Mad ave high-rise plan prompts lawsuit


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UES pair say new building is bad for the neighborhood, including the Guggenheim and other designated landmarks


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  • The residents who filed the lawsuit are concerned that the new building will imperil the Guggenheim Museum and other neighborhood landmarks. Photo: Vince Smith via Flickr



“We want full transparency from the Department of Buildings ... to keep documents hidden is antithetical to democracy.”

Jack Lester, attorney for the plaintiffs



Two Upper East Side residents are suing a city agency over a planned residential high-rise, saying the building would imperil landmarked buildings — including the Guggenheim Museum.

Neighbors Renato Negrin and Scott Wilson, who live in separate buildings near the construction site at 1230 Madison Avenue, filed a petition against the Department of Buildings (DOB) that the construction of the 16-story building could cause a “loss of valuable air, light and views.”

Negrin and Wilson were compelled to file the petition after filing a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request in October, to which the department has yet to respond. The pair is asking that the court grant their request and release the complete building plans.

No Response from the DOB

“We want full transparency from the Department of Buildings in terms of all approvals that they’ve given, what type of investigation they’ve done with each permit application and whether the zoning that’s been approved is in compliance with the law,” said Jack Lester, the attorney representing Negrin and Wilson. “The Department of Buildings works for the public and not the developer. To keep documents hidden is antithetical to democracy.”

As of Friday afternoon, the DOB had not yet been served with the lawsuit, according to a department spokesperson. The agency did not comment further about how it intends to respond.

The construction also could undermine the “structural stability” of four city-designated landmarks — including Saint David’s School — in the Carnegie Hill Historic District, according to the suit

Additionally, the suit claims the Guggenheim Museum will be “impacted aesthetically based upon shadows and the infringement of light that will be cast” over the museum.

Protecting Landmarks

Lester said his clients have been in touch with the various institutions. He adds that the landmark buildings are public resources and his clients are advocating for them as part of the public.

“Once a building receives landmark status it’s there for the benefit of the public,” he said. “The public has an interest in the security, safety and architectural integrity of these landmark structures.”

The Guggenheim’s office of media relations did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Because the building is not in the Carnegie Hill Historic District and is being built as-of-right, it is not subject to protections under the Landmarks Preservations Commission and it does not need to go through public review, explained Lo van der Valk, president of Carnegie Hill Neighbors. He noted that the organization has been following the progress of the Madison Avenue development from the start, but Neighbors was not involved in the lawsuit.

“We are very supportive that developers be made to provide drawings that are clear and transparent,” van der Valk said in a statement. “Apparently, the filers of the suit felt that this provision was not fully complied with.”

The DOB has a few weeks to respond to the petition, Lester said. Once they do, he said, a court would decide if the department had produced all of the documents required by law. If not, the court would order that all of those documents be disclosed.






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