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Landmarks commission rejects latest plan for rooftop additions at the Puck Building

October 4, 2011

The Landmarks Preservation Commission today sent the owners of the Puck Building at 295 Lafayette Street on the southeast corner at Houston Street back to the drawing board with their proposal to make rooftop additions to the landmark.

The building is owned by the Kushner Companies. Jared Kushner, the head of the company and the publisher of The New York Observer, a weekly newspaper in Manhattan, had proposed adding six penthouse units on the stepped roofs of the 1885-6 building that had been originally designed by Albert Wagner. Mr. Kushner is married to the former Ivanka Trump, whose father is Donald Trump.

The proposed addition was quite modern in appearance and was designed by Sherida Paulson, a former chairperson of the landmarks commission.

"Few buildings in New York are more iconic, more beloved, and more worthy of the designation 'landmark' than the Puck Building, and thus any proposed changes must be held to the highest level of scrutiny," declared Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

"With this enormously visible proposed rooftop addition, the applicant did not meet the standards we should demand for respecting and preserving this singular New York City landmark," Mr. Berman continued.

In its testimony, the society said that the building's "prominence cannot be underestimated."

"To quote the designation report, 'the enormous red brick structure has been a commanding presence in the neighborhood since the time of its construction...(it) remains one of the most striking 19th-century industrial buildings in lower Manhattan.' At the nexus of several different neighborhoods, the building is visible from parts of the East Village, Lower East Side, NoHo, SoHo, and the South Villages," the society's statement continued.

"The applicant has gone to great lengths to demonstrate how the current configuration of the Puck Building is the result of multiple phases of construction. But unlike the Museum of Natural History and other buildings in the city that were built in stages, changes to the Puck Building were all supervised by a single architect and, again to quote the designation report, 'read as a single unified composition.'"

"The proposed rooftop addition," it continued, "greatly disrupts this unified composition."

"This is not a base looking for a tower like the Hearst Building or some down-on-its-luck refrigeration building in the Gansevoort Market Historic District that someone seems to think is too small and too plain," the Historic Districts Council maintained, adding that "The Puck Building is complete and has been for over a century....If these rooftop additions are constructed, they would highlight one feature on this individual landmark, the inscription on the book which hangs on Puck, 'What fools these mortals be!'"

The proposal was presented to last month and sent back for further revision. In the new plans, one of the penthouses was raised five more feet to accommodate a rooftop swimming pool, according to a report today at by Jeremiah Budin, who noted that one commissioner said the proposal was "too big, too tall, too visible, and calls too much attention to itself by the nature of its design."

In an August 8, 2011 article in The New York Post, Lois Weiss wrote that Mr. Kushner was "planning as many as six elegant and energy-efficient units that will range in size from 5,000 square feet to 8,500 square feet and range in price from $15 million to $50 million," adding that four of the penthouses also will have private terraces.

The building once housed the famous humor magazine, Puck, and has two large gilded statues on its facades by sculptor Henry Baerer of Shakespeare's mischievous and spunky character Puck, from A Midsummer's Night Dream.

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