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Smaller, Still-Hated Apthorp Addition Will Finally Move Forward

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The third time actually was the charm for Area Property Partners' bid to put a controversial penthouse-filled topper on the landmark Apthorp building on the Upper West Side, which occupies the full block from 78th and 79th streets between Broadway and West End Avenue. The rooftop proposal was significantly pared down from the versions presented in January and in June—which neighbors and star architects alike pretty much abhorred—the Landmarks Preservation Commission saw fit to finally approve the addition to the Italian Renaissance Revival structure, an uber-historic residence (warning: PDF!) built in 1908.

Bill Higgins of the preservation firm Higgins Quasebarth & Partners began the presentation of the revised addition, which had gobs of renderings and view studies. He stressed the reduced size and visibility of the addition. The new penthouse will be one story on its west side. The end pavilions were eliminated, leading to a five-and-a-half-foot height reduction. A two-story central section was eliminated, leading to an 11-foot reduction there. Also, all of the one-story portions were reduced by two feet. There will be no visibility from the building's central courtyard, a main bone of contention in prior meetings. He said that the proposal picks up "salient features of the original [building]" in its use of copper and limestone. He noted that existing stairs and elevator bulkheads are being used to connect sections of the addition.

Architect David West of Goldstein Hill & West Architects continued the presentation, saying that the addition is "no longer trying to be a classical composition." He noted that there are fewer than a handful of spots on the street where one would be able to see any of the addition. When it comes to the view from Riverside Park, he said there would be about two feet of space in the park where, if you knew where to look, you might be able to see some of it. The addition would also include the removal of guardrails, and the roof would no longer be accessible by the building's tenants. That piece of information came only in response to a question from LPC Commissioner Margery Perlmutter.

The LPC commissioners wondered if the already reduced visibility could be minimized even more by going from 11-foot ceilings to 10-foot ceilings. The design team said they would work with that. LPC chairperson Meenakshi Srinivasan said the revised proposal made "great strides." "Good job," said Commissioner Christopher Moore. The proposal was approved unanimously and, as it was her last day with the LPC, Commissioner Perlmutter read the resolution (whenever something is approved, one of the commissioners has to read it aloud for the record).

Not everyone was happy about the approval. (No surprises there.) At least half a dozen longtime Apthorp residents were in attendance, wearing buttons expressing their opposition. At least one man sitting up front could be heard snickering at the presentation. But the LPC has spoken, and construction comes next.
—Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
· Apthorp Reduces Rooftop Addition But Doesn't Win Crucial OK [Curbed]
· LPC Says Owners Must Redesign, Shorten Apthorp Penthouses [Curbed]
· 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