City to Green-Wood: Weir not with you

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They’re worried a rotten apple would spoil the bunch.

The city sent Green-Wood Cemetery back to the drawing board on its plan to restore the landmarked Weir Greenhouse in Sunset Park because a boxy building proposed for an adjacent lot would have overshadowed the glassy historic hothouse.

Green-Wood wants to return the former florist shop on Fifth Avenue and 25th Street to its 1895 condition and build a three-story educational and community space next door. But the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which must approve alterations to land-marked buildings, buried Green-Wood’s plan because it didn’t like the educational center’s height and facade.

“My problem — and it’s kind of a significant one — is the building backdrop behind it,” said commissioner Frederick Bland. “The [proposed] building is just a hodgepodge of many, many, many different things.”

Landmarks are designated by city lot, and Green-Wood’s architects sited a portion of the educational center on the greenhouse’s land-marked lot — giving the commission jurisdiction over the new building and allowing it to uproot the whole plan.

“It’s a weird condition that we have control over,” Bland said.

Green-Wood’s architects will have to revise plans for the proposed educational center before returning to the commission for approval.

Representatives from Green-Wood declined to comment.

Area florist James Weir Jr. built the glasshouse — designed by George Curtis Gillespie — in 1895, according to information from the commission.

The Weir family sold to the greenhouse to the McGovern family in 1971 when the latter affixed its name to the glass dome, property records show. But the structure went to seed under its new owners, falling into disrepair by the time Green-Wood bought it in 2012. The cemetery spent the last three years shoring up the structure’s guts ahead of planned exterior renovations.

Green-Wood hired historic-restoration architecture firm Page Ayres Cowley to design the restored greenhouse and adjacent new buildings. The firm also worked on restorations at the New York Botanical Garden and the Fulton Center, according to its website.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is often a mediator between two design mentalities — shiny, contemporary design and preservationist-favored brick and stone buildings. But in this case, a new-fangled, window-heavy look would jibe well with the century-old greenhouse, Bland said.

“If there’s ever a place for a glass building — in my judgement — this would be it,” he said.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Powder from Brooklyn Heights says:
The restoration is a terrific idea, but the visitors' center attached to it is hideous. They should eb required to build something that will not take away from the beauty of the greenhouse. Surrounding it with this southwesterny 1980s lump of clay is an absolute no-go.

Nice trick trying to attach a good idea to a cheap and terrible one. It won't work.
July 15, 2015, 7:15 am
MJ from Bay Ridge says:
love that green streetcar in the picture
July 15, 2015, 7:37 am
Action Jackson from Greenwood Heights says:
It will be interesting to see what LPC says about the two new buildings. They certainly won't be allowed to resemble the greenhouse. In an odd twist, they are very contextual (in size and design) to the rest of the surrounding blocks...which are filled with generic industrial/commercial factory spaces.
July 15, 2015, 10:09 am
CCGH from Greenwood Hts. says:
So according to YIMBY, the plans were rejected already:
July 15, 2015, 10:28 am
Me from Bay Ridge says:
I guess that is the cemetery's trolley/bus coming up 25th Street. It is quite a hill coming up from the subway stop!
July 15, 2015, 1:09 pm
Tyler from pps says:
The quotes from the LPC members in that YIMBY article are why we're not allowed to have nice things in this city. They come across as meddling busybodies that see all of the landmarked parts of the city as their personal pet projects. "Well, that doesn't please *me* so keep trying until it does." Consideration for the actual owner of the property and their needs is a very distant second.
July 15, 2015, 1:10 pm
garble from goo says:
What are the chances of an historically accurate greenhouse being built beautifully in this city, in this day and age? Would it not be a post modern clunker?
July 15, 2015, 4:55 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
Boy, Tyler, you are so right. They should just be glad that the greenhouse hasn't been totally allowed to fall apart like the old 68th precinct on 43rd Street and 4th Avenue is being allowed to do. The proposed building looks OK to me. It's no grand street.
July 15, 2015, 5:58 pm
TOM from Sunset Park says:
Hey, Powder, how about writing a check to fit your fantasy?

Once upon a time the LPC didn't know Brooklyn existed. Now they fall over themselves landmarking sites without community input that will only become taxpayers' 'white elephants' or perpetual derelicts. When one gets going they only want to show everyone who's in charge here. LPC: Go away!
July 15, 2015, 7:56 pm
Janet Jackson from NYC says:
Junk jewelry took over Gage and Tolner. Meanwhile hipsters are unknowingly trying too hard everywhere to recreate it, in all the wrong places. That's right, to hell with giving a damn. Bring it on 3rd world, this will be interesting.
July 15, 2015, 8:40 pm
CCGH from Greenwood Hts. says:
Tom, it was landmarked 30years ago, thus LPC has to get involved. The real issue is that it was ever allowed to decay to the extent it had.

And ME, you are correct about the old Pct. House, it also deserves some love, here again LPC is helping (very little) with that.

It's a process folks...
July 16, 2015, 9:19 am
ChrisC from Park Slope says:
An architect that specializes in historic renovation would know LPC would put the kibosh on this scheme. The owner probably requested way too much space for programming and offices and the architect had no choice to but to shoehorn this ugly slab behind the greenhouse. OR zoning laws limited the height of buildings, preventing a taller one on 25th street that wouldn't envelop the historic structure.

Either way I hope someone gets their act together and resolves this. It could make a wonderful visitors center some day.
July 21, 2015, 12:40 pm

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