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School's Townhouse Expansion Plan Worries UES Residents

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The all-boys Buckley School wants to combine two townhouses on East 73rd Street to create more big arts and science classrooms, but area residents fear the development will strain their quality of life. The plan by Sage & Coombe Architects would leave the facades of the two adjacent homes largely intact, save for a handicapped accessible ramp, while adding several feet of mechanical equipment to the roof (to support an elevator, heating, and air conditioning). In the back garden area, Buckley is proposing an extra one-story classroom that extends to the back of its lot line.

Neighbors, meanwhile balked at that part of the design in particular, arguing that it would block their light and overpower their own rear gardens, a precious commodity that they say is a defining characteristic of these kinds of blocks. Buckley, meanwhile, has a student body of 370 and already occupies three other buildings nearby on 73rd and 74th streets, including 113 East 73rd Street, which is right across the street from the two townhouses in question, located at 112 and 114 East 73rd Street.

About two dozen interested parties gathered to see Sage and Coombe's presentation at a meeting of the Community Board 8 Landmarks Committee on Monday night, and later voiced their opinions from the audience. "They're residential buildings. Why are they going to be a school?" queried a neighbor who lives next door at 116 West 73rd. "I don't even understand why this is happening." Inhabitants of back apartments on 72nd Street, who would face the revamped townhouses, were also dissatisfied by the potential blockage of light both for their apartment windows and and their gardens. By far the most extreme opinion voiced? "I've physically and emotionally suffered as a consequence of living across the street from this school," said one anti-Buckleyite, who complained about the garbage and delivery trucks that service the existing buildings at all hours of the night.

Attendees (and board members themselves) approved of the rooftop addition and facade adjustments but were evenly divided on Buckley's proposal for the garden, meaning that tonight's vote at the meeting of the full board, during which area residents are allowed to speak during a public session, has heightened in importance. The board usually follows the advice of the committee, but in this case, the committee was split: two in support; two disapproving; and two abstentions. Those who didn't support the plan believe that the rear garden addition is "out of scale" with similar structures on the block and in the Upper East Side Historic District at large. What's more, it's part of an obviously vicious trend to expand educational institutions at the expense of something like residential harmony. "All these schools taking over," said one committee member. "It's not just 73rd Street. Its happening all over the city."
· Private school buys two Upper East Side townhouses [Commercial Observer]
· Upper East Side coverage [Curbed]
?Photo via PropertyShark