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.

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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 Public Hearing on December 12, 2017

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.

At tomorrow’s hearing, the LPC will vote to put four (4) potential Individual Landmarks, one (1) Interior Landmark and one (1) Historic District on its calendar for designation consideration. These are listed below.

Item 4

257 Washington Street – Clinton Hill Historic District


A neo-Gothic style church building designed by J.W. Walter and built in 1894, with an attached Gothic and Romanesque style Parish House and School building built in 1924. Application is to replace windows and doors, alter the facades and roofs, construct rooftop and rear yard additions, and perform excavation.

Application architect: ROART

While HDC appreciates the adaptive reuse of this church, we do have a few reservations about the proposed approach. The insertion of skylights in the roof is a reasonable solution for getting daylight into the building, but the reconfigured windows on the north and south sides of the building, especially those located directly adjacent to the existing arched windows, would be a visual affront to both the façades and the existing, beautiful stained-glass windows. A revised plan that resolves this clumsy window issue and retains more of the historic stained glass throughout would be a more respectful approach for a building that has served an important role in this community for over a century.


Item 6

89 South Street – South Street Seaport Historic District


A modern pier and retail structure approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2014 and revised in 2015. Application is to establish a master plan governing the future installation of seasonal structures.

Applicant: Howard Hughes Corp.

At the 2012 hearing to decide the fate of Benjamin Thompson’s Pier 17 building, many of the LPC Commissioners expressed discomfort with approving the building’s demolition, but repeatedly referenced “the trade off” of allowing demolition in exchange for additional public space and views of the Brooklyn Bridge. In fact, the proposed building was not approved at its first hearing in part because the Commissioners wanted to see more public access and view corridors. In 2015, the developers came back with a proposed rooftop pergola spanning almost the entire length of the building, and the Commission again discussed the concept of preserving view corridors, deciding that it was not within their mandate to do so. This is frustrating considering that the view corridors were very much a part of the discussion that led to the demolition of the former Pier 17. Regardless, the developer was turned back due to the pergola’s overwhelming height, and here we are today with a new proposal for a different rooftop scheme, this time with a bit more information: the rooftop structure is meant to provide shelter for a rooftop performance venue.

HDC has several issues with this proposal. First, while its design is more interesting than the 2015 iteration, the proposed rooftop structure is still very bulky for what is already a very bulky building jutting into the East River. Given that it is still open on the sides and, thus, does not actually provide shelter to an audience, we question the need for it at all. Second, as presented, the structure looks as if it will obscure the views that people will be on the roof to enjoy. The applicant has provided ample pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge in their presentation. Will rooftop revelers even be able to see the bridge through this mutated honeycomb? Third, while there is a precedent for rooftop gardens in the city, a rooftop performance venue is a stretch, especially in the context of the historic South Street Seaport. A massive stage would look alien here. Finally, our committee also has little faith that this very large structure will in fact be seasonal and temporary. Our suspicions seem to be confirmed by the fact that the application does not include plans showing how the structure would be removed. We urge the Commission to consider this proposal as a permanent change to the building and yet another incursion into the historic South Street Seaport Historic District.


Item 7

349 West 22nd Street – Chelsea Historic District


A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1841. Application is to construct a rear yard addition and to paint windows, and install a door.

Our committee questions the proposed approach of uniformly painting the windows, lintels and sills black. First, efforts should be made to differentiate the lintels and sills from the windows themselves. Perhaps the applicant could investigate matching these features to the door surround instead of to the windows themselves. Second, the choice of black for the windows would represent a departure from the traditional color scheme found on Greek Revival style townhouses. We encourage the applicant to work with the LPC staff to find a more appropriate, lighter color scheme, such as cream or white, for the windows.

Application architect:Jon David Libasci/Kopels Studio


Item 9

100 West 72nd Street – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District


A Renaissance Revival style store building designed by McKim, Mead & White and built in 1892-1893. Application is to legalize the replacement of windows installed without Landmarks Preservation Commission permits.

This handsome McKim, Mead & White building would be well-served by a master plan governing the installation of new windows. Our committee objects to the proposed sliding windows, especially considering the sufficient historic documentation that exists showing their original double-hung configuration. We hope the applicant will work with the LPC staff to create a master plan that prevents unfortunate, incremental installations and encourages the return of the double-hung windows, a beautiful piece of this building’s overall architectural ensemble.

Application architect: Kit Middleton Architect P.C.


Item 10

214 Riverside Drive – Riverside – West End Historic District


A Beaux-Arts style apartment building designed by Stein, Cohen & Roth and built in 1900-1902. Application is to replace windows.

Although at the time of designation the original one-over-one and two-over-two wood sash had been replaced by one-over-one aluminum sash, the applicant has an opportunity here to return this building’s windows to their original historic condition. We encourage the applicant to develop a master plan for the gradual replacement of windows that are historically accurate and appropriate.

Application architect: McAlpine Architecture PC


Item 11

828-850 Madison Avenue – Upper East Side Historic District


A neo-Renaissance style hotel building designed by George B. Pelham and built in 1925-26. Application is to modify the façade and install new storefronts.

HDC objects to the proposed enlarged window openings on the second floor, which would result in the unnecessary removal of historic limestone from this building’s base. The proposed windows disrupt the rhythm of the building and have no relationship to its original use as a hotel, as historically a residential floor like this would not have had windows this large.

Application architect: Beyer Blinder Belle

HDC@LPC – Testimony for Public Hearing on December 5, 2017

Posted by on Monday, December 4, 2017 · 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


2840 Atlantic Avenue – Empire State Dairy Company Buildings


A complex of a Renaissance/Romanesque Revival style and Abstracted Classicist style with Secessionist details dairy buildings designed by Theobold Engelhardt and Otto Strack and built in 1906-07 and 1914-15.

photo credit: Susan De Vries

The Empire State Dairy Company building is an unusually ornamented industrial building whose equal is not found anywhere. According to experts, these murals are the largest, extant majolica tile panels created by the American Encaustic Tiling Company. The murals, now over a century old, depict a bucolic Alpine scene in which a woman leads a cow and a calf to water; on the other, a man leads a bull to water. The people proudly display their animals within a sun-drenched, lush landscape of water, meadows, pines and mountains, harkening to the agrarian beginnings of the dairy industry.  It is likely that the architect Otto Strack was paying homage to his country of birth, Germany, and that the rare Secessionist application employed here was inspired by Strack’s studies in Vienna.


The first building constructed as a part of this complex dates to 1907, and was designed jointly by Otto Strack and Theobald Engelhardt. Mr. Engelhardt was a prolific Brooklyn architect of German-born parents, whose architectural legacy is inextricably intertwined with the former German communities and brewing industries in Brooklyn. How Strack wound up on this commission is a mystery, as he was a prominent brewery architect in far-away Milwaukee. It is quite possible that the common link of the brewery industry made these two German architects cross paths and eventually led them to build together this once in Brooklyn. Overall, this building is a rare example of architectural style and artistic aesthetic, and emblematic of the burgeoning industry in East New York in the early twentieth century.


Moving forward, it is absolutely paramount that LPC move to calendar more significant buildings in East New York. This old neighborhood will soon fall victim to a pioneering paradigm, and if its heritage is not protected, there will be nothing left in the wake of rezoning. These especially include links to the neighborhood’s long-time civic presence in the forms of the East New York Magistrates Court and the 75th Police Precinct. Interestingly, both of these buildings have counterparts by the same architects in Sunset Park, though both buildings in Sunset Park are individual landmarks and those in East New York remain unprotected. To continue to ignore the set in East New York would communicate quite clearly that this community deserves less than another in Brooklyn.  Further candidates that anchor the neighborhood include the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church and the Vienna flats building at 2883 Atlantic Avenue. As revived, landmarked neighborhoods in Brooklyn testify: historic building stock is vital to the enrichment, pride and prosperity of a community, especially when that community is being built from the ground up.

LPC determination: Motion to Designate

Item 2


850 12th Avenue – Interborough Rapid Transit Powerhouse (now Consolidated Edison Powerhouse)


A Beaux-Arts style building built by McKim, Mead & White in 1904.

Stanford White was able to design in 1904 what today seems like a minor miracle – a utilitarian structure that was highly elegant and ornate. It was all in a day’s work, though, for White and other City Beautiful proponents who believed that public improvements should be built to create a city that was both functional and beautiful.  We have them to thank for many of our city’s finest landmarks, including libraries, schools, bathhouses and parks.


With one glance at the Powerhouse, it is easy to see it is already a landmark, and deserves official recognition to ensure its survival. This monumental structure is a remarkable example of Beaux-Arts design applied to a utilitarian building; its architectural grandeur meant to convince the public to embrace the subway, a major new mode of transportation back in 1904. Designed as a showpiece, it now stands as a monument to progress and rapid transit. In addition to its architectural significance, the building holds an important place in industrial history. When it opened 111 years ago, it was the largest powerhouse in the world and provided the energy needed to run the first subway line along Manhattan’s west side, which in turn created and enabled the modern city of New York.


Despite the unfortunate loss of its original smokestacks, the IRT Powerhouse remains a commanding presence. With major development projects looming on all sides, this structure is a dynamic anchor for an ever-changing west side. With wide-spread support, the building has been proposed and heard for designation three times before. While this support network has not waivered, the building’s uncertain future grows more and more threatening. HDC urges you to designate this masterpiece before it is too late.

LPC determination: Motion to Designate

Item 3

470 Nostrand Avenue – Bedford Historic District


A Queen Anne style tenement building with a commercial ground floor designed by Magnus Dahlander and built c. 1893. Application is to alter storefront infill.

As a matter of full disclosure to the Commission, a partner of this applicant’s firm is HDC board member Brendan Coburn. That being said, there is ample information in the 1930s tax photo to suggest a more appropriate level of reconstruction for this storefront. Using this evidence, the applicant should work with staff to establish a more consistent set of windows across the façade and return the historic transoms, which are also evident in the historic photo.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 4

111 Broadway – Trinity Building – Individual Landmark


A neo-Gothic style commercial skyscraper designed by Francis H. Kimball and built in 1904-07. Application is to install storefront infill, lighting, and signage.

Our committee applauds the applicant on a handsome proposal. We find the light fixtures particularly attractive and appreciate the fact that they are attached to the buildings’ walls, saving valuable sidewalk space.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 6

109 West Broadway – TriBeCa South Historic District


An Italianate style store and loft building built in 1860 and with the lower two floors altered prior to 1914. Application is to alter an enclosed sidewalk café and storefront, and to install signage.

