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Development Challenges Historic Districts

Does Lenox Hill Hospital need a bulky, 436-foot tower on Lexington Avenue that would require upzoning to more than double what is currently allowed? Is the only way to save the South Street Seaport Museum giving permission for two towers within the Seaport Historic District that would rise about 470 feet—well beyond the current 120-foot height limit?

Developers are doing their best to loosen historic district regulations and ignore hard-won community planning.

Lenox Hill Hospital proposed expansion in purple / redevelopment based on LHH/Northwell Presentation – 13 October 2020 – View from Northeast.

Lenox Hill Hospital’s initial plan called for a 516-foot tall hospital building on Lexington Avenue and a 490-foot tall residential building on Park Avenue—in the densest residential area of Manhattan. After a fierce outcry, the hospital eliminated the residential building. They made the Lexington Avenue building shorter and bulkier. It is still vastly out of scale at more than 300,000 square feet and would loom over the adjacent historic district.

We’re making a statement in opposition today, to a task force that local elected officials convened.  We cite the unprecedented zoning changes required and the terrible precedent it would set. These aren’t NIMBY arguments. All the community groups understand the hospital needs to upgrade. But experts they engaged say there is still no need for the huge building proposed. There will be a formal public review process and we will keep you informed.

Our Public Policy Committee will review plans for the towers in the South Street Seaport Historic District this week. The late Brendan Gill, our beloved, longtime chair emeritus, helped lead the effort to create the historic district. And we have always supported the Seaport Museum. The developer of the towers promises $50 million to the museum if the project is approved. After damage from Superstorm Sandy and COVID-19 closure, the Museum says it may have to close permanently if it doesn’t get the money. It will be some discussion. The proposal will go to the Community Board this week and then the Landmarks Commission. We will keep you informed on this as well.

Peg Breen, President
The New York Landmarks Conservancy

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