Landmark Decision Stabled

128 East 13th Street.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission held an emergency hearing today to in order to hear testimony from the public regarding the former Van Tassel and Kearney horse auction house at 126-128 East 13th Street.

A developer’s dream.

Built in 1904, the building served as an auction house for well-heeled New Yorkers including the Belmont and Vanderbilt families to buy horses in the early 20th century. After the 20’s, when cars replaced animals as the city’s preferred mode of transportation, the building was turned into a machinery shop, and during World War II trained women in the industrial arts while the men were off in Europe fighting. Then, in 1978, artist Frank Stella housed his studio there, until the building was sold in 2005.

Representatives from various elected officials’ offices came to voice concern over losing the building, including State Senator Tom Duane, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Councilwoman Rosie Mendez pleaded for the building’s landmarking in person. Other organizations with representatives that testified in favor of the landmarking included the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, the Municipal Arts Society, the Union Square Community Coalition, and the Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America, along with several area residents.

The 11,777-square-foot building was sold in 2005 for $10 million, according to city records, with the owner listed as Isaac Mishan. At the L.P.C. hearing, when asked by The Real Estate, the alleged owner refused to identify himself, nor would he answer any questions. His attorney, in testimony to the L.P.C., said that the developer would prefer to work with the commission to find some sort of compromise, but if forced into a corner would consider seeking a hardship variance in order to demolish the extant building and build a seven-story condo building.

Johnathon Hayes, a 15-year area resident, told the L.P.C. at the meeting, “The space cries out for adaptive reuse …. We cannot live by luxury condominiums alone.”

The L.P.C. tabled the matter as they have a 40-day stand-still agreement with the owner. It will be taken up again in the near future.

-Matthew Grace Landmark Decision Stabled