Given the staggering value of townhouses in the Upper East Side Historic District, it's hard to imagine anyone intentionally shrinking their ranks, but that's precisely what developers the Chetrit Group suggested to the Landmarks Preservation Commission yesterday. At stake is the future of 110-120 East 76th Street, six brownstones built in 1885 that were owned by nearby Lenox Hill Hospital for decades, which is also how long the structures were left to rot as plans for a sports medicine center gradually died. Now in the driver's seat, the Chetrit Group—along with architecture firm Macrae-Gibson—has another ambitious plan, which involves gutting, restoring and altering the homes, combining them into three single-family megamansions and—attention pitchfork-wielding Upper East Siders—slapping rooftop additions on each. Here comes controversy!
The LPC heard the details in back-to-back items scheduled for over an hour of hearing time, so the commission was clearly expecting fireworks. They weren't disappointed. First up was the developer's desire to partially demolish 112 and 114 while preserving their front facades. These two are in the worst shape, and are seen in the photo above with blue plywood out front. The Department of Buildings testified that the demolition of 112 and 114 might weaken adjacent structures to the point where they would need to be selectively demolished behind their front facades, as well. The commissioners approved the partial demolition of 112 and 114 and gave their staff authority to approve additional demolition work at 110 and 116 as deemed necessary by the DOB.
Next up came the proposed modifications to the buildings, of which there are many. In addition to combining the townhouses and adding two-story rooftop additions (creating three 18,000-square-foot mansions), the Chetrit Group wants to demolish the rear facades of all the buildings, modify the front facades (going limestone in the middle and brownstone on the outer two, while adding touches like balconies and big picture windows), add double-door entrances and more. The opponents in attendance pounced, derisively referring to the mutated double-wides as "bloated McMansions." The LPC didn't vote on the modifications, but the commissioners expressed concerns over combining the townhouses, which is not a good sign for the developer. The commissioners also hinted that the additions are too big, but didn't rule them out completely. So it's back to the drawing board for the design team, and now that the neighbors are all riled up they can expect some extra sets of eyes peeking over their shoulders.
· 110-120 East 76th St [New York Landmarks Conservancy]