A real estate company is being blocked from redeveloping two Upper East Side tenements by a state court's ruling that they are historic landmarks.
The decision caps a two-decade tug-of-war in which the buildings were granted landmark status, lost it, got it back with the City Council's help, and most recently faced the prospect of losing it again. The tenements were built in 1915 as part of a model complex that aimed to improve the quality of "affordable" housing.
Landmarks Ruling Caps Long East Side Tenements Battle
The 15-structure development, occupying a block on York Avenue between 64th and 65th streets, was first designated as a landmark in 1990. In a compromise with owners four months later, the now-disbanded Board of Estimate stripped two of the buildings of their status.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission restored the designation in 2006, and the City Council backed it by a unanimous vote. The owner sued in state Supreme Court but lost in the decision announced yesterday.
The ruling allays fears that the owner, Stahl Real Estate, would tear down the tenements to make way for a pair of glass office towers.
Some of the tenements' architectural details have been altered, including their original paint color and façade material. The owner admitted to making those changes simply so it could argue that the buildings lack value as landmarks, according to the court's written opinion.
The court's decision "will make owners throughout the City think twice before removing certain features from their properties in an effort to stave off landmark designation," the Landmarks Preservation Commission chairman, Robert Tierney, said in a statement.
A representative for Stahl, Brian Maddox, noted that Judge Goodman cited the buildings' history and structure — rather than their architectural detail — in concluding that they are landmarks. The company is considering an appeal, Mr. Maddox said.
Previously featured here: Saving Upper East Side Crap