Preservation Alert: 21 East 65th Street demolished due to emergency order

Corner of Madison Avenue and East 65th. 19 East 65th Street still stands while number 21 has been mostly demolished. The outline of the demolished building can be seen on the recently-exposed facade of its neighbor. At the corner stood 760 Madison Avenue, a 1996 building designed by architect Peter Marino, which was demolished as part of the construction of the new residential building.

In mid-December 2021 FRIENDS learned the disturbing news that the upper stories of 21 East 65th Street, a historic building located in the Upper East Side Historic District, were being demolished due to the appearance of an 8-inch-wide crack in floors 3-5 of its front facade. The Department of Buildings had determined that the front wall was structurally unsound and ordered its emergency demolition. The demolished facade was being incorporated into a new building under construction at 760 Madison Avenue, and was to be maintained and restored according to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The new 12-story building is being developed by SL Green, designed by Cook+Fox Architects, and is planned to include a new Armani flagship store with residences above.

Together with the nine low-scale buildings in the Gansevoort Market Historic District in October 2021, this is now the second instance in recent months where landmarked buildings have been adversely impacted by neighboring construction activity and subsequently demolished. Both projects demonstrate the real structural risk to historic buildings when facadism — the practice of maintaining only the main facade of a historic building while demolishing the rest — is supported by the LPC. FRIENDS has serious concerns about the growing prevalence of LPC approvals that preserve only superficial elements of historic buildings.

We are determined to find out what led to the unnecessary demolition of this historic building, and have sent a letter requesting the responsible city agencies to perform a thorough investigation. If the owner performed illegal work, or filed misleading, false or inaccurate plans, or if demolition workers exceeded their scope of work, they should be held responsible to the full extent allowable by law. If city agencies improperly approved plans for demolition without fully ensuring that such work could be performed safely while maintaining the facade, then these city agencies are at fault.

You can read FRIENDS full letter to the Mayor, Department of Buildings, Landmarks Preservation Commission, and NYC Department of Investigation here. In it, we have urged the City to undertake a transparent investigation to determine how and why this occurred, take proper action to remediate the situation including a new round of full public review by the Community Board and LPC, and publicly commit to improved/new policies to ensure this will not be the outcome of other historic buildings. FRIENDS depends on you to keep us informed, if you see something similar happening in our neighborhood, don't hesitate to reach out.

19 and 21 East 65th Street prior to demolition. Photo: CookFox

Rendered image of 19 and 21 East 65th Street in the context of the new building. Photo: CookFox

Rendered image of 19 and 21 East 65th Street in the context of the new building. Photo: CookFox