Defending Historic Preservation in New York City

Harrison Street

Historic preservation as both a strategy and as a philosophy is under attack as never before.

Although community advocates have achieved some big successes in recent years by gaining long-sought landmark designations and thwarting (or at least modifying) destructive proposals to historic buildings, the Real Estate Board of New York (“REBNY”), the principal lobbyist for organized real estate, has been relentless in its campaign to undermine the Landmarks Law and all community preservation efforts.

Emboldened by years of record growth, REBNY is accusing preservation efforts of driving up housing costs, endangering affordable housing, stopping job creation and economic growth, protecting worthless buildings and penalizing home and business owners with costly fees and delays. REBNY even pursued a serious lobbying effort to transform and weaken the Landmarks Law through a series of bills which would transform how the Landmarks Preservation Commission designates and regulates historic properties. To hear them tell it, landmark designation transforms New York into a lifeless museum city with a “look but don’t touch” mentality.

The Historic Districts Council (“HDC”) feels that nothing could be further from the truth. Preservation practices empower communities, celebrate our history, drive economic growth and sustain development efforts. Preservation enhances our streetscapes, nurtures tourism, encourages investment and employs local labor. It is a popular, populist movement driven by regular New Yorkers who value their homes and their city.

HDC works with community groups throughout the five boroughs on efforts to save, preserve and enhance the special character of New York’s historic neighborhoods. We work with communities from areas as different as the Upper West Side and Bedford-Stuyvesant on the shared goal of empowering the community to have a voice in determining their own future. These two communities are ones whose efforts we honored at the Grassroots Preservation Awards and whose successes have been targeted as “over-reaching” by the real estate lobby.

The threat to preservation laws and historic buildings is still very real. HDC will continue counter arguing REBNY as long as they continue to release studies based on lies  and misconceptions. Through HDC’s mobilization and education we have been able to keep the preservation community strong, but we will never be as loud as REBNY. We need all the support of our neighborhood partners, history lovers, and lovers of New York.

Additional Resources:

Preservation and Job Creation




 HDC continues to vigilantly defend New York City’s Landmarks Law and promotes efforts to strengthen protections for historic buildings. This section will be updated regularly with current events regarding this issue.

View All

A list of HDC’s upcoming events as well as our annual programs, and breaking preservation news.



HDC is always busy, view our Past Events page to see what other evens we’ve held.




Re:Neighborhood Values: NY Post, July 5, 2014

Demolition freeze may cover 80% of the city: Crains, April 14, 2014

The Historic Districts Council says the city’s historic districts are not to blame for the shortage of affordable housing: Daily News, February 26, 2014

Landlords take aim at rampant landmarking: Crains New York,July 11, 2013

Landmark advocates recall Alamo-like efforts: Chelsea Now, November 3, 2012

New York Landmark Status Misused, Says Group Preservationists say New York’s history under attack:Epoch Times, June 21, 2012

Preservationists Issue Rallying Cry, Prepare to Save Landmarks Law from Big Real Estate: New York Observer, June 14th, 2012

HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on October 16, 2018

HDC regularly reviews every public proposal affecting Individual Landmarks and buildings within Historic Districts in New York City, and when needed, we comment on them. Our testimony for the latest items to be presented at the Landmarks Preservation Commission is below.

Item 1

37-22 79th Street – Jackson Heights Historic District


An Anglo-American Garden Home style house designed by Benjamin Dreisler, Jr. and built in 1926. Application is to alter the front façade, install a fence and alter the areaway.

Given the many grandfathered altered front yard conditions in this district, we do not find the installation of a fence objectionable. However, we believe the proposed fence should be lowered to match the height of its neighbor to the north.

Item 2

200 Guernsey Street – Greenpoint Historic District


An Italianate style rowhouse built in 1865. Application is to construct a rear yard addition.

While we appreciate the modest scale of this addition, the project is a missed opportunity in terms of design, and would be an insensitive alteration to a lovely house. The rear windows are inconsistent with the proportions of the building, and the addition has a bunker-like appearance. We believe this proposal should be completely redesigned to be more consistent with the existing architecture of the building.

Item 3

119 Congress Street – Cobble Hill Historic District


An Italianate style rowhouse designed by Thomas Wheeler and built in 1852-55. Application is to construct rear yard and rooftop additions.

These additions are inappropriate and without precedent- this block has uniform one-story rear additions, and there no existing roof additions on this row. The additions to the townhouses across the street affected buildings that had undergone severe modifications and changes in use and their example should not be drawn from here. At the rear elevation of the proposal, there is no design consistency from floor to floor. We ask the LPC to reject this project as proposed.

Item 4

335 Hoyt Street – Carroll Gardens Historic District


A neo-Grec style rowhouse designed by William Corbett and built in 1874. Application is to replace the sidewalk.

There is no compelling reason not to replace existing bluestone in kind- new and salvaged bluestone is readily available, and the difference in cost would be negligible. We also understand that the work will trigger the need to install a tree bed, which will further reduce the amount of replacement bluestone to be installed.

