Nosy Neighbor: What’s Going on at 165 Church?

Do you know what’s going on with the building on Church that houses Sole di Capri, among other tenants? It seems to be undergoing a full renovation. —J.

The main entrance has 165 Church as the address, but on the Department of Buildings website, the building’s address is 159 Church (and it’s also known as 159-165 Church, 159-173 Church, 99 Chambers, and 83 Reade). The only two recent permits were from July 2011 and for Type 3 Alteration—i.e, for one type of work only—and they specifically mentioned “pipe scaffold” and “heavy duty sidewalk shed.” There’s no indication, however, as to why scaffolding and a sidewalk shed were necessary. On two recent walk-bys, I saw two-by-fours and big planks of plywood sitting in the vestibule; one morning, there were eight to ten workers waiting outside.

Despite its unassuming exterior, the building has been landmarked. The Landmarks Preservation Commission, however, says it has no applications on file for work at that building. UPDATE: SEE COMMENTS. WAITING TO FIND OUT WHAT KIND OF PERMITS THE LPC HAS ISSUED FOR THE PROPERTY. Perhaps LPC approval isn’t necessary for interior work? But then why the scaffolding? Does façade repair not need LPC approval? (Because I saw bricks being replaced.) Does window replacement not need LPC approval? (See photo below.) I’m asking in earnest—I don’t know how this stuff works. If anyone out there knows more, please weigh in.

The contact listed for the owner—Ciro Salcedo for Jarima Associate—didn’t return two voice mails. And HH Building Consulting & Architecture, which you know as the office on the northwest corner of Duane and Hudson, says they’re named on the DOB permits because they were the expediter and nothing more.

The DOB application lists the building as being in the Tribeca Mixed Use district, then has “commercial buildings” as the occupancy classification—so maybe those are law firms listed by the buzzers? OK, that was rhetorical and sarcastic: Judging from the rooftop parties that tick off many neighbors, these are young roommates living in close proximity to each other.

None of this really answers the question, but it’s as close as I’m going to be able to get.

While I was digging around, I came upon the 1992 Tribeca South Historic District Designation Report from 1992, which had this to say about the building:

This six-story store and factory building, approximately twenty-five feet deep, occupies the entire 151-foot blockfront on the east side of Church Street between Chambers Street and Reade Street. Built in 1937-38 for the D.P. Harris Hardware Manufacturing Co., this structure was designed in the Art Deco style by the firm of Jardine, Murdock & Wright, successor firm to that of D. & J. Jardine which was founded in 1865.

Above the first story, each story of the Church Street facade has nine bays of paired window openings separated by narrow, buff-colored brick piers. Wider brick piers flank the bays. The windows have historic three-over-one steel sash. The spandrels are faced in panels of stone aggregate. Above the sixth-story windows are cast-stone panels with abstract Art Deco patterns, terminating in a stepped form at the parapet. The first story retains its cast-stone storefront framing which is partially obscured by signage. The center bay of the first story contains an entrance to the upper stories, set into an ornamented Art Deco surround, partially filled by a storefront. An historic wood and glass door is located in a shopfront at the north end of the facade. The side facades are each one bay wide and feature the same overall design and articulation of detail as the Church Street facade.

The present building replaced two six-story store and loft buildings constructed in 1854-55-for Thomas Suffern which originally housed dry goods dealers and were later occupied by businesses typical of the district, such as hardware manufacturers’ agents and shoe wholesalers. The D.P. Harris Hardware Manufacturing Co. had been a tenant at 99 Chambers Street for over ten years prior to the construction of the present building. According to Department of Building records the present building originally contained retail space on the ground story, offices and showrooms on the second floor, and factory space on the third through sixth floors. The D.P. Harris Co. remained in the building through the 1950s. Their tenants included the Ferncook Diner, United Drills & Tools, drillmakers Whitman & Barnes, and periodical clipping services such as Burrelies Press Clipping and the Harold Wynne Clipping Service. The building remains in commercial use.

UPDATE 10/26: I just heard back from the LPC, which said this:

We approved a staff-level permit on Nov. 14, 2011 for: limited repair at select areas of all three facades at 165 Church, including in-kind brick replacement, brick repointing, repointing between cast stone panels, graffiti removal, steel lintel repair, and cleaning of all the facades; and building-wide in-kind steel window replacement.

The Art Deco style store and factory building designed by Jardine, Murdock & Wright and built in 1937-38.

It was approved because the new windows at the primary façade will match the historic windows in terms of configuration, operation, details, material, and finish;  that the proposed brick will match the historic brick in terms of size, color, texture and bond pattern;  that the existing joints will be raked by hand or by a method that will not cause damage to the surrounding brick; that the proposed mortar will match the historic mortar in terms of size, color, texture and tooling; that the cleaning of the facades will be done in the gentlest effective method without causing damage to the masonry; that the water pressure will not exceed 500 psi;  and that the proposed work will protect the building’s façade and structure from future damage due to water infiltration and aid in the long term preservation of the building.

The permit expires Nov. 16, 2015.

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  1. About 3-4 days a week there are workers on the scaffolding working on the exterior of the building. I usually see them on the Reade side of the building. There is also a lot of equipment or materials covered in blue tarps on the roof, which seems to cover much of the roof. (Hey, less space to throw the rocking DJ parties!)

    I think they have replaced a lot of windows, because a whole floor has the same sticker in the same place on each window – usually a sign that the window is new. But I do believe that you need Landmarks permission even if you are replacing with identical windows. Someone please correct me if I am wrong on that part.

  2. Agree that you need LPC approval for window replacement on primary facades. So who has called in the complaint??

  3. Just so we all know, here’s how to report a violation:

    How can I receive more information on the Commission’s enforcement system?
    Contact Lily Fan, Director of Enforcement, Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1 Centre Street 9th Floor North, New York, New York 10007– (212) 669-7952.

    HOWEVER! When I called Ms. Fan, I was told that there ARE permits for 165 Church, but I have to go back through the media relations office to find out what they’re for. (The media relations office said there were no permits, you’ll recall….)