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Landmarks Commission Approves Friends Seminary Expansion

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Friends Seminary, the private K-12 school not far from Gramercy Park, will get to expand its campus, thanks to approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Though the commissioners were not impressed when the plans were first presented in April, the architects won them over this time around by a reducing the overall bulk, better integration of a new bulkhead, and making other tweaks.

The buildings in question run from 212 to 222 East 16th Street in the Stuyvesant Square Historic District. The school owns three Anglo-Italianate style townhouses that date from 1852 and a four-story building to the east now known as Hunter Hall, which was built in 1965. The expansion plans were presented by Frances Halsband of Kliment Halsband Architects. All of the buildings will be expanded, but slightly less than the school originally wanted. For example, the the play roof atop Hunter Hall will be 84 feet, two inches, three feet shorter than in the original proposal. Similarly, the greenhouse atop the townhouses will stand at 13 feet instead of 15 feet, four inches.

Additionally, the rear of the townhouses is now now better articulated to show that there are three separate house. Also, the houses will now share one flagpole, instead of each house having its own. The glass transitional section of Hunter Hall that abuts the old Quaker meeting house and school buildings will no longer feature the tall bulkhead expansion that was included in the original proposal—instead, the play roof will be shrunken so that it can be integrated into Hunter Hall and not stick out as much. One of the keys to the expansion plan is that the floors of Hunter Hall will now align with the floors of the townhouses.

LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan called the applicant's tweaks "incredibly responsive." She said "small" and "modest" changes to the rear had a real effect and kept the continuity of the structure, and also praised the creative ways the bay windows were interpreted. Commissioner Frederick Bland called the proposal "terrific." Commissioner Michael Goldblum said he was convinced the applicant had explored the idea of filling in the rear courtyard and that it was not viable. Halsband said they looked at below grade expansion, but determined that would not be possible. Many area residents were upset by the proposal the first time around and one of them told Curbed that a lawsuit is being planned to fight the LPC's decision.

—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.
· Preservationists, Neighbors Pan Friends Seminary's Expansion [Curbed]
· All Landmarks Preservation coverage [Curbed]