6-10 West 70 Street (Congregation Shearith Israel)

Address: 6-10 West 70 Street
Block No: 1122
Lot No: 40
Landmark status: Yes


Shelly Friedman, Esq.
Friedman & Gotbaum, LLP
568 Broadway, Suite 505
New York, NY 10012
(212) 925-4545


Summary of site plans and status

UPDATE: 4/15/08
At this afternoon’s public hearing, the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) gave Congregation Shearith Israel another opportunity to get its act together. It’s been over a year since Shearith Israel filed its
original application for 7 zoning waivers to construct 5 floors of luxury condos on top of a new community house on the midblock of West 70th Street. Now a fourth public hearing has been scheduled for June 24, 2008.
UPDATE: 12/4/2007
Community Board 7/Manhattan disapproved the proposal by Congregation Shearith Israel for variances, including; Building height and base height, front set back, rear set back, and rear yard incursion in R8B and R10A and lot coverage.
UPDATE: 11/27/2007
The Board of Standards and Appeals will continue the public hearings again on 2/12/2008 at 10 AM at 40 Rector Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY.
UPDATE: 10/30/2007
Attorneys for Landmark West submitted a letter to attorneys of Congregation of Shearith Israel (CSI) stating that CSI applied for a variance with the Board of Standards and Appeals and are requesting a response to objections and a request for documents.
The Congregation wants to demolish the existing 4-story community house and construct a new 4-story community center and condominium units on top of the building, totaling 10-stories that will include two penthouse stories. The plans need the approval of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission because the site is within an historic district. On March 14, 2006, the Landmark Preservation Commission approved the application to demolish the existing community house and construct the new building.

The initial application was denied by DOB because the DOB felt that there was no preservation purpose in the project, thus not justifying special waivers for the zoning ordinances that the new building would violate.

Hearings at the Board of Standards and Appeals for the required variances (to allow zoning floor are to transfer from R10A to R8B) are on-going.

The following is quoted from the September 21, 2005 Land Use Committee meeting of CB7 Manhattan:

Parks & Preservation Committee, Lenore Norman, Chairperson,
Joint with
Land Use Committee, Richard Asche, Chairperson
8 West 70th Street, Congregation Shearith Israel, (Central Park West-Columbus Avenue.) Application to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for a Certificate of Appropriateness for construction of an 8-story building with 2 additional penthouse floors, with 4 floors above grade for school/community house purposes and four full floors plus two penthouses for residential uses.

Introduction: Shelly Friedman of Friedman & Gotbaum, LLP

Application filed with the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) for a Certificate of Appropriateness (C of A) for a commercial and mixed used building. This is a new application, having had a substantial amount of discussion with the LPC. Congregation Shearith Israel (CSI) is eager to begin the public process and dialogue with the community.

The major changes in the application that was presented previously include:

· Significantly reduced in size in bulk and height.

· Last time 15 stories and 3 penthouse and set back.

· Now the building 10 stories – 8 floors at the street wall with 3 levels of setback penthouses.

· In height, the building is between R10A and R8B:

R10A limit is 185 feet; this proposal is lower at 124 feet.

R8B limit is 75 feet; this proposal is higher at 124 feet.

· Need to transfer floor area from R10A to R8B (i.e. across a zoning boundary, as well as from the landmark to another parcel).

· Previously a 74-7-11; no longer the case.
Right now the application before the LPC is for a Certificate of Appropriateness. Later the project will be submitted to the Board of Standards & Appeals (BSA) for transfer of bulk; variances to increase street wall, height and setback; rear-yard requirements; lot coverage. These zoning and land use issues will come before the Community Board in later months. The new scheme is now 10 stories (8 street wall + 2-story penthouse set back from the street).

Sam White of Platt Byard Dovell White LLP

The architectural presentation began with a general “tour” of the building

· To codify the different spaces, green represents spaces to be used solely for the synagogue and the blue represents the spaces allocated for the residence. A comparison with previous scheme showed the changes in the massing on the site.

· Ground floor is built over the full lot of 60 x 100 feet. It is planned to assist rational use and access to the landmark portion of the site.

· Floors 2,3,4 are allocated for synagogue operation and uses that include: classrooms, school lobby and toilets. There is an opportunity for a day school tenant during the week when space is not used by Congregation Shearith Israel (CSI) itself.

· Floors 5-8 are for residential apartments. Synagogue staff may occupy one floor.

· Penthouse floors are 4,500 sq ft and include a single and a duplex apartment.

· The upper penthouse is at a height of 116 feet.

· The bulkhead at the roof and mechanical equipment are at a height of 124 feet.

· There is a smaller elevator bulkhead. HVAC condensers and fans use dry coolers; therefore HVAC bulkhead reduced.

· Basement level is slightly deeper in the new proposal.

