Emergency Preservation Grants

Emergency Grants Helping Three Non-Profit Groups

Emergency Grants Helping Three Non-Profit Groups
Emergency Grants Helping Three Non-Profit Groups
Magnolia Tree Earth Center, Lafayette Avenue, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn
Emergency Grants Helping Three Non-Profit Groups
Emergency Grants Helping Three Non-Profit Groups
Center for the Women of New York City, Fort Totten Historic District, Queens
Emergency Grants Helping Three Non-Profit Groups
Emergency Grants Helping Three Non-Profit Groups
Women’s Prison Association, 110 Second Avenue, Manhattan

Conservancy emergency grants totaling $64,500 are helping three non-profits with diverse projects at their landmark properties.

Magnolia Tree Earth Center (MTEC) is a nonprofit organization that owns three contiguous late 19th century row houses (1880 – 83) that now serve as offices for various organizations and an environmental center in Bedford Stuyvesant. A beautiful and well-maintained magnolia grandiflora tree was planted in front of one of the row houses circa 1885, a second, smaller magnolia tree was planted there by Shirley Chisholm in the 1970s, just in case the original one died. The older tree was designated as a City landmark in 1970 – the only living designated tree in the five boroughs (the other one died – Weeping Beech in Flushing). The three houses (677, 678, and 679 Lafayette Avenue) were also designated as City landmarks in 1977, a result, in large part, of the efforts of Hattie Carthan, a neighborhood activist who led campaigns to revitalize Bedford-Stuyvesant in 1969.

Two of the three buildings, all of which are interconnected inside, are made of brownstone with very heavy, decorative window and entry door surrounds. After a turbulent storm in June, MTEC contacted the Conservancy saying that a large brownstone lintel had fallen from the building. Conservancy staff visited the site and saw that that facades of the two brownstone buildings needed immediate attention, as unstable conditions were clearly visible. The challenges to stabilizing these facades were complicated in part because of the great weight of the brownstone elements and in part because the magnolia trees impeded traditional scaffolding access to the facades.

Thanks to Marie Ennis of Old Structures Engineering and Jack Scibor of Burda Construction Corporation, a system was devised for tying the major elements back into the floor joists and shoring others to stabilize the buildings for the near future. This strategy requires no heavy machinery and little scaffolding, producing no threat to the magnolia trees. The Conservancy authorized an Emergency Grant of $25,000 to pay for engineering services, filing fees, and construction costs; the work should be completed in September. The prospects for extensively restoring the brownstone facades fully in the near future look good, as MTEC is working to access $250,000 in grant funding authorized by State Senator Velmanette Montgomery specifically for exterior building work. Hence, the spring of 2014 should see the start of major restoration work there.

Formed in 1987, the Center for the Women of New York City (CWNY) is a nonprofit organization that, in collaboration with other groups, provides educational programs and services to women. Working out of a small office in Queens Borough Hall, CWNY has sought for many years to have its own facility. It identified two semi-attached former barracks buildings (207 and 207a Totten Avenue) in the Fort Totten Historic District, and garnered over $1.7 million in state and city grant funding to restore the exterior envelopes of these Colonial Revival buildings (1905) and convert the basements and first floors for CWNY’s use as a first phase. Page Ayres Cowley is the architect, and Landair Resources is the project manager. Most public approvals have been received, but the project has been stalled for an unusual reason: a colony of raccoons has entered and infested the buildings so that the architect cannot go in and complete construction documents. In order for the project to move forward, the Animal Control Division of the City’s Parks Department must remove the raccoons, the interiors must be thoroughly cleaned out, and the buildings must be sealed. The latter two tasks will cost between $20,000 and $25,000. The Conservancy has authorized an Emergency Grant of $15,000 and has helped secure a $5,000 grant from the 42nd Street Development Fund toward the project.

An individually-designated City landmark, the Isaac T. Hopper Home at 110 Second Avenue in Manhattan was built for the merchant Mead family in 1838. A fine example of the Greek Revival style, it is the sole survivor of four identical town houses that were built together. It served as a residence until 1874 when it was purchased by the Women’s Prison Association (WPA), which started as the Female Department of the Prison Association of New York. This organization was founded in 1845 by Isaac T. Hopper and his daughter, Abigail Hopper Gibbons, and changed its name to WPA in 1854. The Hoppers were Quakers, abolitionists, and ardent prison reform advocates. The 1874 birthday of the Isaac T. Hopper Home makes it the oldest halfway house for women prisoners in the world. It still serves as an office and residential facility for WPA.

In 2012, a Conservancy grant underwrote a conditions review and construction documents by Easton Architects for the property. The deteriorated condition of Hopper Home’s distinctive brownstone portico with Ionic fluted columns was deemed to be a first priority to be addressed in any restoration program. Conservancy staff prepared an application for funding to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which authorized a $24,500 matching grant in mid-August. The Conservancy is providing an equal amount to fulfill the matching requirement with Emergency Grant funds, and Conservancy staff will manage the restoration project ahead.