Council Overturns Landmark Designation of an 1817 Building
On Wednesday, the City Council voted to deny the landmark designation of the Hardenbrook Somarindyck House at 135 Bowery an 1817 Federal-style rowhouse in Lower Manhattan.
At the request of local Council member Margaret Chin, the Council exercised its authority to overturn the actions of the Landmarks Commission for the second time in two years. This is only the eighth landmark designation which Council has denied since they gained this power in 1990. Only Council member Rosie Mendez, who also represents a portion of the Bowery in the neighboring council district, voted to uphold the designation. We are incredibly thankful to CM Mendez for her principled and courageous support on this issue and for all of her advocacy for preservation efforts within her district and beyond. We are very disappointed in CM Chin’s decision on this issue, particularly in light of her previous support of the designation and her strong support for neighborhood preservation in lower Manhattan. We found the argument made by opponent between affordable commercial development and designation to be unconvincing and misguided. As a number of people have pointed out, economic pressures rarely permit new rental development to be priced lower than that of existing buildings. Furthermore, while the owners (a community bank) may have plans which ensure this development will be priced to attract lower-income tenants, they did not reveal them in any level of detail during the public process – asking instead for the elected representatives to trust them and their good intentions. Weighed against the provable good of preserving a 194-year building for posterity, such assurances seem wanting.
HDC has reached out to CM Chin’s office to try and ensure that the owner’s verbal promise of working with the community actually materializes. We are also talking to Council leadership to see that the troubling trend of parochialism trumping our city’s heritage is properly addressed.