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Merchant’s House Museum in NoHo fears construction of hotel will damage landmarked home

The 19th-century home is one of the city’s only buildings preserved on the outside and the inside.

The Merchant's House Museum on East Fourth Street

The Merchant's House Museum on East Fourth Street wants the city to reject plans to build a hotel next door. Photo Credit: Emilio Guerra

A 19th-century building in NoHo will be damaged or destroyed if the city approves a proposal to construct a hotel next door, preservation advocates say.

The Merchant’s House Museum on East Fourth Street, between Lafayette Street and Bowery, is the city’s only family home from the 1800s to be preserved with landmark status for both the exterior and interior. But if plans for an 8-story hotel next door move forward, the construction will damage the 3.5-story house, the museum says.

The developer, Kalodop Park Corporation, submitted an application to the City Planning Commission to amend a zoning rule that would otherwise block construction. The building’s height and plans for a restaurant on the ground floor are contrary to zoning code.

The application is currently being reviewed by Community Board 2, which has two months to vote on it before it moves to the borough president, the planning commission and eventually City Council.

The museum has spent tens of thousands of dollars on engineering studies to assess how the building would be damaged if there is construction next door, Executive Director Margaret Halsey Gardiner said. It also knows from experience — demolitions on either side of the building, one in 1945 and the other in 1988, already caused damage, she said.

“There’s no protective measure that could be taken to protect the house,” Gardiner said.

The highest risk is structural damage or collapse. At the very least, construction next door will damage the original plasterwork inside the building, said Michael Devonshire, who is the director of conservation at the architecture firm Jan Hird Pokorny Associates and serves on the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

“You could go and replace all that plaster, but then you’ve lost that historical material,” he said, explaining that the plaster is part of what makes the home’s landmarked interior so unique.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the plans for the hotel in 2014 because it could only consider the building itself, not its impact on the adjacent building, Devonshire said.

“There is no landmark legislation that protects (from) adjacent buildings,” he said.

The museum, along with the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, has asked residents to write to the planning commission to reject the developer’s application.

“We’re not saying that there’s no place in the neighborhood for this type of building, but this is not the spot for it,” said the village society executive director, Andrew Berman.

Gardiner urged the city to consider the house’s significance.

“We’re the only one there is,” she said. “Is the risk worth it?”

Kalodop Park Corporation did not reply to multiple requests for comment.

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