Item 5

75 Bennet Street – Individual Landmark


A Classical Revival style library building designed by Carrère & Hastings and built in 1904- 1905, with a rear addition built in 1938-1939. Application is to install a barrier-free access ramp, alter the steps and front yard, and replace windows.

The proposed work is certainly of a net benefit to the library building and its patrons, and we are pleased to see the restoration of masonry, windows and dormers, and the removal of security grilles. The only revision we would like to see is that paneled doors be used at the first floor east door and at the cellar west door, rather than the blank doors proposed.

This project goes to show that necessary renovations and upgrades can be implemented on historic library structures to the benefit of all and seemingly without undue capital burden. Recently, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services objected to HDC’s request to nominate a number of Carnegie libraries to the National Register of Historic Places, fearing that was a precursor to local landmark designation, which was implied to be an onerous condition. This seeming institutional antipathy towards LPC regulations is concerning to say the least, and we are hopeful that proposals such as this one spark a reconsideration of this attitude amongst agency leadership.

Item 6

695 Sixth Avenue – Ladies’ Mile Historic District


A Commercial Palace style department store built in phases between 1889 and 1911 and designed by a series of architecture firms, including William Schickel & Co., Buchman & Deisler, Buchman & Fox, and Taylor & Levi.Application is to install a barrier-free access ramp.

HDC recommends that diamond plate be used rather than open-mesh aluminum on the ramp’s platform, for consistency with the diamond plate in front of the entrance.

Item 8

40 West 42nd Street – Scenic Landmark


A French Classical style park designed by Lusby Simpson and built in 1934, and reconstructed and partially redesigned by Hanna/Olin in 1988-91. Application is to alter an entrance, pathway and planting bed to provide barrier-free access.

This project’s intention is laudable, and it is generally sensitively designed. We find the fence to be not quite resolved, and think that perhaps if the ironwork turned the corner, toward the small seating area, it would make the intervention less apparent, and make the fence better integrated into the design and less of a free-standing element.

Item 9

227 Riverside Drive – Riverside – West End Historic District


A neo-Renaissance style apartment building designed by John Woolley and built In 1897-98. Application is to legalize the installation of a barrier-free access ramp without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

There is no need to eliminate the forward entrance and the steps to advance accessibility. HDC asks that the site be returned to its condition before the illegal work, and a sensitive side ramp be designed, possibly incorporating the plinth blocks.

Item 10

720 West End Avenue – Riverside – West End Extension II Historic District


A Renaissance Revival style apartment hotel designed by Emery Roth and built in 1926-27. Application is to construct rear yard and rooftop additions and bulkheads, modify and create masonry openings, excavate a portion of the rear yard, and construct a new building on a portion of the lot.

The proposed rooftop addition is visible over the primary and other façades, and from many different vantages. We believe its footprint should be reduced and/or its height lowered to minimize visibility. The building currently and historically boasts limestone only at the base, where it is encountered by pedestrians, while utilizing terra cotta on the upper stories. We would ask that the applicants consider using terra cotta on the penthouse to preserve this arrangement and to better relate to the cornice.

Join HDC for the Landmarks Lion Award

Posted by on Monday, October 15, 2018 · Leave a Comment 

Our three honorees have preserved or protected nearly every piece of architectural terra cotta around the city – from the Guastavino ceiling of the Oyster Bar to the terra cotta of the Woolworth Tower.  Led by Susan Tunick, Friends of Terra Cotta has been the leading organization promoting education and research in the preservation of architectural terra cotta since 1981.  Boston Valley Terra Cotta and Gladding, McBean are the two foremost architectural terra cotta manufacturers in the nation, if not the world. In celebrating these three organizations, HDC hopes to showcase the great public artistry of architecture.

Purchase Tickets

Photo Credit:  Chris Payne, Esto Photography

Category: Event, Featured, landmark lion · Tags:

HDC Testimony on Revised LPC Rules Change

Posted by on Thursday, October 11, 2018 · Leave a Comment 

LPC Rules Public Hearing

Tuesday, October 16th (afternoon, time tbd)

Landmarks Preservation Commission, 9th floor, One Centre Street (the Municipal Building)


Over the course of 2018, HDC and our partner organizations met with LPC staff to discuss the agency’s proposal for a Rules change. The LPC’s Rules dictate how the agency regulates landmarked properties. Specifically, the Rules determine what types of work receive staff level permits or require a Certificate of Appropriateness (C of A), a special permit which is vetted by the public and requires a hearing before LPC Commissioners.

HDC reviews every C of A in every borough, almost every week. Follow our blog, HDC@LPC, to see various examples of C of As that are applied for. Our testimony on the newly revised LPC Rules is below, and we will be testifying before the full Commission.

Statement of the Historic Districts Council

RL – Rule Citywide


The Historic Districts Council (HDC) acknowledges and thanks the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) for meeting with our organization throughout this process and for this subsequent opportunity for public testimony on the revised Rule changes. HDC and community groups citywide advocated for a second Public Hearing, and the LPC’s obliging to this matter is appreciated and makes for a better public process. Since the initial hearing in March 2018, crucial and positive changes to the Rules include the elimination of codifying language related to “non-contributing” buildings, and much less permissive guidelines for replacement materials on properties and sidewalk features, including the retention of vault lights. It is evident that the LPC carefully considered the comments of HDC and our partner organizations, and has substantially revised the Rules to reflect the concerns of preservation advocates, community boards, and the New York State Historic Preservation Office.

