Rooftop Addition to Hopper-Gibbons House Denied!

~HDC thanks Friends of LaMartine Place, our elected officials, our partner organizations, and the LPC~

On Tuesday, May 23, 2017 the Landmarks Preservation Commission denied the application to legalize the fifth story addition on the designed Hopper-Gibbons House aka 339 West 29th Street! We would like to thank Grassroots Preservation Award Winners Friends of the Hopper-Gibbons Underground Railroad Site, NY State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Michael Hiller; Six to Celebrate group Save Chelsea; the Landmarks Preservation Commission as well everyone one else who staunchly advocated to preserve the history of the Hopper-Gibbons House. Finally, after a decade of fighting to have the fifth story removed the owner Tony Mamounas has no more legal recourse and will have to adhere to the Dept. of Building order to correct and remove the addition.


 September 2016
HDC thanks Friends of LaMartine Place, our elected officials and our partner organizations for remaining in coalition for all of these years to preserve the Hopper-Gibbons house’s legacy. Our collective cause has brought us together once again in what is the latest attempt to legitimize the marring of history.
 
The persisting presence of the illegal fifth floor addition is an affront to our history, our culture, and the law. From start to finish, this catastrophe has been self-inflicted by the owner and has come at the expense of the community.
 
HDC is alarmed that an application has been filed with the LPC to determine appropriateness. What the owner has defined as appropriate in the renderings submitted has been defined as illegal by the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division. Even more concerning, another city agency, the DOB, has failed to correct this situation by court order for over a year. 
 
The applicant has stated that the “back story” of this building is “not relevant” to this current application to the LPC. We could not disagree more, because at no. 339, its history, and back story, is everything. This is one of the few sites in New York City that was designated for its cultural significance, as opposed to aesthetics, as this row of houses survived the Draft Riots of 1863. Further, no 339 is the only known, extant Underground Railroad stop in Manhattan. 
 
Of all of the alterations that can be made to this building, short of demolition, building a rooftop addition and effectively destroying the path of the building’s escapees from 1863 is the most injurious.  These houses were here before we were, and HDC will advocate to ensure that they remain long after we are gone, so that these structures can continue to speak to a past in a city that will inevitably keep changing around them.

The height of the building tells an integral part of New York City’s Civil War Draft Riots, the deadliest riot in United States history. From July 13-16 in 1863 a mob of men angry about being drafted into the Civil War rampaged through Manhattan, setting their sights on the people and places they believed were the reason for the War. The crowd violently attacked and killed Black men, women, and children, and set fire to known houses and businesses with anti-slavery ties. On July 14th several hundred rioters marched down West 29th Street and arrived at the Hopper Gibbons house, home of prominent abolitionist Abigail Hopper Gibbons. As the crowd broke into the house and began destroying everything in sight, smashing furniture, burning books, and eventually setting fire to the house itself, the frightened Gibbons daughters who were home at the time made their way up to the rooftop in a desperate attempt to escape the mob’s attack. Because 339 and its neighboring houses had flat rooftops with the same height, the young women were able to flee across the roofs and duck into a nearby building where they found shelter.

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The Historic Districts Council (HDC) is the advocate for all of New York City's historic neighborhoods. HDC is the only organization in New York that works directly with people who care about our city's historic neighborhoods and buildings. We represent a constituency of over 500 local community organizations.

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