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1143 Fifth Will Grow Taller – But By Much Less Than Feared

1143 Fifth Avenue as it currently looks (left0 from the Central Park perimeter wall across the street, and a rendering of how it will look with a two-story penthouse and an elevator bulkhead added on top. | DOMINICK R. PILLA & ASSOCIATES
1143 Fifth Avenue as it currently looks (left) from the Central Park perimeter wall across the street, and a rendering of how it will look with a two-story penthouse and an elevator bulkhead added on top. |
DOMINICK R. PILLA & ASSOCIATES

BY JACKSON CHEN | On its fourth redesign, 1143 Fifth Avenue has finally won approval for a small rooftop addition from the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The building, originally seven stories and now with a set-back eighth-floor penthouse, would have that top floor demolished and replaced with a two-story penthouse. The plans also call for installation of an elevator and emergency staircase that would create bulkheads on the rooftop.

Because the building, located between 95th and 96th Streets, is within the Carnegie Hill Historic District, the LPC has been reviewing the plans — first designed by Li/ Saltzman Architects and later modified by Dominick R. Pilla and Associates — since November.

After meetings in November 2015 and March and April of this year, the LPC finally approved the project on May 10, but with more modifications.

The commission directed the architects to use an off-white colored brick for the new penthouse that would contrast with the building’s red brick and emphasize the difference between original structure and this new addition. The LPC also required a downsizing in the penthouse’s windows so that they draw less attention.

According to Stephen Gallira, who represents the building’s owner Jean-Claude Marian, the commission stressed that the addition must be sensitive to the original building’s design.

Complying with the LPC’s direction over the series of meetings, Gallira and his team made substantial adjustments –– and many minor ones, as well –– to the submission it made last November.

The original plan called for six stories to be added on top, so that 1143 would rise to the same height as the two adjacent buildings. However, after opposition by neighbors, Community Board 8, and the LPC, the architectural team went back to the drawing board several times.

“In the end, we really just followed their direction every step of the way,” Gallira said of the LPC and its staff. “We did what we were told, which is how we got approved.”

Gallira said the team would revise the original permit application it submitted to the Department of Buildings by the summer. If all goes according to plan, construction would begin in September and last for 18 months, he added.

While not the ideal outcome from the perspective of preservationists, most are willing to accept the LPC’s conditional approval as a victory overall.

“If you consider what was being proposed originally, which was six floors above that seven,” said Lo van der Valk, president of Carnegie Hill Neighbors (CHN), “they never got that. That was the big victory.”

He said that if further public input were allowed, his group would have argued for reducing the size of the new rooftop bulkheads. Still, the group was satisfied with the outcome overall.

Echoing CHN’s concerns, the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts was also critical of the addition that it considers too large and easily visible. At the May 10 hearing, the organization faulted the last round of review on the proposal for only addressing the color of the bricks and the size of the windows. “A more creative and contextual solution must be found,” it argued.

Still, Elizabeth Fagan, director of preservation for the Friends group, said the significant reduction in the project’s size since first proposed demonstrated the impact the community had.

According to CHN’s van der Valk, after months of deliberation, the resolution reflected a fair balance between the arguments of preservationists and the owner’s right to modify his building.

“I couldn’t be happier, really,” he said. “You can’t really see much of it from Fifth Avenue, that’s the important thing.”

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