14-16 Fifth Avenue Past Campaign Updates

LPC Rules 6-5 To Approve 14-16 Fifth Avenue Demolition and New (Shorter) Tower

In a highly unusual split vote decided by the Landmarks Preservation Commission Chair, on Tuesday the LPC voted by the slimmest of margins to approve demolition of the historic, landmarked 170+-year-old building at 14-16 Fifth Avenue and replace it with a 213-ft-tall tower. This was incredibly disappointing given the clearly established historic significance of this building (demolition of not-historically significant buildings within historic districts is allowed), the troubling precedent allowing its demolition would set, and the outpouring of support for saving the building from thousands of New Yorkers, prominent scholars and writers, and Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Brad Hoylman, and Assemblymember Deborah Glick.

The original proposed 367-ft-tall tower (left); the final, approved 213-ft-tall tower (right).

We’re deeply grateful for the support from five of eleven members of the Commission, who passionately opposed demolition, and can take pride in the fact that our collective efforts resulted in several substantial reductions in the oversized height of the building, from the original 367 ft to the final 213 ft — a 42% decrease. But there can be no excusing the Commission’s decision to approve the erasure of history, as well as the demolition of 20 units of housing for longtime residents, half of which were affordable rent regulated units, to be replaced by a high rise pier-a-terre for the super rich with fewer units of housing than the modest but historic building that will be replaced by a developer with a less-than-stellar track record.

Read press coverage here and here.

May 13, 2021

14-16 Fifth Avenue Returns to LPC Tuesday, Send Letter Today

A revised application for demolition of the 170-year-old former townhouses at 14-16 Fifth Avenue and their replacement with a high rise more than 200 ft tall (with fewer apartments than the existing building!) will be heard by the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday (time TBD; check HERE on Friday for update). While our pressure has resulted in an ongoing reduction in the height of the building (from 367 to 244 to 223 to 213 feet tall), this still fails to address the fundamental issue that allowing demolition of the historic landmarked building is WRONG, and the proposed replacement remains simply too tall.

Tuesday’s discussion and possible vote by the Landmarks Preservation Commission on the revised application can be viewed by the public, but the public cannot speak. You can, however, submit written testimony to the LPC for consideration, which we strongly urge you to do before 5 pm tomorrow.

May 6, 2021

What’s At Stake With 14-16 Fifth Avenue — What Does Preservation Mean?

As follow-up to last week’s hung jury at the Landmarks Preservation Commission regarding the application to demolish 14-16 Fifth Avenue, the 170-year-old former townhouses connected to some of the most important figures in New York and American history, Village Preservation has provided extensive information rebutting the arguments for demolition and appropriateness for the planned new development — read the letter here.

The possibility of demolition of these incredibly historically significant but altered houses has broad ramifications well beyond this site or even this neighborhood. A cursory examination of other sites in landmarked areas nearby shows that if the same logic being applied to the argument for allowing demolition were applied there, demolition would be allowed of many of our most cherished landmarked buildings.

Another example of landmarked buildings stripped of ornament and conjoined in historic districts, at 111 East 10th Street: would approval of demolition of 14-16 Fifth Avenue mean demolition of buildings like these would also be allowed?

Demolition can, always has been, and must be allowed for buildings within historic districts that are not significant or bear no relationship to the basis for landmark designation of the area. But that is clearly NOT the case here, and any such determination would threaten countless other similarly altered landmarked buildings. Read more here.

April 23, 2021

Landmarks Preservation Commission Again Doesn’t OK Demolition of 14-16 Fifth Avenue, But Final Outcome To Be Determined

On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission was again unable to reach consensus to approve or deny the application to allow demolition of the historic, 170+ year old former townhouses at 14-16 Fifth Avenue. In their discussion, the Commission cited the more than 300 letters they received opposing the new and slightly revised application for demolition and new construction, as well as opposition from Village Preservation. While several commissioners said they were comfortable with allowing demolition, several also gave impassioned statements opposing it, and no consensus was reached. There were varying levels of comfort with the newly proposed, shorter (by 18 feet) replacement should demolition be approved, with some saying it was fine as proposed, others saying it should still be reduced slightly, and still others saying only a significantly shorter building was acceptable. Watch the Commissioner’s meeting and discussion here, and read our comments submitted to the Commission here.