As the applicant’s historic conditions photos show, this building once had a handsome façade with a charming storefront. We understand the current enclosed sidewalk café was grandfathered in with the designation of the TriBeCa South Historic District, although we wonder which approvals from the Department of Transportation have been obtained to allow this enclosure in the first place. In any event, grandfathering this structure does not make it any less of an unfortunate and historically insensitive addition. Its position on a major thoroughfare, creating an impediment to the heavy pedestrian traffic passing it daily, provides yet more rationale for its elimination. There exists an opportunity to have this ill-advised structure removed, and we hope the Commission will reevaluate the necessity of such a large incursion which obscures a designed historic façade.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 7

222 West Broadway – TriBeCa West Historic District


A neo-Grec/Queen Anne style warehouse designed by George DaCunha and built in 1881-1882. Application is to legalize the installation of awnings without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

HDC’s principal concern with this application is that the illegally installed awnings should comply with whatever the existing regulations are, which typically mandate that the side panels of awnings remain open. Several examples of this awning configuration are included in the application, and we hope the applicant will work with staff to ensure this small change.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 10

22 East 80th Street – Metropolitan Museum Historic District


A neo-Renaissance style rowhouse designed by Charles Graham & Sons and built in 1889, altered by Isaac Newton Phelps-Stokes in 1922. Application is to replace windows and install a guardrail.

The applicant would do best to keep this building’s windows in their current historic configuration. One can imagine finding justification for single light windows if the preponderance of other buildings on this block also had single light windows, but this block is comprised entirely of double hung windows. As such, this building’s windows should match its context.

LPC determination: Approved

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Preservation in the News

Posted by on Monday, December 4, 2017 · 1 Comment 

Preservationists Thrilled East New York’s Empire State Dairy Landmarked, Say More Needs Saving

by Craig Hubert

East New York is “an area whose history is profoundly underserved by official recognition and greatly at risk from the City’s plan,” Simeon Bankoff, executive director of preservation advocacy group Historic Districts Council, told Brownstoner, referring to the recent rezoning. “We dearly hope this is only the first step in recognizing and protecting this community’s remaining historic buildings.”

Click here to read the whole article

In the News: Victory for Clocktower Access


“A five-judge panel upheld a March 2016 decision that prevented developers Peebles Corporation and Elad Group from converting the unique clock tower at 346 Broadway into a residential condominium, as part of a larger plan to renovate the former office building into 151 luxury condos. […] A group of local historic preservation organizations—including Tribeca Trust, Save America’s Clocks and the Historic Districts Council—sued Peebles and the city in June 2015 in Manhattan Supreme Court in an effort to block the conversion of the clock tower suite.

Click here to read the whole article


By Michael Scotto

“This neighborhood is really in the crosshairs for big development. We’d hate to see where the place that take me out to the ballgame was written fall to the wrecking ball so somebody can live in luxury housing,” said Dan Allen of the Historic Districts Council.

Click here to read the whole article

Century-Old Doctors’ Row in Bay Ridge May Become Historic District

“Historic district status will preserve the facades of the buildings and the aesthetic beauty of the buildings and streetscape. In most cases it prevents demolition of buildings and things like the faces and stucco being ripped off, ironwork being removed and original doors being removed,” explained Kelly Carroll, director of advocacy and community outreach for HDC, a nonprofit advocate for historic preservation.

Click here to read the whole article

UWS Council hopefuls spar at debate


All five candidates seeking to represent the Upper West Side in the City Council faced off for the first time July 31 in a spirited public debate. Incumbent Helen Rosenthal was joined at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center Campus by the four challengers seeking to unseat her this fall in her reelection bid, Cary Goodman, David Owens, Bill Raudenbush and Mel Wymore, for a discussion on land use and quality of life in Council District 6.

Click here to read the whole article

NYPL’s Rose Main Reading Room is ever so close to being landmarked

The proposal won unanimous public support at a Landmarks meeting on Tuesday


At Tuesday’s meeting several conservancy groups spoke in favor of designating the rooms, including the Historic Districts Council, and the Landmarks Conservancy. The NYPL also enthusiastically backed the proposal citing the continued stewardship of the spaces by the library, the iconic Beaux Arts architecture of the rooms, and the civic and intellectual role these spaces played in New York City.

The LPC too seemed to strongly support designation as only a few commissioners offered comments on the proposal.

“This is the most important case I’ve seen in my tenure,” Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron, said at the meeting. “It would be an honor to designate and protect this space.”

Chairperson Meenakshi Srinivasan concurred and closed the hearing. The proposal will now come up for a vote in the next few weeks.

Click here to read the full article

Watch it go: Iconic ‘Watchtower’ sign to disappear from B’Heights skyline

BY LAUREN GILL, Brooklyn Paper
“It was a very distinctive part of the Brooklyn waterfront skyline — for decades, as you walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, you knew you were in Brooklyn because there was the Watchtower,” said Simeon Bankoff, of the Historic Districts Council.
Click here to read the full article

How a Mott Haven Man Tries to Preserve His Neighborhood

Brooks said some of his neighbors, who have lived in their homes since the 1950s and 1960s, paid $16,000 to $18,000 for their property, and have no mortgage. And Brooks wants these people to stay. “I noticed there was always an interest in what’s new, about developers coming into the area,” said Brooks. “And I was saying wait a minute, we are stepping over something that has been here since 1639.”

This is part of the reason why Brooks started the Mott Haven Historic Districts Association, an organization seeking to preserve the culture and history of the community—and to ensure that long-time residents continue to have a stake in it. “There are homeowners that have owned their homes since the ‘50s, early ‘60s. And they’re not affluent, they have no mortgage on their property. The exterior is protected by a landmark, but the interior requires some work,” said Brooks.

Click here to read the whole article

Save Chelsea Chosen as One of ‘Six to Celebrate’

HDC noted that the Six to Celebrate program opens their “strategic resources” to local groups, thereby helping them “learn to use tools such as documentation, research, zoning, landmarking, publicity, and public outreach to advance local preservation campaigns.”

HDC Executive Director Simeon Bankoff said his organization chose to help Save Chelsea because of the group’s tireless work in the area and a need to boost the preservation conversation in a rapidly changing neighborhood.

Click here to read the whole article

We must protect historic preservation

Times Ledger By Simeon Bankoff
As things begin to settle in Washington, the possible effects on the core issues of the historic preservation community and movement are concerning. The Historic Districts Council (HDC) believes that the protection and preservation of our shared built environment is—and must be—a shared civil right for all people, guided by community consensus and aided by government action.
Click here to read the whole letter

Developer still has a chance to save beloved church

New York Post By Steve Cuozzo

Preservationists are appalled.

Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the nonprofit Historic Districts Council, said, “It’s a crying shame when the developer and the community are trying to work together on a mutually advantageous solution and the city is what’s standing in the way.”

He added, “The street wall regulation is a good rule, but this is a situation where an exception should be made.”

Click here to read the whole article

31 floors of the Waldorf-Astoria are being turned into apartments

Time Out New York By David Goldberg

As one well-known NYC landmark becomes the target of protests, another is getting turned into condos. Anbang, the Chinese investment group that purchased the Waldorf Astoria in 2014, has officially filed plans to convert most of the iconic hotel into residential spaces. The billion-dollar effort will turn over 31 floors of 500 guest rooms into “exclusive” apartment units. The remaining 300–500 units will remain hotel rooms, though they’ll likely get some souped-up features. The base of the Waldorf will feature a fitness room, shopping center and restaurants.

Click here to read the whole article

American Museum of Natural History’s Studio Gang expansion gets the green light


The American Museum of Natural History’s ambitious $325 million expansion plan gained unanimous approval from New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday, greenlighting the 142-year-old institution to realize the Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation.

Click here to read the whole article


New Research on How Historic Districts Affect Affordable Housing

City Limits By

There’s new evidence in the long-running debate over whether historic landmarks promote or paralyze the development and preservation of affordable housing in New York City.

The take-away from studies released in May by the Landmarks Conservancy and the Historic Districts Council is that historic districts don’t matter very much when it comes to housing affordability, a finding that would refute landmarking opponents who say the designations harm affordability.

Click here to read the whole article

A new study from the Historic Districts Council shows that historic districts are not the enemy of affordable housing

Architects Newspaper By AUDREY WACHS

Timed to the 50th anniversary of the New York City Landmarks Law, The New York Landmarks Conservancy, NYU’s Furman Center, and Historic Districts Council (HDC) issued independent studies that analyzed the impact of historic preservation on theeconomy, environment, and housing affordability in New York City.

The idea that historic districts drive up housing prices—and drive out poorer residents—is baked into conventional narratives of urban development. This month, the HDC, one of the city’s oldest grassroots preservation advocacy organizations, released an analytic report that shows a different side of the story.

Historic district designation, crucially, didn’t prevent the development of government-subsidized housing, nor did designation reduce the number of subsidized units at a rate greater than non-designated areas.

Click here to read the whole article

Celebrate East New York’s Historic Architecture on a Walking Tour This Weekend

East New York’s historic architecture — little of which has been landmarked — is being recognized as part of the Historic Districts Council’s Six to Celebrateprogram this weekend with a Six to Celebrate Tour.

Longtime neighborhood resident Farrah Lafontant will lead the tour, sharing the history of area gems like the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church, a Magistrates Court, the former East New York Savings Bank site, Maxwell’s Bakery, and the Empire State Dairy Company factory complex.

Click here to read the whole article

History in the taking! Landmarks OKs Park Slope Historic District expansion, but preservationists want more

Brownstoner by Hannah Frishberg

Brooklyn Paper: BY ANNA RUTH RAMOS

“It took a long time but we’re pleased its finally happened,” said Simon Bankoff of preservation advocacy group the Historic Districts Council, which championed the plan primarily driven by the Park Slope Civic Council. “We look forward to the rest of Park Slope being protected.”

Click here to read the whole article

Pepsi-Cola Sign in Queens Gains Landmark Status

New York Times: By

Other properties from the backlog agenda that were designated on Tuesday were: the mid-19th-century William H. Schofield farmhouse on City Island in the Bronx; the Fort Hamilton Parkway entrance to the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn and the Green-Wood Cemetery Chapel; the 18th-century Van Sicklen House in the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn; the main sanctuary, parish house and rectory of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan; an early 19th-century Federal-style house at 57 Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village; the Second Empire-style Ahles House in Bayside, Queens; and the Vanderbilt Mausoleum on Todt Hill in the New Dorp section of Staten Island.

Click here to read the whole article

Preservationist titan Otis Pearsall opposes the landmarking of Green-Wood Cemetery

Brooklyn Daily Eagle By:Lore Croghan

The renowned preservationist told the city Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) at a hearing Thursday that officials at the celebrated 19th-Century cemetery do an outstanding job of caring for the historic 478-acre graveyard.

He questioned whether it would be a wise use of  the agency’s limited resources to monitor the preservationist efforts of this institution with its history of impeccable behavior.

Click here to read the whole article


New owner shells out $20M for Williamsburgh Savings Bank retail with plan to attract major brand to iconic Brooklyn tower



“The interior of the space is truly fantastic,” said Simeon Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council. “It’s this glorious cathedral to thrift. A lot of very successful retail spaces operate out of landmarked buildings — like Grand Central Terminal. I’m excited that people will actually be using this space again.”

