As reported by Max Y.

At public hearing yesterday afternoon, an application to legalize conspicuous white-box AC units on the historic facade of 333 West End Avenue, a Venetian Gothic Revival apartment building designed by Emery Roth in 1925, was denied by a near unanimous vote from the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).

As LANDMARK WEST! stated during the public hearing, this item’s review was coming just weeks prior to the Commission’s first of three public hearings to consider historic district extensions on West End Avenue.  “These imminent public hearings mean that it is more important than ever for the Commission to protect the integrity of its Rules and set a positive example for property owners in both existing historic districts and proposed historic district extensions.”  To read our full statement, click here.

By denying this application for legalization (that’s right, the condensers were installed without the required LPC permits), the Commission prevented what could have been a terrible detraction from the aesthetic appearance of West End’s facades.  One commissioner pointed out that at least with conventional “through the window” AC units, they are inconspicuous and ubiquitous enough to fade into the background.  The same commissioner continued, saying the agency’s job is to judge whether such a unit harms a district’s historic aesthetic, and concluded that the proposed stark white units look markedly different and inappropriate.

Another commissioner remarked, “what a precedent this would be!”  Two others agreed, further speculating how the facade would appear if half the windows featured these units … or all of them.  Where would it end?  Recalling a recent trip to China, one commissioner pointed out that freestanding units, similar to the ones proposed for legalization, were everywhere to be seen, totally disrupting the urban fabric.

The Commission also weighed in on the structural dangers involved, such as requiring exposed refrigerant pipes and electric wires to go through the window, and the precarious position of the platforms secured only with metal ties.  What if the condenser units became bulkier and heavier?  Residents of the West End Avenue Collegiate Historic District cannot afford to find out.

Knowing the regulations for what is acceptable for an historic district will be invaluable to the residents of the West End Avenue Study Area, especially as the series of three public hearings on proposed historic district expansions along West End Avenue approach. 

Stay tuned for further updates!

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