It is now up to the applicant to return to the Commission with a revised application. Meanwhile we are continuing to perform research and provide information and testimony to demonstrate to the Commission that it would be wrong to approve demolition of this incredibly historically significant building, witness to so much history, and that the proposed replacement is too tall.

If and when a revised application has been filed, the public will have a chance to submit new comments, and we will notify you of that opportunity.

April 16, 2021

14-16 Fifth Avenue Plan Returns to LPC Tuesday; WRITE TODAY!

The plan to demolish the landmarked, historically significant former townhouses at 14-16 Fifth Avenue and replace them with a tall new tower returns for a public meeting at the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) next Tuesday, April 13 (check here for approximate time, which will be available Friday). The plan has been slightly revised to lower the height of the proposed building by 18 feet to 224 feet. Village Preservation continues to oppose the plan based upon the overwhelming historic significance of the building, as documented by our research submitted to the LPC and numerous scholars, academics, and writers, and because the proposed new building is simply too tall.

The public will not be allowed to speak at Tuesday’s hearing but can submit written testimony objecting to the revised plan. WE STRONGLY URGE YOU TO DO SO by the noon Monday deadline at the latest.

April 8, 2021

Virtual Hearing on 14-16 Fifth Avenue Demolition and New Tower Plan Tues., 3/9

Reminder: The Landmarks Preservation Commission’s public hearing on the application to demolish 14-16 Fifth Avenue in the Greenwich Village Historic District and replace it with a 241 foot tall tower will be held next Tuesday. The approximate time of the virtual hearing is still TBD, but it will be during the day. When the time becomes available (likely Friday), we will post it here, and inform all who signed up for notifications. We need a BIG turnout to show broad opposition to this dangerous plan.

Madison Realty Capital is seeking to demolish a pair of 170+ year old former townhouses between 8th and 9th Streets which are among the most historically significant of their kind in New York. Though highly altered from their original form, they are connected to some of the most important figures in New York history throughout their lifetimes, and approval of their demolition would be a devastating blow to historic preservation in New York City. 

It should also be noted that this is a joint application for demolition of the existing structure and the proposed new 241 ft. tall replacement. This means we MUST comment on both elements of the application NOW, should the LPC rule that demolition is allowed. So even if you strongly oppose demolition as we do, we strongly urge also telling the LPC that the proposed new building, 75% taller than all other buildings on Fifth Avenue in the Greenwich Village Historic District and four times the height of the average building on its block, is also unacceptably tall. 

TO HELP:

Please also use the above letter as a model for your 3 minute testimony at next Tuesday’s hearing. 

March 3, 2021

14-16 Fifth Avenue: Community Board Rejects Plan, Landmarks Preservation Commission Hearing Tues. March 9

14-16 Fifth Avenue today (l.) and proposed.

On Tuesday night, Community Board #2’s Landmarks Committee voted to disapprove demolition of the historic and landmarked 170 year old former townhouses at 14-16 Fifth Avenue, and to urge that if the demolition plan is approved by the City, the height of the planned replacement tower be reduced. This is exactly what we and hundreds of neighbors urged them to do, so we are deeply grateful.

The proposal would destroy an extremely important part of our neighborhood and our city’s history (see here and here), and allow demolition of landmarked structures that clearly contribute to the Greenwich Village Historic District. The fate of the proposal will be decided by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has announced it will hear the application on Tuesday, March 9. As soon as the exact time of the daytime hearing is announced, we will let you know.

You can also use this letter as a basis for your testimony on March 9 (which is limited to 3 min. for verbal testimony; written comments can be any length).

