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Landlords Trying to Make Landmarks Less "Landmarked" on the UES

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There's a battle being fought on the Upper East Side, and the outcome could very well set a precedent that affects landmarks across the rest of the city. Two walk-ups on East 65th street are part of a 15 building complex, and were landmarked back in 2006 because of the role they played as being examples of tenements designed for low income workers during the Progressive Era. History lesson aside, the owners of the buildings, the Stahl real estate group want to tear the buildings down and build a new development with water views on the site. Their reasoning? The group claims that the buildings are losing them $1,000,000 a year, far from the minimum of 6% profit the city's code claims as being an "adequate" profit. It's not totally impossible, there have been 11 approvals to demolish a landmarked building. Sure, that's 11 out of 27,000 buildings. Slim, but still not impossible. Don't think there isn't any opposition from the residents...

Tenants aren't taking this proposal lying down, with a "Stop Stahl" campaign being mounted by the disaffected denizens. They claim that the landlords have let 107 of the 190 apartments remain vacant, have included $368,000 of legal fees in their application and purposefully underestimated any potential rent in the buildings. And that's not all, they've also "chronicled how the landlord, in an effort to stave off the landmark designation, removed many of the buildings’ Beaux-Arts-style stone carvings and terra cotta trim and then plastered the exterior with a coral pink stucco that contrasts with the tan brick of the complex’s other buildings."

A consultant to the Stahl organization openly admits that the group was leaving some apartments empty in hopes of demolishing the buildings in the future. In defense of Stahl, he claims that the rent appraisals were done by a professional and that legal fees were never included in their operating expenses. The group is offering to find displaced tenants comparable apartments in the other 13 buildings, but we have a feeling that this offer isn't going to temper their enthusiasm for this cause.

· Landmarks are Called a Hardship, Setting Off a Fight [NYT]