Tag NYC history

Chelsea Now – Preservationists Win: Hopper-Gibbons House Owner Ordered to Subtract Addition

By Dusica Malesevic, May 24

BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | Locked for years in a battle to restore Manhattan’s only documented Underground Railroad site, preservationists have won a major victory regarding the contentious fifth-floor addition to a landmarked building known as the Hopper-Gibbons House.

During a Tues., May 23 public meeting of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), a decision was reached that the addition was inappropriate for the row house at 339 W. 29th St. (btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.), denying that part of the owner’s application. The current structure will be removed, restoring the building to its original height — a roof that has historic significance that ties back to the Civil War and the abolitionist movement.

“I’m like shaking with victory because it’s a little bit like my baby,” Fern Luskin told Chelsea Now outside the LPC’s office at 1 Centre St.

DNAInfo: Underground Railroad Home Earns Landmarks ‘Victory,’ Advocates Say

By Maya Rajamani, 9/23/16

CHELSEA — The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has asked the owner of a historic house that served as a stop on the Underground Railroad to remove a controversial rooftop addition — a request longtime advocates are viewing as a “victory.”

Chelsea Now: A Shaken Chelsea Quickly Finds Its Footing

By Eileen Stukane, 9/22/16

BY EILEEN STUKANE | The windows were still missing on every floor of the building whose street level space houses the King David Gallery. Next door at the St. Vincent de Paul Church, shuttered since 2013, there was similar damage above. Below, shattered glass was strewn on the ground and wedged into the sidewalk cracks as far as the eye could see. Across the street, the tall windows normally affording passersby a clear view into the intense goings-on at Orangetheory Fitness sported the top-to-bottom duct-taped “X” mark familiar to anyone who’s ever prepped for a hurricane.

Three days after Ahmad Khan Rahami’s homemade bomb exploded near 131 W. 23rd St., a shaken Chelsea had weathered the storm and was standing tall, albeit on new footing.

Barricades lifted, traffic and pedestrians had returned to this block of W. 23rd St., between Sixth and Seventh Aves., which had a stronger NYPD presence. It was a time for attention and assurances from Mayor Bill de Blasio, and other elected officials, that life could return to normal. And so they came.

Damage to the King David Gallery was underway on the morning of Tues., Sept. 20. Photo by Scott Stiffler.

Damage to the King David Gallery was underway on the morning of Tues., Sept. 20. Photo by Scott Stiffler.

Chelsea Now: Fate of Hopper-Gibbons House Still in Flux

By Sean Egan, 9/22/16

L to R: Fern Luskin, State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, Public Advocate Letitia James, and Julie Finch spoke out against the fifth-floor addition to the Hopper-Gibbons House. Photo by Sean Egan.

L to R: Fern Luskin, State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, Public Advocate Letitia James, and Julie Finch spoke out against the fifth-floor addition to the Hopper-Gibbons House. Photo by Sean Egan.

BY SEAN EGAN | Preservationists who’ve rallied for years around the Hopper-Gibbons House (339 W. 29th St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.) — the only documented Underground Railroad site in Manhattan — were left frustrated after the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), at its Tues., Sept. 20 hearing, decided not to take any action regarding the building. At this hearing, the LPC could have required the owner to remove a contentious fifth-floor addition from the row house and restore it to its previous four-story height — the ultimate goal of advocates.

Controversy has surrounded the house because its owner, Tony Mamounas, has been trying to legitimize a fifth-floor penthouse he began building when in possession of erroneously issued permits from the Department of Buildings.

The building was landmarked in 2009 as part of the Lamartine Historic District, just after those permits were revoked and Stop Work Orders were issued — though work on the addition continued, according to locals. Court decisions in 2013 and 2015 upheld that Mamounas must gain approval from the LPC before continuing construction.

Daily News: Activists fight to stop Chelsea building owner from adding penthouse suite to Underground Railroad landmark

By Laura Dimon & Leonard Greene, September 20

Activists trying to save the last spot in New York where slaves were given shelter urged the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to block the building’s owner from adding a penthouse suite.

Chelsea’s Hopper-Gibbons House is the city’s last link to the Underground Railroad, and to the abolitionists who pushed to end slavery in 19th century America.

A building owner’s bid to add a fifth-floor, rooftop apartment to the renovated structure at 339 W. 29th St. would desecrate a piece of important history, opponents of the addition said.

The building received landmark status in 2010.

(Left-right) NYC Public Advocate Letitia James and State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried at a press conference discuss the fundamentals of maintaining Chelsea’s Hopper-Gibbons House

Chelsea Now: Rally Highlight Hopes for Hopper-Gibbons House

By Sean Egan, June 22

The restoration of the only documented Underground Railroad site in Manhattan continues to be a cause to rally around.

