Historic Chelsea row house fights city over penthouse addition

Landmark panel could order that owner remove top floor
August 06, 2013 10:00AM

The owner of a historic Chelsea row house is squaring off against the city in court today over the addition of a penthouse, DNAinfo reported.

Tony Mamounas contends that his fifth-floor addition to the Hopper-Gibbons House at 339 West 29th Street, once a stop on the Underground Railroad, conforms with all building regulations. In February, the city declared that the house falls under the jurisdiction of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which is expected to rule that Mamounas has to remove the penthouse floor.

In a lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court,  Mamounas claims much of the work was done immediately after the Department of Buildings  issued him a permit in 2005. The city argues that construction went on after the commission landmarked the building in 2010.

“Even though the bulk of it was built a year after it was landmarked (as proven by time stamped photographs), he is trying to bypass the Landmarks Preservation Commission,” Fern Luskin, co-chair of the Friends of the Hopper-Gibbons Underground Railroad Site, told DNAinfo.

The house once belonged to abolitionists Abigail and James Hopper Gibbons, and their family used the roof  to flee to safety during the 1863 draft riots. Preservationists maintain that the roof holds particular historical significance because of its role as an escape route.

The lawsuit doesn’t dispute the historical significance but claims Mamounas should not have to remove the penthouse because he had a building permit, regardless of whether it was issued correctly or not. [DNAinfo]  – Hiten Samtani