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Carter's View

The Donald Zucker Company has obtained demolition permits for the 188-car Tunnel Garage at 520 Broome Street where it plans to erect an 8-story building with about 48 condominium apartments and about 115 parking spaces.

The 3-story. brown-brick garage was erected in 1922 and was notable for its simple but good "proto-Art-Deco" facade styling and a rounded corner at Thompson Street in SoHo. It had a large terracotta medallion of a car going through the Holland Tunnel, which was completed in 1927.

According to a "Streetscapes" article by Christopher Grey in The New York Times, September 6, 1998, "a syndicate of local businessmen, headed by George L. Stivers, a Charlton Street physician, put up this unusual building in 1922, designed by the architect Hector O. Hamilton, who would win a competition ten years later to design a Palace of the Soviets in Moscow but was replaced in 1933 by a Russian architect.

Stephen B. Jacobs, the architect of the Ganesvoort Hotel in the West Village and the condo tower nearing completion at 325 Fifth Avenue, is the architect for the project.

The Zucker Company has built numerous residential towers in Manhattan such as the High Gate on East 34th Street and the Future on Third Avenue, and the new tower at 205 East 59th Street.

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the Friends of the Tunnel Garage and the SoHo Alliance have urged the Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate the garage a landmark, but the commission has not yet acted.

"A recent rezoning of the area has resulted in the disappearance of nearly all parking lots and garages in SoHo, making this rare remaining garage extremely valuable and potentially profitable," the organizations maintained in a demonstration last December on the day the garage's owners had ordered long-term customers to remove their vehicles by.

"While garages of this type and in this style became common throughout Manhattan as the City entered the automobile age," Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, wrote in a letter to Landmarks Preservation Commission Robert Tierney last October, "this one is particularly distinguished for its vibrant brickwork, its elegant terra-cotta polychromy and signage, its dramatic and unusual rounded corner, the intactness of nearly all historic details including ornamentation and early industrial windows, and its prominent siting. This may be the finest architectural expression in our city of this form, which exploded in the 1920's with the boom of automobile production and the subsequent transformation of out cityscape and our country in its wake."

Yesterday, Mr. Berman again wrote Mr. Tierney to alert him that "the threat to this local landmark is now no longer theoretical, but very real," urging the commission "to take a final look at this building before it is too late, and to act to landmark it to save it from demolition."

Mr. Berman told CityRealty.com today that his organization was concerned that demolition "may be imminent."

The Art Deco Society of New York and Friends of Terra Cotta have also written Mr. Tierney supporting designation of the garage.
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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.