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 LPC Hearing on June 19, 2018

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

Item 1



550 MADISON AVENUE (FORMER AT&T CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS BUILDING LATER SONY BUILDING), 550 Madison Avenue – aka 550-570 Madison Avenue, 13-29 East 55th Street, 14-28 East 56th Street

For roughly two decades after World War II, Madison Avenue north of Grand Central saw a flurry of office building development that put the neighborhood at the center of the city’s cutting-edge post-war building boom. When the construction of a new headquarters for the American Telephone and Telegraph Company on Madison Avenue between 55th and 56th Streets was announced in 1977, the neighborhood was largely built up and the city was in the midst of a financial crisis. A major construction project such as this was unexpected.

The design of the building, though, was perhaps even more unexpected. Its unapologetic postmodern design was replete with nods to Classical architectural forms and materials, shunning Modernism’s trend for boxy glass and steel. The design was met with robustly negative criticism from leading architecture critics, including Ada Louise Huxtable, who wrote that “…it has neither genuine quirkiness nor real style. In spite of some passing shock value, this is a dull building—a pedestrian pastiche pulled together by painstaking, polished details.” The building employs a Classical tripartite form, with a base, shaft and capital. The original base – later altered by Gwathmey Siegel in 1994 – was dominated by a 110-foot-tall arch framing a covered loggia, and the capital is a massively scaled, thirty-foot-tall broken pediment. The 37-story tower was clad in rough-hewn pink Stony Creek granite, a popular stone in neo-Classical architecture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in New York. These over-scaled and simplified Classical forms were considered gimmicky at the time. However, upon the building’s completion in 1984, critics were surprisingly happy with the results, largely due to the grand public space provided at the building’s base, which was considered a gift to the street. Interestingly, the LPC’s consideration of the AT&T Building as the city’s newest Individual Landmark followed recent controversy and public outcry over plans to irreparably alter the building’s base: clearly, a feature still beloved by New Yorkers.

Today, the building is considered by many to be the most iconic work of postmodernism in the city, and, despite one’s personal feelings about postmodernism or this particular architectural ensemble, it is undoubtedly a remarkable building that speaks to its time of construction. The AT&T Building captured a moment in architectural design, when architects were looking for new ways to express monumentality that didn’t put pure functionality above all else. As this building comes of age, its significance to the world of architecture and to the skyline of New York City have become apparent, and we thank the Commission for recognizing this and safeguarding its future.

Item 1

877 Southern Boulevard – Individual Landmark – Hunts Point Public Library


A Classical style library building designed by Carrère & Hastings and built in 1929. Application is to install a rooftop stair bulkhead, rooftop mechanical equipment, replace windows, and install barrier-free access ramps.

In the early 1980s, the original windows of this library were removed and replaced with square-headed aluminum sash, which the head librarian at the time described as “a disaster.” While the designation report did not name this librarian by name, we hope that she or he could see this laudable proposal before the Commission today. HDC applauds the thoughtful restoration of Carrere & Hastings’ original window artistry executed in quality, durable materials. These windows’ design brings this individual landmark back to its former grandeur.

Item 2

281 Park Avenue South – Individual Landmark – Church Missions House


A Gothic style religious and charitable-institution building designed by Robert Williams Gibson and Edward J. Neville Stent and built in 1892-94. Application is to remove a stained glass window, modify a fire stair, and construct a rear elevator enclosure and rooftop mechanical additions.

HDC found the elevator expansion sensitive and cleverly done, with no overrun and essentially zero visibility from the intervention. While we understand that the large stained glass window will be compromised by this project, we conceded that it was never publicly visible as it was on a secondary façade. We are pleased that it is being dismantled and restored, but were puzzled by where it will be relocated to. HDC hopes that the window will be reinstalled within the building in a prominent place, backlit, so that it can enjoy new life and remain inside the building it was created especially for.

Item 3

186 Fifth Avenue – Ladies’ Mile Historic District


A Queen Anne style office building designed by Henry J. Hardenbergh and built in 1883. Application is to replace the storefront and install signage.

The ground floor of the former Western Union Building in Ladies’ Mile has dulled in comparison with the many opulent, restored storefronts of the historic district for years. HDC is pleased to see that this will finally change, but we strongly believe that a storefront intervention here should not merely clean up and unify the current disaster, but actually be a substantial improvement. Unquestionably, the Ladies’ Mile Historic District is one of the most important commercial storefront districts in the city. So much so, that over the years, the LPC has required new infill buildings, including residential, to appear mercantile in nature.

