The long-running battle over Manhattan's only surviving stop on the Underground Railroad escalated a notch last week, when historic townhouse owner Tony Mamounas sued the city to keep a top-floor addition legally installed before the Hopper-Gibbons House was landmarked. (Officials now claim granting permission was a mistake, but Mamounas has been firm that a permit is a permit.)
Striking back against neighbors and preservationists who cite 339 West 29th Street's unique past as a reason to keep it penthouse-free, Mamounas aims to overturn a prior ruling that the fate of his fifth-floor extension rests in the hands of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Mamounas' opponents hold that restoring the original four-story height of the house is crucial to maintain its historical significance, since that aligns it with other houses on the block, which allowed Abigail and James Hopper Gibbons to run along the rooftops while escaping slavery in the 1860s.
For Mamounas, history is, in this case, a moot point. DNAinfo reports: "'Since the issuance of a permit even one day prior to LPC designation would exclude a project from LPC jurisdiction, issuance of a permit of 1,500 days prior to designation, as occurred in the instant case, surely is accurate,' wrote Mamounas' lawyer, Marvin Mitzner, in the suit. ... 'This historical significance of the Site is not at issue in this case.'" The city hasn't yet responded to the suit, so who will pick up arms to fight the next phase of this five-year-long stalemate?
· Underground Railroad House's History is Irrelevant, Owner Says [DNAInfo]
· Hopper-Gibbons House coverage [Curbed]