LPC Approves Sky Bridge From New Construction to Landmarked Church in Williamsburg

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The plan to build a sky bridge connecting a crooked, twisting residential building rising next to a landmarked church in Williamsburg was approved by the LPC Tuesday afternoon.

But the approval came with some trepidation. After a long period of sorting out some of the legal specifications of the deal the developers made to help finance some of the proposed restorations in exchange for the sale of the church’s air rights, the majority of the commissioners expressed concerned about how this would all work.

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Namely, the amount of money from the sale that is allocated from the sale of the air rights — $1.2 million, according to the developers during the hearing — did not seem like enough to perform the substantial work that needs be done.

“In my estimation, the amount of money being put aside for this type of restoration is inadequate,” Commissioner Michael Devonshire said. But at the same time, he noted, the church badly needs it. “What do we do in a situation like this?”

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The deal, it should be said, is not yet completed. Four members of the public provided testimony, including two associated with the church, and are in favor. CB1 sent in a letter of support for the proposal, as did Council Member Antonio Reynoso.

There were some further debates about the goal of the restoration. Mark A. Silberman, general counsel for the LPC, elaborated: The goal of the project should not be a “first-class” restoration, but to bring the building back to “sound” condition.

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The design of the new construction itself was not directly commented on — it was not under review at the hearing — but some of the commissioners were not thrilled with the sky bridge. Commissioner Kim Vauss, for instance, felt its visibility is a problem, and Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron voiced her displeasure with the design. “But it’s part of the deal,” the latter sighed.

In general, the tone of the remarks from commissioners was one of concern but also defeat. They know the landmarked church needs to be repaired but were hesitant about where the funds were coming from and what the developer will get out of the deal — a taller building. Some of the commissioners suggested that the new roof deck be accessible to the public.

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But in all, the decision to approve the proposal was not easy. “I have sensed amongst the comments here a subtext of disappointment about the relationship between the proposed new building and the existing structure,” said Commissioner Michael Goldblum. “I share that subtext.”

[Renderings via NY Landmarks Commission]

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