A revised proposal for rooftop additions to the Apthorp was approved unanimously on August 12, 2014, by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The Apthorp is a NYC Individual Landmark, designed by architects Clinton & Russell and completed in 1908, and occupies a full city block between Broadway and West End Avenue and West 78th and 79th Streets.
The proposal was the third iteration of a plan first heard at LPC Public Hearing in November, 2013, which drew palpable opposition from elected officials, noted architects, community groups, neighbors and Apthorp residents.
At the November 2013 hearing, HDC testified that the Apthorp’s iconic roofscape should be preserved, noting its fully conceived Renaissance Revival design, its ornate facades, and its pair of elegant pavilions which occupy the roof of the north and south sides of the building. The proposal’s most contentious issues were twofold: its extensive visibility (including through the building’s grand arches, from inside the building’s courtyard, and up to a half a mile away from the street) and the enclosure of the open-air pavilions.
The final design resulted in a one-story rooftop addition, with visibility dramatically reduced. Chair Srinivasan added that the addition’s interior height be lowered from 11 feet to 10, which would ameliorate, although not eliminate, the remaining visibility from Riverside Park. The design is a simplified departure from the initial proposed, where cornices and fenestration competed with the grand Apthorp for attention. The enclosure of the pergolas is regrettable, as they were conceived to be enjoyed by all residents of the Apthorp. Their one-of-a-kind views of Broadway and the Hudson River are now solely afforded for those who can afford to purchase the new units.
When the Apthorp was completed in 1908, it was a finished work of art. While HDC is disappointed that new construction has been allowed to be built atop an intact, architectural gem, we congratulate advocates on their dedicated stewardship and vigilance which resulted in a much less intrusive plan. The work doesn’t stop after a building is landmarked. The Apthorp exemplifies the importance of public participation in ensuring the continuity of protecting our City’s architectural heritage.
Photos: Above, the view of the Hudson from inside the Apthorp’s open air north pergola; a feature that will be lost; and below, inside the south pergola with Apthorp enthusiast and resident, Tony Smith.