February 18, 2021

Plan for 14-16 Fifth Avenue Demolition and Tower Replacement Returns; Hearing Feb. 16

14-16 Fifth Avenue (center, five-story building) 

The plan to demolish the 172 year old historic former townhouses at 14-16 Fifth Avenue in the Greenwich Village Historic District, and replace them with a high-rise tower, has returned and will be heard before Community Board 2’s Landmarks Committee on Tuesday, February 16 at 6:30pm. You can register for the Zoom meeting here (be sure to click on the drop-down for the Feb. 16 meeting, NOT the Feb. 11 meeting). 

We strongly oppose this plan, which would involve the demolition of two altered but incredibly historically significant landmarked townhouses which were home to some of the greatest industrialists, artists, writers, actors, philanthropists, and jurists of the last two centuries and were key to the development of our neighborhood and our city. The proposed high-rise replacement, while decreased in size from prior 367 ft. tall and 21/story 244 ft. tall versions (the new version is 19 stories; we do not yet know its height or design), is nevertheless completely inappropriate. Most importantly, demolition of historically significant structures in landmarked areas should NEVER be allowed. Read more about the building’s historic significance, prior iterations and the plan, and our preservation efforts herehere, and here.

After the Community Board 2 hearing and advisory vote, the application will be scheduled for a hearing at the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which will ultimately decide if the proposal to demolish the existing buildings and replace them with a new tower will be approved. Once that has been scheduled, we will notify the public, and urge all to attend and testify in opposition. 

February 3, 2021

Support Grows for Saving Threatened 170-Year-Old Houses at 14-16 Fifth Avenue – Write City Officials Today To Preserve These Landmarked Buildings!

Madison Realty Capital is seeking to demolish 14-16 Fifth Avenue (5-story building in the center of the block) and replace it with a 244 ft. tall tower.

 Since plans were first announced by a developer to seek permission to demolish the landmarked 170-year-old houses at 14-16 Fifth Avenue in the Greenwich Village Historic District and replace them with a huge tower, Village Preservation has led the vocal opposition to this plan. On the coldest day of the year in January, we held a rally and press conference condemning the proposal attended by over 100 neighbors and Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Brad Hoylman, State Assemblymembers Deborah Glick and Harvey Epstein, and a representative of City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. And we have been performing more and more research establishing the unique historic significance of these buildings, and showing how woefully out-of-scale and inappropriate the proposed replacement building would be.

We’ve also been reaching out to scholars, writers, academics, and historians to support our argument for the historic significance of the buildings and to oppose any possible demolition – read just some of the letters to city officials opposing opposition of these buildings here. Because the buildings are located within a historic (landmarked) district, they cannot be demolished unless the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission rules that the buildings are of no historic or architectural significance, and don’t contribute to the character of the historic district. We believe such a ruling would be profoundly wrong and have dangerous implications for landmark protections anywhere in New York City. 

Click for PDF flyer

The developer originally planned to file their application for demolition and approval of the new tower in January. Facing this powerful backlash, they have held off on filing, and now cannot begin the process before April at the earliest.  They may be rethinking their approach given the irrefutable arguments against their plan and the overwhelming opposition to it.

TO HELP:

March 10, 2020

Elected Officials, Preservationists, Tenant Advocates Condemn Plan by Madison Realty Capital to Demolish Landmarked 1848 Greenwich Village Building for 244 ft. Tall Pied-a-Terre Tower for Super-Rich

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release – January 17, 2020
Contact:  Andrew Berman, 212-475-9585 x38, 917-533-1767, 
andrew@gvshp.org

Video from press conference is available at www.facebook.com/gvshp.
More images and video from the press conference are available at flickr.com/gvshp and youtube.com/villagepreservation.


