Council Likely to Reject Landmarking for Bowery Building

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Council member Margaret Chin, explaining her reversal (WNYC/Arun Venugopal)

A City Council sub-committee voted against designating a nearly-200 year old Federalist building on the Bowery a landmark. The vote was a rare reversal of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which had agreed to landmark the building in June.

Local council member Margaret Chin, who had initially supported landmark status, apologized to a crowd of preservationists gathered in a council hearing room, and said she changed her mind after owners of the building made their case.

The decision was decried by preservationists who had argued for the historic and cultural value of the three-and-a-half story structure.

"I just hope that the advocates will see my point of view on this," Chin said. "And that we will have opportunity to continue to work to
preserve the historic character of Bowery. But on this building we will have to differ."

The owners of the building, First American International Bank, said they had paid $5 million for the property and want to erect a seven-story office building. They argued the building was in disrepair and would be prohibitively expensive to renovate.

But preservationists said the building, built in 1817, was a rare example of Federal-style architecture and, along with other buildings on the block, pointed to the rich history of the Bowery. Some also said the owners failed to make a "hardship" case to the city, demonstrating the potentially high costs of repairs.

"And in some instances, the Landmarks Commission has granted over a dozen, something like 16 hardships, based on economics," said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, who argued for landmarking. "They might say, 'Yes, we will allow you to do things we would normally not allow you to do. We might even allow you to demolish the building.' That has happened."

(Photo: The Hardenbrook-Somarindyck House which may not get landmark status now./courtesy of

An aide to Chin said a full council vote is scheduled for September 21. Both sides expect a landmark designation to be rejected by the council.


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Comments [7]


our system of protecting historic buildings is insane. giving the city council power to decide what gets landmarked makes as much sense as letting architectural historians balance the city budget. mrs. chin you have failed this city and motivated a very large alliance of voters who have a score to settle with you.

Sep. 17 2011 02:13 AM
a. woodward from little italy

this is the LAST block on the bowery untouched by 20th - 21st century development and as such has huge potential as a historic district. tourists and locals crave historic NYC and since tourism is chinatowns biggest industry ruining this block with an office tower that could be built anywhere else is just short sighted and the wrong move for this community. mrs. chin this will be the only term you serve if you let this happen.

Sep. 17 2011 01:50 AM
K Webster from Bowery

Chin could still use her considerable powers to work with this developer to rethink the office tower location. There are many many many possible locations for an office space. Why insist on building here?

This is a one-of-a-kind building. Once the chance to preserve it is gone, it's gone. Think of how we rue the demise of the beautiful Penn Station and what replaced it!

Economically, for tourism, for enticing small businesses that could trade on the historic character of the Bowery, it doesn't make sense to lose this. This lone office building will not insure Chinatown's recovery. But an interesting, authentic Bowery might just help...

Sep. 16 2011 08:40 PM
Juniper212 from NY,NY

Bad move, the Bowery (and whole city) is loosing all its character and will look like a strip mall in the burbs if building owns keep selling out to chain corporations like banks and Starbucks. These people clearly have no aesthetics. Eventually when Manhattan looses all its character to the dull, sheet-rock, corporate look what will there be for the locals and tourists to even want to see here.

Sep. 16 2011 05:41 PM
Chris Mansfield

Looking forward to voting for anyone other than Margaret Chin. Gau Cho ar.

Sep. 16 2011 11:54 AM
Ernie Sandidge from East Village

Another bank on the Bowery! Nice going Councilwoman Chin! Will there be room for a Dunkin' Donuts too??

Sep. 16 2011 10:49 AM

I haven never been so disappointed in someone I voted for. Not next time. Who's gonna be her primary opponent???

Sep. 16 2011 10:49 AM

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