Boom Destroying History on Second Avenue
posted by October 24 at 3:50 PMon
We have more details on the MJA Building, a 1914 building on Second Avenue and Stewart Street that crews stripped of its terra cotta trim yesterday. It was defaced to erase the building’s historic status, tenants and neighbors say, thus potentially allowing the site to be developed into a tower.
The building was nominated for historic landmark status in 2004 but failed to achieve the designation after nearly half the Landmark Preservation Board missed the meeting, the Department of Neighborhoods reports. Seven votes from the 12-person board are required to designate a landmark. But only seven of the members attended, says Sarah Sodt, coordinator of the Landmarks Preservation Board. Five voted in favor of declaring it a landmark and two opposed.
Although the five absent members of the board may have also dissented against declaring the building a landmark, if they had attended the meeting and two of them voted for it, the MJA Building would have won landmark status in 2004. But Sodt says there is no requirement for the Landmark Preservation Board members to attend the meetings.
Five years are required between each landmark nomination. “When next April rolls around, someone could again nominate it,” says Sodt. “But they slipped under that five-year timeframe.” Now, the owners have removed terra cotta--the very feature that qualified it for landmark nomination the first place.
The current owners, Iowa-based Principal Global Investors Limited, purchased the building in March 2007. The company had no comment today about why it was removing the terra cotta frieze work and trim (a spokesman did promise to call back next week). But a spokesman for Collins Woerman, a local developer, said the company was hired one or two years ago to study plans for a 20-story office building on the site.
I'll update when I hear more from the owner, and from the Department of Neighborhoods--are they doing to do anything to prevent this from happening again, like require the Landmark board to actually show up at meetings?