Regarding the proposed Rules, HDC has a few comments and suggestions we ask the Commission to consider, the first being the staff approval of removal and replacement of wooden windows with substitute materials:

Page 58 ii (B) “At small residential and commercial buildings in historic districts, straight- and archheaded, double-hung wood windows for which the historic condition had no divided lights (without muntins) may be replaced with windows of a different material, including aluminum and fiberglass, but not including vinyl, provided the historic wood brickmolds are retained or replicated in wood, aluminum or fiberglass; the new windows are installed in the same plane as the historic window; and the window and brickmolds have a matching finish that replicates the historic finish.”

Given the age of our city’s building stock, one-over-one wooden windows are prolific, historic fabric. Allowing staff-level removal of wooden windows disincentivizes the retention, repair and/or replacement with wood, and green-lights wholesale removal with inferior materials. There is substantial research about the better performance and longer life spans of wooden windows (if maintained properly) as compared with replacement materials like aluminum and vinyl. Damaged wooden windows can be repaired and salvaged to achieve this longevity. Unless in cases where LPC staff has determined that the wood is beyond repair, LPC should encourage applicants to replace historic windows with their original material, as this Rule will affect a majority of buildings in historic districts.

Regarding rear yard additions:

• Page 71 (5) A majority of the buildings of a similar type that share the open space within the interior of the block, within the historic district, feature rear yard additions or els;

Language regarding staff-level permits for rear yard additions should be clarified to distinguish between “els”, which typically date to the time of the original construction and are historic features, and “rear yard additions”, which are typically contemporary additions completed many years later. Further, clarification by staff of whether the existing rear yard additions within the interior of a block, which serve as “the majority”, are LPC-approved additions or constructed prior to designation should be determined. This context must be considered prior to issuing a permit for a staff-level addition.

Regarding excavation:

Page 72 §2-16 Excavation. (a) Introduction. Excavation on landmark sites or within historic districts must comply with all requirements of the Department of Buildings. The purpose of this section is to ensure that applicants demonstrate they have an understanding of the physical and structural conditions of the building and, where relevant, adjacent buildings, and to protect these buildings.

HDC is pleased that the LPC now retains a structural engineer to aid the staff in excavation permits. In the current real estate market, excavations are a common alteration to buildings to maximize square footage. This practice, however, has an impact on adjacent buildings, and HDC suggests to the Commission that adjacent buildings are always relevant in terms of excavation, not “where relevant”. Freestanding buildings are a rare exception of landmarked properties in New York, and a substantial amount of excavation work typically affects properties that are in historic districts and usually party-walled. The Commission should consider codifying a policy in the Rules for the protection of adjacent buildings in historic districts near excavation sites, and if possible, provide notification to property owners adjacent to this work. HDC receives many inquiries about excavation work from neighboring property owners, often who are unaware of their neighbors’ excavation. Their notification only commences after cracks or other problems occur in their adjacent properties.

Regarding paving regulation:

Page 91: Historic Districts Having Continued Sidewalk Regulation

Out of 6,000 miles of streets in New York City, only 15 miles of Belgian block streets remain, and much less so is protected as part of historic districts. As such, the section regarding sidewalk regulation should be expanded to codify the treatment of Belgian blocks as protected features in historic districts. Just as the Rules includes an appendix of historic districts where historic paving materials are typical, LPC should include historic districts characterized by Belgian block street beds and sidewalks. A few of these areas include DUMBO; Greenwich Village; the South Street Seaport; TriBeCa; Soho; Noho; and Gansevoort. Rules for how Belgian blocks are removed or replaced in districts that have them should be codified so that this is transparent to the public, applicants, and contractors. As LPC staff is aware, this historic paving material is being removed at an alarming rate.

Finally, HDC has one suggestion to add to the Summons section:

Page 129, Appendix A: Summons 25-322 (b)

In addition to Summons 25-322(b) which is “Failing to notify lessee of Landmark status in Commercial space”, HDC suggests adding an additional summons for residential space, such as “Failing to notify lessee of Landmark status in Residential space” to the list of Violations Descriptions. In a city of majority renters, it is good public policy to elevate landmark status into the public consciousness as much as possible.

Category: Uncategorized · Tags:

Explore Terra Cotta NYC

Posted by on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 · Leave a Comment 

Downtown Terra-Cotta Tour

Sunday, October 21, 2018

11 a.m.

Before New York’s tallest towers were sheathed in glass, they were clad in clay. Terra-Cotta, or “fired earth,” is an ancient building material made of baked clay, that helped make New York a Modern city. At the turn of the 20th century, terra-cotta became a sought-after fire-proof skin for the steel skeletons of the city’s tallest buildings. Though you’ll find it on some of New York’s most iconic structures, including the Flatiron Building, The Woolworth Building, and the Plaza Hotel, terra-cotta often hides in plain sight, mimicking other materials like granite or carved wood. On this tour led by Lucie Levine of Lower Manhattan, we’ll uncover some of city’s earliest terra-cotta structures, and find out how New York got fired up about fired earth. Along the way, we’ll see the tallest terra-cotta structure in the world, find out how the nephews of Samuel Morse commissioned the city’s earliest surviving “fireproof” sky-scraper, and learn how this stunningly versatile material moved from monochrome to multi-colored, and helped shift the city from Beaux-Arts beauty to Art Deco splendor!

