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Developer Will Not Preserve 35 Cooper - The Local East Village Blog - NYTimes.com


Developer Will Not Preserve 35 Cooper


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35 Cooper SQ.: The scrim of DeathTim Milk The developer of 35 Cooper Square has told preservationists that he will not maintain the historic site and will move forward with an undetermined development plan.

Update | 6:30 p.m. In a blow to preservationists, the developer of 35 Cooper Square has announced that he will not preserve the historic site and will move forward with an undetermined development plan.

“Unfortunately, it was concluded that it would not be feasible to develop the site with the building or any significant portion of it remaining, and that any potential relief” — in the form of a variance — “would not remedy the site conditions which make preservation infeasible,” Stephen Lefkowitz, an attorney for the developer Arun Bhatia, wrote in a letter dated April 28 to City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez.

Workers were also seen on site today erecting scaffolding around the historic building.

Throughout their campaign to maintain the historic site, preservationists acknowledged that they faced stiff odds in their bid to preserve the building which dates to the 19th century and is the oldest structure in Cooper Square.

They were encouraged slightly when Mr. Bhatia agreed to meet with neighborhood groups April 12. Preservationists offered a mixed assessment of the meeting – some lauded Mr. Bhatia for agreeing to the meeting; others felt that it was a token gesture and that the destruction of the building was all but inevitable.

35 Cooper SQ.: Destroyed RoofTim Milk Workers began erecting scaffolding at the site today.

“There’s a feeling of anger and bitterness that we are all carrying,” said David Mulkins, chair of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors. “We requested the developer get back to us with some possible design plans and that we have at least a couple of meetings at which we would be able to sit with architects and look at the possibility of coming up with something that would be beneficial to everybody.”

Mr. Mulkins said the Landmarks Preservation Commission “bears the most responsibility for this.”

“When over 10 community groups are urging that they have a hearing for the possibility of landmarking this and they will not even have a hearing, that’s dictatorial,” Mr. Mulkins said. “We’re very angry at the city that they would allow a historic resource of this caliber, from the oldest part of the city, to fall by the wayside. It’s reprehensible.”

Yet Mr. Mulkins said that he is still holding out hope. “St. Brigid’s was saved at the last minute,” he said. “I would hope something miraculous might happen.”

Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, called Mr. Bhatia’s decision “deeply disappointing.”

“Mr. Bhatia had the chance to do the right thing here, and he has opted not to,” Mr. Berman said. “He also promised he would get back to us with specifics regarding what a development that preserved the building would look like and what the feasibility issues might be, instead of just repeating his unsubstantiated mantra that ‘it can’t be done’.”

As for the preservationists’ next move, he said, “All of the many concerned parties will discuss what our next steps will be, but I don’t think his response casts Mr. Bhatia in a particularly good light.”