The latest news on New York architecture.


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The Cathedral Stone Newsletter

Historic Brick Wall Scheduled for Demolition Saved by Jahn M30 The Cathedral Stone Newsletter, July 2006

The condominium complex at 241 Eldridge Street was constructed in 1904 in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Architect Scott Henson was hired by the condominium board to perform a full exterior analysis of the building. The analysis revealed a number of necessary repairs, including brick, window, and terra cotta replacement and repairs, mortar joint cutting and re pointing, as well as the replacement of the roof membrane and cornice. During removal of the parapet walls, the internal conditions of the brickwork and mortar were found to be severely deficient. The back-up masonry was loose laid in many areas with no mortar.

The failures of this building were directly attributed to the mortar. The mortar used in the original construction of this building consisted of a high-lime content resulting in little or no binding between the mortar and the bricks. The mortar within the walls was loose and powdery. Adverse weather conditions and poor maintenance over the life of the building accelerated the deterioration of the mortar. Several structural engineers were invited to the building to inspect conditions and provide recommendations. The consensus was that the walls required complete reconstruction from the ground up. This solution was prohibitively expensive for the building owners; therefore and extensive search was undertaken for an alternative solution to repair the internal condition of the walls. After the research and testing of many masonry techniques and products, including mechanical pinning, brick repair products and soil consolidation products, Cathedral Stone Products' Jahn M30 Micro Injection Grout was found. When injected, Jahn M30 will travel into the substrate and continue until it flows freely from this port and other ports at the same level. The ports are then sealed using non-staining clay, sealant, or caulk. A series of injection ports must be drilled on the face of the substrate to create a "drill frame." Ports should be drilled in a downward direction. Cathedral Stone Products, Inc. supplied Jahn M30 Injection Grout for a test area. Cathedral Stone Products representatives, including Dan Perakes, conducted the initial testing on the building. A second and larger test was performed to confirm initial results. This test involved injecting the Jahn M30 into specific areas in the walls to determine whether or not the repair process was going to work. Jahn M30 again proved successful. Extensive testing was performed until the correct installation procedures and amounts of grout required were determined to consolidate the existing lose, powdery mortar, to fill the voids between the internal brickwork, and ultimately to provide a structurally stable building. It was originally thought that the cost to replace the exterior walls would be an estimated $1.8 million. The repairs would have to be completed section by section. Because of the success of Jahn M30 the entire project cost was $106,000 saving the owners over $1.6 million. Scott Henson Architects hired Viles Contracting Corporation to complete the repairs. From February 9th to April 22nd, 2005, they drilled 1,435 holes into the building and pumped in 1,280 gallons of the M30 Injection Grout. After 241 Eldridge Street was completed, the project was featured in the NY Times and drew interest from the engineers with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). They wanted to look at the project to see if the repair method was a viable alternative for maintaining their buildings. They met with both Cathedral Stone Representatives as well as Scott Henson. In the summer of 2005, CSP successfully completed Jahn M30 Injection test of the New York City Housing Authority. They are currently monitoring the tests and are considering using the method of restoration for future projects.         Go to Cathedral Stone Newsletter
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The Wall (Didn’t) Come Tumbling Down A new product solves an old problem. Jody Shen (Additional reporting by Jennifer Wu)

