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Four Starchitects Join The Anti-Apthorp Penthouse Party Bus

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The fate of the owners' proposal to put four penthouse units atop historic Upper West Side landmark the Apthorp looks even more doomed this morning. In a lengthy public hearing at the Landmarks Preservation Commission last night, Area Property Partners was once again relegated to a corner after presenting their plans as local officials, preservationists, building residents, and neighbors took turns on the stand totally lambasting them. The many criticisms leveled at Goldstein, Hill & West's designs were largely recapitulations of September's fiery community board meeting: that the addition is inappropriate, that it does not meld enough with the 1908-built Italian Renaissance facade, that it would drastically change the building's essence by encasing the currently open loggias/pergolas on the building's rooftop, and that it would alter the look of and light in the interior courtyard, which is also landmarked.

What set last night's round of opposition apart, though, was the presentation of four anti-addition statements by major players in the world of architecture (though they themselves did not deliver their testimony): Robert A.M. Stern, A. Eugene Kohn (of Kohn Pedersen Fox), Michael Graves, and David Childs (whose 1WTC was just deemed the tallest building in the Western hemisphere).

All urged the LPC to reject the proposal, and the PDF embedded below contains the full text of their objections.

Starchitects' Opposition to Apthorp Penthouse Addition

By the time the meeting ended, there weren't enough commissioners left for a quorum, and Chair Robert Tierney said that Area and co. (the applicants) would have a chance to rebut the jabs at a future public hearing, when the commissioners will discuss it and possibly vote. The odds, however, do not look in their favor.

Here's a look at what Area Property Partners, who bought the building and converted much of it to condos (not without drama, of course), presented to the community board in September. Their plea in their idea's favor includes its financial necessity to maintain the building but also emphasizes the fact that the addition is just two floors and mostly on the West End Avenue side of the full-block building. They also stress it's not very visible from the street (as evidenced by an orange-netted mock-up photographed from various vantage points), and doesn't have too great an impact on the courtyard. Naturally, detractors take issue with all of these claims. Here are the renders and models:


Among the neighborhood officials who spoke out against the proposal last night were Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal and state senator Jose M. Serrano. Council member and Manhattan borough president-elect Gale Brewer earned a round of applause and plenty of whoops for her statement. Here's an excerpt:

As proposed by the developer, the additions threaten to permanently alter The Apthorp's character and beauty. Specifically, the changes are not historically or architecturally appropriate, they add considerable and visible bulk to the roof, permanently change the building's profile, and irreparably harm the beautiful and iconic loggias of the interior courtyard. ... As the Commission is aware, changes of this kind to an architecturally distinguished building invariably degrade it. Another kink in the plan: according to a petition by Apthorp condo owners (below), citing the original offering plan, Area isn't allowed to do anything without their unanimous consent. If that's the case, then is this whole back-and-forth moot?

Petition by Apthorp Condominium Owners

· Neighbors Give Apthorp Penthouse Addition A Resounding No [Curbed]
· All Apthorp coverage [Curbed]

Apthorp Building

390 West End Avenue, New York, NY 10023