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Judge Denies Developer's Bid to Overturn Landmark Status of UES Buildings

By Shaye Weaver | January 15, 2016 6:17pm | Updated on January 17, 2016 10:41pm
 An historic snapshot of the First Avenue Estate, circa 1919-1923.
An historic snapshot of the First Avenue Estate, circa 1919-1923.
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Friends of the Upper East Side Historic District

UPPER EAST SIDE — A developer has again been denied the ability to knock down two landmarked buildings it owns along York Avenue.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman upheld a Landmarks Preservation Commission decision to deny a "hardship application" by Stahl York Avenue, a real estate company that owns two walk-up buildings at 429 E. 64th St. and 430 E. 65th St.

The application, filed in 2010, argued that Stahl could not return a reasonable profit from the buildings since the LPC landmarked them in 2006 and requested permission to demolish them and redevelop the site.

The LPC denied that appeal in May 2014 and Stahl sued the agency in hopes of overturning that decision in September 2010.

Judge Stallman, who issued his decision Jan. 8, 2016, disagreed that the LPC acted wrongfully and said the developer did not provide enough proof that it has suffered at the hands of the LPC.

"Stahl has not met its burden of demonstrating that respondents acted arbitrarily or capriciously or in violation of law by denying Stahl's hardship application," the judge wrote in his decision. "Stahl has not set forth a cause of action for an unconstitutional taking and thus has no viable claim either for money damages, costs or attorneys' fees."

A spokesman for Stahl declined to comment on the decision but said the company would appeal it.

Stahl’s six-story buildings along York Avenue are just two of the 15 buildings within the City and Suburban Homes First Avenue Estate complex, which were built between 1898 and 1915.

They were the first privately-built apartments to address the sub-standard housing conditions of poor workers across the city and many of the units continue to be rent-stabilized, according to the LPC.

But most of the apartments have remained vacant, according to Stahl's hardship application.

The judge's denial comes with a sigh of relief for preservationists, who have been fighting to keep the buildings' landmark designation since 2006.

"The commission is pleased with the decision, which dismissed the complaint in its entirety," the LPC said in a statement. "The court properly found that the Commission’s lengthy determination denying the owner’s hardship application was rational and based on the record, and that the denial of the hardship application did not constitute a taking of private property without compensation.”

Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, which filed a brief in court supporting the LPC, said it will continue to make sure the buildings are protected.

"Stahl York Avenue has exhausted nearly every possible legal avenue related to this issue, but the LPC decision preventing the organization from tearing down these two historic structures has been upheld," said Rachel Levy, the executive director of Friends.