Community groups weigh in on Weir Greenhouse plans

Plans to restore the McGovern-Weir Greenhouse—the only surviving Victorian greenhouse in New York City—continue apace, but Green-Wood Cemetery’s latest proposal to demolish two neighboring structures in order to stabilize the greenhouse portion better has prompted some concern from groups such as the Historic Districts Council and Brooklyn Community Board 7.

While HDC and CB7 expressed delight at the restoration plans, they also expressed concern over demolishing buildings of around the same age as the greenhouse.

“We have concerns. . . about approving the demolition of neighboring structures before a plan for replacement is presented and approved,” wrote HDC. “After all, even no-style buildings in historic districts cannot be demolished without Commission-approved replacement buildings.

“Are the conditions of the additions so dire that stabilization is not an option? That way, the structures could potentially be reused in future plans, plans which are still being drafted,” HDC continued.

CB7’s Land Use Committee and full board unanimously voted in favor of Green-Wood’s plans to stabilize and restore the property. However, according to committee chairperson John Fontillas, the panel’s support was given “with the understanding that we’ll see the design draft” once it is ready, and that the primary focus of restoration should be on the greenhouse itself before the neighboring buildings.

According to Colleen Roche, a spokesperson for Green-Wood, everyone can rest assured that “the Green-Wood team is working closely with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to ensure that its strict requirements are met.

“Since the day it purchased the Weir Greenhouse in 2012, Green-Wood has worked with a remarkable team of architects, engineers and others to lay the groundwork for the massive undertaking ahead [and] at the end of this long process, a magnificent and historic city landmark will be beautifully restored.”.

Final approval is up to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. If approved, the project is estimated to be complete in mid-2015.

The McGovern Weir Greenhouse, built in 1880 and re-designed in 1895 on behalf of florist James Weir before being sold two generations later to the McGovern family, was purchased by Green-Wood in 2012. The plan, said Green-Wood president Richard Moylan, was to rehabilitate and restore the landmarked, but run-down structure to its 19th century glory.

The goal is to transform the structure, located at 25th Street and Fifth Avenue, into a Visitor Center with space for community programs and archive collections. In order to do that, broken glass and rotting wood have to be cleared away, lead abatement conducted, and wrought iron and window glazing repaired and rehabilitated.

Also required is the demolition of two neighboring buildings that are reportedly leaning on the greenhouse. Green-Wood would like to replace them with new buildings. The proposal has not yet been finalized.

The greenhouse is in an advanced state of disrepair and this work will enable the design team to salvage and inventory all of the original remaining pieces of the glazing system and perimeter windows for restoration or replication which will be carried out in a consecutive phase of restoration and rehabilitation work.

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