DWIGHT SCHOOL DELAYING REAR-YARD EXPANSION AFTER BOARD CONCERNS

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The Dwight School’s proposal to expand their campus with a one-story rear-yard addition and canopy hit a slight delay in the approval process since it was first presented to Community Board 7 last month.

On March 12, the Dwight School and architects Don West and Barbara Marks presented to the board’s parks and preservation committee a plan to add a one-story rear-yard extension with canopy and to relocate a window.

The landmarked private school on 291 Central Park West and West 89th Street bought a nearby residential brownstone on 22 W. 89th Street, a portion of which will be demolished, to construct a 2,500-square-foot rear-yard school gym.

The Dwight School is a landmarked private school at 291 Central Park West. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

The Dwight School is a landmarked private school at 291 Central Park West. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

The Dwight School’s proposed expansion is “as of right,” which means, the school can build without special variances to get around zoning laws. Still, the commission has to approve the extension of the landmarked buildings.

Despite being an “as of right” building, the Dwight School must hold a public hearing in front of the commission and Community Board 7 after the school did not receive the appropriate approval from the city Landmark Preservation Commission.
A sticking point for the nearby residents who attended the board committee’s March 12 hearing said there was a lack of notice to the community.

Rick Holwell, a resident who attended the March 12 meeting, said that the Dwight School sent around a flyer about the extension a week before the meeting, but failed to mention the hearing, according to the meeting minutes.

After the community board complained that there was not sufficient time to adequately review the plan and have concerns addressed, the Dwight School postponed the April 7 meeting with the Landmark Preservation Commission and agreed to return to the community board on April 13.

At that meeting, committee members and neighbors—who were cool to the proposal during the last public board committee meeting—wanted several issues answered.

While Dwight maintained the new extension would be only one story, the plan calls for a sub-cellar, basement as well as a parlor floor. That raised questions over how many stories were going to be included in the proposed one-story extension.
The committee members expressed concern over the height of the extension that exceeded the height outlined in the so-called sliver law, which limits the height of buildings narrower than 45 feet. Dwight assured board members that as a community facility, the extension is not subject to the sliver law.

The parks and preservation committee were also concerned with the materials used on the extension. The recently purchased brownstone, like the Dwight School, is landmarked, which adds a new level of regulation in order to preserve the block’s context and design.

In the proposal, stucco would be used on the parlor floor, similar to that used on the adjoining building for the Dwight School.

The Dwight School, outlined in red, bought a nearby residential brownstone on 22 W. 89th  Street, outlined in yellow, to be converted into a rear-yard community facility.

The Dwight School, outlined in red, bought a nearby residential brownstone on 22 W. 89th Street, outlined in yellow, to be converted into a rear-yard community facility.

The Dwight School’s director of development, Kari Loya, declined to comment on the extension. The school’s director of communications did not respond to messages left as of press time.

Lenore Norman, the parks and preservation committee co-chair, said the proposal should include different material so that there is a visual distinction between new and original buildings.

“It wasn’t a question of whether or not we would consider that material but whether or not there was something else they could use, was there an alternative,” said Norman. “We don’t want it to look like the same as the building as Dwight.”

After questioning several elements of the plan, the architects presenting the proposal agreed to come back to the board committee meeting on April 13 to address the height of the extension, number of floors and materials used.

“We had a lot of questions,” explained Norman. “We didn’t think the presentation was perfectly clear.”

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