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Spence School Unveils Design for Athletic Center on E. 90th Street

By Shaye Weaver | April 27, 2017 10:57am
 A rendering of the Spence School athletic facility planned for 412 E. 90th St.
A rendering of the Spence School athletic facility planned for 412 E. 90th St.
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The Spence School/Rogers Partner Architects

YORKVILLE — The prestigious Spence School released a new rendering of its eight-story athletic facility planned for East 90th Street as it prepares to undergo public review.

The building at 412 E. 90th St., between York and First avenues, is meant to hold the all-girl school's athletics programs since it currently bounces from facility to facility across the city.

The plan calls for a gymnasium on the first two floors, a student cafe and squash courts on the third floor, and classrooms, training rooms and locker rooms filling out the remaining floors. A greenhouse is also planned for the sixth floor, and two floors will be reserved for mechanical equipment. 

Spence School officials presented the plans to Community Board 8 for the first time last week, explaining that it wants to build farther back on the lot rather than higher, but that it needs zoning variances and a special permit to do so.

The zoning for the lot, which currently has a parking garage, doesn't allow for school buildings, so Spence must seek a special permit from the Board of Standards and Appeals in order to build there.

The plan also keeps the building at eight stories for a total of 97 feet, but the school could build taller as of right.

Officials said that in order to keep the height down, the school would need a variance to build further back on the property by 10 feet. There would still be more than 30 feet between the facility and the building to its south, they added.

Keeping the building lower would allow the facility to have a better visitor circulation while impacting fewer neighbors, according to Shelly Friedman, the land use attorney representing the school.

"We are as short of a building as you’re going to get on that site," he explained. "Any other use would be residential and would be a taller, narrower building. Ninety-seven feet is pretty low these days in terms of development on the Upper East Side."

The new facility would block one resident's window at 402 E. 90th St.

That tenant, Susan Sherman, said the athletic facility would stand just 3 feet from her window.

"I chose to buy [my apartment] for one major reason: It has an east-facing window in the living room, allowing me extra light and air," she said. "I have a medical condition during the heat and cannot be relieved from air conditioning. I spent money to replace windows to have screens for cross ventilation."

Other residents said they supported the school facility in general but that the location wouldn't be appropriate because it would block 402 E. 90th St. The existing parking garage on the site rises only two stories.

Nonetheless, Community Board 8 voted to approve the school's plans.

"I'm going to vote for it because I feel it will empower the girls in the neighborhood," Board 8 member Matt Bondy said. "It's a beautiful building."