A Livelier Rooftop Means Privacy Problems for Tribeca Penthouse

Skylight-topped penthouses of 27 North Moore Street face north, above the Ericsson Place side of the building. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Aug. 25, 2015

Plans are afoot to fit out the roof of 27 North Moore Street, the 13-story Tribeca condominium known as the Ice House, with a kids’ play area and places where residents can sunbathe, cook, and hang out.

The views will be great, too—with a certain exception.

The sizable solarium glass ceiling penthouse provides a flood of natural light into the building’s top-floor apartments during the day. But a railing above one of those apartments is so close to the skylight that, at night, it would be easy for wandering eyes to peer down inside.

The building’s solution for that penthouse, a 3,642-square-foot duplex, was a 37-foot-long, six-foot high screen. But because the screen would be a visible addition to a building in the Tribeca West Historic District, it needed the approval of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

And that wasn’t to be.

In his presentation to the commission earlier this month, Gabriel Farrell of Evan C. Lai Landscape Design, argued that the grey screen that his firm designed would blend into the mechanical equipment behind it, and would only rise a couple of feet above the railing in front of it.

“It’s not really meant to be a complete visual screen,” Farrell told the commissioners, noting that it was designed to be partially clear.  “It’s more just to prevent casually being able to look down.”

“Based on the building’s current occupancy,” Farrell added, “we don’t feel people will be hanging out there looking down. We just want to give the owners a little more sense of privacy.”

But not that way, said the commissioners. They voted to approve two rooftop canopies that were also part of the application, and rejected the screen.

“If they want to screen people from looking down they should have blinds,” said Commissioner Michael Goldblum, who called the screen “visible everywhere.” Referring to the rooftop bulkheads and large mechanicals, he said: “It’s taking a building that’s already got a lot of junk on the roof—and I think too much—and it’s just more.”

Another commissioner, Michael Devonshire, agreed.

“If you want to screen off the penthouse,” he said, “put the screen at the top of the skylight.”

The owners of the penthouse, James Flynn and his wife, Kerianne, made news in 2011 when they bought the 3,884-square-foot apartment next door, from Martha Stewart's daughter, Alexis, to combine with theirs. (Three bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 476-square-foot terrace, two dishwashers and two refrigerators.)

Flynn did not return a call for comment about the LPC decision. But the condo board president, David Noonan, told the Trib that another solution will be found.

We’re back to the drawing board with that one single issue,” he said. “Landmarks approved everything else, so we’re happy.