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Carter's View

An extremely interesting and innovative, 19-story residential condominium building is planned for 241 Fifth Avenue on a site now occupied by a pink-granite, 4-story building that was erected in 1968.

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 mid-block building is located between 27th and 28th Streets and Eran Chen of Perkins Eastman told the land-use committee of Community Board 5 last night that its 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 developer is 241 5th Ave., LLC, of which Avraham Sibony is a principal. The building is planned to have 76 apartments.

The property falls within the Madison Avenue North Historic District and last night its architects made a presentation of their application of a certificate of appropriateness from the City's Landmarks Preservation Commission to the land-use committee of Community Board 5. The commission will hold a hearing on the project April 25.

Mr. Chen, shown in the photograph at the right next to a rendering of the proposed building, told the land-use committee that the building's "scale fits the neighborhood," noting that it "steps down" from the taller building to the north but is higher than the building to the south, adding that this area is characterized by considerable peaks and valleys in its skyline.

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. "Penthouses do not necessarily have to be at the top," Mr. Chen declared. 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 building's facades use four materials: a "rainscreen" terracotta system, an opaque baked and painted glass, clear glass and silver-colored metal panel coping.

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 voted 5 to 1 to deny approval of the application. Joyce Matz, the chairman of the committee, said that the committee was "traditionally opposed to extremely modern buildings in historic districts," and that this design was "certainly not compatible with the historic district." The district, in fact, is quite eclectic with a few Art Deco and a few Beaux-Arts buildings and several buildings of not very high architectural quality.

The committee was not swayed or impressed with Mr. Chen's argument that the party walls, or "lot-line" side walls of many buildings are not always very attractive and that this design tries to create a visually interesting "secondary" facade that would be quite visible.

Jack Taylor, a member of the committee and the head of the Drive to Protect the Ladies' Mile District, rhetorically asked what would happen to the proposed building's lot-line windows if the buildings to the south were "torched" and those properties redeveloped at greater height.

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.
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