Manhattan — Village Preservation (the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation) was joined today by Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, a representative of City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, the Historic Districts Council, Village Independent Democrats, and Tenants Taking Control to denounce the plan by Madison Realty Capital to demolish a 5-story, 20-unit apartment building at 14-16 Fifth Avenue in the Greenwich Village Historic District constructed in 1848, and replace it with a 244 ft. tall tower with just 18 units of super-luxury housing. Those assembled condemned the proposed demolition of a historic building in a landmarked district, the inappropriate size and scale of the proposed replacement tower, and the loss of at least ten affordable rent-stabilized units in the building and their replacement with a smaller number of unaffordable units that will likely only serve as pied a terres or second- or third-homes for the super-rich. Preservation organizations spoke to the dangerous precedent the proposal presents for preservation of our city’s landmarks, and tenant groups who have tangled with Madison Realty Capital spoke to their harmful practices and poor treatment of tenants in other properties nearby.

Because the building is located in the Greenwich Village Historic District, the building can only be demolished if the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission finds that the building is of no architectural or historic significance, and the proposed replacement building must be found to be “appropriate” in terms of scale, massing, design, etc. for the site and surroundings.  Madison Realty Capital has indicated they plan to argue both, while Village Preservation has compiled considerable research substantiating the historic significance of the buildings (a hearing on the proposal at the Landmarks Preservation Commission has not yet been scheduled).   

Destruction of history Village Preservation research has established that the buildings were the home of Academy Award-winning actress Celeste Holm; industrialist and inventor Isaac Merritt Singer, founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Corp.; renowned California Gold Rush writer Bret Harte; Civil War general and Gettysburg Battlefield preservationist Gen. Daniel Sickles; Railroad Tycoon George Blanchard; jurist and philanthropist Charles E. Strong, who led the country’s oldest law firm and helped establish the first medical college for women; and more recently Miriam Bockman, the first woman and the first reformer to lead the New York County Democratic Party. The building was constructed as two separate houses in 1848 by the Brevoort family, one of New York’s oldest and most prominent families, and at the time the houses led the transformation of Lower Fifth Avenue into the most prestigious address in New York City (more details on the history of the building and historic figures who lived there can be found here and here).

Out-of-scale tower  Village Preservation research has also documented how out-of-scale the proposed new building would be.  Using NYC Open Data figures, they found that the proposed 244 ft. tall tower would be 75% taller than the average building located on Fifth Avenue in the Greenwich Village Historic District, and fully four times the height of the average building on the block (5th/6th Ave., 8th/9th Street), as well as four times the height of the current building. If approved, it would be the tallest tower ever approved in the Greenwich Village Historic District, and it is believed it would be the tallest tower ever built in any historic district in New York City.

Loss of housing and affordability  In spite of the massive increase in height, the proposed new building would actually have less housing than the existing building, with just eighteen super-luxury units as opposed to the current twenty.  Additionally, at least half of the units in the existing building were affordable rent-regulated units when Madison Realty Capital purchased it, including units housing low-income senior citizens (units in the building were enrolled in the Senior Citizens Rent Increase Exemption or SCRIE program). The planned tower would have no affordable housing, and its small number of units would likely only serve as pieds-a-terre or third or fourth homes for the super-rich. Madison Realty Capital has also raised the ire of tenants in many of the buildings they have purchased in the East Village, where they claim the company has treated them poorly and warehoused affordable units. For more info on the affordable housing previously found at 14-16 Fifth Avenue, click here.

A comparison of the existing and proposed buildings (including a visualization based upon a prior plan for the site by the same developer) and a summary and images of some of the historic figures who lived in the buildings can be found below. 

 Andrew Berman, Executive Director of Village Preservation said “This outrageous plan is a slap in the face to our neighborhood, to our city’s history, and to tenants and affordable housing advocates. To demolish a landmarked 170-year-old building that housed countless historic figures over the years and contained many units of needed affordable housing to make way for a high-rise pied-a-terre that will be grossly out-of-scale but actually contain less housing — and none of it affordable – is appalling.  We urge the City and the Landmarks Preservation Commission to say no and to reject this application
 
Borough President Gale A. Brewer said “We cannot tear down the history of New York City and destroy affordable housing to make way for more luxury apartments. This practice is a direct threat to historic preservation and our rent-stabilized housing stock. I am opposed to this development, and I will fight to ensure these buildings remain intact for future generations.”
 