Click here to read the whole article


Frick Museum Abandons Contested Renovation Plan

NY Times By 

The Frick Collection has yielded.

Facing a groundswell of opposition to a proposed renovation that would have eliminated a gated garden to make way for a six-story addition, the museum — long admired for its intimate scale — has decided to abandon those plans and start over from scratch.

“It just became clear to us that it wasn’t going to work,” said a museum official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the board had not yet made the decision final with a vote.

Click here to read the whole article


Revisiting Brooklyn’s Abandoned Admiral’s Row Before It’s Gone

Curbed by Nathan Kensinger

Many abandoned landmarks around the city have been swept up in the current development boom, and Admiral’s Row, while never declared an official New York landmark, is part of this wave of projects. The Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation announced in May that almost all of the 11 structures along the row would be replaced with a 74,000-square-foot Wegmans grocery store, the first in New York City. For community activists, it is the end of a long battle, with no reprieve in sight.

Click here to read the whole article


What’s Next for New York City’s Many Abandoned Landmarks?

Curbed by Nathan Kensinger

The landmarking process, however, does not guarantee a permanent safe harbor for buildings, and over the years many designees have been lost to decay, demolition, and legal maneuvering. Today, a surprising number of official New York City landmarks are abandoned, having been left to rot for decades, and are in danger of becoming victims of demolition by neglect.

Click here to read the whole article


Despite cries of foul, Seaport building appears headed for the wrecking ball

Downtown Express

Because of the Tin’s precarious state, Hughes had proposed carefully dismantling it and restoring it close to its original state, so the latest news presumably should not change those plans, although not everyone is sure.

“It seems clear to me that the reason the Landmarks application for the Tin Building is not proceeding is because E.D.C. is intending to demolish both it and the New Market building,” Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, wrote in an email to Downtown Express. “The people making decisions are acting in bad faith with regard to the public process and the historic buildings of the Seaport.”

His group, Community Board 1’s Seaport Committee, Save Our Seaport, and others have recently signed onto a draft letter to Mayor de Blasio criticizing the overall Seaport process for ”an egregious absence of transparency.”

Click here to read the whole article


Howard Hughes: Here Comes The Tower

The fight that preservationists and Seaport residents have undertaken to stop the Howard Hughes Corporation’s plan to build a 494-foot hotel/condo tower has just suffered what appears to be a major setback, as the city has declared that two buildings that were part ofthe old Fulton Fish Market, the New Market Building and the landmarked Tin Building, are in danger of collapsing and must be demolished. Efforts to stop the development have, up until this point, focused on the preservation of those two buildings, but now that the Economic Development Corp. has issued a statement saying that they “are supported by piles that have deteriorated to the point that they cannot hold the structures above it,” they could be razed next month.

Click here to read the whole article


Julian Niccolini on the Future of the Four Seasons Restaurant

Forbes by Karla Alindahao

One of New York’s legendary restaurants—the Four Seasons—is in its last season at the Seagram Building. This spring, real estate mogul Aby Rosen, who owns the iconic Mies van der Rohe tower (which has been home to the restaurant since it opened in 1959) filed plans to renovate the Philip Johnson-designed space with the local Landmarks Committee—without informing Four Seasons owners Julian Niccolini and Alex von Bidder.

Click here to read the whole article


Council bill would give landmarks agency something new: deadlines

Legislation aims to prevent commission from keeping properties in limbo for decades

Crain’s New York By 

Should the bill pass, it would require the commission to hold a hearing on a structure or property within 180 days of receiving a request to consider it for historic status. The commission would then have another 180 days to vote. If an entire district is being considered, the commission would have a total of two years to make a call. In each case, if no action were taken, the property or district would be removed from the list and could not be resubmitted for five years.

Click here to read the whole article


 Simeon Bankoff: Taking the Context out of Contextual Zoning

City Land

Since their introduction almost 25 years ago, many communities across New York City have looked to contextual zoning to help protect the character of their neighborhoods and encourage appropriate new development which enhances where they call home. These are not fly-by-night efforts; frequently volunteers spend years in meetings with community stakeholders and decision-makers, carefully crafting zoning regulations which correspond with the existing built neighborhood.  More often than not, professional planners and consultants are hired to guide the process, facilitate collaboration with all stakeholders and work with the Department of City Planning to determine if local plans can align with the agency’s citywide mandate.

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‘Citywide Rezoning Plan Would Benefit Developers, Hurt Neighborhoods’


Gotham Gazette by Andrew Berman

The mayor’s ‘Zoning for Quality and Affordability’ plan is not without good points, and its stated goals are worthy of support. But substantial modifications are needed to protect neighborhood character and benefit average New Yorkers before it can live up to its lofty premise, and before it should be considered for adoption.

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‘Zoning Changes Made in Haste Makes For Bad Government’


Sixteen years ago, the Chelsea Plan became a reality. It took years of grinding effort to accomplish. The idea began with Rowena Doyel, founder of the Council of Chelsea Block Associations, and Ed Kirkland, Chair of Community Board 4’s Chelsea Planning and Preservation Committee (now called the Chelsea Land Use Committee), and the originator of the (now-disbanded) Landmarks Committee. Tom Duane, then a CB4 member and Co-chair with Kirkland, was tireless in his efforts to guide the Plan to success.

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‘Zoning Process Too Fast For CB4’


“This is a citywide initiative that is being rammed through with not enough time to make even the most basic consideration of what [the department] should be studying,” Compton said.

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Record $71.9 million spent on lobbying New York City officials in 2014: report

Power players are spending more cash than ever to influence city government officials through lobbying, a new city report shows.

Lobbyists brought in $71.9 million to target city government in 2014, a record high, according to the report by the city clerk’s office covering the first year since Mayor de Blasio and the new City Council took office.

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Woodlawn group fights for historical district status

News 12 Bronx

One Bronx neighborhood has made the Historic District Council’s “Six to Celebrate” list.

Woodlawn, which sits in the north central part of the borough, is full of history that many don’t know about. It’s an old neighborhood that started as a community as a direct result of Woodlawn Cemetery.

The group Women of Woodlawn is behind getting Woodlawn chosen for the “Six to Celebrate” program as it strives toward getting the neighborhood recognized for its rich history.

Click here to read the whole article and watch the video of the Women of Woodlawn being interviewed


Op-Ed: No Tower on the Seaport


The mayor said: “We are not embarking on a mission to build towering skyscrapers where they don’t belong. We have a duty to protect and preserve the culture and character of our neighborhoods, and we will do so.”

That’s exactly the point we’ve made in our forceful opposition to the inappropriate 494-foot residential tower that the Howard Hughes Corporation has proposed to build in the heart of the South Street Seaport, one of the city’s most uniquely historic areas. While we’re committed to revitalizing the neighborhood, it’s true that we have a duty to protect the historic fabric of the Seaport—a low-rise area ever since it became active three centuries ago—from this kind of irresponsible development proposal.

Chin is the City Council member representing District 1 in Lower Manhattan; Brewer is the Manhattan borough president.

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Next TREASURES OF NEW YORK to Mark 50th Anniversary of NYC Landmarks Law, 2/3

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Landmarks Law, the hour-long documentary Treasures of New York: The Landmarks Preservation Movement, premiering on Tuesday, February 3 at 7 p.m. on WLIW21 and Sunday, February 8 at 8 p.m. on THIRTEEN, will explore the history and the future of the wide-scale preservation efforts of New York City’s Landmark Commission to protect thousands of culturally and historically significant sites.

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Park Avenue Is About to Get Something It Hasn’t Seen in 40 Years

After decades in deep freeze, New York’s sacred avenue is about to get a new skyscraper

Bloomberg Business By 

he 893-foot (272-meter) tower will rise amid Manhattan’s biggest rush of skyscraper construction since the 1980s, with millions of square feet of offices in such projects as Hudson Yards on the far west side and the World Trade Center downtown. Levinson is building “on spec,” meaning without any tenants signed up. It’s a gamble on the staying power of today’s accelerating demand for space, and a practice that’s had a checkered history in the city, said Lawrence Longua, a retired real estate professor at New York University.

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Down the Block, Deep in the Stacks Nearly 30 Years of Documenting New York

New York Times By 

Michael Sterne, then the Real Estate editor of The New York Times, conceived of the Streetscapes column in 1986, and paid me the compliment of hiring me to write it. Now, with my final column, it may be appropriate to present an apologia for what I hoped to do, and what I have done.

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New York City Landmarks Panel’s Move Upsets Supporters—and Critics

Behind Commission Decision Are Almost 100 Tales of Potential Landmarks

Groups of school children gather a few times a week in front of Catherine and Alfredo De Vido’s 19th-century house on East 85th Street to start a tour about the history of immigrants in the Yorkville neighborhood.

The De Vidos were surprised to learn the city Landmarks Preservation Commission was planning to drop their rare Manhattan wood house from the list of potential landmarks, where it has been lingering since 1966.

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16 Stories o’ Condos Will Replace ‘Plain’ Little Flatiron Building

Curbed by Hana R. Alberts

Even the Historic Districts Council, which veers strongly to the preservation side of preservation vs. development, approved of the demolition, because the existing structure “appeared in pallor compared to the examples provided of the fanciful Ladies Mile-quality buildings in the district.”

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For a Student of the City, It’s Always New

Andrew S. Dolkart: A Chronicler of New York Old and New

New York Times By MATT A.V. CHABAN

If you’re curious about a particular building in New York, odds are that Andrew S. Dolkart knows something about it. Mr. Dolkart, the 62-year-old director of Columbia University’s Historic Preservation program, spends many Sundays wandering the city with his husband, Paris R. Baldacci, 70, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Mr. Dolkart, in recognition of his tireless study of New York old and new — he has written dozens of books and essays, and is working on a book about the garment district — will receive the Historic Districts Council’s Landmarks Lion award on Nov. 19.

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Glass Dome Could Rise Over Union Square’s Landmarked Tammany Hall

By Heather Holland

A major renovation is coming to the former Tammany Hall headquarters in Union Square where owners want to put a new glass dome over the landmarked building and demolish a theater to make way for retail and office space, the project’s architects said.

The historic structure at 44 Union Square East, built in 1929 to house the Democratic Party machine, will undergo a major overhaul that will restore the facade, gut the existing theater and add windows and glassier storefronts, according to BKSK Architects which is designing the project.

The most striking change will be a new 30-foot glass dome on top of the building, which will add about 27,000 square feet to the structure and will house office space, according to Harry Kendall, a partner at BKSK.

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Independent Engineer Report Supports Dismantling the Harlem Watchtower

An independent report on the structural integrity of the watchtower atop Marcus Garvey Park supports the Parks Department’s claim that the tower needs to be taken down as soon as possible.

