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Carter's View

The Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously approved a certificate of appropriateness today for a planned 19-story residential condominium building at 241 Fifth Avenue now occupied by a four-story, pink-granite-and-reflective glass commercial building that was erected in 1968.

The developer is 241 5th Ave., LLC, of which Avraham Sibony is a principal. The building is planned to have 76 apartments.

The quite bold design for the building by Perkins Eastman employs four materials: a "rainscreen" terracotta system, an opaque baked and painted glass, clear glass and silver-colored metal panel coping.

The building has a symmetrical facade on the avenue but an asymmetrical facade on its south "party" wall, which has considerable exposure.

In addition, it "floats" its setback upper floors in a form that a couple of commissioners described at an earlier hearing as "Cubist."

The mid-block building is located between 27th and 28th Streets.

Eran Chen of Perkins Eastman told the commission today that the design was revised to meet some of the suggestions voiced by the commission.

The revised design now calls for a "stronger" base that is now 3 stories rather two stories high to create "a more humanized, personalized scale to the bottom of the building," according to Mr. Chen. The base is now demarcated by a similar "floating" recess that occurs higher in the building, he said, adding that other changes include use of a more textured terracotta facing, a deeper articulation of the facades.

When asked by Chairman Robert Tierney if he had any questions, Commission Jan Pokorny said "it's still a good building."

Vice chairman Pablo E. Vengoechea said that the revised design "was very responsive to our concerns, very subtle but significant," adding that it is an "excellent building."

Commissioner Steven Byrnes said that the revision was "quite successful," although he suggested recesses should be even deeper.

The design attempts to make a meaningful transition between a higher building just to its north and the 7-story building just to its south and the 5-story Museum of Sex on the northeast corner at 27th Street.

The property falls within the Madison Avenue North Historic District.

The building rises 14-stories, then has a setback for one floor and the remainder of the top of the building is cantilevered 6 feet forward towards Fifth Avenue. The building is 210 feet tall, not counting an elevator and staircase housing on the roof that adds an additional 8 feet or so.

The design by Perkins Eastman has its most adventurous design on its "party" wall, which faces south, whereas its "primary" facade, fronting on Fifth Avenue, is more conventional, albeit quite modern.

The Fifth Avenue facade is "regular," he continued, but the south facade has a staggered fenestration pattern in part reflecting regulations about "lot-line windows" that limit the number of windows above adjoining buildings on a gradual basis.

The land-use committee of Community Board 5 voted 5 to 1 in April to deny approval of the application. Joyce Matz, the chairman of the committee, said that this design was "certainly not compatible with the historic district."

Many of the most famous commercial buildings in the area, however, are in the process of being converted to residential uses such as the MetLife Tower at 1 Madison Avenue, the International Toy Center at 200 Fifth Avenue and 1107 Broadway, and the Gift Building at 225 Fifth Avenue and there are several conversions also progressing nearby on Madison Avenue.

Perkins Eastman is the architect on several other current projects in Manhattan including the Centria, the Cielo and the Grand Madison.
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Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.