Monday, July 18, 2016

Mr. Cumming, Take Down That Wall

Sarah Schulman is not happy with Alan Cumming. The long-time East Village author and activist recently posted on her Facebook page about the actor's construction of a den atop his East 9th Street townhouse, right next to Sarah's building:



I talked to Sarah about the situation.

"When we all heard that Alan Cumming and his husband, Grant Shaffer, were moving next door we were glad because they had reputations as good guys. We heard on the street that they were planning to remodel within the framework of the building's structure."

But that's not what they're doing.

"They just bricked up our hallway windows. This is an old tenement building and these hallway windows provided light and air for 22 small apartments. They created a breeze."


photo via No 7-Eleven

Sarah doesn't understand how a guy who shows up for East Village rallies, like the ones against 7-Eleven, could do something like this to his neighbors. "Why would you want to hurt the people you're going to be living next to?" she wonders. It's the kind of question she astutely grapples with in her book The Gentrification of the Mind.

To Mr. Cumming, Sarah says, "Take down the wall. Take down the den. Sit in a chair on the roof like everybody else and be a part of the community. If you want to live in a gated community, move to Rodeo Drive."

10 comments:

Andrew Porter said...

If the windows are actually in the next building, sounds like legally they can't do that. I suggest contacting the DOB, or calling 3-1-1.

laura rubin said...

is this illegal? calling a housing attorney would help. there are orgs who give free advice via phone. maybe this could go to court? zoning rules are complicated, he could be breaking the law.

Jeremiah Moss said...

As far as I know, it's legal and approved by the DOB.

Scout said...

I would imagine that the windows have been filled in by the owner of Shulman's building. What Cumming is doing is fully legal - owners of townhouses are almost always approved for adding one-two stories on top of their buildings. Witness the Guthrie/Cornell house on Beekman Place, among others.

Danny Underwood-Jones said...

File under 'white people problems'

Alan Jacobs said...

I asked around, and found out that somebody should tell Sarah S that the windows in the hallway are "illegal lot line windows," and that Alan Cumming has a right to build on his property and block them. Oy!

My friend looked it up on the DOB website, and Cumming's plans are approved to turn an existing multiple dwelling into a single family house. He is not only "allowed" to build in front of the lot line windows of 406 e 9, the owner of 406 is required to pay for it, as they are called "illegal lot line windows". It sounds as though they are in the hallway, which is not required to have any windows. If they were in a room of an apartment, and bricking them up caused the only window in a "room" to be lost, that room was not in fact a legal room to begin with based on the location of the window.

http://www.brickunderground.com/blog/2012/09/if_you_dont_know_what_a_lot_line_window_is_you_will_now

Donnie Moder said...

Could she just knock on the door and ask for Alan to speak to her about her gripe rather than broadcasting in the blogasphere, or am I still living in the 20th century? Understand why she is ticked off because she has lost something here that literally hits home and she and her neighbors will notice it every time they come home. She probably would never have dreamed another floor to be added to the over one hundred year old structure next door. But I am guessing she does not have a legal leg to stand on here as commenter, Jacobs outlined. Also, since she is not the owner, she really has no legal standing. And what choice does she have to move if she has a rent stabilized apartment, none?

Scout said...

To keep it real here, Shulman is complaining about HALLWAY windows, not apartment windows. The idea that hallway windows provide light, air, and a view into apartments is ridiculous. I've lived in 15 different buildings since 1979, and never knew anyone who used a building's hallway as living space; New Yorkers keep their doors closed. The idea that her life is somehow diminished by losing windows in the halls on some floors is ludicrous hyperbole.

Michael Diamond said...

I don't think her issue is whether or not it is legal. Her issue is that it wasn't very neighborly.

Unknown said...

Is this issue really about "vanishing New York?" This is not only legal, it is very, very common. I guess because a celebrity is involved makes it more interesting.

I am currently about to lose the windows in both bedrooms and one in the living room because the building next door is building two additional floors. Windows are not typically allowed on the lot line (where one building ends and another begins) due to the fire code, because fire can spread from building to building. But the DOB allows an exception if there is no building abutting yours, and if you use fire-rated safety glass - the kind with chicken-wire reinforcements inside.

He is not stealing anyone's light or view. I think of it this way - I borrowed this light and view for many years and now I have to return it to its owner. It sucks, yes, but it is not going to ruin mine or anyone else's life.