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Architect Proposes Leaving Arch Off of One If By Land, Two If By Sea

 The owners of One If By Land, Two If By Sea removed the arch (inset), from the landmarked building without permission from the city.
The owners of One If By Land, Two If By Sea removed the arch (inset), from the landmarked building without permission from the city.
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DNAinfo/Danielle Tcholakian; inset: Facebook/One If By Land

WEST VILLAGE — A West Village restaurant in hot water with locals and the city for making big changes to the landmarked restaurant's facade hired an architect who sits on the local community board's landmarks committee to fix the situation.

Architect Anita Brandt is a member of the Community Board 2 committee tasked with reviewing plans to make changes to historic buildings in Greenwich Village and SoHo.

Brandt was hired by the owners of Barrow Street eatery One If By Land, Two If By Sea to come up with a design that will win approval from the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission and appease locals furious that the restaurant owners took down a distinctive arch on the 17 Barrow St. facade.

Brandt put forward her plan at a Community Board 2 landmarks committee meeting Monday night where she normally would have been one of the board members weighing in on the plans presented.

The meeting was expected to draw crowds impassioned about the archway removal, but turnout amounted to barely a handful of people.

Brandt said she was attending the meeting as an applicant, not a member, and that she would not be voting on any of the dozen or so plans presented that night. Without Brandt, the normally seven-person committee was down to four voters. (Two members were absent.)

The owners of One If By Land, Two If By Sea have said they were forced to remove the archway from the restaurant's facade after it began to crumble when they made badly-needed repairs to the building's rotting stable doors.

The building used to be a blacksmith shop, according to the city's 1969 designation report for the Greenwich Village Historic District, which mentions the archway.

Brandt proposed keeping the cast-iron beams that were uncovered when the archway was removed, and keeping "the proportions of what would have been... the blacksmith shop."

"The element of the design is that it be plainer, simple, not fancy," she said, frequently describing the design as "utilitarian."

An image from Anita Brandt's proposal for the facade of One If By Land, Two if by Sea

The committee members were reluctant to vote down Brandt's proposal, frequently noting that "under other circumstances" they would "applaud" and it "would get [their] applause."

"This is very sticky because obviously this is a gorgeous proposal," said committee member Susan Gammie.

The only board member who did not compliment the proposal was co-chair Doris Diether, who has been on the board for 50 years and has a reputation for frequently refusing to change her lone dissenting vote for the sake of unanimity.

"By taking the arch away, they changed the style of the building completely," Diether said.

The committee tried to write a resolution that would "accept on principal the presentation," but co-chair Chenault Spence worried that they would set a precedent of approving a huge change that was done illegally.

"It's very hard to regard the original removal of the arch as an 'oops,'" said Gammie. "Everything points to a calculation, not an 'oops.'"

Gammie also took issue with the "utilitarian" style of Brandt's design.

"This restaurant has always been very romanticized," she said, pointing out that it was an oft-used neighborhood wedding venue. "It's never been utilitarian-looking. For the past 85 years, it's been a very romantic iteration of this building.

"In this particular context, I think we have to respect the romanticization of this."

The LPC will ultimately have to approve Brandt's plan, but Brandt told the committee that she already met with them "a few times" and they disliked an earlier plan that involved restoring the arch.

"We liked it better, but they didn't," she said.

The LPC's suggestions paved the way for the more "utilitarian" approach she presented Monday night, Brandt said.

The LPC will eventually hold its own public hearing on the plan, but has not yet set a date for it.