Preservationists called for the report after finding out that an emergency contract to take down the tower did not mention anything about the restoration process.

Both the Parks Department and the Department of Buildings cited a 2009 report by Thornton Tomasetti when saying the tower needed to come down immediately.

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Community plan to unlock south Bronx waterfront recognized by state

The state Department of Environmental Conservation named the Mott Haven-Port Morris Waterfront Plan, which turns six waterfront patches into boat hubs, flood protectors and parks, to a draft of its ‘Open Space Plan.’


South Bronx residents have been demanding access to the waterfront — and it seems that state leaders have heard.

A plan to transform six parcels in Mott Haven and Port Morris into waterfront parks has been nominated for addition to a statewide list of land conservation projects.

The plan — cooked up by South Bronx Unite — would build boat hubs, restore a historic gantry and pier and install a waterfront trail that spans the Harlem River, the Bronx Kill and the East River.

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Frick Opponents Get Organized

“[The local community] regards this as the museum down the block,” said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of HDC, whose organization issued a statement in October opposing the plan. “They regard this as a wonderful amenity to their home. The feel very strongly about it.”

HDC cited the destruction of the Russell Page garden and the size of the addition as its major concerns with the proposal, which, its statement said, would “transform The Frick into an institutional environment.”

The fate of the garden is one of the most visible concerns among critics of the expansion, and its salvation is one of Unite to Save the Frick’s top priorities.

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Historic Districts Council Opposes Frick Expansion

New York Times, By 

The Historic Districts Council, which can influence the city’s decisions but has no official role, has come out in opposition to the Frick Collection’s planned expansion, the council announced on Wednesday.

The council’s public review committee — which examines proposals for work on landmark buildings that are to come before the Landmarks Preservation Commission — said in a statement that the proposed expansion “will destroy the design intent of Thomas Hastings’ residential composition and John Russell Pope’s graceful museum transformation.”

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Redevelopment of Former Indigent Farm Community Proposed

Plan for former Farm Colony would entail the demolition five out of eleven historic structures in the district, create senior housing. On September 30, 2014, the Landmarks Preservation Commission considered an application for the redevelopment of theNew York City Farm Colony-Seaview Hospital Historic Districtlocated in Staten Island in the Castleton area. The 45-acre property, which housed indigent and disabled New Yorkers in exchange for labor, operated roughly from 1898 to 1975, and was developed from 1874 to the 1930s. In addition to being a landmarked historic district, the Farm Colony is also zoned in a special natural area district, which mandates the preservation of any unique natural features. The colony’s buildings have been little maintained since its abandonment.

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How to Turn Your Block Into an Historic District

By Nikhita Venugopal

The surge of future development in Brooklyn has made a group of Sunset Parkers think about its past.

When local residents realized the neighborhood’s notable brownstones could be lost to redevelopment, they banded together to save the buildings through a historic district status.

“Sunset Park is in danger of losing its sense of place,” according to the Sunset Park Landmarks Committee’s website.

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City Planning appoints inaugural COO

Crain’s New York, BY 

After the Department of City Planning pledged earlier this year to streamline operations at the agency, it has created and filled a position specifically for that purpose.

Jon Kaufman, a former partner at consulting firm Bain & Co., was appointed the agency’s first chief operating officer Wednesday. While Mr. Kaufman comes from the private sector, he had already volunteered his time earlier this year at City Planning to help analyze the department’s organizational structure—which the de Blasio administration and City Planning Commission Chairman Carl Weisbrod have pledged to dramatically alter.

“Jon’s appointment underscores the de Blasio administration’s commitment to make our review and approval processes more transparent, more efficient and overall more expeditious,” Mr. Weisbrod said in an email to colleagues announcing the appointment.

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That ‘Temporary’ Frick Garden — It Was Created to Be Permanent

Huffington Post By Charles Birnbaum

This “temporary” idea is an important talking point in the Frick’s justification; the garden’s supposed planned obsolescence is foundational to their argument. There’s only one problem — the Frick created this verdant oasis as “a permanent garden” — at least that’s what the museum’s own February 4, 1977 press release about it states. An anonymous source recently sent me the seven page release (with a note saying “This document is on file at the Frick Art Reference Library”) and directed me to the fourth paragraph on page six — there it is, plain as day: “a permanent garden.”

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Scientists recreate old beer they dug up in Chinatown

New York Post By Natalie O’Neill

A beer bottle from the 1800s was unearthed by archaeologists in Chinatown — inspiring them to revive the rare old brew.

The scientists discovered the glass “California Pop Beer” bottle on Bowery Street near Canal Street, where a popular beer hall, Atlantic Garden, bustled in the 1850s, scientists said.

“It’s a light summer drink, slightly minty and refreshing” said Alyssa Loorya, 44, president of Chrysalis Archaeology, which headed the project.

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Decoding New York: Unearthing Treasures Beneath New York’s Streets


During the dig an old glass bottle was unearthed and the bottle’s label said it had contained ‘California Pop Beer’. Alyssa Loorya followed through and tracked down the original beer patent and then reproduced the beer using a home brewing kit. It’s a beer infused with ginger root, sarsparilla and wintergreen oil and reportedly has quite a kick, see Scientists Recreate Old Beer. You can try it yourself if you do the Historic Districts council ‘Historic Pub Crawl’ to be held Sept 6 at 1.00 pm for just $10. Go here for tickets, Historic Pub Crawl. it’s not everyone who can say they have drunk apart of New York’s past.

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The War on New York’s Waterfront


What we don’t need, in a place whose uniqueness attracts the world, is another sterile development that further reduces Manhattan to an overstuffed version of every other city in the country. It will take time, thought, private investment and, dare we say it, significant public funds. But New Yorkers have done these kinds of bold things before. If you don’t believe us, next time you’re downtown on the East River waterfront, look up. There you’ll see a bridge that somebody managed to sell us.

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As New York City property values surge, historic sites reduced to memories

Reuters By Laila Kearney

As wealthy prospective buyers search for dwindling space to transform into high-end retail or apartment sites, city historians and sentimentalists fear that the shops and restaurants from some of Manhattan’s most notable eras have been marked for extinction.

“New Yorkers are seeing buildings and institutions they thought were going to be there forever disappearing,” said Simeon Bankoff, director of the city’s Historic Districts Council. “It seems to have reached a bit of a fever pitch.”

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Midtown East Steering Committee to Make Everyone Happy

New York Observer by: Tobias Salinger  

Representatives from a mishmash of 11 organizations, including Community Boards 5 and 6, preservation groups like the Historic Districts Council, business organizations like the Grand Central Partnership, urban planning research groups like the Regional Plan Association and the industry’s advocacy group, the Real Estate Board of New York, will figure out a way to jumpstart the 73-block rezoning proposal that died in the City Council last winter.

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Buildings With a Past

Creating New York Apartments From Unlikely Buildings


Land is extremely scarce, they say, and historic districts, which are numerous, make new construction tough. Besides, some old-time structures are far bigger than what zoning would allow on their lots today. Adaptive reuse can also be speedier.

But curb appeal may also have something to do with it. “There’s a general movement now that goes beyond real estate, a reaction to a world that’s become increasingly electronic,” said Toby Moskovits, president of Heritage Equity Partners, which is transforming a church-and-school complex into apartments in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “People are more comfortable,” she added, “with something that feels authentic.”

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 Readers sound off on landmarks

Daily News By: Arthur Levin, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation

What the Real Estate Board of New York study cited in this article fails to address is that, according to experts, the single largest factor contributing to the increasing unaffordability of our city is the disappearance of existing affordable housing — a fact acknowledged in Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan. Historic districts in fact help preserve and protect thousands of units of affordable housing that might otherwise be lost to demolition.

An objective examination of potential solutions to our city’s housing affordability challenge is not really the agenda of REBNY, a trade association representing developers, which has long lobbied for reducing and eliminating affordable housing protections. The REBNY agenda is to maximize the freedom of its developer members to tear down and build whatever they want, wherever they want.

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Last Night’s Heavy Rainfall Turns Gowanus Canal Into One Big  Toilet Once Again

Pardon Me For Asking

Last night’s heavy rain caused another Combined Sewer Overflow event last night and by 11 PM, much of the waterway was covered with raw sewage.  The smell was unbelievable.  It was too dark to take photos, but I took a walk over both the Union Street and Carroll Street bridges at 6 am this morning, and took some pictures. It was still rather awful and smelly and the bacteria count in the water must have been off the charts.

It is unfathomable to thing that the new residents of the 700 unit Lightstone Group Project at the shores of the canal will have to deal with this every time it rains heavily.

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Save Rizzoli

In the days preceding the ceiling extraction, we had been in communication with Vornado Realty Trust to acquire their permission and insurance requirements for our highly experienced crew to enter the site and remove large portions of the ceiling. By all accounts, they initially supported the endeavor, and everyone appeared to be on board. Our team only awaited the approval of Vornado CEO Steven Roth.

But then on Thursday, as our preservationists prepared to conduct a probe of the ceiling’s material condition, we learned our access to the site had been denied. At the last minute, Steven Roth intervened and thwarted our attempt to preserve the building’s architectural details for posterity.

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Library’s Rose Main Reading Room Closed for Six Months

Plaster Fell From the 52-Foot-Tall Ceiling in May

Wall Street Journal By Jennifer Maloney

The New York Public Library’s Rose Main Reading Room will remain closed for the next six months for inspection and repairs after a plaster rosette fell from its ceiling in May, library officials said Monday.

The reading room is the jewel of the library’s flagship Fifth Avenue building, which draws 2.3 million visits a year. The room’s 52-foot-tall ceilings are adorned with painted clouds and other decorations molded in plaster.

The library Monday didn’t have a cost estimate for the inspection or repairs.

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Mysterious Railroad Relic Unearthed on Governors Island

DNAInfo By Irene Plagianos

A recent dig on Governors Island unearthed a rusty relic of its military history — and island officials aren’t sure what it is.

While working on the island’s sewer systems, excavators found what appears to be part of a railway train car or hand cart once used on the island’s early 20th century railroad system, said Elizabeth Rapuano, a spokeswoman for the Trust for Governors Island.

“It’s a fun surprise — we’ve never found anything like it before,” Rapuano said. “We’re still trying to figure out exactly what it is…we’d love to get responses from the public about [it].”

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Closer look at two significant neighborhoods

This tour was made possible by the Historic Districts Council. It is part of the nonprofit’s “Six To Celebrate,” which offers tours of six areas the group deems worthy of preservation.

“These tours serve to highlight neighborhoods that many New Yorkers are unaware of to shine a light on unknown aspects of their history or built environment,” said Barbara Zay of HDC.

The Forest Close Association its neighborhood for the honor. Forest Close is a group of 1927 rowhouses bounded by 75th Road, 76th Avenue, and Austin Street.