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said “The Greenwich Village Historic District is known throughout the world for its beauty and an unmistakable sense of place. It is our responsibility to ensure that this district is maintained and protected for future generations and to ensure than any new development is a complement to – not a subtraction from – the neighborhood’s historic fabric.”
 
State Senator Brad Hoylman said “It shouldn’t be a surprise that one of New York’s worst landlords, Madison Realty Capital, is attempting to subvert the Greenwich Village Historic District by seeking a permit to build a luxury condo tower in our neighborhood. Madison Realty Capital has been a bad actor for years by pushing out rent-stabilized tenants to make quick profits for their investors, and our community is not going to roll out the welcome mat for their blatant greed. Just as Robert Moses found out when Jane Jacobs led the effort to defeat his plan that would destroy Washington Square Park steps away from where Madison Realty Capital is planning its new tower, Villagers will fight tooth and nail to ensure our Historic District remains intact.”
 
Assemblymember Deborah Glick said “While an application has been filed for a luxury tower on Fifth Avenue in the Greenwich Village Historic District, it remains to be seen how far this plan can advance. Historic Districts have been established to preserve neighborhood character—not to erode the sense of community—but to ensure that out-of-context intrusions like this proposal do not happen. This would be an unwelcome and thoroughly inappropriate development and entirely out of scale for this location. Eliminating twenty units of affordable housing to make way for eighteen units of super-luxury housing is precisely what undermines our communities in New York. ”
 
Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council, a citywide preservation organization, said: “This proposal is damaging not only to the Greenwich Village Historic District but to the entire notion of landmark designation in New York City.”
 
Sally Young of Tenants Taking Control, a coalition of tenants in buildings owned by Madison Realty Capital, said: “Tenants Taking Control has been dealing with Madison Realty Capital for over four years, since they helped finance the purchase of the 23 buildings in which we live. Madison’s vision for this part of Manhattan seems to be a preposterous and neighborhood-destroying ‘Midtown South’ for wealthy people. The Attorney General has stated that Madison entered into a loan-to-own scheme with Raphael Toledano, in which TTC’s rent-regulated tenants were to be removed from our homes in the East Village. That didn’t work out for Toledano and it should not work out for Madison here in Greenwich Village. We say ‘NO MORE!’”
 
Katharine Wolpe of Village Independent Democrats, Greenwich Village and the East Village’s largest Democratic Club, said “Village Independent Democrats oppose the demolition of this historic building for a 21-story building putting additional pressure on City infrastructure. Landmark districts like this retain historic buildings to keep the character of historic neighborhoods.  This destruction of our history and our housing is exactly the opposite of what this neighborhood needs.”

-end-

January 17, 2020

Join us for 14-16 Fifth Avenue Demonstration and Press Conference this Friday at 11:30 am

 Please join us Friday at 11:30 am on Fifth Avenue between 8th and 9th Streets for a demonstration and press conference opposing plans by Madison Realty Capital to tear down 14-16 Fifth Avenue, a 5-story 20-unit apartment building built in 1848 in the Greenwich Village Historic District, and replace it with a 244 ft. tall 18-unit apartment tower. 
 Click to enlarge and for printable version
January 15, 2020

14-16 Fifth Avenue Demonstration This Friday, Jan. 17 at 11:30am

 Please join Village Preservation, Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Brad Hoylman, the Historic Districts Council, and many others for a demonstration and press conference opposing plans by Madison Realty Capital to tear down 14-16 Fifth Avenue, a 5-story 20-unit apartment building built in 1848 in the Greenwich Village Historic District, and replace it with a 244 ft. tall 18-unit apartment tower. 
 Click to enlarge and for printable version
January 13, 2020