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Upper East Side 'McMansion' Fight Begins

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We've already pointed out two rather pedestrian topics on the Landmarks Preservation Commission's docket today: naming rights at the New York Public Library, and an old abandoned hotel on Governors Island. Where's the controversy? Right here! Listed as Item 21 on the schedule is 57-61 East 90th Street, and the application is to "construct rooftop and rear yard additions and extend a flue." That doesn't sound very dramatic, until you see the model of the proposal (above). A concerned neighbor sent us that photo, and the following explanation:

A 17,000 square-foot McMansion is being proposed in the Carnegie Hill Historic District. The owner of a house on East 90th Street in Manhattan has bought two adjacent houses and plans to turn them into a single-family residence of 17,000 square feet. Such a combination of houses has not taken place in Manhattan’s Upper East Side since 1937.

The three houses are located at 57, 59 and 61 East 90th Street between Madison and Park Avenues. They are Romanesque Revival style rowhouses designed by J. C. Cady and built in 1886-87. They are flanked by the Horace Mann Nursery School on the west and two four-story brownstones on the east.

The owner’s request to restore the street façades of the three houses to their original appearance has been approved by Community Board 8. His request to add a fifth floor and a 12-foot elevator bulkhead to the roof and a 15 ½ foot rear yard extension, however, were denied. This proposal is going before the Landmarks Preservation Commission Tuesday, April 22.

The rooftop and rear yard additions will increase the square footage of the combined houses 4,000 square feet from 13,000 to 17,000 square feet.

Residents in the Carnegie Hill neighborhood are concerned that these additions will encroach on their light and the shared open space of their rear yards. Of greater concern, however, is the modern design and materials of the reconstructed rear façade which will clash with the traditional characteristics of neighboring houses.

Many residents of the neighborhood have expressed outrage that such a large, bulky, institutional-looking building could be inserted into a historic district block that includes 18 four- and five-story brownstones.

About 15 or so neighbors are expected to turn out at the LPC's hearing to speak out against the proposal. The gallery above has photos of the townhouses that would be combined. Given the finicky nature of the neighborhood when it comes to development, this one sounds like a long shot.
· Landmarks Preservation Commission [nyc.gov]