Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sample Letter to BSA re: Proposal to Construct Penthouse atop Penthouse

City of NY
Board of Standards & Appeals
40 Rector Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10006-1705

Re: BSA Calendar Number: 162-08-BZ; Property: 150 East 93rd Street, Block 1521, Lot 51, Manhattan

To the Board:

Historic East 93rd Street between Lexington & Third Avenues is a very special block. In addition to the world-famous Marx Brothers House, the block boasts a row of 19th century brownstones that are older than any of the brownstones already within the protection of the Carnegie Hill Historic District. These houses date from the same year Abraham Lincoln won re-election (1864) and even pre-date the Lexington Avenue extension.

In addition to these two significant facts, East 93rd Street's unique stepped-down roof-scape, in part a function of the block being one of the steepest hills left in Manhattan, has been celebrated by architects and historic preservationists alike. In fact, Place Matters, the partnership project of the Municipal Arts Society and City Lore, is so charmed by this remarkable stepped-down roof-scape, it has devoted an entire page to this historic block on its web site. So I'm sure BSA can appreciate the fact that any project which threatens the historic character of this little neighborhood is of grave concern to many.

I am writing to express my very serious concerns about the proposed Penthouse for which the applicant is requesting a special permit. Before irreparable harm is rendered upon this block, I respectfully ask BSA to deny applicant's request for the reasons stated above and below:

1.) Applicant falsely claimed to CB8 that his existing Penthouse can not be seen from the street, thereby, deliberately misrepresenting the impact of his proposal on the character of the neighborhood. As shown in the photographs submitted by the 93rd Street Beautification Association, the existing Penthouse can in fact be seen from the street. If applicant is allowed to construct a Penthouse atop his extant Penthouse, twice as much of it will be seen.

2.) Applicant failed to provide exact specifications (height, etc.) in its request for a Special Permit before CB8, thereby, precluding any informed discussion of the zoning and safety issues raised by this proposal. When asked at the September 10, 2008 CB8 meeting, by a neighborhood resident, for the exact height of the proposed Penthouse and the exact height of 150 East 93rd Street if the proposed Penthouse were approved and added to the top of the extant Penthouse, applicant stated that he only had approximations and no exact measurements.

3.) A laundry list of Public Safety issues are raised by applicant's failure to provide exact specifications, measurements and details for his proposal to construct a Penthouse atop his existing Penthouse at the tallest peak on this block.

4.) Whether this block has yet or ever will be landmarked, it is undeniably very rich in NYC history (as set forth in great detail in the RFE filed with CB8 & LPC on September 8, 2008). And while that incontrovertible fact may not yet trigger a review by NYC's LPC, it underscores the importance of giving due consideration to the impact of this proposal on the character of the neighborhood, historic East 93rd Street.

5.) Applicant deliberately misled CB8 in its assertion that 150 East 93rd Street is surrounded by nothing but high rises. Photographs submitted separately show that 150 East 93rd Street, in fact, abuts a row of tiny brownstones that are only 4 stories tall and are older than any of the brownstones that are already within the Carnegie Hill Historic District. Because of the applicant's deliberate mischaracterization of the neighborhood that will be affected if this proposal is approved, an authentic opportunity to seriously consider the impact of this proposal on the character of the subject neighborhood has been denied.

The subject block is dramatically dwarfed by 150 East 93rd Street, already its tallest peak. If BSA were to grant the Special Permit requesting approval to add yet another Penthouse to the top of applicant's extant Penthouse, the disparity in scale would, of course, be far more lopsided, and surely stick out like a sore thumb on this block of small 19th century houses.

6.) In light of the City's recent efforts to strengthen the public’s protection against construction projects not thoroughly vetted, and the fact that even the DOB refused to approve the applicant’ proposal to construct a Penthouse on top of his existing Penthouse, BSA should deny applicant's request for the subject Special Permit so as to ensure public safety; protect the continuity of the neighborhood's distinct and historic character and to encourage the necessary construction reforms being pursued by the City.

Thank you for your attention to these concerns regarding the subject proposal to build a Penthouse on top of the existing Penthouse at 150 East 93rd Street. Please deny applicant's request.

Respectfully submitted,

(Please add your name & address)

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