New Life Awaits a Once Imperiled Tribeca Landmark on Broadway

Left: A 1912 photo of 287 Broadway, at Reade Street, before the removal of stairs leading to the building's second-floor main entrance. Right: The landmark in 2011 as the neighboring residential tower, 57 Reade Street, neared completion.

Aug. 17, 2015

A Tribeca landmark is finally getting some respect.

The six-story 1872 cast-iron gem at 287 Broadway—formerly dubbed “the leaning landmark”—had stood vacated and possibly endangered long after the building’s feared collapse nearly eight years ago. Now its renaissance is set to begin.

Plans for an exterior restoration of the structure, part of a mixed-use redevelopment of the building, will go before the Landmarks Preservation Commission next month. United American Land, the owner of the Italianate and French Second Empire-style cast-iron building, plans two apartments per floor and two commercial spaces on the ground floor.

The project’s architect, Gary Zhuravsky of the firm GreenbergFarrow, showed the plans to Community Board 1’s Landmarks Committee this month for advisory approval.

During excavation in 2007 for a new residential tower that wraps around the landmark to Reade Street, the building was found to be leaning—eventually nearly a foot. The city vacated the commercial and residential tenants and the building never reopened. A stop-work order halted construction of the new building, 57 Reade Street, for more than a year and a morass of lawsuits ensued. Some questioned the commitment of the then landlord, the Gindi family, owners of Century 21 department store, to save the building. (The Gindis had opposed landmark protection of their property before it was designated in 1988.)

Artist Cora Cohen, who had lived and painted on the top floor since 1972, claimed that the owners were dragging their feet in making the building habitable after it had been stabilized. Gaping holes in the ceiling and other signs of neglect could be seen throughout the building after it was vacated.

“Their MO has al­ways been to just not do things rather than to do them,” Cohen told the Trib in 2011. “That’s the way they were about maintenance and that’s the way they were about everything.”

Two years ago, United American Land, whose owner, the Leboz family, is a prominent landlord in Tribeca and Soho, bought the building for $8 million. It is now embarking on what Zhuravsky estimates will be a two-year restoration and development project.

Plans include a wood-and glass-storefront on the Broadway side that Zhuravsky said “is meant to create out of the existing elements of the building something that resembles and entrance the way it used to be.” Stairs that led to a main commercial entrance on the second floor, however, were removed in 1912, according to the LPC’s designation report, and are not proposed to be returned.

Other restoration plans include the cleaning and patching of the facade, and painting it in a cream color. Missing hexagonal slate tiles will be replaced on the building’s high, sixth-floor mansard roof, as will pieces of decorative iron fencing, or cresting, that crown the building.

Floor plans call for a one- and two-bedroom apartment on each of five floors.

The exterior of 287 Broadway, above the first floor, looks much the way that John Snook, one of the city’s leading architects of the day, designed it.

“This building graphically illustrates the transformation of lower Broadway in the 19th century from a residential boulevard into the city’s commercial center,” the Landmarks Commission said in its designation report on the building.

CB1’s Landmarks Committee voted its approval of the proposed exterior work, pending a site visit to see the visibility of a proposed stair and elevator bulkhead, represented by a mock-up on the roof.

The building is now shrouded in netting as it undergoes asbestos abatement and other work.