“Very small luncheons” have been hosted all this week at 421 6th Street, according to two doormen in suits and ties who materialized through the ambiguous metal doors of the historic building Wednesday afternoon. The former Con Edison substation between Avenue A and First Avenue has come a long way from its humble roots and will host a private event Friday called “Experience Dom Perignon Kingdom,” where the champagne brand will unveil its 2004 Rose Vintage. While all this may sound very fancy for the East Village, on the 7th Street side of the lot a less-then-chic CAT generator has been chugging away for days (presumably to power said luncheons), and some locals expressed their frustration with the noise at the Community Board 3 meeting Wednesday night.
The old Con Ed substation, used as a studio by artist Walter de Maria until he died in 2013, was purchased last year by billionaire businessman Peter M. Brant for a reported $27 million. According to members of the CB3 Landmarks Committee, the 6th Street building will serve as an extension of the Brant Foundation Art Study Center, designed by Richard Gluckman and located in Greenwich, Connecticut.
According to its website the Center’s mission to promote education and appreciation of contemporary art and design by making works available to institutions and individuals for scholarly study and examination. It’s had solo exhibits of artists like Julian Schnabel and Andy Warhol; the Connecticut gallery’s lawn is home to a 40-foot-tall puppy sculpture by Jeff Koons. But like the Greenwich original, the East Village location will host private viewings by appointment only (though it should give Peter Jr. a good excuse to galavant about the city with what may or may not be a Trapper Keeper).
The plans for renovations were presented by Gluckman Mayner Architects at a meeting of CB3’s Landmarks Committee earlier this month. Their artist renderings show modest changes that preserve the façade and neoclassical character of the building, which was built in 1920.
The rooftop will be utilized, and a small structure behind the main building will be torn down to make way for a new garden with trees and shrubs; the outdoor area will be closed off to the public, but it’s always been a private space.
It all seems pretty unobjectionable on paper, but according to Krystyna Piorkowska, local landlord and parishioner at the nearby Saint Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Roman Catholic Church, the generators being used to power the events run all day, from seven in the morning until midnight, keeping the neighborhood awake and disturbing mass.
“I cannot sleep, I cannot read, I cannot concentrate,” said Assistant Pastor Piotr Bednarski. Piorkowska agreed, saying the generators were running so loudly on Sunday that despite there being two sets of doors in the church mass was interrupted. “There was no outreach to us,” she said, adding that she is more concerned about events occurring at the space regularly in the future than this weekend’s single event.
Landmarks Committee Chairperson Linda Jones said there was really nothing the committee could do because the architects presented a “meticulous” plan; they could just “make life harder” for them by kicking the issue back to the committee for further discussion, thereby delaying approval from the NYC Landmarks Preservation Committee (which is what the community board ultimately voted to do).
Jones stressed that the Landmarks Committee has no purview over issues such as noise or parking, but she told Bedford + Bowery that if the angry neighbors had come to the Landmarks Committee meeting then they would at least have had the opportunity to speak with the design firm face to face and make themselves heard. Now that Gluckman Mayner will have to present a second time, community members will have their chance at the next CB3 Landmarks Committee meeting April 21.