West End Avenue

Address: 508-510 West End Avenue (blk 1232, lots 64,63)
732-734 West End Avenue (blk 1243, lots 163, 63)
272-280 West 86 Street (blk 1245, lot 73)
Landmark status: No
Current Status:

Contact:

West End Preservation Society
Erika Peterson
514 West End Avenue
New York, NY 10024
epetersen.weps@gmail.com

Alan Sackman
Sackman Enterprises (Managing Agent)
Frontier Realty LLC
165 West 73rd Street
New York, NY 10023

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Summary of site plans and status

UPDATE: 8/04/09

Council Member Brewer, other elected officials and Community Board 7 support the creation of a West End Avenue Historic District by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.  A Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing is expected to be scheduled in fall 2009.  However, the buildings at 732-734 West End Avenue are unfortunately being demolished by the owner.  A community advisory group is monitoring the demolition.  Council Member Brewer has written Landmarks Commissioner Robert B. Tierney regarding the preservation of West End Avenue’s Historic Brownstones.  The text of the letter can be found below.

Dear Commissioner Tierney:

I write to request the immediate review of landmark status for the historically significant Gilbert townhouses, located at 272, 274, 276 and 278 West 86 Street between West End Avenue and Broadway.  These four townhouses were designed by renowned 19th Century architect Charles Pierrepont Henry Gilbert (CPH Gilbert) and built in 1895 and considered to be renowned and prolific examples of the architecture of this time period.  The townhouses are built in the French Neo-Renaissance style with detailed stone facades, featuring unique rounded bays, petite balconies and intricate floral swags atop tall windows.

On December 17, 2007, I wrote a letter to you expressing my concern for the possible demolition of eleven (11) historic brownstones.  To this date, the owners of six (6) historic brownstones on West End Avenue and West 86 Street have applied for demolition permits with the Department of Buildings.  As of August 2007, two (2) demolition permits have been approved, specifically for 276 West 86 Street, one of the Gilbert townhouses, and 280 West 86 Street.

Thank you for you attention on this very important matter.  If you have any additional questions, please contact me at (212) 873-0282.

Sincerely,

Gale A. Brewer

UPDATE: 4/14/08
Council Member Gale A. Brewer demonstrated in front of 732/734 West End Avenue today in opposition to the demolition of the brownstones. Council Member Brewer supports renovation instead of demolition.
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UPDATE: 4/8/08
According to the Department of Buildings, the owner of 732/734 West End Avenue (Alan Sackman) has applied for a demolition permit and has met all of the criteria.
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UPDATE: 3/25/08
In response to the individual landmark status request for 272 to 280 West 86 Street, the Landmarks Preservation Commission determined the properties do not meet the criteria for designation and will not be recommended to the full Commission for further consideration.
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UPDATE: 3/13/08
Council Member Brewer released a statement regarding the West End Avenue brownstones. A copy of the statement is provided below:

March 13, 2008 – Since August 2007 I have been fighting to save a large number of historic brownstones located in my community. These brownstones are clustered on or near West End Avenue: They are numbers 487, 508, 510, 732, and 734 West End Avenue; and 272, 274, 276, and 280 West 86 Street.

On December 17, 2007, I sent a letter to the chair and commissioners the Department of Buildings, City Planning Commission, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission detailing the threat of demolition faced by these nine (9) historic brownstones, and citing the terrible precedent and various impacts of their destruction.

Among my concerns are these: (1) the obvious threat to the historic integrity of the neighborhood; (2) the permanent degradation of the quality of life for area residents, caused by the loss of the buildings that define the neighborhood’s character, and by the imposition of massive structures intended to replace them; (3) a permanent and significant reduction in the available light, air, and other natural amenities caused by the large bulk and scale of the replacement buildings; (4) the terrible precedent set when developers can destroy a healthy, vibrant neighborhood not for its improvement but merely to maximize profit. These concerns are discussed below.

Make no mistake: This proposal for a massive removal of buildings, in a thriving and deeply established neighborhood, violates every premise of responsible development and urban planning. It poses a threat not only to the traditional, and revered, physical fabric of our neighborhood, but it poses basic and also profound questions for citizens and for government:

Why should responsible officials of city agencies allow the physical, historic, and aesthetic character of the Upper West Side to be systematically destroyed?

These brownstone treasures define the physical character that makes our community so desirable to live in, and sought-after as a setting for private life. They are an icon of dignified and elegant urban life. These brownstones are a living and irreplaceable legacy of the West Side and the city’s architectural and human heritage. They exemplify the definition of good design, materials, and planning. They are the essence of New York’s residential environment, the private face of the city’s fabric that we turn to the world. These brownstones represent the sense of self, place, and memory. We, who live here, consider these brownstones the nature of our city, our neighborhood, and our own personal history as New Yorkers.

The city should have learned its lesson from those failed and catastrophic schemes meant to deal with “urban blight.” We need to remember the deeply destructive results of the 1950’s and 1960’s, and be wary when developers, public or private, propose to destroy a neighborhood in order to save it.

The rationale for the destruction of our neighborhood’s physical character is not to redeem it, or enhance the life of our residents. It is merely to reward the callousness and greed of developers. These brownstones do not constitute a threat to any condition of health or physical safety. Nor are they nests of crime, or “blight.” Quite the opposite: they are integral to a thriving neighborhood with more than a hundred years of tradition. They are as viable, desirable, and pleasing to live in, and around, as they were during New York’s Gilded Age.