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Ratner wins prize for best … preservationist?

Brooklyn Paper

Preservationists at the Municipal Art Society issued their most prestigious award to Forest City Ratner’s chairman Bruce Ratner and head Maryanne Gilmartin on Wednesday night. Advocates that take exception to the builder’s biggest projects, Atlantic Yards and MetroTech Center, which have replaced and are slated to replace more than a dozen primarily low-slung blocks with hulking skyscrapers and the Barclays Center arena, are fuming at the decision.

“Forest City Ratner Companies has been bulldozing and demolishing huge tracts of land,” said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, a preservationist group that spun off from the Municipal Art Society in the 1980s. “They’re creating these places that are not places at all.”

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Everything Old Is New Again: Conversions of Historic Properties in Lower Manhattan

Historic properties are being reimagined and preserved through significant new investment and changes in use. These projects show that preser­vation and economic development can be powerful partners. As new office space comes online across the district, historic former office buildings are being converted into new retail, hotel and residential spaces fitting for a 21st Century Downtown.

Click here to access the full report.



Brooklyn’s Historic Churches Disappear to Make Way for Condos


Some preservationists and historians say the loss of churches is changing the face of some of borough’s most historic neighborhoods.

“I think it’s a tragedy that we are losing these unique and amazing structures,” said Sharon Barnes, a member of the Society for Clinton Hill. “They are part of the fabric of our streets and to lose so many is heartbreaking.”

But Simeon Bankoff, director of the Historic Districts Council, an organization that advocates for New York City’s historic neighborhoods, said that church to condo conversions are a practical way to preserve the historic nature of the buildings after congregations can no longer afford the upkeep.

“The actual physical character of the buildings is retained even when they are converted to residential use,” he said.

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The Value of Land: How Community Land Trusts Maintain Housing Affordability


Urban Omnibus by Oksana Mironova
Affordable housing is on New York City’s mind. A critical mass of civic organizations, academic institutions, city agencies, advocacy groups, and others are pondering the essential and perennial issue of how to ensure that the city becomes affordable for the extraordinarily diverse population that makes it work. What’s more, the conversation is riding a new wave of perceived political support from the de Blasio administration, which has tapped leading academics and esteemed private and public sector figures to deliver on its ambitious promise to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in ten years. With the details of the Mayor’s plan due to be released May 1st, we will undoubtedly be hearing a great deal of commentary about policy and implementation – development sites, low-income housing tax credits, preservation, NYCHA reforms – for weeks to come.
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Plan to Honor Big Developer in Brooklyn Is Criticized

NYTimes BY Matt Chaben

The Municipal Art Society is well known for campaigns to save Grand Central Terminal and Lever House and to stop towers that would have cast long shadows over Central Park.

But now the civic organization is the one defending itself, for deciding to award the developer Bruce C. Ratner its highest honor, one named for the very person who led some of those fights.

“We claim no ownership of the Onassis name, though we do draw on her spirit,” said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, a citywide preservation group. “To honor Forest City Ratner with an award named for someone so well known for fighting to preserve New York’s neighborhoods is just too much.”

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An economic defense of old buildings

Washington Post By Emily Badger

“For a long time, preservationists have been making the the cultural argument that these places feed our soul, and they connect us to our past,” says Stephanie Meeks, the president and CEO of the National Trust of the National Trust. “But this is the first time we’ve had empirical data to show that these places perform better economically and on many livability factors, as well.”

The report divided each city into a grid of 200-by-200-meter squares to allow comparison across neighborhoods (city blocks tend to be different sizes even across the same city, making that unit a poor measure).

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State will not move forward with historic district designation of Gowanus due to overwhelming opposition

Daily News BY 

The state Historic Preservation Office has decided not to pursue the designation of a large swath of the neighborhood, an area that would have covered 422 properties near the notoriously polluted Gowanus Canal

“It’s very disturbing that people went door to door . . . bullying people to go against this and giving them misinformation,” said Linda Mariano, co-founder of Friends and Residents of Great Gowanus, a citizens group that has pushed for the creation of a historic district since the early 2000s.

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This Is New York Now: Starbucks, Frozen Yogurt and Juice Bars

We’ve been waiting for the other shoe to fall for months now, ever since Bleecker Street Records was pushed out of its longtime home at 239 Bleecker Street in August by a massive rent increase that would have required the record store to pay $27,000 a month. What purveyor of luxury goods would fill the home from which the vinyl mecca drew its name? (Miraculously, Bleecker Street Records found a space around the corner at 188 West 4th.)Now we know, h/t Grub Street: a Starbucks will be moving in.

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New Yorkers, Take Back Your City


The old-school gentrification of the 20th century, while harmful, wasn’t all bad. It made streets safer, created jobs and brought fresh vegetables to the corner store. Today, however, what we talk about when we talk about gentrification is actually a far more destructive process, one that I prefer to call hyper-gentrification.

Unlike gentrification, in which the agents of change were middle-class settlers moving into working-class and poor neighborhoods, in hyper-gentrification the change comes from city government in collaboration with large corporations. Widespread transformation is intentional, massive and swift, resulting in a completely sanitized city filled with brand-name mega-developments built for the luxury class. The poor, working and middle classes are pushed out, along with artists, and the city goes stale. Urban scholar Neil Smith wrote extensively about the phenomenon, calling it “a systematic class-remaking of city neighborhoods.”

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Public Library Is Abandoning Disputed Plan for Landmark


In a striking about-face, the New York Public Library has abandoned its much-disputed renovation plan to turn part of its research flagship on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street into a circulating library and instead will refurbish the nearby Mid-Manhattan Library, several library trustees said.

“When the facts change, the only right thing to do as a public-serving institution is to take a look with fresh eyes and see if there is a way to improve the plans and to stay on budget,” Anthony W. Marx, the library’s president, said on Wednesday.

The renovation of the flagship, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, would have replaced the book stacks under the building’s main reading room with the new lending library. The project was to be paid for with $150 million from New York City and proceeds from the sale of the Mid-Manhattan Library, at Fifth Avenue and 40th Street, and the Science, Industry and Business Library in the former B. Altman building, on Madison Avenue at 34th Street.

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New York Public Library Scraps Redesign Plans

The Controversial Renovation Plan Prompted Three Lawsuits


The New York Public Library has scrapped a controversial renovation plan that would have gutted century-old book stacks from its landmark Fifth Avenue building.

Its decision came amid three lawsuits and skepticism from Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was under pressure from his supporters to claw back $150 million in city funding for the project.

The library on Wednesday said that an independent cost analysis it commissioned showed that the renovation of the Stephen A. Schwarzman building would have cost significantly more than the $300 million it originally projected.

“When the facts change, the only right thing to do as a public-serving institution is to take a look with fresh eyes and see if there is a way to improve the plans and to stay on budget,” Anthony Marx, the library’s president, said.

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City unveils 200K-unit, $41B housing plan



Mayor Bill de Blasio hails his effort as “literally the largest and most ambitious affordable-housing program” in the history of the nation. He promised to work collaboratively with the real estate industry but vowed to “drive a hard bargain.”

The mayor did not identify specific neighborhoods that would be targeted for aggressive development, however City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod said the Planning Commission would initiate a “dozen” planning studies in the months ahead to start that process. His plan calls for additional building atop rail yards, such as with Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Hudson Yards in Manhattan, but does not identify specific locations.

Public housing will be a component of this plan, though likely not the building of new public housing, as Mr. de Blasio noted that funding from the federal government was essentially “frozen.” Asked if new legislation will be required from Albany to help entice developers or protect rent regulated apartments, Mr. de Blasio responded vaguely that his administration expected the full cooperation from both the federal and state governments.

“We insist on real involvement,” he said.

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Mayor de Blasio’s Plan to Build More Cells

In considering ways in which space can be arranged to accommodate New York’s poor, the new plan is not the most sensible one. By Aaron Betsky

Does anybody care about the quality of housing? Apparently not, or at least not in New York. How and where you live is only a numbers game, as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement of a plan to “spend” up to $40 billion to create “affordable” housing in the city makes clear.

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The Giant New Building That Is About to Overshadow the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine — And How the City Ought to Step In

New York Magazine By 

There’s a better way: negotiate. What matters most to the cathedral’s majesty is its presence on the street, not the height of its still-nonexistent central tower. So if Mayor de Blasio moves fast, before construction has actually begun, he can still broker a compromise:

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Architects Newspaper By: Alan G. Brake

One of New York’s leading preservation groups names winners of its first awards program

The Historic Districts Council, one of New York’s leading historic preservation organizations, has announced the winners of its first annual design awards. The goal of the awards program is to “broaden perceptions of the possibilities of design in historic settings,” according to a statement from the organization. AN served as a media sponsor for the awards, and I served as a juror for the awards along side jury chair James Stewart Polshek; Leo A. Blackman, principal, Leo A. Blackman Architects; Jean Caroon, principal, Good Clancy; Andrew Scott Dolkart, director of the Historic Preservation program at Columbia; and Adam Yarinsky, principal at ARO. Drawing over 70 entries from within the five boroughs, the award winning projects exemplify the power of contemporary design to engage with history and enrich the life of the city.

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Supporters of Closing Rizzoli Bookstore Call for Reforms to City’s Landmarks Process

News 1

Supporters say the century old Rizzoli Building, which houses the Rizzoli Bookstore, deserves protection through landmark status, despite a rejection by the Landmark Preservation Commission. They say the commission’s process is slow and lacks transparency.

“We’re here today to ask that LPC immediately study those remaining buildings on West 57th street, particularly those on this block, to identify and landmark those that represent the best of their eras, so we don’t have any more Rizzoli situations,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

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Demolition freeze may cover 80% of the city


Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s bid to protect buildings over age 50 frightens developers, construction unions and housing activists.

Crains By Joe Anuta

A politician’s proposal to protect the thousands of older buildings in New York that face demolition each year has triggered a backlash not just among powerful developers, but also among construction unions and advocates for affordable housing who fear the measure could drastically curb residential construction in the city.

The storm began on April 4 at a protest outside the stately, likely-to-be-razed Rizzoli bookstore on West 57th Street, when Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer pledged to do more to prevent such losses in the future. She offered to introduce a bill that would require a 30-day review by the Landmarks Preservation Commission of any demolition permit filed for a building over 50 years old. The measure would apply to nearly 80% of the city’s structures and 91% of those in Manhattan, according to city data.

 Click here to read the full story


Museum fears plaster disaster from next-door hotel project

The Villager by Sam Spokony

  To the dismay of advocates for the historic Merchant’s House Museum, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission finally approved a plan for the construction of an eight-story hotel next to the museum, in a six-to-one vote on April 8.

The planned 27 E. Fourth St. hotel — which would sit immediately to the west of the 29 E. Fourth St. museum — had twice been rejected by L.P.C., after first being introduced in 2012 as a nine-story structure. But the final design’s slightly smaller scale, along with other exterior changes, apparently led the commission to allow it to go forward.


