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125 5th Avenue, application for installation of a two floor rooftop addition, new stairs and bulkhead.

At the regularly scheduled monthly Community Board Five meeting on Thursday, May 14, 2015, the following resolution passed with a vote of 38 in favor; 0 opposed; 1 abstaining:

WHEREAS, 125 Fifth Avenue located between East 19th and East 20th Street, in the Ladies Mile Historic District, is a five-story store and loft building, which was originally was constructed by Joseph Sandford in 1850-51, as two of a series of five brownstone-fronted residences; and

WHEREAS, By the 1880's the ground floors of the two Sandford brownstones at 125 and 127 Fifth Avenue had been converted to commercial uses, and by the 1890's these were entirely occupied by businesses such as dressmakers & milliners, among them the well-known firm Bergdorf & Voight later known as Bergdorf Goodman (1894-1904) and Lord & Taylor (1906-1914); and

WHEREAS, In 1921-23, then owners Edward & Goodhue Livingston altered the buildings of 125 and 127 Fifth Avenue, in order to unify them into a singular store and office building, with a terra-cotta Neo-Gothic styled façade designed by the architect Irving Margon; and

WHEREAS, In March 2006, an early morning "three alarm fire," which required "six trucks, twelve engines and 138 firefighters," severely damaged the northern portion of the building at 125 Fifth Avenue – fortunately without any injuries to people who would have been working inside; and

WHEREAS, Subsequent to the March 2006 fire, the current owners of 125 Fifth Avenue commissioned and executed a building restoration which included window replacements, elevator modernization, and replication of the historic terra-cotta façade; and

WHEREAS, In the execution of the permitted elevator modernization, the shaft had been overbuilt, thus where the previous shaft had been 8'-9" above the roofline, the current elevator shaft rises 13'-11" above the roofline, in non-compliance with the Certificate of No Effect; and

WHEREAS, The applicants are proposing to perform a modification to the elevator shaft, which would decrease its height by 2'-0" so that the top of the shaft would rise 11'-11" above the roofline; and

WHEREAS, Both the previous and current elevator shafts had been and are clad in material which is darker than the façade below, much like rooftop mechanical housings in many other historic buildings, and had been and are currently partially obscured by the parapet wall; and

WHEREAS, The applicants are proposing to construct a 2 story rooftop penthouse addition to the existing building, which would be clad in a brick to blend with the party wall of the adjacent taller building to the north, as well as limestone, dark bronze and glass elements; and

WHEREAS, The proposed penthouse structure would surround and enclose the elevator shaft and the stair bulkhead, and would be composed of a sixth floor spanning the entire north-to-south expanse of the rooftop, as well as a smaller seventh floor, which would rise to an elevation of 25'-4½" above the roofline; and

WHEREAS, The design seems intent not to mimic but to blend with the existing building below and the taller adjacent buildings in an understated fashion, not detracting or competing with the historic building fabric, though the proposed penthouse addition is in a contemporary style; and

WHEREAS, The profuse use of glass for the façade and the elevator vestibule enclosure is of concern; and

WHEREAS, Today, 125 Fifth Avenue seems to be in pristine condition, with fully occupied store and office lofts, perfectly characteristic of the Ladies Mile Historic District; and

WHEREAS, We support the effort to decrease the elevation of the overbuilt elevator shaft, thus decreasing the visibility of this rooftop structure, although we suggest that this be clad in a lighter colored material, to blend with the building's façade; and

WHEREAS, In the context of the historic district, we believe that the addition of a visible rooftop structure would be less conspicuous if the structure were clad without the darker bronze elements; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends denial of the application to construct a new penthouse addition to 125 Fifth Avenue, unless the structure including the elevator bulkhead were clad with material to match the environment, without the darker bronze elements.

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