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New Townhouse Planned for Site of UES Gas Explosion That Killed Owner

By Shaye Weaver | June 16, 2016 12:27pm
 The building will have a limestone and brick exterior with historic details, according to the project's architect.
The building will have a limestone and brick exterior with historic details, according to the project's architect.
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Henry Jessup Architects

UPPER EAST SIDE — A new townhouse is planned for the site of a gas explosion that leveled a landmarked building, injuring several in the blast, including the building's owner who later died from his injuries.

The lot at 34 E. 62nd St. has sat empty for nearly a decade after a 2006 explosion from a gas leak destroyed the historic 1917 townhouse that once called it home, but now new owners are looking to rebuild.

They're proposing a 4-story townhouse with brick, limestone, arched windows and exterior detailing that the developer hopes will keep with the "old feeling" of other buildings in the Upper East Side Historic District.

The plan is up for review by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and was approved unanimously by members of the Community Board 8's landmarks committee on Monday night.

"This is on a very sad site. We all know what happened there," committee member Susan Evans said following a presentation of the design by the project's architect and a representative for the owner.

In July 10, 2006, a gas leak caused an explosion that injured three firefighters and five civilians, according to reports. It's owner Dr. Nicholas Bartha, who had been planning to sell the property, died from wounds suffered in the blast.

About a year later, developer Janna Bullock bought the property for $8.3 million and wanted to build a five-story modern building there, but that plan never moved forward, according to a report by The Real Deal

Woodbine purchased the lot from Bullock in July 2015 for $11.9 million.

The new building is intended to be used as a single-family home with an elevator, carved limestone on the front facade and brick for the rest of the exterior, according to Henry Jessup, the architect.


(Credit: Henry Jessup Architects)

"While this is not intended to be a sort of over-the-top digitization of a highly detailed row house with full blown carvings, it's not intended to be a stripped-down or abstracted kind of treatment," said Bill Higgins, a consultant representing the owner.

Woodbine is also in negotiations with a parking garage next door to the site to allow access to the garage from inside the townhouse, he added.

"[Access to the garage] clearly involves money that hasn't quite matched each other yet," Jessup said.

Once complete, the building is expected to reach 65 feet high, not including a bulkhead for the elevator on the roof that will add another eight feet to the height, he said. 

The plans will go before the LPC on June 28.

"This is such a beautiful change and it's a happy building," Evans said. "It's a new building and it's an old building. It nods to the 60s building next door and it nods to the Links Club. I just think it's exquisite."


(Credit: DNAinfo/Shaye Weaver)