A two-story rooftop addition to this six-story (rental) apartment building, designed by the esteemed and prolific architect George F. Pelham in the neo-Renaissance style in 1905-06, was proposed in the summer of 2016. A mock-up of the addition was erected in August; since then, both the proposal and the mock-up have been reduced. The developers presented renderings of their plans to members of the CHN Landmarks Committee on February 8. On February 13, it was presented to the Community Board 8 (CB8) Landmarks Committee, which rejected the plan, as did the full board of CB8 on February 15. That opinion, however is only advisory. The leaders of the opposition group to the addition (“Friends of Woodward Hall”) have gathered petition letters to convince the LPC that there is substantial community opposition.
CHN opposes the plans to add to the building for the following reasons: The building is an intact, and essentially, unaltered example of a distinct building type popular at the turn of the 19th century – the “small apartment building.” Typically they are 6 or 7 stories in height and built around a central court, such as the case here. Also, typically, they were accented with prominent cornices, and none were built with rooftop penthouses. The building was designed by an important architect, George F. Pelham, and this is his only example of this building type in the Carnegie Hill Historic District. Also the block on Madison Avenue it occupies is unique in the historic district: it has a total of five buildings all of this type – and all are 6 or 7 stories, and all are unaltered. In fact the Carnegie Hill Historic District has about a dozen buildings of this type (including the closely related apartment flats buildings), and none of these have been altered by adding rooftop additions. (A single exception involves a building that was altered just before the district’s designation in 1993.) In spite of the artful use of setbacks, the addition will still be visible from many vantage points along Madison Avenue and 96th Streets, and because of the building type’s distinctive character we feel the visibility criteria should be strictly applied.
At a public hearing May 23, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) voted to allow the construction. However, the final plan, through a series of iterations, is much reduced in size from the original one proposed in August 2016, especially at the second floor level. The LPC also required that owner of this rental building restore the original spiked parapet crowns, which will serve to further obscure the view of the addition from the street. In addition, the owner has committed to clean the facade and, over time, to improve the storefronts.