NYC Merchants House Rebukes Landmark Commission

MANHATTAN (CN) – Contesting plans to build a new hotel in the East Village, the nonprofit responsible for the Old Merchants House says in court that the development deal threatens “a veritable time capsule” of 19th century New York City life.


Petitioning for injunctive relief in Manhattan Supreme Court, the landmark and its director, Margaret Halsey Gardiner, purport that there is no other way to stop Kalop II Park Corporation from building an eight-story hotel at 27 E. 4th St., adjacent to the house.

As noted in the Aug. 6 petition, which was filed by Madison Avenue attorney Michael Hiller, the house was built in 1832 and ranks as “one of the few remaining early 19th century residential row houses left in New York City.”

Its build is considered sturdy, according to the petition, but it is nonetheless “extremely fragile and … thus susceptible to catastrophic damage.”

Attorney Hiller notes that one of the museum’s most important features is its furniture collection from the American Federal and Empire periods — nearly all of it purchased before 1860.

But the petitioners claim this is all at risk now because the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission gave the Kalop developers a construction permit that they can use to dig up the street.

As noted in the petition, “engineering studies … confirm that the excavation and other construction activities necessary to build the proposed hotel would cause full compromise of the historic plaster, including cracks and falling plaster throughout the interior of the museum.”

Furthermore the construction plans allegedly would involve erecting a six-story scaffold that would hang over the roof of the Merchants House and its garden.

The Merchants House calls it “a virtual certainty” that the construction will cause damage to the museum.

In seeking an injunction, the museum contends that the Landmarks Commission relied on faulty advice.

The museum has a “Call to Arms” section on its website where they accept donations and urge people to sign its petition to help raise awareness and pay for the fight against the developer. So far that petition has more than 5,000 signatures.

Representatives for the parties have not returned a request for comment.

“If the Merchant’s House can’t be protected, no landmark is safe,” attorney Hiller said. “No historic district is safe. No natural resource is safe. No community or neighborhood is safe.”

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