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Carter's View

Community Board 5 voted 20 to 10 last night to recommend that the City Planning Commission disapprove the granting of a special permit to allow residential development and a waiver of height, setback and rear-yard requirements for a very unusually shaped, 21-story residential tower at 39 West 23rd Street in the Ladies' Mile Historic District.

Frank Angelino, a spokesman for the developer, told today that the discussion at the full-board meeting was "lively."

The land-use and zoning committee of Community Board 5 voted last Friday, 6 to 4, to recommend disapproval.

The development's design by Carlos Zapata Studio and Gruzen Samton LLP, however, has been approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and is now in the city's Uniform Land Use Preview Process (ULURP). The commission requested that the design be modified by reducing its height by a few stories and it required the developer to restore and promise to retain the facades of the existing low-rise residential building at 37 West 23rd Street.

The design calls for a white-glass-clad, narrow tower that not only slants to the north above its-low rise base on 23rd Street, but also cantilevers over its rear yard and also slightly over an adjoining low-rise residential building that is part of its zoning lot to the east at 37 West 23rd Street.

The "whittled" design is not simple and there are a variety of other facets, and a few notches, to its facades.

The project would have retail on the ground floor and residential condominium apartments above. According to Mr. Zapata the number of units has not yet been finally determined and would be between about 44 and 76 although as-of-right zoning for the site permits about 110.

The site runs through to 24th Street where a three-and-a-half-story, single-family townhouse would be erected as part of the development.

The project's chamfered design also is somewhat similar in concept to One Bryant Park, the much larger skyscraper being erected now on the northwest corner of 42nd Street and the Avenue of the Americas.

Mr. Zapata's and Mr. Samton's design, however, is shaped in large part by the city's zoning and building regulations and, as a result, represents an extremely intriguing and formidably sculptural form, especially for New York above the clean-cut lines of its low-rise base.

According to Mr. Zapata, the design seeks to "maximize air and light" and a taller building that conformed to existing regulations would provide less usable square footage and cast longer shadows.

The tower of the mid-block building would be quite narrow with only about 3,500 square feet on a floor. It would be a few stories higher than the tall buildings at either end of the block but its slanted design would more views of the Metropolitan Life clocktower building on Madison Avenue as seen from the Avenue of the Americas than a sheer tower, Mr. Zapata said.

The top of the low-rise base on 23rd Streets projects out about 22 inches to "look like a cornice," he said.

The building would replace a 96-car parking lot.

The project is planned by Horizen Global LLC, of which Michael Yanko is chief executive officer. Horizen Global's other Manhattan projects include Hudson Blue at 423 West Street.
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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.