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God-dome it! Work on Tammany totally disruptive: Neighbors

The construction-cramped sidewalk walkways are more crooked than the former Democratic machine that once inhabited the building. Photos by Mary Reinholz

BY MARY REINHOLZ | Hard hats tasked with gutting the interior of Tammany Hall, once headquarters of a corrupt Democratic Party machine in the last century, aim to transform the iconic four-story neo-Georgian colonial into a six-story commercial complex topped by a glass-and-steel dome.

The building’s landmarked exterior will be restored. But the construction site, with its trucks and dumpsters, has disrupted the neighborhood around Union Square East, putting a crimp on pedestrians attempting to navigate a narrowed traffic lane on E. 17th St. near Park Ave. South, according to locals.

Block residents said the entrance to Tammany’s former auditorium, at 100 E. 17th St., which is destined for demolition, has been blocked off by construction workers for CNY contractor. The company’s flaggers reroute foot traffic to the other side of the street.

The developer of the Tammany Hall building, at right, hoisted building materials up onto a palett on the roof of an adjacent residential building. Photo by Mary Reinholz

“There’s no walkway,” explained Karen Marshall, a photographer who has lived at nearby 112 E. 17th St. for 23 years amid a row of brownstones extending to Irving Place.

Marshall also lamented the forced departure in early 2016 of the Union Square Theatre, a former Tammany tenant that produced the Tony-award-winning comedy “39 Steps.” The theater had occupied space at 100 E. 17th St., as did New York Film Academy. Both were given notices to vacate the premises by Tammany’s owner, Margaret Cotter, president of Liberty Theatres, LLC, to make way for the multimillion-dollar redevelopment.

Tammany owner Margaret Cotter at a Community Board 5 meeting in 2015. Photo by Mary Reinholz

Cotter’s company, which owns the Orpheum Theatre in the East Village and the Minetta Lane Theatre in the West Village, is a subsidiary of Reading International Inc., her family-owned Los Angeles-based movie house and live-theater chain. Efforts to reach her for comment were fruitless.

“It’s totally sad about the [Union Square] theater,” Marshall said, adding she also missed Trevi Deli, one of four commercial tenants around the corner on Park Ave. South that were also forced out.

Marshall’s husband, Don, a media consultant, groused about the congestion, with trucks rumbling in and out of the site and construction noise. But he pronounced CNY’s construction team at Tammany “very professional.”

“They’re here at 7 in the morning and they’re gone by 3:30 in the afternoon,” he said.

Other neighbors were less sanguine.

“Has the construction affected my life? What a stupid question! Of course it has with all the noise and the inconvenience,” snapped an elderly woman who lives in one of the brownstones. “But that’s New York for you.”

Noah Osnos, a longtime owner of the E. 17th St. brownstones and an area resident for years, recently relocated to Wyoming. One of his building managers, who asked not to be identified, said, “Lots of tenants are very upset about the construction and some have received concessions on their rent.”

He noted that Tammany Hall’s owners had e-mailed his office well before the construction began “about six months ago” and its contractors had also checked the integrity of Osnos’ nearby buildings. But the manager added he was not informed about the crane getting up close to a brownstone on 104 E. 17th St. earlier last month, which he called “outrageous.”

The renovated Tammany Hall will sport a dome on top of it, somewhat resembling this design.

The crane was hoisting material to a hard hat standing on the residence’s roof right next to Tammany Hall, which is now being marketed as 44 Union Square.

Ken Colao, president of the CNY Group, the construction management company overseeing the Tammany makeover, denied that the crane operation endangered the brownstone, insisting that a photo by The Villager “depicts protection material being lifted onto the adjoining property roof. This material will protect our neighbor’s roof, details of which have been fully disclosed and agreed to by both properties’ owners.”

Department of Buildings spokesperson Andrew Rudansky said he checked on 100 E. 17th St. and found Tammany’s owners “have proper permits to operate the crane. I don’t see any records of anyone complaining to 311 or the department about this.”

Matthew Gross, a spokesperson for Reading International, Tammany Hall’s corporate parent, similarly said the company was applying safety standards “which exceed city requirements.” He said a “landmark protection plan was in place,” referring to Tammany’s facade, designated a landmark in 2013 by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Gross also claimed staff were engaged in “open dialogue with our neighbors.”

But several tenants and managers of the aforementioned brownstones said they knew little about the intentions of Tammany’s owners or how long the construction would last.

In response, Colao of CNY said that work on Tammany is expected to continue for two years. He predicted that the property, when ready for occupancy, “will be an iconic home to strong commercial tenants.” He added, “We would welcome an opportunity to discuss the plans with the community and will await their request.”

Reading plans to add 23,000 square feet to the former Union Square Theatre, expanding it to a total of $73,322 square feet, according to The Real Deal.

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