The sky wasn’t falling but the wall was a definite possibility. That was the dilemma facing 241 Eldridge Street, a 12-unit condominium on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, about two-and-a-half years ago. But thanks to a bit of detective work and the discovery of a product relatively new to the U.S., the board found an affordable answer. It was during routine parapet repair work that the problem was uncovered: the contractor discovered that the internal mortar between the exterior wall’s bricks had turned to sand. Such a finding had not been anticipated in the repair plan because the inspection report the board had commissioned was for the cornice, bulkhead, and fire escapes. The solution seemed dire: spending about $1.8 million to replace the exterior walls, section by section. Even if raising the money were possible (and it would be a strain for the 12 apartment owners however it was done), the financial hardship of large assessments seemed daunting. However, the flip side would have been equally grim: do nothing and risk the walls coming down on their own. That didn’t seem like a great alternative, either. “To have not done anything would have left us with questions, doubt, and possible peril,” explains Robin Schanzenbach, the president of the condo’s five-person board. David Bergman, a board member and professional architect, recalls that his thoughts started to turn to what could shake his building enough to bring it crashing down. Subway vibrations? Nearby construction? An unlikely – but not impossible – Manhattan earthquake? Seeing that completely replacing the building’s walls would be more or less impossible financially, Scott Henson, the building’s architect, started looking for a solution. Possibilities included products used to stabilize dirt at construction sites and a variety of restoration products. He tested HTC, a chemical used to preserve marble statues that had been invented by Norman Weiss, a professor of historic preservation at Columbia University. That solution failed because it needed to interact with oxygen, which couldn’t find its way into the thick walls. Then Henson stumbled upon a product called Jahn M30 Micro-Injection Grout, manufactured by Jahn International of Germany and distributed by Cathedral Stone Products. It had been utilized on large projects in Europe but, according to Dennis Rude, the president of the Hanover, Maryland-based distributor, it had only been used in the U.S. for small jobs, such as the repair of cracking walls. The National Park Service is using it to fix a cornice on the historic Ryan Center at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. Often, Rude notes, to solidify walls in situations like the one at 241 Eldridge Street, contractors will repoint. According to Henson, repointing was not enough for this project because that would only address the surface, about three-quarters-of-an-inch deep. (The Jahn M30 was ultimately used in conjunction with repointing.) The manufacturer supplied a small amount of Jahn M30 for a test. After that was successful, the condo spent about $10,000 for a larger test, which involved injecting the Jahn M30 into specific areas and opening the walls to see if it worked. That seemed to do the trick, reconsolidating the loose, sandy mortar, and filling the gaps. With the solution in hand, it still wasn’t easy. There was a question of money. Recalls board president Schanzenbach: “There are multiple factors in the finances related to the project. It is fair to say that, with the multiple engineering studies, testing, and architect’s fees, the mortar reconsolidation aspect of the project reached close to $140,000. That amount is lower than it might have been, however, because we had already started on a larger capital project to replace the roof, cornice, and parapets, and do pointing, so some of the major costs – such as scaffolding or the process of preparing extensive bid proposals for contractors – did not have to be incurred. Our active board involvement and the cooperation with the architect and contractor, who were already on the job, also helped keep the costs down.” Funds were used from the building reserve fund to help pay for the work, but more money was needed. According to the president, the unit-owners approved an additional assessment of $100,000. Each owner’s portion of the assessment was based on his or her percentage of ownership in the building. To pay for the assessment, some owners refinanced, while the surging apartment prices in New York enabled others to take out home equity loans. And, thanks to a multi-year financing plan, still others were able to pay in installments. After a short newspaper article on the repairs appeared in the spring, everyone involved, from Weiss – who called it a possible solution for “hundreds, maybe thousands of buildings” – to the distributor, began hearing from people in similar situations seeking help. Seven engineers from the New York City Housing Authority wanted to inspect the project to determine if the product and process would be effective in repairing aging public housing. They visited the job site and queried Henson and a representative from Cathedral Stone. They seemed impressed, Henson recalls, and said they planned to perform a test on some of their buildings. As for the condo’s board: after repairs on the sidewalk in front are finished, they will have spent $500,000 to finish a building revamp that began with a “cornice subcommittee” years ago and, with the wall repair, may have saved the building. There is still the dream of one day creating a roof deck, but for now, Bergman is happy that the “sky” isn’t in danger of falling anymore. Says he, with a sigh: “We can breathe for a while.”     Go to HABITAT MAGAZINE
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The New York Times

