Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts (FRIENDS) joined community members and elected officials today to praise the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) for voting unanimously to deny an owner’s request to demolish landmarked low-income housing on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
The LPC rejected a “hardship application” filed by the owner of the properties, Stahl York Avenue, that would have enabled the demolition of two landmarked Upper East Side apartment buildings that are located within the oldest housing developments built and financed by private companies to provide homes for the city’s working poor. The battle to save these buildings has been going on for decades.
429 East 64th Street and 430 East 65th Street in Manhattan were constructed by City and Suburban Homes Company in 1915 and designated as individual New York City landmarks by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) for the significance of their design, as well as their pioneering role in social housing reform. The buildings have a total of 190 rent-regulated units, though since the time of the hardship application 110 apartments have been kept vacant by the owner as part of an effort to redevelop the properties. The remaining units are home to longtime tenants of modest income.
Stahl York Avenue submitted a “hardship application” to the LPC for the demolition of the buildings on the grounds that they do not generate a six percent profit. The owner’s application claimed that even after a $4.5 million renovation it would only be able to achieve average rents of $600 per unit, and that it would not be able to fully occupy the building at these rents.
FRIENDS successfully refuted these claims, presenting evidence of rents at comparable properties that are considerably higher. A report by HR&A Advisors, Inc. thoroughly analyzed rents for similar apartments in the area and showed that the units could easily rent for $1,500 per month and that the vacancy rate would be no greater than five percent.
“These historic buildings are an important example of the effort to improve tenement housing by incorporating generous courtyards and an abundance of windows providing light and air for residents,” said Tara Kelly, Executive Director of FRIENDS. “For years, the owner has sought permission to demolish the properties based on outrageous claims of economic hardship. A landlord has a responsibility to his tenants, and a landmark property owner has a responsibility to the citizens of this city. This vote is a victory for affordable housing, for historic preservation, and, ultimately, for all of New York City.”