Merchant’s House-Neighboring Hotel Approved by Landmarks

Curbed by Jeremiah Budin

The only Commissioner to vote against the proposal, Margery Perlmutter, called it “drab on so many levels.” “I feel likewe’ve been exhausted into saying yes to this proposal, so I’m saying no,” she said.

The hotel proposal has been a subject of controversy not just because of its underwhelming design, but also because of the neighboring Merchant’s House, which preservationists fear will be harmed by the construction. The developers have promised to take extensive measures to ensure that the almost-two-century-old structure will not be harmed, and the Commission had basicallysigned off on that aspect at the last hearing, so there was no further discussion of the museum. It’s supporters, wearing stickers urging the LPC to say no to the hotel, left quietly and dejectedly.

Click here to read the full article



LPC Likely to Protect Ladies’ Mile Buildings From Demolition


Chelsea Now by Scott Stiffler

A developer’s plan to demolish two landmarked 19th-century buildings on West 19th Street was met with stiff resistance by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), following similar opposition by community leaders and preservationists.

Although no official vote was taken at the April 1 hearing, the commissioners were nearly unanimous in their belief that Panasia Estate, the owner of 51 and 53 West 19th Street (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues), should focus on restoring the buildings — which lie within the Ladies’ Mile Historic District — rather than replacing them with a proposed 14-story residential building.

Click here to read the full article


“Everybody Has Been Bought Off”: Brewer, Neighbors Protest Imminent Rizzoli Bookstore Demolition

Gothamist by Ben Miller

A coalition of preservationists and community leaders held a rally and press conference today in front of the soon-to-be-demolished Rizzoli Bookstore, which has already been defaced, at least on the outside, by the developers who hope to tear it down and put up more glassy condos.

Click here to read the full article


Sunset Park Leading Grassroots Effort to Preserve Its History

NY1 by Jeanine Ramirez

“We’ve got letters from all those homeowners saying that they are in support,” said one person.

On Wednesday, the community board voted unanimously in favor. It will now write a resolution to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Board members emphasized that the effort is not to make the working-class community more expensive, but to maintain its architectural significance.

“That character is one of affordability, said Daniel Murphy, the chair of Community Board 7. “We were never a bourgeois neighborhood. We want to preserve as much as that as we can.”

Click here to read the full article


COOKFOX Wins Award for Front Street; BK Heights Tour

Curbed by Zoe Rosenberg

The Historic District Council has awarded an inaugural design award to Historic Front Street at South Street Seaport. Designed by COOKFOX Architects, the project infilled a number of empty sites along the stretch.

Click here to read the full article


A Landmark Restored, From Mosaic Marble Floor to Grand Dome

Michael Nagle for The New York Times

Sandstone walls were painted white. Decorative walnut and mahogany woodwork was painted green. The hand-cut mosaic floors of the two banking halls were badly damaged, as were floors of encaustic tile elsewhere in the building. Most of the decorative hardware was gone. The bird-cage elevator was stilled.

Dust had accumulated so exactly along the lines of the framework behind the dome that Mr. Perez San Martin thought the dark spokes were part of the original mural. A cleaning and restoration by Sandra Spannan of See Painting revealed otherwise.

New encaustic tiles were ordered from the English firm Craven Dunnill & Company, which still had the molds and colors necessary to match the existing floors, Mr. Perez San Martin said. The walls and woodwork were stripped and restored.

Click here to read the full article


Preservation Pays! REBNY’S Campaign Against Landmark Protection Is Misguided

By opposing preservation, REBNY and its allies oppose the will of the people


Imagine New York City without a landmarks law protecting historic neighborhoods and buildings. Actually, one does not have to imagine. There are examples aplenty across the five boroughs. From urban renewal sites to the apartment towers rising in Williamsburg and Long Island City, from “McMansions” replacing older homes in Forest Hills and Kew Gardens to new construction breaking up an intact block of row houses in Sunset Park, there is evidence anywhere you look.

The Real Estate Board of New York has launched an aggressive media campaign against historic preservation. There are too many landmarks, they wail, and many of those are unworthy! They argue that historic districts impede growth and development. Their evidence on all fronts is slim to misleading. Here’s why.

Follow us: @newyorkobserver on Twitter | newyorkobserver on Facebook

Click here to read the full article


Mayor de Blasio’s Brooklyn housing plan is building big worries



The fears crystalized Wednesday when the Planning Board approved a $1.5 billion project on the site of old Domino sugar plant in Williamsburg. It will have towers as high as 55 stories, or about 20 stories more than zoning on the site normally allows.

Permission for the taller buildings was granted in return for the developer setting aside 537,000 square feet, a quarter of all space, for 700 units of affordable housing.

That’s compared to 20% under a less dense 2010 plan.

Click here to read the full article

Cities Mobilize to Help Those Threatened by Gentrification


Newcomers, whose vitality is critical to cities, are hardly being turned away. But officials say a balance is needed, given the attention and government funding being spent to draw young professionals — from tax breaks for luxury condominium buildings to new bike lanes, dog parks and athletic fields.

“We feel the people who toughed it out should be rewarded,” said Darrell L. Clarke, president of the Philadelphia City Council, which last year approved legislation to limit property tax increases for longtime residents. “And we feel it is incumbent upon us to protect them.”


Argument Over a Brownstone Neighborhood

The Case for and Against a Bed-Stuy Historic District

By /New York Times

Supporters contend that a designation would preserve an architecturally and historically significant part of the city while also rewarding residents who had stuck with the neighborhood during tough times, in part by increasing the value of their homes and preventing unwelcome new development.

Opponents predict that a designation would bring heftier renovation costs and a tangle of regulations for homeowners seeking to improve their properties, along with higher rents and sale prices that would force out the largely low-income minority residents who form the area’s core. Opponents also argue that most Bed-Stuy residents weren’t adequately informed about the proposal.

Click here to read the full article


 Renovation, restoration the trend in Midtown East

By /Real Estate Weekly

With Midtown East’s controversial rezoning currently on hold for the foreseeable future, owners of properties in the district are taking a second look at extant buildings — and many like what they see.

125 Park Avenue

Numerous major renovations and restorations had already been launched in the area prior to the rezoning’s tabling, from SL Green’s swanky 2008 renovation of 125 Park Avenue, a 1923 Romanesque Revival office building directly adjacent to Grand Central, to a current restoration of 501 Fifth Avenue by Abramson Brothers, Inc., which will restore the 1916 Beaux Arts skyscraper’s original limestone façade.

In the wake of these are a slew of similarly ambitious projects, including RFR’s “reimagined” 285 Madison Avenue, a gut renovation and new ground floor at the equally impressive 292 Madison just across the street and a burnishing of 501 Madison Avenue that promises to bring a tarnished Art Deco jewel back to its original luster.

Click here to read the full article


HDC’s Simeon Bankoff Talks About Life on the Preservation Front Lines

City Land Profile

Advice for the Uninitiated. Mr. Bankoff described HDC’s work as tripartite: education, advocacy, and community outreach. In addition to his ubiquitous presence at Landmarks, City Council, and community boards in support of preservation, HDC hosts lectures and tours, often in response to requests from civic groups. Mr. Bankoff likes to bring together civic groups with government representatives from Landmarks, Buildings, and Council, providing the agencies with an opportunity to meet communities in a neutral situation, and the communities with different perspectives on the designation process.

Click here to read the full article


Potential Historic District Supported by Elected Officials and Community Boards

By: Jesse Denno/City Land

Representatives of Council Members Daniel Garodnick and Ben Kallos testified in support of the designation. A representative of Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney voiced her “full-throated support” of “this iconic area of our city,” and a representative of State Senator Liz Krueger testified that “threats to this section of Park Avenue are not merely theoretical.” Representatives of Manhattan Community Boards 8 and 11 also recommended designation.

Click here to read the full article




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Six to Celebrate 2018 Application

Posted by on Tuesday, November 28, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

Apply today to become one of our 2018 Six to Celebrate groups! The deadline is December 1, 2017

Selection of the SIX TO CELEBRATE is based on a combination of factors, including completeness and clarity of the material submitted, architectural and/or historical significance of the area, current threats to the area, need, and geographic distribution in New York City. Applications for the 2018 Six to Celebrate are now closed.

View the Application

For more information read our brochure {English} {Spanish}

If you have any questions call 212-614-9107 or e-mail Barbara Zay

Support is provided in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Additional support is provided by New York City Council Members Margaret Chin, Daniel Garodnick, Vincent Gentile, Corey Johnson, Ben Kallos, Peter Koo and Stephen Levin.



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HDC@LPC – Testimony for Public Hearing on November 28, 2017

Posted by on Monday, November 27, 2017 · 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

138-146 West 48th Street – Cort Theater – Individual Landmark


A French neo-Classical style theater exterior and interior designed by Thomas Lamb and built in 1912-13. Application is to construct a new building on a portion of the landmark site, remove a bracket sign, install a new marquee, doors, signs, alley gate, and windows, and to alter the designated interior, including changes to the wall and stairs adjacent to the new building, and to the rear wall of the theater.

HDC applauds the applicant on a very sensitive and welcome restoration of this magnificent theater, especially the reintroduction of the historic marquee. The need for more space at The Cort Theater is a great sign of a thriving and successful theater district in Times Square, and the treatment of this façade shows that these historic theater buildings are a beloved and important part of that success.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 3

7 West 83rd Street – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District


A neo-Romanesque style synagogue designed by Charles Bradford Meyers and built in 1928- 30. Application is to replace windows.

HDC finds this proposal to be mostly sensitive to this monumental building, but questions the necessity of changing the windows, especially on the front façade, from art glass to clear glass. This special glazing is a feature of the building and should be preserved.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 7

300 Kenmore Road – Douglaston Historic District


An empty lot formerly occupied by a Ranch house built in 1955, with a relocated outbuilding. Application is to demolish the outbuilding and construct a new building.

HDC strongly opposes the demolition of this circa 1920 garage building. The original elements of this graceful Tudor Revival estate – main house, carriage house, garage and garden – are all intact. In fact, in 1999, the grouping was restored with the demolition of a mid-20th century ranch house on the garden lot. At that time, the garage was moved from behind the main house to the garden lot, which made it more visible and, thus, celebrated it as a part of the ensemble. It was renovated to be a focal point of the garden property, with the addition of two sets of French doors, one filling the old garage door opening now facing Kenmore Road and the other opening east onto a small bluestone terrace. Its simple but elegant details, like its clipped gable, match the main house, and were left alone to honor the overall aesthetic of the estate. The designation report cites freestanding garages as a distinctive feature of the Douglaston Historic District, and the Commission has a proven track record of encouraging their preservation. We ask that the Commission exercise its power to protect this building from demolition.

