Designation of Historic District in East Village Won’t Stop Project

It seems like a classic case of closing the barn door after the horses have gotten out.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted on Tuesday to declare a row of 26 19th century town houses and tenements on the north side of Tompkins Square Park in the East Village a historic district. But there was just one problem: A building project that the designation was intended to prevent received a permit from a different New York City agency just hours before and now, essentially, cannot be stopped.

Preservationists had pressed the commission to move quickly to designate the north side of East 10th Street between Avenues A and B a historic district. The street has what the commission itself said is “an unusually intact row of single family row houses, including some dating to the 1840s, mid-to-late 19th Century tenements and the circa 1904 Tompkins Square branch of the New York Public Library, already a city landmark.”

The reason for the rush is that a developer, Ben Shaoul of Magnum Management in Manhattan, had been planning to take a four-story, neo-Gothic house at 315 East 10th Street that dates to 1847 and build a rooftop addition of at least a floor, changing the aesthetic line of the streetscape.

Mr. Shaoul asked for a building permit 40 days ago and the city’s Buildings Department is required to give him a decision 40 days after filing. It did so on Tuesday morning.

Shortly afterward, the commission, at an emergency meeting voted to declare the block across from Tompkins Square Park a historic district.

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said he alerted the commission weeks ago that the Buildings Department was ready to issue the permits. The commission “was caught completely flat-footed,” he said.

Elisabeth de Bourbon, a commission spokeswoman, said it moved as quickly as it could. “Today was the earliest possible day we could hold the hearing and vote based on the amount of research needed to complete the report and justify the designation,” Ms. Bourbon said in an e-mail.

Mr. Shaoul did not return two phone calls seeking comment.

In a statement, Mr. Sherman said, “It’s truly a shame that these city agencies could not coordinate their effort to prevent this from happening.”

Robert B. Tierney, the commission’s chairman, said the Buildings Department,was “required to adhere to its own regulatory time frames, and a buildings permit was issued prior to the Landmarks Commission vote today.”

“Nevertheless,” he added, “I believe the work will not compromise the integrity of the district.”

The commission is considering a larger piece of the East Village for historic designation — one stretching from St. Mark’s Place to Second Street — but has not yet scheduled a hearing. Mr. Berman said he worried that buildings might be torn down or altered in the meantime.

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