Lower East Side

For a Frail Old Tenement, a Fortifying Dose of Goop

Stephen Chernin for The New York Times
Workers drilled 1,435 holes into the structure, and pumped in 1,280 gallons of the secret stuff.
Published: May 22, 2005
A year ago, owners of condominium apartments at 241 Eldridge Street heard dire news. Cavities were forming within the brick walls of their century-old tenement, so much so that the place was held up largely by inertia. Scott Henson, an architect whose Manhattan firm is restoring the building, offered residents two options. They could spend $1.4 million dismantling and rebuilding the decrepit walls, while protecting their apartments temporarily with wallboard and tarpaulins, or they could try a less invasive and less costly stabilization technique that had never before been used in the United States. After examining sheaves of test reports and letters from scientists and engineers, residents voted unanimously to go with the avant-garde solution, even though it called for pumping the walls full of gray goop. "We investigated enough to put our faith in it," said Robin Schanzenbach, president of the condo board. "We've felt we're totally on the cutting edge." The milky chemical, whose official name is micro injection grout, is manufactured by a German company called Jahn International, and its formula is secret. From Feb. 9 to April 22, construction crews drilled 1,435 holes into the building and pumped in 1,280 gallons of the mixture. Final price tag: $106,000. The grout filled crannies between bricks, where mortar had been crumbling into dust, and it set in half an hour. It also sometimes made a mess. A dozen times it spilled onto apartment window sills or floors, but, as David Bergman, an architect who has lived in the building since 1995, pointed out, "It cleans up very easily, with paper towels and 409 or Fantastik." The Jahn product, which has been commonplace in Europe for 30 years, has been imported into the United States since the 1980's for small repair jobs, said Dennis Rude, chief executive of the distributor, Cathedral Stone Products. But Mr. Henson is the first customer to apply it to an entire building. "It's a drastic solution," said Norman Weiss, a professor of historic preservation at Columbia University. "It's also a very exciting project. The idea could be applied to hundreds, maybe thousands of buildings that have problems the owners don't know about yet, or problems that have been covered with superficial repairs - that's like putting makeup on what turns out to be melanoma." The Eldridge Street building, a neo-Renaissance style structure, was built in 1904, but although the masons apparently lavished care on the facade, which is trimmed in terra-cotta scrollwork, they skimped elsewhere. By the 1970's the structure was abandoned, condemned and used as a drug den. A gallery owner, Nicholas Logsdail, bought the blackened shell from the city, and a veterinarian, Mary Finger, moved in and rebuilt it as condominiums. Her own 1,000-square-foot loft is listed for sale at $859,000. Next door, at 245 Eldridge Street, stands a rental building that is a twin of No. 241. Its rear and side walls are coated with gray weatherproof stucco, and show signs of cracking and sagging. Catherine Economakis, a managing agent for the building with Granite International Management, did not return calls seeking comment on the condition of the brickwork. Mr. Henson said: "We don't want to scare anybody, but we assume conditions in those walls are the same as here."     Go to The New York Times
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Movement to Preserve Terminal City

Last night, Anthony Robins spoke at the Dominican Society about the history of Grand Central and about the importance of preserving the adjacent buildings that make up Terminal City as the city prepares to rezone Midtown East. Below is his post on the subject for M.A.S.


Grand Central Terminal: 100 Years of a New York Landmark

GUEST POST: Anthony W. Robins is an historian, writer and lecturer who has led MAS tours for several decades. He teaches the research skills used in writing his new book in an annual MAS seminar, being offered this year in April. To anybody who’s worked in or cared about the historic preservation movement in New York, the very name “Grand Central Terminal” has enormous significance, because it conjures the 1978 Supreme Court decision that put preservation on a solid legal footing. By chance, I started working at the New York Landmarks Commission in January of 1979, just a few months after the Court had handed down the decision. Kent Barwick, who had guided the effort at the Municipal Art Society, had just moved over to be the LPC’s new chairman.