While we would certainly prefer that the garden remain intact, we do wish to comment on the proposed design for its replacement. The applicant would do well to further study the context of this house for design inspiration. Above all, it should relate to number 318 Kenmore Road, Josephine Wright Chapman’s circa 1915 Tudor Revival design and the main house of this property. In the absence of that, it could have drawn inspiration from its other neighbors, including the 1923 Mediterranean Revival directly adjacent at 303 Knollwood Avenue, or the 1923 Tudor Revival directly opposite at the corner of West Drive & Kenmore Road, or the 1910 Arts & Crafts that it faces across East-West Drive at 4 Kenmore Road. If the applicant was set on the Colonial Revival style, they could have studied the 1916 clapboard-sided Colonial Revival style house at 26-18 West Drive directly opposite. Unfortunately, the new house does not take cues from any of these buildings in any way, including height, massing, detailing and style.

Rather, the Colonial Revival style detailing of the proposed house is overly heavy and overly elaborated. While the porch facing west is potentially a nice idea, it is rendered as another main entry, with highly elaborated detailing and a large door, giving the building what looks like two main facades. The shutters are not sized for the windows selected, which throws off the windows’ scale and proportion. The height of the garage wing facing Kenmore Road is extremely tall, with very tall doors, which does not lend itself well to a residential scale, even for the building’s large size. We also discourage the use of “FYPON,” which is essentially plastic and not a quality material that the district deserves.

Finally, in a district known and designated for its “garden suburb” character, this house subsumes the nature of this large lot with both house and paving, leaving little green space. We ask the Commission to check the district Master Plan’s rules for maximum lot coverage and the requirements for setbacks in this area, as this house, its paving, terraces and porches seem to overwhelm the lot and encroach on the sidewalk, which is not characteristic of this district. The Master Plan also outlines the protection of “landscape improvements,” and HDC asks that those considerations be made here.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 8

4637 Grosvenor Avenue – Fieldston Historic District


A Dutch Colonial Revival Style house built in 1920, designed by Edgar & Verna Cook Salomonsky. Application is to add an attic story to an existing one-story wing; and alter an existing opening on the front façade.

While HDC could support an addition to this house, we ask that the addition be more sensitive to the existing massing by contrasting a bit more with what is there. As proposed, the addition would bring the roofline of the side wing up to nearly the same height as that of the main wing of the house, which appears heavy handed and a bit awkward. Perhaps the existing eave line could be maintained with a setback addition. Also, the blank space between the roofline and the window openings on the side wing introduce strange proportions to the façade.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 9

67 Remsen Street – Brooklyn Heights Historic District


An eclectic rowhouse built c. 1861-1879. Application is to construct a rooftop addition.

Due to the visibility from Montague Street, HDC asks that the applicant reconsider bringing the elevator to the roof. With just a stair bulkhead, the area, height and impact of this addition would be minimized.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 10

514 Halsey Street – Bedford Stuyvesant/Expanded Stuyvesant Heights Historic District


A vacant lot. Application is to construct a new building.

HDC opposes this proposed new building in the Bedford Stuyvesant/Expanded Stuyvesant Heights Historic District. It is grossly out of scale with the block both in bulk and height, giving the appearance of a house already besieged by massive, non-compliant additions. The windows on the front façade are extremely chaotic in their size and alternating placement, relating neither to the existing rhythm of openings nor to the prevailing size of windows on this block. The rear – at two stories higher than everything around it – is an affront to the intact rears present on the block and to the block’s uniform height. We implore the Commission to demand a higher standard and to send the applicant back to the drawing board.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 11 

156 Gates Avenue – Clinton Hill Historic District


A transitional Italianate/neo-Grec style rowhouse designed by Lambert and Mason and built in 1877. Application is to legalize alterations to the front façade and installation of fences at the areaway and rear yard without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

HDC opposes the legalization of this work. Had the applicant worked with the LPC staff, these changes could have been more sympathetic to the existing historic fabric, including a more modest fence and windows that are appropriate to the building.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags:

HDC@LPC – Testimony for Hearing on November 21, 2017

Posted by on Monday, November 20, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

Item 2

132 Calyer Street – Greenpoint Historic District


A frame house built c. 1868-69. Application is to install siding, recreate decorative features, and replace windows at the front façade.

This house is proof that with sensitive stewardship, even the most altered historic fabric can be reconfigured into a work of art. HDC would like to commend this applicant for conducting a probe and recreating original details like window lintels and a cornice, as opposed to using this building’s alterations as justification for a non-sympathetic intervention or even demolition. Landmark designation in this district will ensure that over time, one by one, these less fortunate wooden houses will be restored. This property is one of several altered wooden houses in the Greenpoint historic district which are undergoing restoration with the Commission’s approval. These successful examples should be the standard of comparison for projects in Greenpoint, unlike 111 Noble Street which the applicant has proposed to demolish and whose public meeting is imminent.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 4

58 Bank Street – Greenwich Village Historic District


A Greek Revival style house built in the mid 1840s and later altered with a fourth floor and an Italianate cornice. Application is to construct rooftop and rear yard additions, and excavate the rear yard.

While our committee finds the proposed rooftop addition to be set back a reasonable distance from the street, the elevator bulkhead is too visible. We suggest the applicant work with staff on alternative designs that don’t have such a significant elevator override.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 5

170 Bleecker Street – South Village Historic District


A Greek Revival style rowhouse built c. 1835 and later altered by Francis Y. Joannes and Maxwell Hyde in 1921. Application is to replace and modify storefront infill and install signage and light fixtures.

HDC is pleased that a wooden storefront is being proposed, however, the design seems like a missed opportunity. Working in a medium like wood allows for fine detail and profiles, and this proposal essentially proposes to create a wooden storefront that appears to look like aluminum. We hope that staff can work with the applicant to extend the craftsmanship a bit farther to create an attractive frontage, and reevaluate the color scheme which appears quite stark compared to the upper floors.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 6

269 West 11th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District


A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1836 and altered prior to 1940. Application is to excavate the rear yard.

Our committee asks that the applicant undertakes any excavation work with extreme caution so as not to disturb the adjacent backhouse. These structures, built in the 1830s, are extremely fragile and should not be disturbed.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 7

307-317 East 44th Street – Individual Landmark


A pair of International Style apartment buildings designed by Raymond Hood, Godley & Fouilhoux and built in 1929-30. Application is to establish a Master Plan governing the future installation of windows.

HDC is concerned with what appears to be an inconsistent window scheme for a window master plan, something that will guide all future window installations on this large complex. In some cases, the windows closely match what currently exists on the buildings. In other cases, larger, thicker profiles have been presented. The wider verticals that appear only on certain windows are problematic, as fenestration is a fundamental design element to International Style buildings. Windows that don’t match will be readily apparently and detract from this individual landmark. The designation report for this individual landmark notes that at the time of designation all of the steel window frames were intact. We ask, then, that the applicant use steel windows, which are readily available, in future installations.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 10

3560 Broadway – Individual Landmark – (Former) Hamilton Theater


A neo-Renaissance style theater designed by Thomas W. Lamb and built in 1912-13. Application is to construct additions, alter the façade, and install new window openings and entrance infill.

There is a great opportunity here to restore historic elements of this beautiful Thomas Lamb theater and HDC hopes the applicant will take advantage of this. For the cost of the new flooring construction being undertaken here, the cost of bringing back a sheet metal cornice is minimal in comparison and would give something back to the neighborhood. We would also like to see the arched openings on the street side restored and there is ample documentation to guide the owners through this process. We hope that as a show of consideration to this neighborhood the owners will work with staff to return these historic features to this grand public building.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 11

290 West 246th Street – Fieldston Historic District


A house designed by BKSK Architects and built in 2004. Application is to legalize alterations to porches and pathways without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

This application was incomplete and unclear for our committee to evaluate its appropriateness. We ask that a sufficient presentation be provided in order for the public to understand what work is being proposed.

LPC determination: Approved

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags:

HDC@LPC – Testimony for Hearing on November 14, 2017

Posted by on Monday, November 13, 2017 · 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 2

1370 Dean Street – Crown Heights North Historic District


A Queen Anne style semi-attached house designed by G.A. Schellenger and built c. 1885. Application is to construct a rear addition.

As this house is semi-attached, its two visible facades were attractively designed with the intent to be seen. It is inappropriate to demolish an historically finished façade where details described in the designation report are as follows: three-sided wood bay window with recessed spandrel panels, one-over-one, double-hung wood windows, and molded wood cornice; projecting molded cornice wrapping around to engage the cornice on the Dean Street façade; pitched roof with slate shingles; three gabled wall dormers with denticulated pediments; foliate ornament within the two northernmost dormer pediments and tall brick chimneys. Removal of this section is, without question, significant removal of historic fabric and should not be permitted.

An alarming amount of speculative projects are invading the historic districts of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights North. A new trend emerging is for developers to sell properties “with plans,” meaning, with LPC-approvals in place, but not built. With that in mind, is it appropriate to destroy a large portion of this house for people who do not even live here yet?

Further, if this was bought to be occupied as a single family, would this much bulk be permitted as a rear yard addition? It’s doubtful. Just because this house is being proposed as a multi-family, it should not be given greater bulk latitude, because the building’s use shouldn’t affect evaluating its appropriateness. This bulk strips the building’s appearance as a rowhouse and rather it rather appears as a small flats building. If approved, this will certainly set a precedent for a huge amount of permissible volume in the rears of these houses which dominate the district.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 9

184 Waverly Place – Greenwich Village Historic District


A Federal style building built before 1828. Application is to install areaway enclosures, garbage enclosures, and through-wall HVAC louvers, construct rooftop bulkheads, and install rooftop mechanical equipment, flue extensions and railings.

The rooftop accretions of bulkheads, mechanicals, railings and extended flues are far too much clutter on this low-scale, ancient corner building. The applicants honestly rendered the visibility and the cumulative result is far too impactful at this Village intersection on a small building. Some or most of what is proposed for the roof should be explored to be relocated to a basement, or the bulkheads should be eliminated or reduced in size. The proposed street-level fence alongside the trash enclosure clutters the sidewalk as well, and the fence seems unnecessary to an entrance of a building that isn’t a rowhouse stoop.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 10

156 West 10th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District


An Italianate style rowhouse designed by James P. Ringgold and built in 1855. Application is to alter the rear façade, excavate the rear yard, construct rooftop bulkheads, and install rooftop mechanical equipment, flue extensions, a trellis, and railings.

Like its neighbor at 184 Waverly, HDC found the rooftop bulk to be too visible and it should be reduced. Given that the current yards are non-compliant, HDC wonders if an excavation is even allowable in this location.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 11

34 King Street – Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District


A Greek Revival style house built in 1840. Application is to legalize a bulkhead built in noncompliance with Certificate of Appropriateness 15-0478.

