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Neighbors Fight Plan to Expand Landmarked Madison Ave. Building

By Lindsay Armstrong | December 24, 2013 12:08pm
 Residents of 35 East 68th St. Challenge Expansion of Landmarked Madison Avenue Building
Madison Avenue Building Expansion
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UPPER EAST SIDE — Residents of an East 68th Street building are blasting a plan to expand a neighboring landmarked building on Madison Avenue, saying the construction would put up a brick wall right in front of their windows.

Tenants at 35 E. 68th St. have opposed a planned two-story rear addition at 817-819 Madison Ave., saying they don't like their neighbors' plan to fill in their back courtyard space with enlarged retail space that will block out their light. Their fight got the support of Community Board 8's Landmarks Committee, which unanimously shot down the expansion plan earlier this month.

At a meeting on December 16, CB 8's committee ruled that “the proposed rear extension is not in the spirit of the Special Madison Avenue District,” of which the buildings are a part.

“I feel so lucky to live in such a beautiful place. The idea that some of these grand rooms could soon be looking out onto a brick wall is awful,” said Cindy Allen, editor-in-chief of Interior Design magazine, who lives in the East 68th Street building also known as the Dunham House.

Friedland Properties, owner of the Madison Avenue building, declined to comment. But according to their website, the retail space at 819 Madison Ave. will be available for leasing in September 2014.

The first-floor space of 819 Madison Ave. is currently occupied by designer Donna Karan's flagship store, which maintains a Zen garden in the courtyard. Reps for the store said they have no plans to expand.

The buildings, which are both in the landmarked Upper East Side Historic District, were both designed by Carrere and Hastings, the famous Beaux-Arts architecture firm responsible for the New York Public Library building on Fifth Avenue. The architects built the courtyard to be a part of the overall composition of the two buildings, according to the board and residents. 

Although only the Madison Avenue building has direct access to the courtyard, residents of the Dunham House said the yard is an integral part of their property. The East 68th Street building is semi-detached and most of its windows look onto the courtyard. Building into that space would mean that many residents would lose the main source of natural light to their apartments, they said.

Neighbors are also concerned about safety, noting that the plans show a roof terrace may be built on top of the addition, meaning anyone on the terrace could easily gain easy access to the building because the windows would be only a few feet away from the addition.