Damaging Proposal for Alterations to and Excavations Under 131 and 131 1/2 Charles Street Rejected!

We are pleased to report that the revised proposal for inappropriate and potentially damaging alterations to, and excavation under, the landmarked 131 Charles Street (1834) and its 19th-century rear carriage house at 131 1/2 Charles Street, the longtime former home of photographer Diane Arbus, was not approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) on Tuesday. Village Preservation strongly opposed the proposal, which would have altered the house and rear house in ways that eliminated or diminished defining elements of the remarkably intact, double-landmarked structures, while also digging deep under both structures and their rear yards to create subterranean recreational space, potentially endangering these buildings and its landmarked neighbors. We are pleased that the commissioners echoed many of the objections we raised, and pushed back on the applicant’s false contentions about the legal jurisdiction of the LPC to regulate elements of the house, and on their contentions about the history of the structures to justify their proposed changes — watch the video of the meeting here.

More than 750 of you responded to our call to oppose this application, sending more than 1,500 letters to the LPC and its Chair urging them to reject this proposal — thank you! The commissioners also cited recent issues with excavation and similar work leading to damage to landmarked properties as part of their rationale for rejecting this plan — issues we have worked hard to call attention to, publicize, and demand a response to from the city.

The applicant can and likely will return with a revised application, though the LPC has made clear it will not accept certain elements of what has been proposed here. It will require careful monitoring and an ongoing vigorous response to help ensure that inappropriate and damaging changes are not approved here in the future. Village Preservation regularly monitors for, reviews, and shares information on proposed changes to all 3,500 landmarked properties in our neighborhoods to help ensure their historic integrity remains intact. 

Help ensure we can continue to protect this and other historic buildings in our neighborhoods:

August 17, 2023