Known as the Hopper-Gibbons House (339 W. 29th St., btw. Eighth & Ninth Aves.), the building has been caught in a years-long battle between local preservationists — led by the Friends of the Hopper-Gibbons Underground Railroad Site — and the site’s owner, Tony Mamounas.

The building was landmarked in 2009 as part of the Lamartine Historic District, shortly after erroneously issued permits were revoked from Mamounas and Stop Work Orders were issued — though work on the house’s contentious fifth-floor addition reportedly continued. Court decisions in both 2013 and 2015 upheld that Mamounas must gain approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) before continuing construction. The LPC does, however, have the ability to make the owner restore the house to its former state; this is what preservationists have been advocating for as the owner prepares to go before the LPC with revised plans.

The site was home to Abigail Hopper-Gibbons, a noted abolitionist, who used the house as a safe place for runaway slaves making their way North, and was also court to visits from Horace Greeley and Frederick Douglass. The house was so well known, in fact, that angry rioters targeted it during the 1863 Draft Riots — causing the Hopper-Gibbons daughters to escape the pandemonium by fleeing across the flush roofs of the houses in the district.

Chelsea Now: A House Divided: Community Debates Fate of 404 W. 20th St.

By Sean Egan, 6/9/16The sale of 404 W. 20th St. for $7.4 million set in motion the current dispute over proposed changes to the historic house. Photo by Sean Egan.

The sale of 404 W. 20th St. for $7.4 million set in motion the current dispute over proposed changes to the historic house. Photo by Sean Egan.

BY SEAN EGAN | Who can truly lay claim to pride of ownership, when it comes to what is widely regarded as the oldest house in Chelsea: those who say its structural and historical integrity must be preserved, or the person who bought it for $7.4 million and wants to make extensive renovations?

Built in 1830 and purchased in 2015 by British banker Ajoy Veer Kapoor, the home at 404 W. 20th St. (btw. Ninth & 10th Aves.) sits within the Cushman Row of the Chelsea Historic District, making any attempts at alteration subject to review by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The renovations, which would significantly increase the size of the house, would require most of the original house to be destroyed in the process, as the new owner attests that the house is structurally unsound.

Chelsea Now: Unveiling a Sure Sign of the Phyllis Gonzalez Legacy

By Yannick Rack, July 22

| It took years of effort by family, friends, elected officials and thousands of locals who singed the petition— but on July 18, the late Phyllis Gonzalez finally got her “Way.”

At the northwest corner of 25th St. and Ninth Ave. — on the same block where she lived for over 30 years — a street renaming ceremony paid tribute to one of Chelsea’s most dedicated housing activists, with the official unveiling of Phyllis Gonzalez Way.

“Phyllis worked on behalf of our neighborhood until the day she passed away, and she will be remembered for her unrelenting pursuit of better lives for people in the community that she loved,” said City Councilmember Corey Johnson, who led the ceremonial.

Chelsea Now: Hopper-Gibbons Supporters Prevail in Court

Photo by Zach Williams L to R: Fern Luskin and Julie Finch have battled Tony Mamounas, owner of the Hopper-Gibbons House, for years regarding a fifth story addition protruding above an historic roofline.

BY ZACH WILLIAMS, February 26

Preservationists scored a long-sought legal victory in an ongoing effort to restore Manhattan’s only documented and landmarked stop on the Underground Railroad back to its original height.

The appellate division of New York Supreme Court ruled on Feb. 24 that Tony Mamounas, owner of the Hopper-Gibbons House  (339 W. 29th St.) would need approval from the city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in order to finish a fifth story. An attorney for a local group seeking to remove the building addition told Chelsea Now on Feb. 25 that the ruling allows for his clients to request that LPC order Mamounas to remove the alterations affecting the historical integrity of the building — a process that would take about six months.

“By doing so, we will preserve the heritage of what transpired there when it was used as an Underground Railroad station, when the members of the Hopper Gibbons family acted heroically to provide shelter to the slaves,” said Fern Luskin — lecturer of art and architectural history at LaGuardia Community College and a leader of the Friends of the Hopper-Gibbons Underground Railroad Site and Lamartine Place Historic District.

Donate to Preserve Hopper Gibbons Underground Railroad Site

Earlier this week I co-hosted a benefit with Friends of the Hopper Gibbons Underground Railroad Site and Lamartine Place Historic District to preserve the historic integrity of the only documented underground railroad site in Manhattan.

We’ve won twice in court to get the building’s illegal top floor removed, but the developer is appealing the court’s decision and we need your help for legal costs.

For more information and to make a donation, check out the Historic DIstricts Council website:  http://hdc.org/friends-of-hg-lamartine-pl-fundraiser Here are a couple of background articles on the issue: