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LPC Says Owners Must Redesign, Shorten Apthorp Penthouses

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The Landmarks Preservation Commission has sent Area Property Partners back to the drawing board. In its meeting yesterday, it decided to hold off issuing an actual decision about the proposed addition of four penthouses atop the Apthorp, one of the Upper West Side's most storied (and soap-opera-level dramatic) full-block apartment buildings.

The commissioners deemed that the penthouse plan as it stands would infringe upon the Italian Renaissance Revival design—"throws off the bilateral symmetry," to be precise—and asked the develoepr to return with a new proposal that is shorter and less bulky. Their call puts the 1908-built landmark back in limbo, a place the relatively new owners and the passionate crew of penthouse detractors are all too familiar with by now.

What got us here? Last September, Manhattan's Community Board 7 came to a similar conclusion. Its landmarks subcommittee voted 5-2 against the penthouses. At the time, the architecture firm Goldstein, Hill & West presented a 34-page slide presentation detailing what the four penthouses would look like. The board cited the penthouses' un-contextual design and impact on the landmark building's exterior and courtyard as the reason for voting it down. During yesterday's landmarks presentation, many of the same slides were shown to the commission and, as if in echo, commissioners observed that the penthouse would compromise the original design.

And starchitects agree. When the plan was first presented to the LPC back in November, Robert A.M. Stern, A. Eugene Kohn (of Kohn Pedersen Fox), Michael Graves, and David Childs all wrote testimonials to express their disapproval.

"For me, this building is really carefully balanced and well-designed," commented on commissioner. Fellow commissioners went on to point out that the proposed penthouses were simply too tall and that the structures would severely reduce the amount of roof space available for residents.

But commissioners indicated that there might be a future for the four penthouses. They would be willing to compromise and pass the proposal, they said, if the structures would be shortened in height. That way, the members said, the penthouses wouldn't block light from entering the lauded symmetrical courtyard and squat as prominently for all to see from the sidewalks below.

If the advice is taken and the proposal is passed, the property's owners stand to make a massive amount of money (they don't call them penthouses for nothing), perhaps as much as $15 million for each unit, if not more. The owners have said before that they would put the money back into the building for repairs and upkeep, though residents have spiked that claim.

Another plot twist: according to a petition by Apthorp condo owners (warning: PDF), 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?

But for now, a redesign. One commissioner emphasized that "special attention has to be given" when redesigning the addition. So now we wait to see what tweaked model Area and Goldstein, Hill & West will unveil next.
—Eric Jankiewicz
· Covertly Touring The Apthorp's Roof, A Landmarks Battleground [Curbed]
· Four Starchitects Join The Anti-Apthorp Penthouse Party Bus [Curbed]
· Neighbors Give Apthorp Penthouse Addition A Resounding No [Curbed]
· All Apthorp coverage [Curbed]

Apthorp Building

390 West End Avenue, New York, NY 10023