The general feeling was that historic preservation had passed a critical test – now it was legitimate, accepted, constitutional. The name “Grand Central” became a kind of shorthand for not just a major victory, but an entirely changed environment. What remained was the messy physical and financial reality. The terminal was a mess – dirty, deteriorating, dangerous. The main waiting room – today called Vanderbilt Hall – had become a homeless encampment. Besides being a humanitarian disaster, that encampment discouraged other New Yorkers from coming to the terminal. With a declining rail industry unable to generate the necessary income, the terminal seemed, so to speak, terminal. Nevertheless, after years of effort, complex financing, a reimagining of the terminal as a destination for New Yorkers already in the city – rather than just a destination for travelers to the city – and an expansive restoration, Grand Central has emerged as the jewel it was always meant to be. In many ways, its transition from bankrupt decaying hulk to gloriously restored success story mirrors the evolution of the city and its physical restoration over the past thirty-five years.

The terminal’s centennial is an occasion to celebrate the survival of a major New York monument which we almost lost. As to the new book, Grand Central Terminal: 100 Years of a New York Landmark, just published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang (an imprint of Abrams) as a project of the New York Transit Museum: Being asked to write the book celebrating the centennial of Grand Central Terminal was a terrific honor. It was also a major challenge. I’d led some of the famous MAS Wednesday Grand Central tours over the years, but quickly discovered how much there was that I didn’t know. It was an intense research and writing project, supported by the wonderful archivists at the Transit Museum (Carey Stumm and Brett Dion). Perhaps the most surprising thing I learned – though hardly a secret – was the extent of the entire surrounding district, “Terminal City.”

In the area from Forty-second Street to at least 50th Street, roughly from Madison to Lexington avenues, dozens of buildings rise above Grand Central’s sunken train yard. Terminal City initially developed with elegant masonry buildings designed either by Grand Central’s architects, Warren & Wetmore, or by architects whose proposals required W&W’s approval. The result was a visually cohesive whole – an entirely new section of Manhattan. After the war, Park Avenue redeveloped as a glass and steel International Style office park, so the feeling of visual cohesiveness has largely disappeared.

The best remaining spot to get a sense of what it looked like is along Vanderbilt Avenue where – with the exception of the refaced Biltmore Hotel – the original Terminal City buildings still stand. These, unfortunately, may be threatened by the recently proposed new zoning for east Midtown. Happily, the MAS once again is stepping into the battle.

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Now Hiring!

Thank you for your interest. The position has been filled.

