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Soho Residents Not Thrilled About Losing Fire Escapes

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A Soho landlord's plan to remove the external fire escapes from two landmarked buildings at 69 and 71-73 Greene Street has the tenants of those buildings nervous, possibly setting the stage for a Landmarks Preservation Commission battle when the plans are presented next week. The architect, Joseph Pell Lombardi, claims that the removal of the fire escapes "actually is a positive thing in terms of fire safety, because while we're taking down the fire escapes, we are installing a deluge system of sprinklers." But residents are not convinced, in large part because building's staircases, though four feet wide and exceeding the city's fire egress requirement, are "steep, uneven, [and] the steps are bowed and warped." They are also made of wood.

In addition to the safety debate the building owner and tenants are also in disagreement over whether the fire escapes contribute the historic character. Though they are not original, they have existed on the buildings since at least the 1940s and "absolutely define the sense of the place," according to one tenant. Pell takes the opposite stance, saying that, "The original cast iron buildings are compromised by these late addition fire escapes. The owner feels very strongly, and we agree, that they detract from the building." All this and more will be hashed out when the plans are presented to the Landmarks Commission next Tuesday.
· Residents Fear Developer's Plan to Remove Greene Street Fire Escapes [DNAinfo]