Baron of Bond Street Adam Gordon tore down a couple nondescript buildings and planned to build a Frenchified collection of limestone-covered condos at 41-43 Bond Street. He won Landmarks Preservation Commission approval for the Steven Harris-designed building and construction kicked off, but Gordon then sold the whole package late last year.
The current owners, DDG Partners, have built the nine-story concrete frame according to plan, but are now proposing a different facade. The new design, stacked bluestone with a green roof up top and angled balconies out back, has won over most of the gang at the LPC, while leaving some nearby residents less than happy.
DDG has used thin-cut bluestone to great effect on a refurbished seven-story, two-family building nearing completion farther downtown at 24 Warren Street. On Bond Street, the previously-approved bronze shutters have been scuttled and the windows enlarged, while the planter boxes that had been OK'd by LPC are now better incorporated into the bluestone facade. A smaller bulkhead leaves room for a planted green roof overhead. Out back, facing onto an enclosed courtyard framed by neighboring buildings, single broad expanses of glass at each floor have been reworked into multiple large panes, some of which will be sliding doors opening onto narrow balconies. Here comes trouble.
These balconies are what worry the neighbors, and they came out swinging at an LPC hearing yesterday. The Noho-ites questioned the appropriateness of such balconies (the building is in the newly extended Noho Historic District), raising the point that they have no historical precedent in a manufacturing district like Noho. The DDG rep readily admitted that he could find no precedent whatsoever to justify the design choice, but said the narrow balconies, just four feet wide, were similar to fire escapes, which are as New York as can be. Plus they'd offer some energy-saving shade for the all-glass southern exposure and create additional privacy between the new building and existing neighbors, whose rear walls are a mere 30 feet away. The Commissioners listened intently.
One nearby resident, concerned about noise from new neighbors hanging out on their lofty perches, questioned DDG's claim of the need for privacy, and whether these balconies would actually achieve that goal. The neighbor called the developer's problem self-induced, created only by 41 Bond's new wall of glass facing onto the existing courtyard, an area that's been secluded, quiet and private for years. The developer seemingly acquiesced, sheepishly admitting that it was indeed a "self-inflicted wound" but claiming that the balconies, from the design point of view, made for a better building. By now the LPC team was nodding in agreement, while neighbors were muttering amongst themselves. But it still wasn't clear which side would prevail.
When DDG presented the plan last week before Community Board 2's Landmarks Committee, the developer admitted that it would be cheaper to forget the balcony additions, and seemed somewhat willing to forego their construction. Ultimately the CB2 voted for approval of the front facade at 41 Bond but, noting that "neighbors from both Bond Street and Bleecker Street vociferously opposed the balconies," strongly recommended that LPC not give the balconies their approval. As Tuesday's hearing drew to a close, and despite a number of speakers in opposition to the balconies, the Commission seemed unconcerned by the effect that these exterior spaces would have on folks who, for years, have had homes facing onto the courtyard.
The Commission's comments were focused on trim materials, the cut of the bluestone and the management of window box maintenance. In the end, the LPC closed the hearing without a vote, but indicated they were leaning towards approval for the new bluestone facade while pledging to continue discussion regarding the balconies, but only at the staff level and with no further public input. Noho residents left the hearing confused and weary, still wondering what will rise at 41 Bond Street.
· Landmark Applications: 41-43 Bond Street [GVSHP]
· Portfolio: 41 Bond [DDG Partners]
· 41 Bond Street coverage [Curbed]