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Landmarks Rejects 'Bland' Design for 16-Story Tower Near Lucerne Hotel

By Emily Frost | July 23, 2014 12:01pm | Updated on July 25, 2014 4:21pm
 The building was criticized for its lack of character and did not get the approval of the LPC, which sent its architects back to the drawing board. 
207 W. 79th St.
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UPPER WEST SIDE — The Landmarks Preservation Commission sent the architects of a proposed 16-story development on West 79th Street back to the drawing board after locals and elected officials criticized the project for appearing out of context with the neighborhood Tuesday. 

Anbau Enterprises — the new owner of the five-story building at 207 W. 79th St., which sits next to the historic Lucerne hotel at Amsterdam Avenue — wants to tear the building down and build a 16-story residential complex, complete with balconies and a two-story penthouse.

But residents argued that it will mar the beauty of the Lucerne and the character of the Central Park West Historic District

"It’s a scar on our neighborhood," said nearby resident Craig Heard, at the Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing Tuesday. "It’s a scar on our neighbors. It’s a scar on the West Side."

Despite the low height of the buildings on the rest of the block, project architect Morris Adjmi explained that many streets on the Upper West Side have a mix of building heights, making the new development contextually appropriate. 

The LPC commissioners didn't buy the argument, however, noting that there was no justification for the 16-story height other than to maximize the legally permitted size of the building.

Residents and the commissioners also criticized the "bland" design that would take away from the gracefulness of the neighboring Lucerne, as well as designs for project's street-facing balconies.

"There’s a difference between restraint and being bland," said LPC commissioner Margery Perlmutter. "The building is so subdued that it’s barely recognizable."

City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal agreed the current design looked out of place among the more ornate landmarked buildings surrounding it. 

"I know an Upper West Side building when I see one," she said, "and this is not an Upper West Side building, and it has no place in a historic district."

The penthouse was also a target of discussion. 

"This building just plunks [the penthouse] on top like an afterthought, and that’s why it’s decidedly unbeautiful," Perlmutter added.

As proposed, the new building would be flush with the Lucerne, thereby covering up its west-facing wall. With that in mind, the commissioners said the new development's design for the wall lacked enough architectural detail. 

Adjmi and his associates agreed they would revise the design with the LPC and residents' objections in mind.