Since November, building owner Jean Claude Marian has been trying to convince the Landmarks Preservation Commission to allow him to construct an addition atop an Upper East Side building. Like the two before it, the latest attempt was not a success. The building in question is 1143 Fifth Avenue, located between East 95th Street and East 96th Street in the Carnegie Hill Historic District.
The structure wad designed by J.E.R. Carpenter and completed in 1923, during a brief and unusual height limit for the area. It fell under the LPC’s protection when the Carnegie Hill Historic District wad designated in 1974. Its most recent occupant was the French Consulate, which used it as housing. Marian bought it for $36.4 million in 2013.
In November, with the aide of Cas Stachelberg of the preservation firm Higgins Quasebarth & Partners and architect Judith Saltzman of Li • Saltzman Architects, he tried to convince the LPC to allow an addition that would make it nearly as tall as its next-door neighbors. That was vigorously opposed by the community and shot down by the LPC.
Having failed with the large addition, he scrapped those plans and hired Nyack, N.Y.-based Dominick R. Pilla Associates, PC Engineering & Architecture to design a single-story addition atop the existing single-story rooftop addition, creating essentially a new two-story rooftop prescense. Presented in March, it garnered reactions from the commissioners such as “out of character” and “rather excessive.” LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan asked the applicant to scale down the addition.
The design team came back on April 12 and Pilla presented a plan that lowered the overall height of the rooftop space by 2.5 feet, changed the fenestration pattern, and changed the material from limestone to brick.
The proposal also includes reconfiguration and expansion of the building’s rear, plus removal of security grills from the first and second floor windows. Those aspects were barely discussed.
Commissioner Michael Goldblum wasn’t sold on the way the addition’s windows differed from those below it on the building proper. He said they were “neither here nor there,” and could benefit from some real distinction.
Commissioner Diana Chapin was troubled by the visibility from Fifth Avenue and the color of the brick.
Commissioner Frederick Bland said it is a “really handsome building” and he had no problem with the visibility, but said the design was “not right yet.” He could accept two floors, but they need “elegant proportion.” He said the windows were too large.
Commissioner Kim Vauss also said the proportions weren’t right.
Chair Srinivasan said an addition, even a visible one, could be okay given the existing conditions, but wasn’t ready to vote to approve this. She also noted that six letters of opposition, including one from U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, had been sent to the commission.
In the end, the commission took no action. So, Marian is free to refine his design and try again.