$25 / $30

$50 for both tours



Midtown-Central Park South Terra-Cotta Tour

Saturday, October 27, 2018

11 a.m.

Terra-Cotta, or “fired earth” is the clay chameleon of the concrete jungle: it can mimic stone or sport a rainbow of Technicolor glazes. Both light-weight and highly malleable, its ideal for both slim curtain walls and ornate sculptural ornaments. By the turn of the 20th century, many of the city’s most eminent architects, including Cass Gilbert, Henry Hardenbergh, George B. Post and Ely Jacques Khan, worked in terra-cotta, and the clay faced some of the city’s most iconic facades, including the Flatiron Building, the Woolworth Building and the Plaza Hotel. On this tour led by Lucie Levine of Midtown Manhattan, we’ll see the clay chameleon in some of its most beautiful and diverse forms, from a Technicolor Moorish-Revival Temple to a French Renaissance Chateau to an Italian Mannerist school. Along the way, stop by New York’s most ornate apartment building, check out one of the city’s earliest co-ops and find-out how the New York’s most illustrious theater and finest hotel were clad in clay produced right here in the five boroughs!

$25 / $30

$50 for both tours



Category: Featured, Walking Tour · Tags:

HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on October 9, 2018

Posted by on Friday, October 5, 2018 · Leave a Comment 

HDC regularly reviews every public proposal affecting Individual Landmarks and buildings within Historic Districts in New York City, and when needed, we comment on them. Our testimony for the latest items to be presented at the Landmarks Preservation Commission is below.

Item 1

991 St. John’s Place – Crown Heights North II Historic District


A neo-Classical style school building designed by Helmle & Corbett and built in c. 1921 and an Early Christian Revival style church building designed by Frank J. Helmle and built in 1915-1916. Application is to construct rooftop and side additions, install a ramp, and alter the primary façade of the school building.

HDC is pleased that the Commission included this school building within the Crown Heights North II Historic District, as opposed to carving it out or relegating it to a “no style.” It is a distinctive building, clearly designed to harmonize with the church, and its inclusion as a landmark allows the public and the Commission to comment and guide its adaptive reuse, which is a wonderful opportunity.

Overall, the proposed enlargement is of the same vocabulary of the host building and the design is successful. HDC is pleased that this project will result in sorely needed restorative work for this century old building as well. The issues are with the bulk, specifically with the height. The top floor of the proposed addition should be eliminated, and efforts should be made to ease the transition of height between the rowhouse scale to the west and the tall new construction which fills in the lot. The rowhouses adjacent to the site are only two stories high, and the stark change in height immediately next to them is uncomfortable, and should be mediated better.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 2

236 Fifth Avenue – Madison Square North Historic District


A Beaux Arts-style loft building designed by Buchman & Fox and built in 1906-1907. Application is to install a painted wall mural.

This is a beautiful composition which pays homage to the Tenderloin District and is art for art’s sake—no advertising. It is clear that the artist researched and thoughtfully incorporated historic references into a contemporary work, and the parasol-adorned woman herself is a nod to Fifth Avenue of yesteryear. HDC is curious about the name on the artwork, however, which reads “Nomad.” Nomad is actually a distinct area north of the Madison Square North Historic District, best known to the Commission as the blocks that advocates have unsuccessfully submitted for landmarking. Coincidentally, Hatfield House, a Beaux-Arts beauty by the same architect as this building, is imminently threatened with demolition in Nomad as we speak. HDC does not wish to critique the artist’s work, only to comment on the technicality of the neighborhood name, which people in New York have been known to be sensitive about.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 4

91 Central Park West – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District


A neo-Renaissance style apartment building with Beaux Arts style elements designed by Schwartz & Gross and built in 1928-29. Application is to amend Certificate of Appropriateness 19-09891 to replace windows.

This application should be denied. The adjustments to the glazing already approved for a Certificate of Appropriateness was an extremely fair compromise that preserved the artwork glazing while also allowing transparency with clear glass. These windows appear original, and were designed to be harmonious with each other and for the space. These windows are historic works of art that are an elegant and masterful termination of the building–they should not be discarded. The most distasteful part of this application is that they are proposed to be removed to help facilitate a future sale of this Central Park West penthouse. HDC is of the mind that it is extremely possible that a future buyer will actually adore these historic features, and choose to live here in part because of them. This proposal takes something extraordinary and relegates it to the banal–and for no one–as this unit is vacant. Divided lights do not obstruct views of the park–ask any of the steel-windowed neighboring buildings of this same era that line the park. Finally, the best view of the park from this apartment is undoubtedly outside, from its wrap-around balcony, which offers a private panoramic experience.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags:

Six to Celebrate Tours – Fall 2018

Posted by on Thursday, October 4, 2018 · 3 Comments 

Saturdays- Sept. 8 – Atlantic Avenue Sept. 22 – Arthur Avenue | Sept. 29 – Corona-East Elmhurst

Fall Six to Celebrate Tour Schedule

All tours are  $20 for Friends of HDC / Seniors and $30 General Admission, except where noted

All tours run approximately two hours except where noted.

