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Preservationists Fear Merchant's House Safety With Hotel Plan

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The development team for a little lot at 27 East 4th Street in Noho had a tough row to hoe at the CB2 landmarks committee meeting Monday night. Beforehand the neighborhood was plastered with posters, encouraging attendance in opposition to the plan from SRA Architecture + Engineering, and more than 50 history-loving commandos turned out in force to present the committee with a petition. It was directed to LPC Chairman Robert Tierney and filled with over 1,000 signatures, all urging that the application be denied.

The Noho Historic District Extension proposal is for a hotel, rising nine stories on a site that was once a 4-story house, but more recently has been home to a grungy garage where hot dog carts spend the night. What opponents argue the developers didn't consider is the effect their construction will have on the Merchant's House Museum next door, a city-owned 1832 Greek Revival protected by the Historic House Trust in conjunction with the Parks Department. Simeon Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council reminded the committee members of their obligation to protect the public trust, and Nick Nicholson, Chairman of the Board at Merchant's House, urged opposition to the plan, saying that even with the best of intentions, the very delicate structure undoubtedly would suffer.
What's planned on East 4th Street is scarier for museum lovers than Gertrude the Ghost, supposedly the spirit of the Merchant House's last resident who died inside at age 93. That sad event took place in an upstairs bedroom back in 1933 and old Gert is said to keep continual watch over her old homestead. That homestead was designated one of the original New York City landmarks in 1965. More recently it's been beleaguered by the on-going shafting for the massive Third Water Tunnel project on the lot to the east, where monster machines took revenge a few years back. One young fan from the neighborhood, stuck at home with piles of homework, sent his mom to tell the committee to heed the tale of the 1942 picture book, "The Little House," and offered up his well worn copy to be passed around the room.

The current fear is that new construction will wreck the old house, not an unwarranted concern given recent building collapses and forced demolitions. "We don't want another Annie Liebovitz," spouted one concerned citizen, referring to a very scary West Village construction site from a few years back, where art and preservation didn't mix. This proposal for 27 East 4th Street is scheduled to be heard by the Landmarks Preservation Commission on June 6, when seats in the hearing room could be at a premium.
· Merchant's House Museum [Historic House Trust]
· New NoHo Hotel Proposed for 27 East 4th Street [Curbed]

27 East 4th Street

27 East 4th Street, New York, NY