· The basic allocation of space (in percentages) is as follows:

– 42% Residential

– 58% Synagogue use

– 11 Synagogue administrative offices

– 11.8 Archives storage

– 9.9 Archives administration

– 13.1 Educational

– 12.2 Sanctuary needs.

There followed a description of the street context of West 70th Street:

· A drawing of the building on West 70th Street shows the alignment of the new building with the adjacent apartment house to the West.

· The principal entrance to the synagogue will be via a split-level lobby in the new building on West 70th Street, where there is already an existing entrance into the landmark that is not ADA compliant.

· The Central Park West (CPW) façade, in true elevation, shows the new building can be seen from above the 5th floor. There was a comment that only the upper portion of the new building can be seen from the street level of CPW, owing to the size and shape of the existing roof.

· Regarding the placement of the new building, Mr. White explained that there is also “shift” in scale between the existing building and the new building. This is what inspired the façade treatment.

· The synagogue is of limestone, there is a slight set back moving westward to the new building and a vertical transition of material in layers to terracotta to the adjacent apartment house, which is faced with limestone and brick.

Ray Dovell, of Platt Byard Dovell & White presented the presented the detail of the new façade:

· Described entrances locations – the synagogue, service and residential entrances on West 70th Street.

· Explained the context of townhouses and the lower apartment house with classical composition at CPW, which requires a “different response”.

· PBDW felt that the new design should speak to physical context and the proposed uses. Therefore, the material and scale should also address the landmark.

· Previous scheme had a 10-foot set back; this has changed. This issue is felt to be the resolution of the two scales. The façade moves left to right from small scale to larger scale of the classical building.

· Materials are Indiana limestone but with different jointing.

· Detail of entry – grillage at the base is an oiled bronze with a shallow canopy also of bronze making a direct connection to the screening of the adjacent synagogue door.

· The residence will also have a bronze entrance door.

· A terracotta masonry screen, level with the adjacent building face, provides both layering and transition between the classical and the apartment buildings.

· An approximately 2-foot set back from the terracotta is the location of the glass and limestone façade.

Mr. Dovell explained the LPC was interested in continuing a limestone band at the top of the building and was also promoting limestone to ‘separate” the two uses. Regarding other materials and colors:

· Penthouses have painted aluminum panels in a light grey with glass.

· HVAC and bulkhead above are also screened with aluminum panels and railings.

· Painted metal and glass will also be light grey in color.

· A metal pergola exists at the south elevation will have limestone returning around the corner with brick along the south side in buff brick with “punched” windows.

· Materials – terracotta used as a rain screen made of 8″ x 24″ sized units that are clipped onto the façade Indiana buff limestone.

· The windows will have grey metal aluminum for panels and window frames.
Mr. Dovell showed an animated diagram to illustrate how the various layers and components of the West 70th Street façade fit together. In terms of the views of the building from the street, Mr. Dovell explained that the view from CPW straight on view will never actually be seen. Only the corners at the north and south will be seen. The Indiana limestone will follow the “architecture of the synagogue”.

Shelly Friedman briefly explained the complex zoning and the necessity for a two-part approval process with the LPC approval process preceding the zoning.

Mr. Friedman explained that tonight was about the view of the CPW façade – the issue is one of appropriateness; that there may be a difference of opinion about the application and that this building was an “Avenue Site” [CPW] and should respond to an “Avenue [type] Building” on CPW; that the other view is that this is a “Mid-block Site” and that it should not be so high. He reported that the staff of the LPC is evenly divided on this issue – and that it is neither avenue nor midblock, but rather a “Transition Site” and both view points need to be considered. The LPC thinking is that the height of 18 West 70th Street is a benchmark of the height for this transition. The issue for the design team was to be responsive to this and reflect the transition height identified by the LPC.
With regard to the zoning:

· The site is a split lot site – R10A and R8B. Transfer of bulk across a zoning district and boundary is “as of right” in this case.

· The community building will be torn down, and

· A zoning bulk diagram was shown that described what is allowable, but not be built, because of the landmark.

· This application does not exceed certain maximums due to averaging under provisions of the zoning resolution.
With regard to variances, Mr. Friedman offered the following:

· As to the street wall regulations in R8B, this is 75 feet and will require a variance to permit 124 feet as designed and proposed. R10 allows 185 feet so the project is nowhere near the maximum height.

· The project will require a height and set back waivers.

· Community main floor use typically a 30-ft rear yard, they will request a rear yard waiver solely on the institutional needs for 2nd ,3rd and 4th floors for 20-ft rear yard.

The process will be to go to Board of Standards & Appeals for approvals if the LPC grants the C of A.

Regarding uses, Mr. Friedman stated there are two schools:

· Jewish Day School rents the space during school hours on the weekdays.

· CSI’s Hebrew School operates after regular school hours and on weekends. The space to be built is to serve the educational in institutional use of CSI’s own school, and only coincidentally of the tenant school.

As of August 2007, the Board of Standards and Appeals has not set a date for a hearing regarding Congregation Shearith Israel.


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