What is the benefit to the West Side from the systematic destruction of its most distinctive buildings? What burdens are to be imposed on us as a result?

First, for smart planning, there are many red flags: the overcrowded transit system and the water and sewer infrastructure on the West Side is limited, and no increases in capacity are planned. The number of hook-ups is increasing by the tens-of-thousands annually on the West Side, under the assumption that demand can be added without limit while critical resources remain static.

Second, what is the community benefit by removing these building’s historic, aesthetic, and design amenity; and simply replace them with new and undistinguished buildings of vastly larger scale, bulk, density? These new buildings will care nothing for their setting, their neighbors, and their impact.

The destruction of these buildings means that we will lose more of what makes our community a living and physical entity. We will be left with the degradation that results when our brownstones are replaced with cheap, architecturally faceless buildings. Our neighborhood is already littered with such buildings, each the legacy of yet another demolition of our historic and physical character.

Are we a city that will simply acquiesce to these things; to countenance the destruction of the physical fabric of one of our most valuable neighborhoods? This will remove, forever, the light, air and views afforded to residential neighborhoods by their harmonious, small-scale structures.

On February 20, 2008, the owner of 732 and 734 West End Avenue filed for a Demolition Permit. However, the applicant has not submitted any demolition plans. To be approved for a Demolition Permit, demolition plans must be submitted. If the Demolition Permit is approved and permitted, the applicant may begin demolition work on site.

I appeal to the city, and to all concerned citizens, to stop this horrific destruction of the West Side’s character, and community fabric. We must not allow others who care nothing for our community, neighbors, or traditions, destroy the very essence of what we call home.

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UPDATE: 3/12/08
In response to the Request for Evaluation, 732 and 734 West End Avenue do not meet the criteria for designation and will not be recommended to the full Commission for further consideration as a New York City landmark.
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UPDATE: 3/4/08
Council Member Brewer sent a letter to the Commissioner of Landmark Preservation Commission requesting an immediate review of landmark status for the Gilbert townhouses, located at 272, 274, 276 and 278 West 86 Street.
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UPDATE: 2/22/08
In response to my letter to the City Planning Commission regarding development along West End Avenue, the City Planning Commission states that the current R10A zoning accurately reflects the area’s predominantly 14-17 story apartment house character. The City Planning Commission believes that the current zoning is appropriate.
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UPDATE: 2/11/08
According to the Department of Buildings, a hold has been placed on the following properties in order to monitor the application for any permits. The following outlines the permits associated with each property.

487 West End: Interior renovation of existing basement apartment and addition recreation room in the cellar. – Partially permitted in December 2007
508 West End Ave: Demolition permit in process (NOT permitted) – December 2007
510 West End Ave: Demolition permit in process (NOT permitted) – December 2007
732 West End Ave: New building permit in process (NOT permitted) – January 2008
734 West End Ave: New building permit pre-filed in August 2007, no movement since
272 West 86 Street: No open permits
274 West 86 Street: New building plans DISAPPROVED in November 2007
276 West 86 Street: Demolition plans APPROVED, NOT permitted, August 2007
278 West 86 Street: No open permits
280 West 86 Street: Demolition plans APPROVED, NOT permitted, August 2007

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UPDATE: 1/29/08
According to the Department of Buildings, a “New Building” permit was issued for 732 West End Avenue. At this time, NO demolition permit has been for this address has been filed.
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UPDATE: 12/27/07
In the December 12, 2007 edition of the West Side Spirit, an article titled “Brownstones on the Brink,” highlights the efforts by Council Member Gale A. Brewer and the West End Preservation Society to protect the neighborhood character along the West End Avenue corridor. The article also highlights other brownstones within the community which are also threatened by development.
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UPDATE: 12/20/07
According to the New York City Department of Buildings, the owner of 508-510 West End Avenue has filed an application for a demolition permit.
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UPDATE: 12/17/07
Council Member Gale A. Brewer sent a letter to the Landmark Preservation Commission, Department of Buildings and City Planning Commission to bring attention to possible alterations or demolitions to this and other brownstones within the district. The following is an excerpt from the body of the letter sent:

I write to bring your attention to several buildings within my district: 487, 508, 510, 732 and 734 West End Avenue, and 272-280 West 86 Street. The owner of 487 West End Ave also owns 307 West 83 Street. There are rumors of demolition or alteration proposals for these buildings. Local residents are concerned about these buildings and have asked me to officially inform your agencies that there is significant community opposition to any future plans that may include the demolition or alterations of these structures.

I feel strongly that the administration must quickly meet with Community Board 7, elected officials, and community members to discuss how to maintain the integrity of our community. As I write this letter, eleven brownstones in a twelve-block area could be permanently destroyed.

Tenants indicate that they have heard that leases will not be renewed and that an application will be filed with DHCR to allow demolishing of both brownstones, 508 and 510 West End Avenue. If the NYS Division of Housing and Community Renewal approves the application, both buildings can be demolished and others can be put up in their place. Both buildings have 4 flights and 10 residential units.

The current rent stabilized tenants of 508 and 510 West End Avenue are not prepared to leave their apartments. Members of the West End Preservation Society support the tenants, and advocate keeping and maintaining the two brownstones as they exist today.

The brownstones were recently purchased by Sackman Enterprises.

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