Robert De Niro

Serge Thomann/

Robert De Niro has a message for New York officials: Analyze this!

The raging bull turned up Tuesday at a hearing for the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission to plead for approval of a luxurious penthouse atop his newly opened $43 million Greenwich Hotel in TriBeCa. The new construction has come under fire because it didn't match the original design.

Because of its prime location in the historic district, the seven-story, 88-room boutique hotel faced a rigorous vetting process when it was built in 2004 to ensure its handmade brick architecture meshed well with the neighborhood's cobblestone character.

However, after opening April 1, commission members discovered that the two-bedroom posh rooftop suite was larger by about 1,300 more feet and also had a steeper roof than the 64-year-old actor and his partners proposed.

De Niro told the board the project was a "labor of love."

"We've really worked quite hard on it, and so anything that would be offensive would be offensive to me," the two-time Oscar winner said.

De Niro apologized for the inconsistencies, and urged the Fockers, um, the folks on the preservation board to retroactively approve the penthouse changes without forcing developers to tear it down and start from scratch—an endeavor estimated to cost $1.5 million.

"If there are any minor little mistakes, my apologies for it," De Niro said, "because in any creation there are those things, and we hope that they're not in any way misconstrued as being wrong or that we can do it because we want to do it. We want to do what's right for the neighborhood."

De Niro's got street cred. The goodfella helped revitalize Lower Manhattan after 9/11 by founding the Tribeca Film Festival.

He also has his share of defenders in the neighborhood, most notably fellow star Ed Burns, who has a residence across the street from the hotel with a view overlooking the rooftop and who testified on De Niro's behalf.

"The building is beautiful and, for me as a layperson, architecturally beautiful," Burns said. "There's nothing about what I can see, which is the entire penthouse, that's offensive in any way."

While De Niro and developers obtained OKs for the penthouse expansion from both the Board of Standards and Appeals and the local community board, they did not get a waiver from Preservation Commission, which oversees all construction in a landmarked area, leading to the current imbroglio.

Preservationists carped that the modifications were hardly miniscule, but were major alterations that changed the fundamental nature of the designs submitted to the board.

"It might be understandable that a few mistakes had been made," Nadezhda Williams, a member of the Historic Districts Council. "However, simply put, this is not the penthouse that the commission approved."

No word when the commission will rule on the matter. Its chairman suggested a compromise might be in the offing when he asked architects to consider minor revisions to the penthouse in order to make it more closely match the original design.

De Niro had no further comment on the matter after the hearing.

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