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Just Say No to Illegal Rooftop Additions at 514-516 East 6th Street

‘ Tis the season!

Since we’re in the midst of both the holiday and presidential campaign season we thought it would be appropriate to share a precious moment from holidays and presidents past – former First Lady Nancy Reagan giving a smooch to Mr. T while sitting on his lap at the White house in 1983.

Oh, the eighties…

Pretty ridiculous, right?

No more so than the illegal additions to the tenements at 514-516 East 6th Street, pictured below.

Constructed in 1859 as five story, Pre-Law tenements along with the buildings next to them by William B. Astor, 514-516 East 6th Street were horribly defaced when the owner added rooftop additions to the buildings.

With a little inspiration from Mrs. Reagan we say, “Just Say No,”… to the additions at 514-516 East 6th Street and here’s why.

514-516 East 6th Street prior to additions

1. The construction of this type of addition often ravages the architecture of the buildings they are placed upon when character defining elements are removed.

In the case of 514-516 East 6th Street, the buildings are barely recognizable. Most of the ornament was removed from the façade with the construction of the additions including window molding and a handsome cornice similar to neighboring buildings.

2. Adding floors to buildings in historic neighborhoods negatively impacts the sense of place and character of the streetscape.

The buildings at 514-516 East 6th Street are located in an area of the East Village, south of Tompkins Square Park, that with GVSHP’s and other groups’ advocacy was specifically downzoned to protect its special character from out-of scale and inappropriate enlargements that violate the unique qualities of this part of the neighborhood. 

Rear view of 514-516 East 6th Street at right, source The New York Times

3. These illegal enlargements should never have been built.

The Department of Buildings granted a waiver allowing the construction at 514-516 East 6th Street that was later reversed when the building’s tenants filed and won an appeal with the Board of Standards and Appeals that determined the DOB exceeded its authority in doing so.  The owner continued with construction of the additions fully aware that an appeal had been filed.

4. Developers create rooftop additions while ignoring the fire and safety improvements mandated by the Multiple Dwelling Law when upgrades are made to tenements.

The buildings at 514-516 East 6th Street are in violation of the Multiple Dwelling Law.  The developer did not make the fire or safety improvements required by the building code when additions like this are built,  and by not doing so the developer put tenants safety at risk.

5. Developers often argue that rooftop additions are necessary to make buildings financially viable.

Avenue A and East 5th Street, 1937 Source, New York Public Library Digital Archive

Throughout the city, for decades, tenements has proven to be financially viable as a rental building without additions.  At 514-516 East 6th Street, the developer has been charging market rate rents for apartment in the building.  And, any hardship was self-created when the owner built the additions while an appeal was in process with the Board of Standards and Appeals. 

These additions underscore the importance of expanded landmark designations in the East Village as a means to protect its vital, yet endangered historic fabric.

If you want to, “Just Say No,” to these illegal additions join us on Tuesday, December 6, for two hearings at 10:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the Board of Standards and Appeals at 40 Rector Street, 6th Floor, Hearing Room E and testify in opposition to these illegal additions.  If you are unable to come in person please send this letter to the Board of Standards and Appeals.


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