DocuDrama: Preservationists Try to Save Row House From Becoming Another 35 Cooper

316 E. Third StreetStephen Rex Brown The rowhouse at 316 East Third Street.

Last week, preservationists doubled down on their last-minute effort to protect a 177-year-old row house that the owner hopes to demolish and replace with a seven-story, 33-unit apartment building.

A quartet of local preservation groups began pressing the city Landmarks Preservation Commission early this month. In a letter you can read below, the coalition cited the building’s historic qualities, which are reminiscent of 35 Cooper Square, another Federal-style row house that was demolished in May amid much controversy.

“The significance of this and the handful of other surviving pre-Civil War rowhouses to Alphabet City cannot be underestimated,” the preservationists wrote in a letter to the commission on August 2, referring to 316 East Third Street. “Built for merchants associated with the East River’s thriving shipbuilding industry, they recall the neighborhood’s formative years and are all that remain from its heyday as the dry dock neighborhood.”

The letter also noted that the commission had singled out the property as being “eligible for historic designation” in a 2008 study assessing the impact of rezoning in the area.

Workers tearing down 35 Cooper SquareStephen Rex Brown The demolition of 35 Cooper Square provoked a public outcry.

But the following week the commission rejected preservationists’ arguments, citing renovations that had been made to the building’s exterior after it was first built; the same reasoning that led to the destruction of 35 Cooper Square.

The structure’s original “features have been replaced by more recent, though historic, features in different architectural styles,” wrote Jenny Fernandez, the director of community relations for the commission on August 10. A third story was also added to the building, she noted in the letter, which can also be read below.

Last week, the preservationists wrote a rebuttal challenging the commission’s conclusion. A spokeswoman for the commission, Elizabeth de Bourbon, said that it was currently reviewing that letter (also presented below).

Still, the rejection paves the way for the new building between Avenues C and D, which is currently awaiting city approval, according to the Department of Buildings website. The building will be designed by Karl Fischer, an architect whose recent plans for a building on Tenth Street were met with criticism from local preservationists for being out of character with the rest of the neighborhood.

427 E. 12th St.Karl Fischer Karl Fischer’s design for a property on 12th Street was criticized by local preservationists.

Several phone calls to the owner of the property on Third Street, Joseph Klaynberg, were not returned.

Andrew Berman, the executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, was not giving up the fight just yet.

“We’re urging the public to also reach out, “ said Mr. Berman. “All we can do is make the best argument, reach out to the public, and hopefully the L.P.C. will see the light.”

So far, the commission has received around 25 e-mails asking it to consider landmarking the building, according to Ms. de Bourbon.

Two historic districts in the East Village are still awaiting a vote from the commission, but preservationists said that individual structures are also worthy of consideration. The designs for the new buildings at both 35 Cooper and 316 East Third Street have not yet been revealed.

The Fight to Preserve 316 E. Third StreetGreenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation Letters and supplemental documents between preservationists in the East Village and the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.