Partial demolition of landmark homes in Manhattan stirs controversy

A group is protesting what they say is a New York City-sanctioned destruction of nine landmark buildings in Manhattan's Meatpacking District. The group says they want to save the 1840s row houses on West 14th Street and 9th Avenue. 

The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Buildings Department said the nine homes were being restored when engineers discovered "dangerous conditions with a potential collapse imminent." The agencies said the facades of the homes are being demolished by hand and that the plan is to "reconstruct the historic buildings to the extent possible." 

However, lawmakers and preservation organizations claim a developer wants to knock the buildings down to create an entryway for a new office tower.

The buildings are in the Gansevoort Market Historic District, which is part of Greenwich Village. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Department of Buildings released this joint statement:

"The City must act quickly to keep the public safe when emergencies occur. These historic buildings were being restored and renovated when structural engineers discovered and reported dangerous pre-existing conditions. Many of the structural failures, which predated the recent work at the site, were hidden by interior nonstructural walls and surface finishes. DOB engineers confirmed dangerous conditions with a potential collapse imminent and ordered immediate corrective actions to protect the public and workers at the site, including deconstructing the street facades by hand.

"DOB, LPC and the building owners have been in constant communication throughout the process and will continue to work together to ensure the buildings are stabilized and rebuilt. All future work will require review by LPC, and the building owners have agreed to salvage the bricks from the street facades and reconstruct the historic buildings to the extent possible."

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A preservation group said the two agencies need to answer more questions about what is happening.

"Unfortunately, they provided no substantive justification for ordering the buildings to be demolished (all but the party walls) as opposed to bracing and stabilizing the buildings and repairing them," Village Preservation wrote in an online post. "Is it because stabilizing is a more expensive option? Is it because this developer has, from the beginning, sought to demolish as much of these houses as possible? Is it because doing so would be less compatible with the developer’s plans to build an office tower behind the buildings and turn the row of nine historic houses into a hollowed-out entry wing for the new complex?"