Volume 17 • Issue 37 | February 11 - 17, 2005

Landmarks takes dim view of glowing design

The proposed building at 31-33 Vestry St. would glow at night, but the Landmarks Preservation Commission has asked architect Winka Dubbeldam to make changes.

By Ronda Kaysen

An investment partner of former ImClone chief Sam Waksal has plans to build a nine-story residential building on Vestry St. in Tribeca.

Developer Charles Dunne, vice president of facilities at ImClone, purchased the parking lot at 31-33 Vestry St. last March and enlisted Dutch architect Winka Dubbeldam of Archi-Tectonics to design a modern, glass and stone building with a glowing stone laminate façade. The Landmarks Preservation Commission, however, sent the developer back to the drawing board after reviewing its plans Tuesday.

The ambitious project is not Dunne’s first foray into the world of luxury conversions. In 2000, he and Waksal, now serving a seven-plus year sentence in Pennsylvania for insider trading, transformed the Roebling building, a warehouse at 169 Hudson St., into a 12-story luxury condo. The condo has been home to the likes of Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Waksal’s daughter Aliza and Chris Heinz, the socialite son of Teresa Heinz Kerry.

Dunne, a 20-year ImClone employee (“I’ve been there since the beginning,” he said), was project manager on 60 Warren St., another Waksal luxury conversion that the former ImClone chief undertook with his brother Harlan, his daughter Elena Waksal Posner and her husband Jarrett. The Warren St. conversion unleashed the wrath of Tribeca preservationists when the developers tacked on a four-story penthouse to the top of the 1860’s building. In 2002, Waksal sold the penthouse for $8 million.

The Vestry St. project, however, “has nothing to do with BDB” Development, the Waksal clan’s development company, Dunne told Downtown Express. He is going it alone with another investor, Andreas Kaubisch, whom Dunne insists is unknown in the residential real estate arena.

Dunne’s latest project, a patchwork quilt façade made of stone and glass that glows at night, encountered a roadblock on Tuesday when the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission failed to give the project a necessary nod of approval.

“Much of what you’re proposing is challenging and exciting,” Commission chairperson Robert Tierney told Dunne and his team at the meeting. “But it needs some rethinking.”

Commissioners expressed concern with the building’s height — it is taller than the neighboring buildings — its flat façade, and its “overwhelming” contrast with the neighboring buildings.

“You could see [this building] as more of a Soho building than a Tribeca building,” said commissioner Richard Olcott. “I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but I think it needs to be a little bit more friendly with the neighborhood.”

Dunne will need to present a revised design to the commission if he hopes to get approval. “We made a commitment to put a very beautiful building up, hopefully we could’ve gotten the commission to agree with us,” he said. Dunne is also seeking a variance for the project from the Board of Standards and Appeals to build a residential building in a manufacturing district, another lengthy approval process.


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