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Chelsea's Oldest Home May Get the Megamansion Treatment

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Local preservationists aren't happy with plans to expand the 186-year-old house

The oldest house in Chelsea is a 4,700-square-foot Federal-style mansion that dates back to 1830, and sits on land once owned by "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" author Clement Clarke Moore. It was designated a New York City landmark in the 1970s, but now, residents of the neighborhood are worried that the home's new owner is planning some major changes to the structure.

According to DNAInfo, both Community Board 4 and a preservation group called Save Chelsea are fighting the planned conversion of 404 West 20th Street, which was listed last year for $6.5 million. The home's current owner presented his plan for the space to the Landmarks Preservation Committee during last week's public meeting, and those neighborhood activists claim that the changes will be much bigger than anticipated.

The LPC's public meeting materials state that as part of the revamp, the owner will "construct additions and excavate the rear yard"; per the materials submitted to the LPC, the renovations will include adding a huge addition to the back of the home, and would also increase the height of the building.

But according to a letter compiled by CB4 (and provided to DNA), the changes will "demolish the entire house except for its street facade and do further violence to this house and to the most historically sensitive and architecturally distinguished block in Chelsea."

"They want to tear it down to make a megamansion," one of Save Chelsea's members told DNAInfo. But nothing is happening just yet: at the LPC hearing last week, architect William Suk was told to modify the plan to make those additions less massive. The home's former owner, Leslie Doyel, was blunt about the plans in their current form: "This would be a terrible loss for Chelsea, but it would also be a terrible loss for preservation."