Proposed Expansion of Home at 83 Horatio Street, West Village, Fails to Win Over Landmarks Commission

Existing conditions, front and rear, at 83 Horatio StreetExisting conditions, front and rear, at 83 Horatio Street

The Landmarks Preservation Commission was unimpressed with a proposal to expand the home at 83 Horatio Street, in the West Village.

The three-story Greek Revival style house dates back to between 1852 and 1853 and sits between Washington Street and Greenwich Street. That’s at the western edge of the Greenwich Village Historic District, which was designated in 1969. Both of its neighbors are taller.

The proposal for the expansion comes from the design firm Union Street Studio, which is based in Brooklyn’s Columbia Street Waterfront District. The plan was to create essentially a two-story rooftop addition. The word “essentially” is used because there is already an attic and that attic would become part of the new fourth floor. A rear yard addition from the year 2000 would be demolished, and a new one created that would extend the rear of the entire house. It also called for the excavation of the rear yard to increase the length of the cellar beyond that of the expanded home.

Additionally, there would be the installation of new windows and doors and the cornice would be replaced.

The team from Union Street Studio said the expansion would not be visible from Horatio Street. It would be visible from the High Line and from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District. Of course, the latter visibility would cease when the planned redevelopment of Gansevoort Street goes forward.

Commissioner Michael Goldblum said this was a case of urban planning vs. preservation. Commissioner Diana Chapin said the proposal would result in too much of an increase in the volume of the home. Commissioner Frederick Bland said it was inappropriate. LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said she understood the other commissioners’ problems, but seemed inclined to approve it.

Manhattan Community Board 2 expressed support for the proposal.

The same could not be said for the Historic Districts Council. “Although surrounded by larger buildings, the proposed treatment of this survivor is in no way justified. The replacement of the cornice is unnecessary, the rooftop addition overwhelms the building’s scale and the rear yard addition does not adhere to any commonly accepted practices, including the retention of the existing top floor,” testified HDC’s Barbara Zay. “The Landmarks Commission was created for situations just like this; to protect our historic architecture from rapacious and inappropriate development. There are better ways to enlarge townhouses.”

Sarah Bean Apmann of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation also testified against the proposal.

“GVSHP regrets the proposed loss of the interior of this house, including and especially the horsewalk. That said, we recognize that the LPC’s jurisdiction does not extend to these interior elements, and we understand a new owner’s desire to re-shape a home to their needs and tastes. It seems that the proposed two story addition will be invisible from the Horatio Street side, thus also making it outside of the jurisdiction of the LPC.

“However, the proposed rear additions and rooftop additions appear to be visible from Gansevoort Street, and would eliminate and replace a significant amount of historic material from the rear façade. The building would read entirely differently in style and scale from the rear as a result of the proposed changes, and would no longer look at all like the early 19th century house which this is, and which is such an important component of the Greenwich Village Historic District. Additionally, we are concerned that the proposed changes, which involve excavation and demolition of all but the façade of this building, could inadvertently lead to compromise of the remaining façade, and even impact surrounding structures.

“We urge the Commission to work with the applicant to ensure that as much as possible of the historic exterior material of this charming house is preserved, that any additions are minimally visible, and that any work undertaken does not negatively impact remaining historic materials of this or neighboring properties.”

Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City lamented that artifacts like this house on the way to becoming fragments.

In the end, the commissioners took no action at the July 19 hearing. The applicant is free to present a revised expansion plan at a future LPC session.

View the presentation slides here:


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8 Comments on "Proposed Expansion of Home at 83 Horatio Street, West Village, Fails to Win Over Landmarks Commission"

  1. Sometimes, changing old to new is good, but I accepted developer’s opinion towards this proposed.

  2. Sarah Bean Apmann | August 1, 2016 at 10:02 am |

    For further information on this application, please see the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s Landmarks Application webpage

  3. The reservations expressed by GVSHP seem to be valid and significant. While some modification and expansion of the interior may be desirable for the tenant, the distinctive character of the rear, the back garden, the horsewalk, the house’s basic scale, the oasis of light and openness, all irrecoverable once lost, shouldn’t be sacrificed to gain maximum volume. Such modifications were carefully made by the previous owner in such a way that preserved those qualities and the house’s historic integrity. Why would the same not be required of the new owner? Nor should any excavation or demolition be permitted, as described, that would jeopardize the facade and the surrounding structures.

