A Call to Arms!
The Merchant’s House is Fighting for Its Survival
In 2014, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a plan for construction of an eight-story hotel next door to the 1832 Merchant’s House, New York City’s only family home preserved intact, inside and out, from the 19th century. The Merchant’s House is a federal, state, and city landmark and was the first building in Manhattan designated in 1965 under the new landmarks law. Today, it is one of only 117 buildings (and one of only six residences) that have both exterior and an interior landmark status. As observed by Michael Devonshire, one of the foremost architectural preservationists in New York City and a commissioner of the Landmarks Preservation Commission:
“In my estimation, the Merchant’s House is without a doubt the most important historic house in this city, and unfortunately, it’s now probably the most endangered one.”
Because the planned hotel violates the City’s Zoning Resolution (i.e., the regulations governing land use and development), the developers have applied to the City Planning Commission for a series of special permits that would rewrite the Zoning Resolution to uniquely benefit them. If granted, the special permits would allow the developers to go ahead with the project.
Our fragile — and irreplaceable — 186-year-old landmark building would be destroyed during construction. According to studies performed by architects, structural and soil engineers, if our building shifts a mere ¼ inch – as anticipated by the developers, and the maximum allowed by law – our original 1832 ornamental plaster work, considered the finest extant in New York City and a national treasure, would be irreparably damaged and our structural stability compromised.
We are doing everything we can to defeat the developers’ application and have hired land-use, zoning, and preservation lawyer Michael Hiller (who, among other victories, blocked the plan to remove the Carnegie Steel book-stacks and millions of volumes of research materials from the New York Public Library and halted the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s plan to expand further into Central Park). In his words:
“If the Merchant’s House can’t be protected, no landmark is safe.
No historic district is safe. No natural resource is safe. No community or neighborhood is safe.”
With your generous support we are leading the charge to guarantee that all New York City landmarks
are protected from out-of-control private development.
But it costs money. Lots of money. We have already had to spend tens of thousands of dollars on engineering consulting work and studies. Lawyers’ fees and engineering expenses will continue to mount.
We can’t save the Merchant’s House without your help!
Please consider a donation. Any amount will make a difference.
“The fact that the city would approve this without explicitly sufficient
safeguards of the Merchant’s House’s structural integrity is,
quite frankly, shocking.”
Andrew Berman, Executive Director,
Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation,
The Villager, April 17, 2014
“… New York City has plenty of boring eight-story hotels, but we only have one Merchant’s House.”
Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director, Historic Districts Council, The Villager, April 17, 2014