Stuyvesant Square (Cultural Landmarks)

Saturday, October 20, 2018


Join 6sqft Senior Editor Dana Schulz for a look at Stuyvesant Square, a charming neighborhood that was one of the early 20th century’s most fashionable addresses, with Greek Revival townhouses surrounding the beautifully landscaped public spaces. Stops will include the site of NYC’s very first apartment building, one of the early 20th-century’s largest maternity hospitals, the former Stuyvesant high school, and several park monuments.


Elmhurst, Queens: Part 2

Saturday, October 20, 2018


Join the Elmhurst History & Cemeteries Preservation Society for this in-depth look at Elmhurst, Queens, which picks up where their last tour (this past June) left off.  This walking tour will include parts of the neighborhood and historic sites not seen on the first tour. Continue to discover Elmhurst’s beginnings as a Dutch & English settlement called Middleburgh (366 years ago), its ties to the American Revolution, its transformation into the town of Newtown, then Elmhurst, and see the multi-cultural community it is today. The tour will be led by lifelong Elmhurst residents and members of the newly-formed nonprofit organization Elmhurst History & Cemeteries Preservation Society. The tour will be covering a range of historic sites, fun facts, pop culture, local culture and some of the organization’s preservation initiatives in the community.

* Please note the Elmhurst tour is expected to run three hours


Category: Featured, Six to Celebrate · Tags:

HDC’s Preservation School | Fall 2018

Posted by on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 · Leave a Comment 

October 3 October 11 |  October 16 |  October 23 

These four 60-minute sessions will begin at 6:00PM on weekday evenings in October 2018 at the

Neighborhood Preservation Center, 232 East 11th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues).

Classes are $15 each or $50 for all four



Wednesday, October 3:                                  Preservation Tools for NYC

This introductory course will provide an overview of the regulations and funding mechanisms (both at the City and State levels) that exist to protect historic resources in New York City. The course will also outline the various organizations and entities that work to uphold and strengthen these mechanisms.

(Instructor: Simeon Bankoff)

Wednesday, October 11
:                               NYC Architectural Styles: 53rd & Modern

NYC contains a wealth of historic architecture in a vast array of typologies and styles spanning generations. While previous iterations of the NYC Architectural Styles course have focused on rowhouse styles, this season’s course will focus on Modernism, explored through the lens of one particularly rich thoroughfare: 53rd Street, river to river. (Instructor: Sean Khorsandi)



Tuesday, October 16:                               Overview of NYC Building Materials: Terra Cotta

In this season’s course on Building Materials commonly found in NYC, instructor Daniel Allen (HDC Board President) will focus on a ubiquitous material found across the ages and across the boroughs: terra cotta. The session will explain how this material is employed (past and present), how to identify it, and “scratch the surface” on its maintenance and conservation. (Instructor: Daniel Allen)



Tuesday,October 23:                               How to Research NYC Buildings: Cultural Significance

This course will delve into tools and strategies for researching buildings in NYC, including various repositories and document types. Learn the basics of how to investigate the origins and stories behind historic properties. This season’s course will focus on resources for determining a building’s cultural, as well as architectural, significance. (Instructor: Kerri Culhane)


Category: Featured, Program & Events · Tags:

HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on October 2, 2018

Posted by on Monday, October 1, 2018 · Leave a Comment 

HDC regularly reviews every public proposal affecting Individual Landmarks and buildings within Historic Districts in New York City, and when needed, we comment on them. Our testimony for the latest items to be presented at the Landmarks Preservation Commission is below.

PUBLIC MEETING ITEM (Written testimony only)


60 Norfolk Street – Beth Hamerdash Hagodol Synagogue – Individual Landmark


A modified Gothic Revival style synagogue built in 1850 and altered in 1885. Application is to demolish more portions of the building and integrate the remaining structure into a new modern style apartment building.

HDC urges the Commission to object to the further modifications of what remains of the synagogue. In summer 2017, the applicant desired to demolish the entire building out right. At the public hearing for its demolition application, Commissioners were unanimously firm in their instructions to the applicant to salvage as much as possible of this building to the extent of safety. The parts of the building that could be saved, were. Now, the applicant wishes to deliberately demolish portions of the building that they were instructed to retain, a request which should be unequivocally denied.

LPC stipulated at the public hearing that any finished surfaces and architectural detail that could be salvaged should remain. Some stabilized sections retain significant details, including a portion of one tower with an arched window with molding and tracery, and a formal entry staircase. As proposed, each of these significant remaining features would be demolished by the applicant.

This proposal serves a future building for this site, not the existing one. The applicant should work around the existing structure instead of treating it like an impediment. Despite this building’s sad past, it remains an individual landmark and is an important building, designated early in the Commission’s life in 1967.