Prior to this construction, this side of King Street had maintained a crisp roofline for over 175 years. The roofline might still appear this way if the applicant had constructed the bulkhead in the version LPC issued permits for. Instead, the bulkhead as built was a willful violation of what was approved and should not be excused or rewarded. Had the builder followed instructions, this unsightly mass would not be hovering nearly two feet above the Greek Revival cornice. Further, adding a cap to this fine cornice to obscure the illegal construction will further degrade and clutter the termination of this building. HDC implores the Commission to require this applicant to lower the roof height to its initial approval to preserve the pristine nature of this very small and quite old collection of buildings. 

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

 Item 12

125 East 11th Street – Individual Landmark Historic District


A 19th century assembly hall built in 1886-87 with an Annex built in 1892. Application is to modify and create masonry openings, install infill, relocate terra-cotta panels, and modify the areaway.

Given this building’s history of multiple fires and alterations, creating another alteration to an individual landmark is a step in the wrong direction. There are currently five different ways in and out of this building, all from the front façade. Two of the five are the main or formal entries, which the architecture and design of the façade clearly establishes as the primary entrances to the building. With the extensive renovation underway, HDC believes that there must be a better solution to dealing with egress, ADA, or both as opposed to poking yet another hole into this façade for a large entry way.

The proposed entry is unceremonious unlike the building’s other two established entries, and the terra cotta’s location will not make sense from a design standpoint once it is moved. All of this can be avoided if this entry is eliminated and the applicant proposed interior and possibly exterior modifications to allow the other entrances to function for this building. Alterations have not been kind to this building, but it remains a celebrated individual landmark. To that end, the long-term direction of how interventions should impact this building should move toward restoration, not further degradation.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 15

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


A Renaissance Revival style apartment building designed by Gaetan Ajello and built in 1919- 1920. Application is to install a barrier-free access ramp.

While HDC did not find the ramp itself innappropriate, the decision to apply granite 12 by 12 tiles to the ramp and planter was puzzling. While the historic steps are granite, this is an entirely brick and terra cotta building. If granite is desired, it should evoke a monolithic appearance, not a tiled one which is completely out of character with the building itself and the historic district.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 16

464 Amsterdam Avenue – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District


A Renaissance Revival style tenement building with ground floor storefronts, designed by Gilbert A. Schellenger and built in 1894. Application is to replace storefront infill.

While the historic storefront was replaced long ago, the committee found the opaque wooden door an odd choice. The current door, which incorporates a glass transom, is more historically appropriate for this old commercial thoroughfare.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 18

22 East 80th Street – Metropolitan Museum Historic District


A neo-Renaissance style rowhouse designed by Charles Graham & Sons and built in 1889, altered by Isaac Newton Phelps-Stokes in 1922. Application is to replace windows and install a guardrail.

HDC was puzzled as to why a handrail is necessary for this balcony, as it is accessed by windows, not a door. If safety is a concern, standard child safety guards can be installed in the windows which is a far less invasive intervention than installing a railing into a stone parapet.

LPC determination: LAID OVER

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags:

Landmarks Lion 2017 – Jeff Greene / EverGreene Architectural Arts

Posted by on Tuesday, October 31, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

Category: Featured, landmark lion · Tags:

HDC@LPC – Testimony for Hearing on October 31, 2017

Posted by on Monday, October 30, 2017 · 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

51 MacDougal Street – Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District


A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1846-47 and later modified. Application is to construct rooftop and rear yard additions, create new window openings, and apply a brick veneer to the side elevation.

HDC can support the proposed addition in the rear, including the new storefront on the Houston Street façade. We do not, however, support the proposal for the rooftop, which would add an enormous amount of bulk designed in an incongruous style unbefitting of this mid-19th century Greek Revival style building. Perhaps the applicant could investigate the addition of a simple stair bulkhead to gain access to the roof. Concerning the storefront redesign for the front façade, HDC wishes to point out that in the district’s designation report, the MacDougal Street storefront is specifically called out. At the time, its original storefront was intact and described as “a rare survival in the city.” It is unclear what happened to this historic material between 1966 and today, but HDC urges the Commission to request that a restoration or replication of this original storefont be carried out based on historic documentation.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 3

71 Fifth Avenue – Ladies’ Mile Historic District


An early 20th century commercial style store and loft building designed by Charles Vilz and built in 1906-1907. Application is to alter the ground floor and install entrance infill, and construct a rooftop bulkhead.

As the applicants have presented in their application, there is clear historic documentation detailing 71 Fifth Avenue’s original ground floor configuration. The original door surround featured an elegant pedimented design, a classical element that fit in effortlessly among the Beaux-Arts buildings of Fifth Avenue. An opportunity exists here to return this historic feature, which was specifically referenced in the district’s designation report, and we would be remiss at not advocating for a restoration instead of another questionable redesign. Additionally, our committee finds the proposed rooftop bulkhead to be far too visible. We ask that the applicants investigate strategies to bring the height down and reduce its visibility on this highly trafficked stretch of Fifth Avenue.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 6

133-137 East 73rd Street – Upper East Side Historic District


A neo-Georgian style residence designed by William H. Birkmire and built in 1899-1900 and a neo-Italian Renaissance style building designed by Charles Stegmayer and built in 1898-1899. Application is to construct a rooftop addition, alter the rear façade, and alter the stoop.

While HDC is happy to see these buildings brought back to life and supports the proposed alterations to the stoop, we do not support the rooftop addition, which, in addition to being very visible from many angles, mistakenly attempts to unify these two buildings. HDC asks that more respect be shown for these structures as being distinct from one another, rather than plopping a very large and incongruous addition on top that would detract from the present reading of these buildings as separate.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 7

292-314 Kent Avenue – Havemeyers & Elder Filter, Pan & Finishing House – Individual Landmark


Three American round-arch style industrial buildings designed by Theodore A. Havemeyer and others and built in 1881-1884. Application is to construct a addition and modify masonry openings.

HDC strongly opposes this proposed scheme for an important individual landmark on the Williamsburg waterfront, an area sorely lacking in historic resources and besieged by dense development. We urge the Commission to exercise caution so that it may thrive in its next chapter, but also continue to evoke its industrial past.

The applicant’s strategy is to insert a new building within the old, asserting that it is nothing but “a donut awaiting filling.” This approach completely disrespects the structure’s inherent muscularity and monumentality, the latter a word used to describe the complex in the designation report. The ideological problem here is that the proposal is simply not adaptive reuse of an existing building. Rather, it would discard a wholly intact structure and rarefy it into essentially a ruin. The applicants look to DUMBO’s St. Ann’s Warehouse for inspiration, but this is not comparing apples to apples, as St. Ann’s Warehouse was, in fact, a ruin before it was adaptively reused. The Refinery today is not a ruin, but a factory complex with floors, joists, beams and structural elements. If this project were in a similar state to that of the Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island, the proposed intervention may be appropriate and necessary. However, to strip the building down to a shell would represent a significant removal of historic fabric and would destroy the 19th century industrial construction methods still exhibited inside – and both are important reasons for the complex’s designation in the first place. Considering that this very heavy-handed proposal is not reversible, its strategy veers dramatically from standards of good or even basic preservation practice.

Concerning the applicant’s assertion that daylight studies corroborate their concept for inserting a glass building within the existing shell, HDC would like to point out that it is not necessary for a curtain wall to replace original brick openings to provide adequate light. A terrific example of an industrial-turned-office space is the monumental Terminal Warehouse Company Central Stores building in the West Chelsea Historic District. This building has significantly less, and much smaller, punched openings than the Domino Sugar Refinery and currently very successfully serves as the Uber Corporation’s headquarters in New York City. The redevelopment of this property did not require curtain wall construction or demolition of 19th century fabric. In creating terraces between the curtain wall and the outer shell, the applicant claims that they seek to “let the brick breathe,” but our committee found no specifications in the drawings that outlined how they planned to protect the interior brick that would now be exposed to the elements – a distressing omission. Also distressing is the work proposed for the smokestack. If approved, the applicants will punch a hole in the base of the iconic smokestack to create an entrance. This might seem like a romantic concept, but it would only make the smokestack appear cartoonish; what was once the towering center of a powerful industrial operation would now be simply an odd relic standing on a hollow base.

If the applicant truly seeks to honor this property’s history and long-time contribution to the Brooklyn waterfront, we would suggest an approach that embraces, rather than overwhelms what is there, and enhances, rather than negates the value of this magnificent complex. It is grand on its own merits. A sensitive restoration would be a far more powerful and sustainable approach.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 8

82 John Street – DUMBO Historic District


A garage building (82 John Street) with an unknown construction date and an American Round Arch factory building (18 Bridge Street) designed by Edward N. Stone and constructed 1902. Application is to demolish the garage and construct a new building and excavate; and install a canopy at 18 Bridge Street.

While HDC does not object to the demolition of this small garage, we do not approve of the proposed design for its replacement. This is a neighborhood of strong, industrial buildings whose materials are appropriately solid. While the applicant did not provide a wall section in the application materials, the use of steel panels and stucco gives the building a lightweight, flimsy appearance that is not appropriate for the district. At 18 Bridge Street, the awning should follow the arched shape of the opening, rather than cutting a straight line across the top of the entrance that would obscure this detail.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 9

24-02 19th Street – Astoria Park Pool and Play Center – Individual Landmark


An Art Moderne style pool complex designed by John Matthews Hatton, Aymar Embury II, landscape architects Gilmore D. Clarke and Allyn R. Jennings, and civil engineers W. Earle Andrews and William H. Latham built in 1934-36. Application is to modify the wading pool, playground, and comfort station and install stairs and pathways, fencing and site furnishings.

The Astoria Park Pool – the city’s largest public pool – was one of 11 WPA-funded outdoor swimming facilities in New York City that opened in the summer of 1936. As outlined in the complex’s designation report, the design of these 11 facilities was informed by a list of shared guidelines, including the provision that each was to have separate swimming, diving and wading pools.

In recent years, it appears that the wading pool at Astoria Park has been reduced to a space with a few sprinklers forming puddles on the concrete – a sort of sparse water playground, rather than a pool. The proposal before the Commission today seems to take this idea one step further by reducing the water feature to a very small semi-circle within the broader enclosure and cluttering up the rest of the space with play equipment and sun shades. As also outlined in the designation report, the pools are surrounded by wide decks and sun bathing areas. Why make them even wider? And why sacrifice open space where small children could be enjoying the shallow water, a wonderful amenity as much today as when it was originally designed?

HDC finds this to be a missed opportunity to restore the wading pool to its original use – wading – and further finds that turning it into a playground would mar the symmetry of the ensemble, which consists of two semi-circular pools flanking the main rectangular pool. If more play equipment is needed, perhaps the nearby playground could be expanded. Institutionalizing the presence of so much bare hardscape would be a shame in a place designed for aquatic recreation.

LPC determination: Approved

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags:

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