1905: Five-foot-wide ‘spite house’ gets green light for expansion
The owner of a five-foot-wide “spite house”— built in the midst of a vendetta between neighbors — secured a permit to expand his building onto city land, prompting neighborhood outrage, the New York Times reported 112 years ago this month. C.A. Stein wanted to “fill in the gaps” between the bay windows of the 100-foot-long structure to make it nine feet and five inches wide, and rent the spaces to retailers. Different reports indicate that Stein was the third or fourth in a line of owners of the Richardson Spite House, erected by its namesake, Joseph Richardson. In 1882, Richardson, whom the Times described as an “old miser,” built the curious apartment building on the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 82nd Street to spoil the views of his next-door neighbor Henry Sarner. When Sarner was constructing his home, he put in a below-market offer on Richardson’s sliver of land — so Richardson retaliated by constructing his. Sarner and neighbors demanded the borough president revoke Stein’s permit, because they said it effectively allowed Stein to annex $10,000 worth of city property along Lexington Avenue for his expansion. The outcome of the petition isn’t clear, but the spite house only stood for another decade, when both it and Sarner’s home were replaced with an 11-story building, which still stands today.
1956: Court rules against sale of former tubercular hospital
A state court killed the city controller’s plans to sell a former tubercular hospital in the Rockaways to private developers, the New York Times reported 61 years ago this month. Controller Lawrence Gerosa wanted to sell the Neponsit Beach Hospital — which still sits vacant immediately next to the People’s Beach at Jacob Riis Park — to developers, but the court ruled that the land be used only as a healthcare facility or a public park. Mayor Robert Wagner, City Council President Abe Stark, and master planner Robert Moses wanted to incorporate the land into the adjacent Jacob Riis Park, but Gerosa had the backing of the five borough presidents. The site went unused for a decade, until it reopened as a home for the elderly in 1964. In September 1998, a storm hit the Rockaways and forced the facility to close. Now, the abandoned structure serves only to feed the imaginations of beachgoers and curious urban explorers.
1975: Atlanta developer nabs extension for Times Square hotel project
Global hotel developer and architect John Portman secured an extension to purchase several pieces of land for his proposed 54-story Times Square hotel, the New York Times reported 42 years ago this month. Portman had raised $40 million in equity for the future New York Marriot Marquis, but needed an additional $100 million (almost $470 million in today’s dollars) within the next six months to buy the parcels on the west side of Broadway between 45th and 46th streets. Without the additional financing, the Atlanta-based developer — who is best known for his atrium-style hotels — would have had to abandon his plans for a 2,000-room hotel, which was expected to kick-start the revitalization of the area. A spokesman for Portman blamed the scant funds on a bad economy. Portman held out, and his hotel opened a decade later, in 1985, complete with one of his signature multistory atriums.