In existing conditions, the building’s walls and footprint are legible and communicate its former life. HDC implores the LPC to require the applicant to maintain what remains and deny any further destruction to this edifice.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Certificate of Appropriateness Items

Item 1

283 St. Paul’s Avenue – Stapleton Heights Historic District


A neo-Colonial style free-standing house designed by Charles B. Heweker and built in 1913 Application is to legalize the demolition of a garage and modifications to bay windowswithout Landmarks Preservation Commission permits.

This is a handsome building in the Stapleton Heights historic district, and while we are not concerned about the loss of the garage, the modifications to the windows are unfortunate and should not be legalized.

LPC determination: Approved

Items 2 & 3

34-12 36th Street –Paramount Studios, Building No. 1- Individual Landmark


A modified Classical style movie studio building designed by the Fleischman Construction Company and built in 1919-21. Application is to establish a Master Plan governing seasonal installations.

Application is to legalize the installation of awnings, lighting, fencing, and an outdoor bar without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

HDC finds the proposal to be an appealing means of activating the porte-cochere, and we are pleased that most of the interventions are confined to a utilitarian corner. We do object to the fence around the building’s historic main entrance as detrimental to the character of this individual landmark. We believe planters would serve the applicant’s purposes while retaining some of the open welcoming character of the entrance to this historic studio building.

LPC determination: Laid over

Item 4

119 Hudson Street – TriBeCa West Historic District


A Romanesque Revival style warehouse building designed by Thomas R. Jackson and built in 1888-89. Application is to install signage.

If these discreet little signs are the future of designer flagship advertising, it is a terrific direction to move in. These sleek signs allow the flourished cast-iron to sing, and the studies regarding historic precedents for signage on columns was particularly interesting and well done.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 5

12-14 Minetta Street – South Village Historic District


A Greek Revival style townhouse with alterations built c. 1847-8. Application is to legalize replacement of windows without permit(s), and to install a window security grille and stoop gates.

HDC understands the emergency of a broken window in a City like New York. However, the Landmarks Commission has provisions for temporary solutions under these circumstances until the problem is addressed. The illegal window appears to be custom-manufactured for this opening, which is a lot of effort for work without permits. Had the applicant contacted LPC at the beginning of the issue, time and money could have been saved. All of that being said, the extruded aluminum window’s muntins are much too thick. This large window is a prominent feature of the building and the security grille proposed on top of it further clutters the facade. The security grille and gate should be eliminated from the proposal, and the window would fare much better if its profiles were correct and it was made of rolled steel.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 8

483 Broadway – SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District


A Classical style store and loft building designed by Robert Mook and built in 1869-70. Application is to modify the storefront entrance and install signage.

HDC applauds the choice to remove the transom, which re-exposes the Corinthian cast-iron columns back to the surface of the façade. The corporate branding, however, is a bit overkill. The TJ-Maxx logo appears six times within the storefront, and efforts should be made to minimize this signage. Additionally, we question the color choice on the new storefront doors; the proposed dark color is at ungainly odds with the light palette of the restored storefront.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 13

485-487 Tompkins Avenue – Bedford Stuyvesant/Expanded Stuyvesant Heights Historic District


A two-story utilitarian commercial building built in 1949-1950. Application is to demolish the existing building and construct a new building.

The proposed new building attempts to evoke the two 1888 buildings that were combined and altered to create the existing utilitarian structure, but falls short. The bifurcated façade we find to be dishonest, and believe it should read clearly as a single unified façade. Its halfhearted historicism is undercut by the lack of an entrance, or anything recalling an entrance, on the northernmost “façade.” HDC also finds the two-story penthouse excessive and out of scale.

Though the secondary façade may be concealed at some point by new construction on the adjacent lot, it will be highly visible in the immediate future, and we would like to see a considered design and better materials applied to it.

Though the existing building is identified as utilitarian, it has been part of the community for over half a century as an active storefront. It is a solid building whose honest, austere design could be incorporated into something new.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 14

949 St. John’s Place – Crown Heights North Historic District


A Renaissance Revival style rowhouse designed by Federick Hine and built c. 1909. Application is to demolish a bay window and construct a rear yard addition.

Though the presentation material demonstrates the deteriorated condition of the bay, it is made of wood and sheet metal and can be fairly easily restored.

We note that in the aerial photographs provided by the applicant, there are five undisturbed rear bays and five undisturbed rear els, and this project would mar this intact pattern on the block’s interior.

HDC recommends that if the bay cannot be retained and an extension is approved for construction at this site, that the bay window be reconstructed and retained within the new façade.

LPC determination: Approved



Category: HDC@LPC · Tags:

HDC@LPC- Testimony for Hearing on September 25, 2018

Posted by on Monday, September 24, 2018 · Leave a Comment 

The Historic Districts Council (HDC) reviews every public proposal affecting New York City’s landmarks and historic districts and provides testimony to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) whenever it is needed. Please continue reading for our testimony regarding the latest items under consideration by the Commission. We invite you to visit the HDC@LPC blog for an archive containing all of our past testimony.
Item 2

21-26 45th Avenue – Hunters Point Historic District


A neo-Grec style rowhouse built in 1886. Application is to construct a rear yard addition, modify masonry openings, and replace windows.

