In a room packed with outraged neighbors, Community Board 7’s Parks and Preservation Committee slammed an expansion proposal from The Dwight School.
The private school had purchased a nearby brownstone in a landmark district with the intention of demolishing part of the building to construct a rear-yard, 500-plus-square-foot, three-floor addition.
While the committee was expected to weigh in on the school’s use of materials and its context and cohesiveness with the historic district, outraged neighbors asked board members to consider the addition’s impact on backyards of the brownstones on West 88th and 89th streets between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. Residents refer to this space as “the donut,” despite its rectangular shape.
Much to the chagrin of neighbors, the rear-yard addition on Dwight’s brownstone, at 22 W. 89th St., will block the views of residents or force them to face the orange stucco siding one resident dubbed “Home Depot orange.”
“There are hundreds of people that enjoy the green space created by the continuity of brownstones,” said Nancy Holwell, an architect arguing against the plan, referring to the “donut.” “[The addition] undermines the quality of life in our historic district.”
Adrien Weindling, who owns 34 W. 89th St., pleaded with board members to forcefully come out against the plan, even if such a ruling extended beyond the committee’s jurisdiction.
“The encroachment onto rear garden space is indeed something the community board needs to voice an opinion on,” Weindling said.
The question of jurisdiction was debated among members who felt they were exceeding their boundaries. The addition is “as of right,” that is, well within Dwight’s right to build without any variances. But the landmark nature of the expansion means the project needs approval from the city’s Landmark Preservation Committee.
The board will send its resolution panning the proposal to the commission as a committee action. Dwight’s plan is slated for a public hearing with Landmarks on April 21.
Tom McGinty, a representative for the owner of The Dwight School property, said at the meeting that the board should vote on the “as of right” issue and not be swayed by community members who are worried that the school will expand yet again.
“We’re here tonight for this application, which is as of right,” McGinty said.
McGinty did not return calls for comment on the vote.
Still, the board decided to view the addition itself, as well as the materials used, to discuss the cohesiveness of the project.
“This is totally inappropriate: the materials, the size, the whole blocking of the rear-yard,” said Lenore Norman, co-chair of the board’s preservation committee.
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