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Landmarks Sends Apthorp Penthouse Designers Back to Drawing Board

By Emily Frost | January 14, 2014 8:39pm
 The Commission was not satisfied with the design as it stands now. 
LPC Asks Apthorp Owners to Revise Design
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UPPER WEST SIDE — The Landmarks Preservation Commission ordered the owners of the Apthorp to head back to the drawing board before it would approve their application to add penthouse apartments to the historic building. 

Tuesday's decision came after the commission heard the response of the owners, Area Property Partners, to lengthy public testimony opposing the addition, given on Nov. 12.  

"We won’t take action today," ruled Robert Tierney, the Chair of the Commission, irking Apthorp residents who were in attendance and who wanted the plans disapproved. 

"I'm extremely disappointed. It's a non-decision," said Michaela Richter, who has been a tenant at the Apthorp for 36 years. 

Though the commission said it would not rule for or against the design, which would add two-story penthouses to the rooftop, several commissioners had strong words for the current design, which residents have described as "an eyesore."

"The nature of the addition seemed haphazard. For me it’s too big and the style is wrong and the fit to the building is wrong. I think it’s got to take a major reconsideration," said Commissioner Michael Goldblum. 

Others agreed that the current design, by architect David West, did not echo the original enough and should be rethought. 

"The architecture…has to be even more sympathetic to the details of the existing building. It has to be done very, very carefully and it can’t be that visible from the street and courtyard," said Commissioner Joan Gerner. 

Both she and Commissioner Fred Bland agreed that a one-story addition might be plausible. 

"I do think a rooftop addition could be made, I think it just has to be one story so that it’s a little more in alignment architecturally," concluded Bland.

In the pitch for the addition, which the owners argue would help pay for maintenance of the 106-year-old landmark, historic preservation consultant Bill Higgins compared the Apthorp with the Acropolis and other famed structures, to show how rooftop additions were part of a classical language. 

But the reminder of the Acropolis only served to make several commissioners more committed to preserving the Apthorp's original design.

"You don't discuss an addition to the Acropolis," Richter fumed.

Richter and others said they wanted to be involved in any discussion of a new design. 

"It really was the responsibility of the LPC to make a definitive decision and not push it off to a redesign," said resident Mark Weinbaum. 

Commission Chair Tierney described the commission's comments as "requests for serious rethinking and restudy."

The applicant gave no indication as to whether it would pursue a redesign.