Apthorp residents still fuming over penthouse presentation

Tenants accused Area Property Partners of keeping public in the dark on design changes

Model of the Apthrop's revised penthouse addition (Credit: Evan Bindelglass via Curbed)
Model of the Apthrop's revised penthouse addition (Credit: Evan Bindelglass via Curbed)

Tenants and unit owners at the Apthorp condominium on the Upper West Side are blasting a revised proposal by the developers to build four luxury penthouses on the roof of the landmark apartment complex.

The developers, led by ARES Real Estate Group, which acquired Area Property Partners in 2013, presented a plan before the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday that would reduce the size, height and materials used to erect penthouse units on top of the existing 12 story property. The revamped design was drawn up after concerns were raised by the LPC, tenants and local community officials that the project would obstruct existing views and potentially risk the architectural integrity of the historic building.

While the panel took no action on the proposal, some commission members seemed to soften just a bit toward the plans for 390 West End Avenue. Granted, Landmarks commissioner Frederick Bland cited concerns about the addition’s Visibility From The Street, while his colleague Michael Goldblum said the Apthorp is a very hard building to add on to because the original structure is “perfectly balanced, inside and out.”

Still, several members of the panel did note that the revised plan was an improvement over the initial version.

The original plan, proposed in 2013, called for building duplex and triplex apartments priced up to $3,300 per square foot on top of the existing 163-unit complex. The developers claimed the penthouses, designed by the architectural firm of Goldstein Hill & West, would be essential to the financial well being of the project, which has struggled mightily since the record $623 million acquisition of the famed rental building by original co-developers Maurice Mann and Africa Israel in 2012.

Tenants and residents, however, accused the new team, led by ARES unit Area Property Partners, an original mezzanine lender at the building and the Feil Organization, which took over management of the property from Mann, of keeping the public in the dark on the design changes to try and get more favorable reviews from the LPC.

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“The Commissioners never had proper time to review the in-depth review submitted in opposition to see that the computer-generated images of the Sponsor inaccurately portrayed the project’s true visibility from the courtyard and from the streets,” the Apthorp Residents Association said in a statement released to The Real Deal. “As a procedural matter, the idea that the Commissioners could not have benefited from opposing views and clarifications after Sponsor’s revised presentation is preposterous.”

New York State Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, whose district includes the Apthorp, said that despite shadow studies done on the property, the presentation made by the developers did not give a complete picture of the actual design changes.

“In fact it appears they did not cover every possible angle,” Rosenthal told The Real Deal. “The tenants and I, and I’m sure LPC, does not look kindly upon words contradicting actual evidence.”

LPC officials, when asked about the allegations made by Apthorp residents, noted that the public has the opportunity to comment on projects when they are first proposed, and if changes are made, they can make revisions.

“No further testimony is taken at that time, but additional correspondence is commonly submitted and entered into the record for the item,” the LPC said in a statement. “The public is welcome to attend public meetings, and the Commissioners take all prior testimony from the community into account when making a final decision.”

Apthorp officials declined to comment.