The Stahl Organization has not yet given up on its increasingly absurd mission to demolish a pair of landmarked buildings on the Upper East Side, and has now filed suit in federal court. A brief recap: the buildings, 429 East 64th Street and 430 East 65th Street, were landmarked in 1990 due to their historical significance as some of the first tenement buildings to use the "light-court" model. They were later un-landmarked by the now-defunct Board of Estimate, and then re-landmarked by the Landmarks Commission. In an effort to stop the re-landmarking, the Stahl Organization, which had purchased the buildings planning to tear them down, tried to make them as ugly as possibly, stripping the Beaux Arts-style exteriors and replacing them with pink stucco. When that didn't work, they filed a hardship application, claiming that the buildings didn't make money, then set out to self-fulfill that prophecy by basically just refusing to rent or renovate the units. The Landmarks Commission was not in the slightest bit fooled by the self-imposed hardship and rejected the application.
Now, the Stahl Organization is taking the fight federal, having filed suit on Monday in U.S District Court in Manhattan. The suit claims that "The LPC's denial of Stahl's hardship application was ... outrageously arbitrary and entirely irrational."
Just to recap a little further, here is a sampling of some of the "arbitrary" and "irrational" objections that the LPC raised in the second of three hearings on the matter, last October:
Other aspects of Stahl's argument that the commissioners weren't pleased about included the part where Stahl juked potential construction costs by pretending they could only renovate four units at a time; the part where Stahl claimed that the building was economically unviable because they had vacated it in anticipation of demolition; the part where Stahl said square footage is the most important factor in renting apartments (and not, for example, location, location, or location); the part where Stahl claimed that they couldn't rent tiny studio apartments on East 65th Street for more than $800/month; the part where Stahl claimed that the buildings were not in close proximity to subways or shopping; the part where Stahl misrepresented the average square footage of the apartments they were trying to destroy; the part where Stahl had the nerve to call into question HR&A's numbers crunching practices; and also all of the other parts. Stahl also tried to appeal to the current administration by intimating that they would just looove to build some affordable housing (surely their plan all along). You have to at least admire their persistence.
· Stahl Organization sues city over landmark rentals [TRD]
· 429 East 64th Street coverage [Curbed]