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Apthorp Penthouses Would Ruin 'Buckingham Palace' of UWS, Residents Say

By Emily Frost | November 13, 2013 11:23am
 The Preservation Committee rejected the proposed penthouse addition at the landmark. 
Apthorp Penthouse Addition
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Dozens of neighbors and residents of the famed Apthorp testified Tuesday night in front of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, begging the board to prevent the addition of rooftop penthouses to the beloved "Buckingham Palace of the Upper West Side." 

The testimony — from preservationists and elected officials, including City Councilwoman Gale Brewer and state Sens. José Serrano and Linda Rosenthal, as well as Apthorp residents who've lived in the building for more than 40 years — urged the commission to reject the plan for one of the city's first landmarked buildings.

"It’s like adding gravy to a parfait," said Josette Amato of the West End Preservation Society. 

Residents went to great lengths to impress upon the LPC just how devastated the community and future generations would be if the 1908 landmark, which the commission designated in 1969, were altered.

Nancy Robbins, a longtime Apthorp resident, likened the landmark to a "grand old lady" that should not "be ruined just to make a buck." 

Another resident, Marc Meyers, said the proposed two-story addition would "transform it into a rooftop Toys'R'Us."

"The Apthorp is the Buckingham Palace of the Upper West Side," he added of the 2211 Broadway building.

Many balked at the idea of filling in the logias, or colonnades, that sit atop the building so that they could become walls of the penthouses. 

"The colonnade was the cherry on top," said Mark Diller, a Community Board 7 member. 

"The rooftop will eliminate the arc of blue sky…destroying the drama [of the building]," noted Kelly Carol of the advocacy group Landmark West, adding, "the financial strife of the owner is not the burden of the public."

The owners have said the new penthouses would help finance repairs to other parts of the building. 

Others argued that the addition would be visible from many vantage points in the neighborhood and especially from the courtyard of the Apthorp, which is also landmarked, ruining the view from the interior.

The courtyard "is indeed the magic of the building," said Mark Weinbaum, who said he's lived in the Apthorp since 1974. 

Ray Fox, who said he owned an apartment at the Apthorp, noted the co-op's contract specified that all owners had to buy into any plan regarding use of the common space. 

"The sponsor’s application is likely moot," he said, "because an essential vote of all the Apthorp unit owners has not been held."

The building's owners attended the hearing but declined to comment on the testimony given.

LPC chairman Robert Tierney ultimately decided to postpone a decision on whether to approve the addition to a later, unspecified date. At that public hearing, building owner Area Property Partners will have a chance to respond to residents' comments.