Residents of an Upper West Side neighborhood are up in arms over the Landmarks Preservation Commission's approval of a neighbor’s plans to install a luxury backyard deck and pool.
Turkish millionaire and owner of denim company Mavi Jeans, Ragip Ersin Akarlilar, had submitted a proposal for a contemporary backyard construction behind his West 83rd Street brownstone, raising the ire of West Siders who felt the plans set a dangerous precedent for the historic neighborhood. The original plans included a three-story glass and steel deck topped with a terrace accessible via the fourth story, and an eight-foot wide by 57 ½ foot long pool.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission, which must authorize any modifications to the historic, late 1800’s building, approved the project after asking for some changes to the original proposal. The new, scaled-back provisions reduced the deck to two stories instead of three.
The addition "will not overwhelm the house or the rear green space because it is set within a group of buildings of varying depth and size on that half of the block," said Elisabeth de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for landmarks commission. She also noted that the commission has approved this kind of work in the past and that the excavation will be monitored by an engineer.
But the changes to the original plans are simply not enough for some nearby residents.
Next-door neighbor Jonathan Stuart, who shares the same backyard vista of lush greenery, says the pool construction will have irreversible consequences on the neighborhood.
“These are some of the oldest backyards in the city, and these people are removing that and once you take green out of New York City, you’re not going to get it back.” Stuart said. “It’s people coming from another country and changing the character of a neighborhood forever. It’s not fair.”
Stuart, who’s lived on the block for 40 years, has already gathered close to 500 signatures from area residents who oppose the project, which he calls “totally inappropriate” for a historic neighborhood.
Neighbor David Teeple neighbor agrees that it will impact those who enjoy the same peaceful and leafy view.
“He (Akarlilar) wants to extend the back of the building pretty far into the yard, so that’s really going to affect other people,” he said.
In addition, Stuart and other opponents fear that the excavation required to complete the project could possibly affect the buildings’ foundations, create leaks and hit underground streams.
In fact, Angelo Candalario, a superintendent at the nearby 41 West 83rd Street building for 40 years who has had already had to deal with underground stream flooding in his building’s basement, wrote a letter to the LPC where he expresses his concern about the water damage that neighboring buildings could suffer.
“If 51 West 83rd street is allowed to build their pool as designed… it would seem like an open invitation to the destruction of these historic landmark building’s foundations,” Candalario worte in the letter.
Historic preservation group Landmark West! also opposes the proposed construction.
“By no means is this a disapproval of contemporary design,” Cristiana Peña, Landmark West!’s senior director of preservation, said. “It’s about what is sensitive and appropriate, and we feel that this does not relate and is in complete disaccord with this historical area.”
Peña added that this could set a negative precedent for other landmarked buildings on the Upper West Side.
“If you allow a pool, what’s next? A helioport? A bowling alley?,” Stuart said.
Akarlilar could not be reached for comment.