New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission scored an important victory recently when a state supreme court justice ruled against a developer claiming to have suffered a “taking” following the Commission’s decision to designate the First Avenue Estate as a local landmark. First Avenue Estate is a group of historic apartment buildings located between York and First avenues at East 64th and East 65th streets. All First Avenue Estate apartments provided access to sunlight and fresh air, which represented an innovation in workforce housing at the time of their construction between 1898 and 1915. The buildings of First Avenue Estate—15 in total, all six stories tall—were known as “light-court tenements” and were intended to be alternatives to the dark and poorly ventilated tenement housing in other areas of the city.
The developer that filed the lawsuit, Stahl York Ave. Co., LLC, sought permission to demolish First Avenue Estate in order to build a new condominium tower. The Landmarks Commission, having designated First Avenue Estate as a landmark, denied the demolition request, a decision that Stahl sought to have overturned. The National Trust joined the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts as friends of the court along with a coalition of other groups. The coalition was represented by attorney Michael Gruen, a seasoned preservation attorney in New York City who has participated in several important lawsuits there. Our amici curiae memorandum is available here.
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