The Historic Districts Council objects to the atypical widening of the opening on the third floor at the rear to create a door, and we find the bulkhead excessively large and out-of-proportion. Though this proposal is cleverly designed, this is a small-scale building, and we ask the Commission to ensure that its essential character is not altered.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 3

29-37 Jay Street – DUMBO Historic District


A warehouse built in 1975-1977. Application is to demolish the existing building and construct a new building.

HDC generally finds the plan for the new building at this site appropriate, and that it will fit in well with the hodge-podge industrial nature of the corner. We believe that GRFC is used well here in terms of design, though request that the Commission consider how it will age, and the patina it will acquire.

Our concerns lie with the historic Belgian block and rail tracks, which although are a protected feature of the historic district, are constantly disappearing. We understand that removal of the Belgian block paving has already begun, rendering images of existing conditions in the presentation materials obsolete. We ask that the LPC determine that what has already been removed is properly stored, and that, going forward, the safe removal of these materials, and their appropriate storage and re-use is monitored and documented.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 5

543 11th Street – Park Slope Extension Historic District


A Romanesque Revival style flats building built 1891-93. Application is to construct rooftop and rear yard additions

HDC strongly objects to the work at the rear, which completely alters the character of the historic building. No design consideration has been given to the rear façade, and its materials and fenestration are unacceptable. The extension on the third floor is totally inappropriate, as, at the very least, the rear cornice line should be maintained. It is difficult to evaluate the penthouse without a mock up, but it appears to be oversized in its height.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 6

380 Sterling Place – Prospect Heights Historic District


A Renaissance Revival/Romanesque Revival style rowhouse designed by Benjamin Driesler and built c. 1901 Application is to alter the rear extension.

There is insufficient information in the presentation materials to evaluate this proposal. Research should done to determine the building’s historic profile, and the rear bump-out should probed to determine its age. It is a significant, designed architectural feature, and its demolition should not be approved without proper consideration of its historic context.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 7

416-424 Washington Street – TriBeCa North Historic District


A Utilitarian, Romanesque Revival style warehouse designed by Thomas R. Jackson and built in 1882. Application is to legalize the installation of a barrier-free access lift without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s) and to legalize alterations to the marquee performed in non-compliance with Certificate of No Effect 17-1975.

HDC recommends that the LPC not legalize the access ramp, and mandate that the owners pursue corrective work.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 9

246 West 12th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District


A rowhouse designed by Reuben R. Wood and built in 1852. Application is to replace windows, lintels and a door, modify the areaway, construct a rooftop addition, modify a rear yard addition, and perform excavation.

HDC would prefer to see brick chimneys, rather than flues, used in this project if the exhaust systems must be visible, and that the rooftop bulkhead be given a slanted roof to minimize visibility or moved to the rear. At the rear, we find that the design is not entirely resolved, and its details and ratio of masonry to glazing needs further consideration.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 10

159 Bleecker Street – South Village Historic District


An Arts and Crafts style theater building designed by Samuel Levingson and built in 1917-
1918, with alterations designed by Eugene K. Schafer and completed in 2004-2007. Application is to replace storefront infill and alter the marquee.

Though one could argue that the horses are already out of the barn, as this building that once housed the Circle in the Square Theater has already undergone significant and regrettable contemporary interventions, we believe this proposal should be entirely re-thought and redesigned. The design is ill-considered, the materials are inappropriate, and the proposal should be denied.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 14

14 Henderson Place – Henderson Place Historic District


A Queen Anne style rowhouse designed by Lamb & Rich and built in 1880-82. Application is to construct a rooftop addition.

The HDC would like to commend the applicants for proposing brick chimneys rather than a multitude of stove pipes. 14 Henderson Place is a precious and exquisite little building, and we believe that the proposed addition’s articulation could be better defined before a C of A is granted.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 16

2405 Amsterdam Avenue – Individual Landmark


An Art Moderne style pool complex designed by architect Aymar Embury II, landscape architects Gilmore D. Clarke and Allyn R. Jennings, and civil engineers W. Earle Andres and William H. Latham, and built in 1934-36. Application is to install rooftop HVAC equipment.

We are sympathetic to the Parks Department’s difficulties in installing minimally visible HVAC equipment in this building that is publicly visible in the round with athletic spaces inside. We simply ask that if there are less bulky commercially available chillers that would serve, their use should be explored.

LPC determination: Approved 

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Landmark the Lefkowitz: RFE for 80 Centre Street

Posted by on Friday, September 21, 2018 · 5 Comments 

Scoping hearing for 80 Centre Street – Thursday, September 27, 6:00 p.m., at One Centre Street, NY 

Mayor de Blasio unveiled a plan in summer 2018 to dissolve Rikers Island Correctional Facility by way of building four new jails in all boroughs except for Staten Island. In Manhattan, 80 Centre Street was selected for a new 40 story tower on the site of the Louis J. Lefkowitz Building. Shortly after this announcement, the Historic Districts Council sent in a request for evaluation (RFE) to the Landmarks Preservation Commission calling to landmark the building, which, in addition to being architecturally distinguished, is beloved by many for being the home of the NYC Marriage Bureau.

