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City Was Asked to Save Buildings Slated for Demolition: Preservationists

By Allegra Hobbs | August 8, 2016 4:57pm
 112-120 E. 11th St. are slated for demolition as of Aug. 4.
112-120 E. 11th St. are slated for demolition as of Aug. 4.
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DNAinfo/Allegra Hobbs

EAST VILLAGE — Preservationists, who asked the city in June to save a row of pre-war buildings on East 11th Street, say their request for a hearing by the Landmarks Preservation Commission was ignored — and now the Department of Buildings has approved demolition permits for the site, sealing the structures' fate.

When neighborhood groups learned that five late 19th-century tenement buildings spanning 112-120 E. 11th St. had been bought by The Lightstone Group to make way for a trendy hotel, they quickly penned a letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission asking the agency to consider designating the block between Third and Fourth avenues a historic district — a possibility the commission itself had put forward during a 2008 East Village rezoning, according to documents on file with the Department of City Planning. 

But the commission never responded during the two-month window of opportunity, said the activists — and on Thursday, the developer filed the permits for demolition.

"It's a loss for all New Yorkers," said Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, one of several groups that signed the letter, which detailed the historic and cultural significance of the structures built between 1887 and 1892. "What is really frustrating is the commission had time to act, and there's really no reason why they shouldn't have."

Lightstone partnered with Marriott International to bring four of the group's trendy Moxy Hotels to the city in the coming years, and managed to lock down the East 11th Street site in May for one of the developments, as first reported by The Real Deal

Community members were dismayed to learn the neighborhood may be losing the buildings, which the letter describes as "wonderfully intact" Beaux Arts-style structures representative of the area's immigrant roots, and moved to request the LPC host a hearing before allowing them to disappear. 

The Historic Districts Council, the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative, and the East Village Community Coalition all joined the GVSP in signing then letter. 

If the commission had put the designation on its calendar before demolition permits were filed, said Berman, the buildings would have at least had a shot at preservation.

"All they had to do was calendar the buildings, which means they could have held public hearings and considered the buildings," he said. "They didn't even do that, and that's what is particularly frustrating."

Two of the upcoming Moxy hotels are already underway — one at 485 Seventh Ave. in Times Square, and one at 105 W. 28th St., each containing restaurants, lounges, rooftop bars, and fitness centers. Marriott's website lists the development slated for 11th Street, but doesn't estimate a completion date. 

Former residents have already vacated the buildings, although it's unknown when the evictions began, said Berman. An employee of the neighboring Amsterdam Billiards and Bar on Sunday said construction workers had already started gutting the structures.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission did not return a request for comment.

Lightstone and Marriott both did not return requests for comment.