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Carter's View

Community Board 2 voted unanimously last Thursday to oppose the granting of a variance from the Board of Standards & Appeals for a residential condominium building planned by The Donald Zucker Company on the former site of the Tunnel Garage at 520 Broome Street.

The 3-story. brown-brick garage was erected in 1922 and was notable for its simple but good 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.

The developer originally planned an 8-story building with 48 apartments and now is planning a 9-story building with 51 units. In additional, the developer is now planning to increase the proposed number of parking spaces from 117 to 280 in a three-story underground garage served by two car elevators.

Along Broome Street, the new design reduces the building's height from 8 to 7 stories, but it now will rise 9 stories on the Thompson Street side, stepping down to 6 stories.

The community board resolution noted that "the applicant refused to agree to a request by the neighbors not to rent to a restaurant or bar, and that "raised concerns about the amount of cooperation they could expect." It also maintained that the develop "chose to quickly demolish the building and close down an existing profitable business" when "there were several alternative uses that could have preserved this landmark quality, but undesignated, building, especially from a Boston garage condominium operator."

Stephen B. Jacobs, the architect of the Gansevoort Hotel in the West Village and the recently completed condo tower 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 had urged the Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate the garage a landmark, but the commission took no action.

"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, "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."
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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.