Report on Midtown Landmarks

From Veronika A. Conant, President, West 54 – 55 Street Block Association, vaconant@yahoo.com

Reminder: The next neeting of the West 54 – 55 Street Block Association will be held on Wed, March 21 @ 7 p.m., location to be announced later.

Hope you can attend and participate in our discussions about all the issues that matter to us. There is a great deal happening with development plans for both the empty lot on W 54 St and 12, 14, 16 & 18 W 55 St, as well as noise, pollution, traffic and quality of life issues. The Agenda will be sent later. Free free to make recommendations.

The Public Hearing about landmark designation for 10 W 56 St and 30 W 56 St will be held by the Landmark Preservation Commission on Tue, March 13 at 11:30 a.m. Volunteers are needed to either go to the Hearing to testify or send a written testimony. We are advised to be there by 11 a.m. I will send separately a brief announcement, with details, soon.

You will find Minutes of our last meeting below.

Looking forward to seeing you.
Regards,
Vera

MINUTES OF THE WEST 54-55 STREET BLOCK ASSOCIATION MEETING
Wed, February 21, 2007
The Warwick Hotel, Davies Room (formerly Randolph’s Too)

Present: Maria Bortoluzzi, Ralph Brozan, Joan Bulik, Michael Burns, Veronika Conant, Louis Giannuzzi, Natalia Gourari, John Harrison, Marilyn Hemery, Violetta Landek, Francine Lembo. Dolores Rosenthal, Bill Shea, RitaSue Siegel, Evan Sinclair, Charles Steinberg, Missy VanBuren-Brown

Officials present:
Andrew Sullivan, Chief of Staff to Council Member Dan Garodnick
Jose Conde, Legislative Aide to Speaker Christine Quinn
Jenny Sobelman, from Assembly Member Dick Gottfried’s office

The meeting was moderated by RitaSue Siegel. Official visitors, guests were welcome, Tony Martone and Wanda Chan were thanked for providing space at the Warwick Hotel. Minutes of the January 17, 2007 meeting were approved.

Development plans for the empty lot on W 54 Street

RitaSue Siegel and Vera Conant talked about the transfer of ownership of the empty lot from MoMA to Hines Interests, with three floors to be used for MoMA galleries plus a basement storage area. The Board of Directors of the BA, with help from others (Gary Parker, Hugo Hoogenboom and Jeanne Giordano) wrote a letter to Hines, recommending they build a residential rather than an office building, with entrance on W 54 St, listed concerns about the scale of the building and its effects on natural light, traffic, pollution, noise and sanitation, and requested a meeting with the developer.

A lively discussion followed, with participation from members and the visiting officials, about the exact zoning of the parcel, what could be built as of right, how to limit the height and have entrance on W 54 St. Andrew Sullivan announced that a public meeting with a representative from the Trust for Cultural Resources was planned at the Donnelly Library in mid-March.

Andrew also announced that no air rights have been purchased yet from University Club.

The BA now has a pro bono attorney, Natalia Gourari, who is a neighbor. She was introduced and welcome by all.

Preservation efforts update.
RitaSue Siegel discussed the status of the campaign to request landmark designation for selected buildings on the blocks. Most volunteers, who mailed to the Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) many requests with full documentation for landmark designation for about 17 buildings, have not yet heard from the LPC. Vera Conant did get one letter of acknowledgement.

Thanks to Simeon Bankoff and the Historic Districts Council (HDC), V. Conant found out that 10 & 30 W 56 St have been calendared for a Public Hearing on Tue, March 13. Our Block Association will organize a group to go/provide testimony in support. Thanks to everyone for helping this happen.

W 56 Street – finally plans for the new 16 stories, 172 feet high building have been allowed and digging of the foundation has started. This is too high for a mid-block building. Andreas Benzing monitors the situation.

Major Problem: 12, 14, 16 & 18 W 55 St’s approaching demise – we believe the buildings are empty, application for a new, 22 story, 245 feet high, residential building has appeared under 12 W 54 Street’s record at the Dept. of Building’s BIS site. Air rights have been bought from the landmark buildings behind the proposed site. No demolition permit has been issued yet. There was a discussion about the importance of disallowing such high mid-block building in our Preservation Subdistrict. We need to find out what can be built as of right, what the plans are, and monitor any requests for a variance or zoning change.

Conant asked all officials present for their help in limiting the scale of all planned buildings in the Preservation Subdistrict.

Dan Garodnick and Andrew Sullivan have arranged a meeting on March 12 at CB5 with the Manhattan Borough President’s staff and other officials about possible zoning modifications for protection of our blocks and Preservation Subdistrict status. Board Members of the Block Association will attend.

Environmental Issues (Noise, pollution, sanitation)
Due to lack of time the Environmental Committee has not met recently.
Vera Conant has arranged for two DEP Inspectors to come to W 54 St on Feb 22 to check out the level of backyard noise. She also contacted MoMA about occasional noise problems to which they had responded well. Grinding of construction materials for 5-6 hours a day for weeks is an ongoing, as yet unresolved problem near the office buildings.
Anyone interested in participating, organizing please contact Vera Conant, Chair.

New Business, Announcements
Historic Districts Council is holding a Preservation Conference in March. Vera Conant and RitaSue Siegel will attend.
Old Foodies is getting a new food & drink establishment. Dolores Rosenthal is in contact with CB5 & Andrew, if needed. We monitor the liquor license applications to CB5.

Upcoming meetings:
Tue, Mar 13 Landmarks Preservation Commission Public Hearing for 10 & 30 W 56 St. We need a big turnout for this. If interested, contact Vera.
Public meeting about the Empty Lot at the Donnelly Library will happen at a later date.

Next Block Association Meeting: Wed, Mar 21 @ 7 p.m., location to be announced.

Posted Under: Midtown

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