LPC has not yet offered a determination of the building’s fate. Write to LPC today and tell them to landmark the Lefkowitz and attend the scoping hearing!


Scoping hearing for 80 Centre Street

Thursday, September 27 

6:00 PM

One Centre Street, NY NY

August 30, 2018

Historic Districts Council

Louis K. Lefkowitz State Office Building, 80 Centre Street

Statement of Significance

The Louis J. Lefkowitz State Office Building, historically New York State Office Building at 80 Centre Street was constructed in 1928-30. Constructed as a piece of a master plan for this area, the nine story edifice is composed in a modernist classical style faced in granite to be contextual, but not detract from, the courthouses in Manhattan’s Civic Center. A dignified entrance staircase with grooved, Moderne plinths supports original, matching light fixtures.  A heavy, rusticated base boasts carved seals of New York State, and “STATE OF NEW YORK”, prominently centered on the façade, rests above the seals. A carved frieze of alternating eagles, rosettes and swags, separated by rounded-edged ribbing, nods to the building’s period. The frieze is surmounted by four-story tall fluted pilasters which separate darkened bronze window frames and rosetted black granite spandrel panels. The acroterial stone cornice features alternating lion heads and anthemion, with a flat, seawave motif carved termination rising above the cornice. The building does not appear to have any alterations with the exception of the replacement of the southerly door on its Centre Street entrance. The original condition of this door can be found immediately next to it, where an original bronze door and grilled entry survive intact. Overall, the building has aged well and enjoys a remarkable grade of integrity, due to the high quality of its historic building materials.

The cornerstone of 80 Centre was laid on December 18, 1928 by Governor Al Smith, who used a silver trowel to apply the first layer of mortar and secured a copper box time capsule containing records, newspapers and photographs into the stone block. At the ceremony, the New York City Police Band played “The Sidewalks of New York” (Smith’s campaign song from his failed 1928 Presidential campaign) and attendees included Mayor Walker and then-State Secretary Robert Moses along with a crowd of several hundred people. Governor Smith declared “This building will be a wonderful addition to Court Square and of immeasurable profit in the years to come…it is an example of the foresight of the people of the city and the State of New York. I pray God it may stand here through the ages as a testimonial to the people of this great commonwealth.” (NYT, “Smith Lays Stone for State Building.” 12/18/1928)

The building officially opened on October 28, 1930 and the first tenants included the Department of Taxation and Finance, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the Naval Militia, and the Public Works Department.

The impetus for the New York State Office Building came down to economics. Throughout the 1920s, the State of New York hemorrhaged money toward expensive rents for State offices, typically in midtown. By 1927, a report determined the State leased 133,000 square feet throughout the city, while 80 Centre Street, upon its completion, provided 400,000 square feet of space. This building consolidated all State offices to one location, as the New York Times explained its dire need: “Completion of the State Building marks a realization of one of the largest units in a well-defined public building program which has for its aim the unified housing of official activities and elimination of tremendous rents.” (NYT, “Civic Centre Plan Showing Progress.” 11/2/1930)

The architects of 80 Centre Street, Sullivan Jones and William Haugarrd, both served as New York State Architect, an official appointment chosen under the administration of the Public Works Department. Jones was appointed in 1927 and resigned a year later, when William Haugarrd succeeded his post. During this overlap of leadership, 80 Centre Street was designed primarily by Haugaard with assistance from Jones, and this building represents the first monument of Hargarrd’s administration. Haugarrd was born to Danish immigrants in Brooklyn in 1889 and studied architecture at Pratt Institute, MIT, and in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Early in his practice, he worked as one of many architects of the Panama Canal from 1913-18. In 1928, he was appointed to State Architect and held this post until 1944. A multitude of civic, armory, hospital and prison buildings across New York State were designed by Harguarrd under his long tenure, including many projects borne of the Works Progress Administration. Some notable commissions from this era include Halloran General Hospital (later known as Willowbrook State School) on Staten Island; the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Building at the Museum of Natural History, the Alfred E. Smith Building in Albany, New York; Attica State Prison, and armories in Buffalo, Binghamton, Corning, Jamestown, Kingstown, Newburgh, Oneida, Peekskill, Schenectady, Syracuse and Ticonderoga. After retiring from State Architect and returning to private practice, Harguarrd went on to design the Nostrand Houses in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn; the Marine Stadium at Jones Beach, Long Island and the Board of Transportation Building at 370 Jay Street in Brooklyn, which was completed posthumously.

Category: Demolition, Designation, Featured · Tags: , , ,

About Us

The Historic Districts Council (HDC) is the advocate for all of New York City's historic neighborhoods. HDC is the only organization in New York that works directly with people who care about our city's historic neighborhoods and buildings. We represent a constituency of over 500 local community organizations.

Contact Us

Historic Districts Council
232 East 11th Street
New York, NY 10003
Tel: (212) 614-9107
Fax: (212) 614-9127

Donate Now

Become a Friend of HDC! Your donation helps preserve, improve, and celebrate the places that make New York great.

Join Our Mailing List

Receive updates on programs, events, action alerts, and our Landmarks Preservation Commission testimony.