NEW YORK CITY LANDMARKS PRESERVATION COMMISSION Robert B. Tierney Chairman FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tuesday, October 9, 2012 No. 12-10 EAST VILLAGE/LOWER EAST SIDE HISTORIC DISTRICT APPROVED Area Encompassing 330 Row Houses, Tenements, Houses of Worship, Theaters and Other Institutional Buildings Along and Off Second Avenue between East 2nd and East 7th Streets Represent Nearly 200 Years of New York City History The Landmarks Preservation Commission today approved the designation of the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District, capping a two-year effort spearheaded by LPC to protect more than 330 architecturally and historically significant buildings that are synonymous with the American immigrant experience. The district runs from East 2nd to East 7th streets along and off Second Avenue, in an area that was once part of Peter Stuyvesant’s estate. Development started in the 1830s, with the construction of elegant Greek Revival row houses for the city’s elite, and took off in the mid-19th century as handsome tenements, houses of worship and other institutions were erected for German immigrants who flocked to the neighborhood and later inhabited by many other immigrant groups, including Eastern Europeans, and Latinos. The district assumed a new identity in the mid-20th century, drawing a vibrant mix of artists, musicians and community activists and has since been known as the East Village. “Each wave of immigrants that settled in the district gave rise to the richly layered built environment that remains today,” said Commission Chairman Robert B. Tierney. “It’s an incredibly intact collection, developed over the course of nearly 200 years, of row houses, tenements, houses of worship, theaters that tell a complete story of one of New York City’s most renowned neighborhoods.” Wealthy New Yorkers who had lived in Manhattan’s southern tip moved to the area in the 1830s and made it the city’s toniest residential district. With these new arrivals came numerous single-family mansions and row houses, such as those at 30 to 38 East 3rd Street. Completed in 1836, the buildings retain their original Flemish bond brickwork and Greek Revival-style detailing. One of the district’s most evocative blocks is East 4th Street between the Bowery and Second Avenue, which was designated by the City as the a cultural district because of the high concentration of theaters there. The south side includes Nos. 64 to 68 (at right), which comprised the centerpiece of a residential development known as Albion Place, a handsome terrace of 12 uniformly designed, 3 ½-story houses that were completed in 1833. Nos. 66 and 68 were combined and raised to four stories in 1871 as part of a conversion by the New York Turn Verein, a German gymnastics organization. In 1882, the Turn Verein hosted the first Yiddish-language theatrical production ever staged in the United States. It has been an annex of the La Mama Experimental Theatre Club since the 1970s. Tenement construction and the conversion of single-family homes into multiple-family dwellings began in the 1850s as the wealthy left and large number of immigrants moved in, most of them German. These buildings, known as “pre-law” tenements because they predated the Tenement House Act of 1879, were designed in a simplified version of the Italianate style that had become the dominant mode of architecture in New York City. Examples can be found at 433 to 441 East 6th Street, a c. 1861 row of five uniform structures owned by the heirs of the John Jacob Astor fortune and at 310 to 338 East 6th Street (at left), a c. 1864 row of 15 tenements owned by the heirs of Stephen Whitney. Other immigrant groups began to settle in the neighborhood in the 1890s, many of them Yiddish- speaking Jews from Eastern Europe, who transformed the area into a thriving entertainment district that was known as the Yiddish Rialto, and included the Public Theater and the Lowe’s Commodore movie palace at 66 and 105 Second Avenue, respectively. One of the most impressive reminders of this community is the Neo Classical style, c. 1910 Congregation Adas Yisroel Anshe Mezeritz synagogue at 415 East 6th Street (at right), designed by German architect Herman Horenburger. Immigrants from Poland and Hungary also left conspicuous marks on the neighborhood with buildings like the limestone, c. 1901 Saint Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Roman Catholic Church, at 107 East 7th Street by architect Arthur Arctander and the “naturestone” c. 1904, altered Gothic Revival style First Hungarian Reformed Church (now St. Mary’s American Orthodox Greek Catholic Church) at 121 East 7th Street by architect Frederick Ebeling. Tenement construction continued in the last decades of the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th century. The buildings were more flamboyant than their predecessors, as the Queen Anne, Romanesque Revival and Renaissance Revival styles came into fashion, and facades typically featured richly molded terra-cotta detailing, textured brickwork, densely layered beltcourses, projecting piers, and boldly massed cornices. Examples include the rows at 95 to 99 East 7th Street (at left) and 65 to 75 East 4th Street. Intense construction ended in the early 1930s because of the Great Depression, and most of the structures haven’t changed since then. But the demographics of the neighborhood changed dramatically in the 1950s, when Latin American immigrants, mostly from Puerto Rico, and artists and bohemians priced out of Greenwich Village moved there. The neighborhood survived plans for urban renewal the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the economic downturn of the 1970s, to become the center of the 1980s downtown art and music scene. The Fillmore East, run by the noted rock concert promoter Bill Graham, opened in the former Commodore Theatre at 105 Second Avenue (see photo at left) in 1968, and later became the Saint, a private dance club. The former Yiddish Public Theatre at 66 Second Avenue, served for a short time as CBGB’s Second Avenue Theater beginning in 1977, and hosted such bands and performers as the Talking Heads and Patti Smith. And a former meeting hall at 101 Avenue A has been the home of the Pyramid Club since 1979, providing a venue for drag performances, benefit concerts for AIDS victims and acts like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana. *** The Landmarks Preservation Commission is the mayoral agency responsible for protecting and preserving New York City’s architecturally, historically and culturally significant buildings and sites. Since its creation in 1965, LPC has granted landmark status to more than 30,000 buildings and sites, including 1,318 individual landmarks, 114 interior landmarks, 10 scenic landmarks, 109 historic districts and 18 historic district extensions in all five boroughs. Under the City’s landmarks law, considered among the most powerful in the nation, the Commission must be comprised of at least three architects, a historian, a realtor, a planner or landscape architect, as well as a representative of each borough. Contact: Elisabeth de Bourbon/ 212-669-7938 To find out more, click here.

