Tag Archives: lower east side

Gouverneur Court

Gouverneur Court is the old Gouverneur Hospital, erected in 1897 to serve immigrants on the Lower East Side. It has been modified several times, including the addition of a fifth floor in 1930. In the 1960s the hospital was converted to a school for special needs children. A botched restoration in the 1980s was repaired in 1992-93. Gouverneur Court is now assisted living housing for low income and special needs residents.

(Gouverneur Court was flooded during Hurricane Sandy, with an estimated $150,000 in damage.)

The building has been wrapped in a cocoon of regulations and financing agreements to prevent conversion to condos.

The property seems well maintained – even the ubiquitous cell phone transmitters have been painted brick red, to blend in better. But the south wing seems to have been restored (or originally built?) with less terra cotta detailing than the north wing. Compare the way that the windows are arched and trimmed.

The building’s South Street facade is the most picturesque, with two wings of tiered, curved, iron rail-enclosed verandahs.

Gouverneur Court Vital Statistics
  • Location: 621 Water Street at Gouverneur Street
  • Year completed: 1897
  • Architect: John Rochester Thomas
  • Floors: 6
  • Style: Renaissance
  • National Register of Historic Places: Oct. 29, 1982
Gouverneur Court Suggested Reading

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Blue is much too young to be a landmark in the historical sense, but it has certainly made its mark in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

The towering (in the local context) cantilevered glass box, with its Mondrian-esque grid of blue and black, stands out like the proverbial sore thumb against the Lower East Side’s historic tenements (the Tenement Museum is three blocks away). Not long after the controversial apartments went up, New York City Council rezoned the East Village and Lower East Side, limiting building heights to preserve “neighborhood scale and character.”

The architect – charged, after all, with the task of creating a profitable building – said the structure was the logical result of maximizing square footage within the separate requirements of two lots. The cantilevered south section (103 Norfolk Street) rises over a commercial zone lot; the north section (105 Norfolk Street) is on a residential zone lot.

You must admit it’s an arresting design from any angle, even on a cloudy day.

Blue Vital Statistics
Blue Recommended Reading

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Switch Building

Switch Building is an attempt to be “cool” yet stay in character with the neighborhood. So while 109 Norfolk has the same building line and approximate height as 111 Norfolk, Switch Building has a steel facade as opposed to brick, with windows on alternating floors angled counter to each other like oversized rocker switches (hence the name).

Some time after plans were drawn and construction started, the “neighborhood” constraint seems to have disappeared – the towering Blue condominiums next door certainly shattered that concept. One wonders what nArchitects would have planned without that constraint.

Another requirement of the building permit was that there be ground floor “community access” space, so a two-story (ground floor and basement) art gallery was included in the plan.

Above the gallery are four floor-through apartments with rear balconies (staggered, so each balcony gets maximum sun); a duplex penthouse apartment is above that.

Switch Building Vital Statistics
Switch Building Recommended Reading

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