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Ask an Expert: Renovating in an about-to-be landmarked building

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Q.  I'm renovating my condo and putting in central air, which requires cutting through the exterior wall. The board has approved the work, but my building is in the process of being landmarked, and cutting through the walls would not be an option if it were already landmarked.  My question is, what if the landmark approval process is completed after the work on the exterior walls but before my Certificate of Occupancy is issued? Could I potentially have to undo the work?

A.  Forget about undoing the work--in your situation, you can't even begin without landmarks approval, say our experts.

"If the building is in the process of being landmarked, it is subject to the same Landmarks Preservation Commission requirements as an existing landmark building or a property located in a designated New York City Historic District," says Paul Grissett, the expediting manager at RAND Engineering & Architecture. "Therefore, the building will have to get approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission before the resident can begin the work, even if the building hasn’t been landmarked yet."

All is not lost, however, as your exterior wall work may nevertheless get the go-ahead.  Approval for through-wall installation of central air components (or standalone through-wall a/c units) is doled out on a case-by-case basis, says Grissett.

"Approval is more likely if the wall penetration isn’t being made on a primary or street-facing facade," he explains. The preference, he says, is for it to be "centered under a window with a grille flush mounted to the masonry and finished in a similar fashion." 


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