As of yesterday afternoon, the Riverside-West End Historic District Extension I is the Upper West Side's newest official Historic District!

With our colleagues at the West End Preservation Society, New York Landmarks Conservancy, Historic Districts Council, and a league of West Side neighborhood associations -- not to mention  stalwart West Side Council Member Gale Brewer and her staff! -- LANDMARK WEST! has helped to guide this critical issue forward. Following public hearings of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the City Planning Commission, the City Council Subcommittee on Landmarks, and the City Council's Land Use Committee (unanimous support at each of these important votes!), it all came down to the full 51-member City Council. By a vote of 48 to 0, the City Council upheld the unanimous decision of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to preserve one of New York's most remarkable ensembles of historic structures in the City.  Congratulations to all who dedicated their time and energy to this important neighborhood issue!



Design by New York Subway Exhibition Opening Reception

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 10, 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM — RSVP At the Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place [Directions]

The next stop on your Queens-bound local F train is not just the West 4th Street station and Greenwich Village, but also Design by New York, the AIA New York Chapter's annual member showcase in the subway. It's the AIA by way of the ABCDEF and M. On October 10, on walls usually lined by Nike and Red Bull ad campaigns will be architecture, and lots of it. 86 projects in 39 countries will illustrate the diversity of buildings, cities, and everything in between being designed by New York-based architects here in the city, around the country, and all over the world. Join us for the exhibition reception for Design by New York, on view in the West 4th Street subway station October 10 to November 4, 2012. Visit the show as you arrive at West 4th Street, then come to the Center for refreshments. Price: Free RSVP A program of Archtober, Architecture and Design Month New York City, October 2012.


AIA New York Chapter 536 LaGuardia Pl NY, NY 10012 (212) 683-0023 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Gallery Hours Mon-Fri: 9am to 8pm Sat: 11am to 5pm Office Hours Mon-Fri: 9am to 5pm

Property was home to gay-rights pioneers and, later, to a Beastie Boy October 09, 2012 02:00PM  

From left: 186 Spring Street and Robert Tierney of the LPC In the week since demolition began at 186 Spring Street — the townhouse purchased by Canadian developer Nordica from Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz to build a seven-story condominium — allegations of homophobia are emerging over the redevelopment of the gay-rights landmark, the New York Observer reported. In the 1970s and 1980s, the property housed prominent gay-rights activists, such as Bruce Voeller, Arnie Kantrowitz and Jim Owles. The Landmarks Preservation Commission denied the pleas of preservationists to landmark the property and keep it from redevelopment.

Allen Roskoff, who was Jim Owles’ partner for many years, told the Observer, “What they did was homophobic … not only do I consider it an act against the movement, I consider it an act against me personally.” But the LPC counters that over the years it has landmarked other gay-rights landmarks as they are part of larger historic districts, such as the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village Historic District. The LPC has never approved applications to landmark individual properties within existing historic districts. In addition, the LPC argued, the influence of 186 Spring Street’s on the movement was not central, but peripheral.


East Village–Lower East Side Historic District approved by Landmarks

October 09, 2012 03:30PM  

From left: 59 East 2nd Street and 32 Second Avenue (buildings credit: PropertyShark)

The Landmarks Preservation Commission today approved slightly modified version of the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District, according to a press release issued by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. The territory covers 330 buildings across 15 blocks bounded by Avenue A and the Bowery and St. Mark’s Place and 2nd Street. According to the release, the historic district was expanded to include structures such as the Russian Orthodox Cathedral at 59 East 2nd Street and the Magistrate’s Court at 32 Second Avenue, which now operates as the Anthology Film Archives.  As Crain’s reported earlier today, other structures in the district include the firmer Fillmore East concert venue and the German Evangelical Lutheran Church. The landmarking came as an effort made by preservation groups to preserve the character of the East Village. The decision comes as NYU will expand its campus just west of the district. — Zachary Kussin