CB1 Committee Blasts Tribeca School Developer Seeking Landmarks Consent

CB1's Landmarks Committee declined to approve this lift at 53-55 Beach Street because it was installed without a permit from the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Oct. 16, 2017

The owners of a Tribeca building on Beach Street jumped the Landmarks Preservation Commission gun last week and installed a handicap lift without the city agency’s approval. That has earned them a warning from the LPC and no sympathy from a Community Board 1 committee, now being asked to recommend that the lift be deemed legal, and appropriate for the Tribeca West Historic District.

Jefferson Zamora, an engineer with Rand Engineering and Architecture, came before CB1’s Landmarks Committee on Oct. 12 in hopes of winning advisory approval of the mechanical lift, part of a new school and office project—already plagued with construction violations—that is underway at 53-55 Beach St. The owners, Zamora said, “have certain deliverables on Oct. 15, which is why they moved aggressively ahead of the presentation, ahead of approvals.”

“They were facing aggressive penalties,” he added, “so they decided to move forward installing this deck and started the beginning of the week.

Zamora assured the committee that the lift is not operational “and it can always be removed.”

But the committee blasted the decision by the building’s owners, Wegweiser and Ehrlich, LLC, for proceeding with the installation.

“It’s very egregious just to slam this thing in,” said committee member Jason Friedman. “It’s very reckless.”

“The absolute disregard for regulations and rules at this site is just astounding,” said committee member Marc Ameruso, who lives near the project and has filed various complaints about the construction.

Harold Wegweiser and Steven Ehrlich, owners of the building, did not respond to requests for comment.

Between Aug. 30 and Oct. 7 the Department of Transportation issued nine violations at the site to PILKU Construction, five of them for storage of equipment or material without a permit and four for the use or opening of a street without a permit, according to records provided to the Trib by the DOT. “The contractor has since been put on a citywide permit hold for non-compliance,” a DOT spokesperson said.

Wegweiser and Ehrlich, whose business Horticultural Creations was formerly located in the building, will be leasing the six floors, plus a penthouse now under construction, to WeWork. The plan calls for a partnership between the work-sharing enterprise and Chabad of Tribeca/Soho. Beginning in September 2018, Chabad will run a Jewish elementary school called The Tribe School on the first three floors. WeWork offices will occupy the upper floors. Chabad of Tribeca/Soho now operates a preschool, My Little School, on Reade Street.

The committee voted to reject the application and reconsider it again next month, with a request that the buildings owner come before them to explain how they are dealing with the violations. An LPC hearing on the installation of the lift and other changes to the building’s loading dock, scheduled for Oct. 31, was cancelled. “The Commission anticipates holding a public hearing in the future to determine if the lift is in compliance within existing regulation,” an LPC spokesman said in a statement.