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With LPC approval, Chelsea's oldest home will go megamansion

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Advocates worry the renovation will set a bad precedent in Chelsea

To the dismay of preservationists across the city, the Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved millionaire businessman Ajoy Kapoor’s plans to renovate Chelsea’s oldest home. DNAinfo reports that the LPC signed off on Kapoor’s request to alter the 1830 Federal-style mansion at 404 West 20th Street on July 26, enabling Kapoor to move forward with a renovation that GVSHP head Andrew Berman says will "fundamentally change what this house is and has been for nearly two centuries."

In the initial presentation to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in April, plans were laid out to add additions to the rear of the house, bump the height of the building, and excavate the rear yard. Both the LPC and neighborhood advocacy groups united over their distaste for the plans, with the Landmarks Preservation Commission asking the applicant to reduce the size of the addition to retain some of the home’s historic charm.

The LPC’s decision to clear the proposal sets what some call a "disturbing" precedent for future projects. While the applicant did indeed return to the LPC with a smaller rear and rooftop addition, historic details like the home’s side yard and clapboard siding will not be preserved in the renovation. Still, detractors are lauding the renovation plans as a grossly out-of-scale megamansion in the historic district.

Following the LPC ruling, DNAinfo overheard Save Chelsea member David Holowka speaking out about the renovations, "... [The LPC's commissioners] really completely ignored... Community Board [4]’s recommendations, which always called for retaining more of the substance of the house, and especially retaining the depth and height of the side yard, which is historic...They’re just allowing the oldest house in Chelsea to be effectively demolished."

Berman noted in an email that, "[t]his will be a loss not only to Chelsea, but for preservation in New York City by the disturbing precedent it will set."

Update: An earlier version of this post claimed, incorrectly, that the townhouse was once home to Clement Clarke Moore. In fact, the land on which the house was built was once owned by Moore, but the house itself was never inhabited by him. Curbed regrets the error.