Two 'Architecturally Distinct' Buildings and an Effort to Keep Them That Way

Community Board 1 is hoping to protect two Tribeca buildings, 285 West Broadway, a 6-story commercial property, and the post office at 350 Canal Street. Both, the board says, "are open to major modification or, worse, demolition." Photos: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Mar. 30, 2023

The push by Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul to raise current zoning limits and build more affordable housing is leaving two landmark-worthy Tribeca buildings ripe for ruin, according to Community Board 1.

The board on Tuesday passed resolutions calling on the Landmarks Preservation Commission to consider landmark status for the U.S. Post Office building at 350 Canal St. and the 1889 Beaux Arts-style Rawitser Building at 285 West Broadway, on the corner of Canal. Both buildings lie just outside the Tribeca North Historic District and, with the potential loosening of zoning regulations, are “open to major modifications or worse, demolition…,” CB1 said in its resolution. In the future, the board plans to seek landmark status for several other Lower Manhattan buildings. These recommendations follow the board’s support for a request for evaluation of 60 Wall Street and its atrium for landmark status. 

The U.S. Post Office at 350 Canal Street 

In his report “Housing Manhattanites: A Report on Where and How to Build the Housing We Need,” Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine identified the two-story post office as a potential site for 233 units of affordable housing, and one of five sites in the Community Board 1 area where the report says below-market rental housing could be built. In an effort to have the building considered for landmark status, the Historic Districts Council submitted a formal Request for Evaluaton to the Landmarks Commission, a request supported by CB1.

Completed in 1939, the terra-cotta-clad post office was one of 14 Depression-era postal facilities funded by the federal Works Progress Administration. “The innovative quality of the design and the attention paid to creating a dramatic setting combine to make Canal Street Station one of the most important post office buildings in New York City,” the Historic Districts Council noted in its request. 

“It’s got this beautiful terra-cotta completeness. It’s amazing how intact this building is,” said Jason Friedman, chair of CB1’s Landmarks and Preservation Committee. “This is obviously a primo site for any big development, tear-down thing.”

“It blows my mind that this isn’t designated [as a landmark],” added committee member Bruce Ehrmann.

The Borough President’s report said the existing facade should be preserved “and incorporated into any development.”

The Rawitser Building at 285 West Broadway

In its resolution, CB1 called the six-story commercial building “a prominent and welcoming entry to the neighborhood of Tribeca.” As far back as 2013 the Tribeca Trust, headed by Lynn Ellsworth, unsuccessfully campaigned to have the Tribeca North Historic District expanded to include 285 West Broadway and other buildings. The community board noted the structure’s “chamfered corner entry with cast iron storefronts crowned with round openings surrounded by ornate terracotta carvings of swags and garlands.” On the upper floors, it continued, the intact facade boasts “prominent cornices and carved decorations, including lions heads, roundels and flowers all set under a beautiful modillioned copper roof cornice.”

Friedman had a simpler description of 285 West Broadway when his committee considered recommending it for protection by the city. 

“This building is gorgeous, obviously just beautiful,” he said. “And it’s not landmarked.” 

A Landmarks Preservation Commission spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment. In a recent statement regarding a Request for Evaluation of 60 Wall Street, she said in a statement that consideration of landmark status “is only possible within the context of the agency’s priorities, which are determined by a variety of factors including our policy of designating resources equitably throughout the city’s five boroughs.”