Volume 19 Issue 50 | April 27 - May 3, 2007

Out of sight, out of landmark protection

— Skye H. McFarlane and Brooke Edwards

In a move reminiscent of radical plastic surgery, the backside bulk of 25 Broad St. will soon be sitting on the shiny new top of 45 Broad St.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission Tuesday voted unanimously to approve an application by Swig Equities to de-landmark and demolish the rear wing of 25 Broad, a 20-story building that was constructed in 1902 and designated as an individual landmark in 2001.

The rear wing juts into the middle of the block between the building’s two main facades on Broad St and Exchange Pl. It takes up around 80,000 square feet, or 16 percent of the building. Under Swig’s plan, all but the lowest two stories of the wing would be removed, leaving room for utilities and a roof-top garden. The square footage, or bulk, of the wing could then be transferred, via air rights, to another nearby building.

The air rights would allow Swig to build 12 extra stories onto his new building at 45 Broad, making 45 Broad into a 47-story tower.

Despite Swig’s nip and tuck of the air rights, most preservationists — including the Landmarks Conservancy, the Municipal Art Society and the Community Board 1 Landmarks Committee — lent at least tepid support to Swig’s application. Only the Historic Districts Council outright objected Tuesday morning, citing their opposition to the destruction of any landmarked structure.

The preservation groups listed several reasons for their non-objections. For one, a new building under construction at 15 William St. will permanently hide 25 Broad St.’s rear wing from public view. Because the wing would be boxed in, demolishing it would open up the center of the block and improve the flow of natural light into the rest of the buildings.

Swig has also pledged to fully restore the rest of 25 Broad’s exterior in exchange for being allowed to demolish the rear wing. Margery Perlmutter, an L.P.C. commissioner, expressed hesitation about how Landmarks would enforce the restoration deal once it approved Swig’s demolition application.

“I’m concerned about giving up our control over the building,” Perlmutter said.

Landmarks chairperson Robert Tierney assured Perlmutter that the building would not receive a certificate of occupancy if Swig did not make the promised repairs. Tierney also joined the preservation groups and the community board in stating emphatically that Tuesday’s decision should not be seen or used as a precedent to allow the decertification of other landmark structures.

Once an office tower, 25 Broad was converted into rental apartments in 1990s. It is now being renovated and turned into condos. C.B. 1’s chairperson, Julie Menin, has an apartment in the building, though she is living in Tribeca with her family during the construction. Menin’s husband, Bruce, used to own the building through his firm, Crescent Heights. Crescent Heights sold the building to Swig in 2005.

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