Do you know what a lot line window is? Could you identify them in the historic photo of the Bayard-Condict Building above? They’re a little tricky to see given the angle of the camera, but they are the windows on the side elevation (wall) that butts up against the property’s lot line and the one-story building to the right. They’re windows on the lot line, which is why we call them ‘lot line windows.’
The property line between the Bayard-Condict Building and the one-story building is colored blue in the image at left. The beauty of the lot line window is that it brings in additional natural light. These kinds of windows are almost always found on taller buildings constructed next to shorter (typically older) ones. Notice how there are no lot line windows on floors two through four? That’s because a little rowhouse stood here when the Bayard-Condict Building went up. Once the building cleared the rowhouse, the developer decided to have windows installed here.
What most owners/renters of residences with lot line windows may not realize is that these windows aren’t protected and could be lost at any time. Yep, you read that right. The views you now enjoy from that side window could be taken away if a tall building is constructed next door.
While the one-story building next to the Bayard-Condict Building remains (leaving those coveted lot line windows protected), other buildings in our neighborhoods face different fates. Take, for example, the building next to the lot at 688 Broadway, which is slated to be a new building slightly shorter in height. All those lot line windows you see in the photo above? It appears that all except perhaps the top story will be covered up. You can see more on our Landmarks Applications Webpage.
It’s a common misconception that these windows are protected if they are located in a historic district. This is not the case. New buildings and rooftop additions are proposed quite frequently in historic districts, and a new tall building isn’t always the culprit.
In many cases, the Greenwich Village Historic District in particular, homeowners of small-scale rowhouses are choosing to build one- to two-story rooftop additions. As was the case at 241 West 11th Street, for example, a rooftop addition approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) meant the loss of lot line windows to some residents on the upper floors of the neighboring building.
When people ask what can be done, there really is nothing you can do except contact your neighbor and try to convince them to modify the addition so your window isn’t blocked.
The photo above shows the Plantworks property at 22-26 East 4th Street. NYU purchased the site in January and presented its proposal for a four-story building here at last night’s community board hearing (its LPC hearing will be July 8th, click here for more info). If you click through to our webpage for this application, you can see the 19th century rowhouse that used to stand here in the 1940s tax photo. Its “ghost” is also visible on the side of the taller building above.
While NYU lowered a portion of the roof so that it cleared the lowest level of its neighbor’s lot line windows, additional floors could be added to the NYU building in the future since zoning allows a slightly taller building than they are proposing.
See more in our Landmarking 101 series.