C.B. 2 Committee Votes Against Hotel Adjacent Merchant’s House Museum

Massing of HotelCourtesy of L.P.C. A rendering of the proposed hotel.

A Community Board 2 committee threw a wrench in plans for a nine-story hotel next-door to the Merchant’s House Museum last night in response to concerns that the development would endanger the historic landmark.

The plan, which calls for the demolition of an unremarkable one-story garage to be replaced by the hotel, was disapproved by the Landmarks and Public Aesthetics committee in a unanimous vote. As expected, the museum’s staff and supporters  – including Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, who has funded restoration of the museum – voiced their concerns about construction next to the only intact family home from the 19th century in the city.

“We have to treat this as if it were Notre Dame in Paris,” Nick Nicholson, the chairman of the board of directors for the museum, told The Local today. “Whoever develops the property, the first concern has to be the preservation and safety of this building.”

Mr. Nicholson added that staff had only found out about the plans for the hotel in the last 10 days — a sign to him that the integrity of the museum is not paramount.

“The proposal for the building next-door is so loosey-goosey, so bereft of statistics and information that it’s hard to figure out just how endangered the house is,” he said.

Proposed hotel and existing lotCourtesy of L.P.C. The garage at 27 East Fourth Street, and the proposed building.

An architect of the proposed building, Edward Carroll, could not be reached. “It is our utmost priority to preserve the building,” he said last night, according to DNA Info. “It has been an integral and critical part of the proposal, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because of litigation and cost.”

Today, Mr. Nicholson countered that the developers of the hotel consider the museum a freestanding building, though it is actually the last remaining rowhouse on the block of East Fourth Street near Bowery. “We’re a rowhouse without a row,” he said. “Because our neighbors on either side have disappeared we’ve been forced to become a freestanding building.”

Additionally, the interior of the building is considered a landmark — a rarity in the city — creating additional complications for any development next-door. “We outrank the White House in the importance of our plaster-work. Any damage would be irreplaceable,” he said.

The plan next goes before Community Board 2 for a final vote on May 24. It is then scheduled to go before the Landmarks Preservation Commission on June 5, though a spokeswoman said that hearing could be postponed.