A public hearing on this proposal preceded the regular meeting of the ZBA, and after the public hearing, the subdivision was unanimously approved.
When the proposal for the hotel at 41 Cross Street was first presented to the Planning Board back in December 2015, there was some question about whether or not Cross Street was included in the locally designated Union-Allen-South Front Street Historic District. The description of the boundaries of the district would suggest that Cross Street was part of the district: "Cherry Alley on the north, Worth Avenue to the east, NYS Correction Facility property bordering East Allen Street to the south and Power Avenue and Cross Street bordering Allen Street to the south, Amtrak and Hudson River on the west." But, in the inventory of properties which is part of the historic designation, not a single building on Cross Street is listed.
Members of the Historic Preservation Commission have sought for months to correct the discrepancy, but instead of just going ahead and requesting that the Common Council amend the Union-Allen-South Front Street Historic District to include Cross Street, it was left to legal counsel--in this instance, city attorney Carl Whitbeck--to look into the matter and make a recommendation. That seems never to have happened. As a consequence, the HPC has no authority to review the plans for the exterior of the hotel proposed by Redburn Development. As it turns out, that's not a problem. The principals of Redburn Development are zealous about historic preservation and asked the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to do a resource evaluation. SHPO determined that the building is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, and SHPO will be reviewing and approving the plans.
But now there's another reason to regret that Cross Street's status as part of a locally designated historic district is uncertain. The third Cross Street project before the ZBA on Wednesday night was a request for area variances--front and back setbacks and height--for a new residence to be constructed at 26 Cross Street. There are several vacant lots along the north side of Cross Street, but this isn't one of them. The new construction not only requires area variances but also the demolition of the house that is currently there.
Unfortunately, because of the uncertainty about the inclusion or exclusion of Cross Street in the Union-Allen-South Front Street Historic District, the HPC will not be involved in permitting the demolition of the existing house or in reviewing the design of the proposed new house for compatibility with the neighborhood.
The pictures below, from Peter Cipkowski's collection of photographs taken by his grandfather in the late 1920s or early 1930s, show a house on Cross Street that was the home of a member of the Cipkowski family. It's probably not 26 Cross Street (the door is in the wrong place), but it is very similar to 26 Cross Street.
The house at 26 Cross Street has been altered by post-World War II attempts to modernize it, but wouldn't it be grand if, instead of demolishing it, its owners, guided by these historic pictures of a neighboring house, would restore it to its original, charmingly vernacular late 19th-century design?
There will be a public hearing on the request for area variances for what's proposed for 26 Cross Street on Wednesday, March 16, at 6 p.m. At the same time (not concurrently but sequentially), there will be public hearings on an area variance for a proposed new prefab garage on Partition Street behind 210 Allen Street; a use variance for 453 State Street, which was granted a use variance to 2004 to become a laundromat but now seeks another use variance to become professional offices; and an area variance for a new unit of Mount Ray Townhouses, which seeks to cover 35 percent of its lot instead of the permitted 30 percent.
COPYRIGHT 2016 CAROLE OSTERINK