  4. As the ownerof 83 for 56 years and I appalled and sad beyond belief. The removal of the horse walk is especially unacceptable. The curved stairway is wide and unusual in the Village in its grace. The house was lovingly restored during my 56 years there. It is a house meant for a family, but certainly simple and unpretentious – the very opposite of the planned new building. We sell our homes knowing they will change, but never imaging that it might be bulldozed??? The Village changes daily but there are streets that remain and Horatio Street was one. The concept that Landmarks only preserves the facades is a mystery to me. There is history behind those facades and real people lived in the houses. To forget the history of the Village, and all of NYC, is so wrong and misguided. The architects should be ashamed.

  5. Lorraine DiDio | September 19, 2016 at 6:36 am |

    It is beyond disgraceful, and sadder than I can describe to hear that such a beautiful, loved, preserved and long cared for landmark at 83 Horatio is in jeopardy. I thought buildings and homes that were marked as Historical were just that! Leaving just a facade is — well –just that! A shell, the book cover without the pages of the book is pointless. Please protect this landmark!

  6. Mary T. O'Connor | September 23, 2016 at 10:49 am |

    As an architect and resident/owner of 61 Horatio Street (co-op apartment building) of thirty years duration, I participated in neighborhood change. Development, growth, change are vital, inevitable and not inherently good or bad. But thanks to concerned people, the balance between reasonable development and preservation have conspired to make our neighborhood unique in scale and value. Thus, people without any need for restraint can propose projects that are completely antithetical to the intention and spirit of preservation.

    This is just such a project. By being barely within the legal limits of expansion and preservation, it mocks the true value of this magnificent and modest survivor. It falls within a development pattern that sucks the vitality and integrity from the intact history of the West Village. It is a complete abomination disguised as a reasonable solution. These architects should be ashamed of themselves.

  7. Tory Ruffolo | October 9, 2016 at 12:46 am |

    For so many years, 83 Horatio Street was the final stop of a walking tour of the Far West Village. As a fellow Horatio Street resident, I often witnessed the surprise and delight on the “walkers” faces as they were escorted back into the beautiful garden through the historic horse walk. An unexpected step into the past.
    I hope the Landmarks Commission will pause and consider the future of this beautiful building-one of the few left of its kind on our street. Renovation and restoration are reasonable and likely warranted but a gut renovation that obliterates all the historic features of this home seems to go against everything the LPC stands for.
    It is one of the few buildings left on this block on Horatio that retains historic elements from the past. Please preserve it!

  8. Cat Catalyst | December 4, 2016 at 9:36 am |

    As a returning guest of 83 Horatio Street from the United Kingdom I found the charm of this family house so appealing that I wanted to relocate to the Village specifically to be around examples of this kind of architecture. Buildings like these are irreplaceable. They are from an era that can never be replicated. They are living historical archives of how New York was formed. Original and unique they provide an ambiance of welcoming calm, and dignified belonging and most certainly deserves the City’s utmost preservation, protection and respect. The street must be observed in its entirety and not seen as a individual development opportunity. The work of the City’s forefathers who built these impressive structures provides a sense of normality that is now being taken for granted and plundered. It is this sense of innocent ‘normality’ that deserves the same rights as a person having endured a life span far longer. I believe that the loss of such a unique heritage building is equal to the loss of the soul of New York gradually being eaten away by development at the expense of integrity to the community. Staying at 83 Horatio St was a joy to behold and deserves an owner who will appreciate it and maintain it. If I could have bought it myself I would have simply to allow It to continue. The original buildings of New York are not merely objects, they are incredibly special and characterful. They do not exist anywhere else in the world and are to be celebrated and upheld. Please rethink this proposal wisely. This individual proposal is not necessarily what is best for New York’s legacy for future generations of both residents and tourists alike. Best Wishes.

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