, and compensation for any loss of income for the museum.
The proposal will most likely operate as a hotel, according to a development partner on the project.
City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, who pushed for a meeting on the proposed building after it was first mentioned last month, was among the dozens of advocates who came to Monday night's meeting to speak out against the proposed new structure.
"I feel very invested in this building," said Mendez. "It is a concern to me to see a building of this scale going up next to it."
Edward Carroll from SRA Architecture and Engineering, who is working on the project, said that consideration for the frailty of the Merchant House has been his concern throughout the planning process.
"It is our upmost priority to preserve the building," he said. "It has been and integral and critical part of the proposal, not just because it is the right things to do, but because of litigation and cost."
The Merchant Museum is a freestanding building, according to Carroll, and would not be affected by the construction next door.
Carroll pointed to previous projects he worked on, including sensitive landmarks such as 21 Ninth Avenue, historic rowhouses in the Meatpacking Distrcit, and construction at 407 Bleeker Street.
The proposal will go before the CB2's full board meeting on Thurs. 24th. CB2's recommendation will be considered by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in June when it gives final approval for the new structure.