The drawings packet submitted for this application show some of the exquisite examples of storefronts that typify the district, and we do not believe the current design, executed in anodized aluminum, is quite appropriate for this prominent corner. This building has frontages on both Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street, two of the main thoroughfares of Ladies’ Mile. Its direct neighbor is the Flatiron Building, and it faces Flatiron Plaza, Madison Square Park and the opulent Fifth Avenue Building. This crucial corner deserves a dignified storefront treatment, and we believe one of the keys to this solution is to once again echo the piers on the ground floor. Lining up the storefronts within the piers and referencing them on a pedestrian level will amplify the powerful rhythm of this building. HDC also suggests that the finished storefront be painted in an historic color.

Item 4

600 West End Avenue – Riverside – West End Historic District


A neo-Renaissance style apartment building designed by Schwartz and Gross and built in 1910-11. Application is to install HVAC equipment.

Showing all of the pock marks made by through-wall systems on this building only makes the case for how hideous these punctures in the façades actually are. HDC believes that with some creativity, this unit could be relocated somewhere other than where it is proposed. In examining this building, it became apparent that there are also many units of different types set within window openings on both facades, and this is a reversible option that also will not destroy masonry.

Item 5

341 West 87th Street – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District


A Renaissance Revival style rowhouse designed by Alexander M. Welch and built in 1895-96. Application is to replace a door and transom.

HDC was disappointed to not have even a mere tax photo to reference while evaluating this proposal, which may have informed a better design. While the new doors are an improvement, the loss of the transom is not. We suggest installing the new doors with a transom light to create a better proportioned opening, especially a prominent one on the front façade.

Item 9

125 West 120th Street – Mount Morris Park Extension Historic District


A Renaissance Revival/Romanesque Revival style rowhouse designed by Theodore E. Thomson and built c. 1895-96. Application is to construct rear yard additions.

HDC asks that the Commission contemplate very seriously what will be the first rear yard incursion within a pristine block in the Mount Morris Park Historic District. It is impressive that none have appeared not only since the construction of these homes over a century ago, but also not one since they were designated in 1971. HDC leans towards reducing the rear yard addition by at least one story, and that the Commission move forward knowing that whatever is ultimately approved for this block will set the future precedent for bulk.

Item 12

630 Bergen Street – Prospect Heights Historic District


A Romanesque Revival style flats building designed by Timothy A. Remsen and built c. 1894 Application is to legalize the replacement of windows without Landmarks Preservation Commission permits

HDC believes this legalization has stood for some time by the deterioration of the alterations of the windows. Since there are wooden brick molds surviving, we hope that these features can be preserved and retained for the next intervention. We ask that whatever future windows are installed here, that they do not accelerate the further deterioration of the brick molds as is the current case.

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HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on June 12, 2018

Posted by on Monday, June 11, 2018 · Leave a Comment 

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

Item 1

34-47 87th Street – Jackson Heights Historic District


An Anglo-American style garden home designed by Roger Tabban and built in 1925. Application is to legalize window replacement, areaway alterations and installation of mechanical equipment without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

The examples provided of similar alterations within the historic district are not a boon, but instead a graphic essay of why LPC enforcement is so critical. HDC is concerned about the gradual erosion of Jackson Heights through incremental detriments to properties. To this end, the conversion of a tripartite window to its current appearance was a mistake; installing the AC mechanicals on the front façade is unsightly; and the paving could have fared better with LPC approval. Legalizing these accretions will only serve as more evidence of permissible actions in a future legalization application in this neighborhood.

Item 2

147 St. Felix Street – Brooklyn Academy of Music Historic District


A vacant lot. Application is to modify the design of a previously approved building.

The design of this building is changing because its program has. What was designed as a single-family residence is now proposed to be a multi-family with ground floor retail. During this programmatic evolution, something in the design has been lost. While this building has a large frontage on Hanson Place, the primary façade is on St. Felix Street. The previous design acknowledged this, and incorporated a stoop and other nods to the residential character of the block. While historically there was a storefront at this location, the proposed storefront on St. Felix Street appears alien and inappropriate. It’s possible it may work on the Hanson Place façade, a corridor where there is a current precedent for ground-floor commercial spaces. Regardless of the storefront issue, HDC believes the design is neither here nor there in terms of achieving a design standard of new construction within a historic district, and we hope that the LPC can offer some solutions which will finesse the final approved design.

previously approved

currently proposed

Item 3

434 Vanderbilt Avenue – Fort Greene Historic District


A French Second Empire style house built c. 1866. Application is to legalize and modify façade reconstruction and window replacement in non-compliance with Landmarks Preservation Commission approvals.

The majority of the issues with this building rests with the fenestration. The dormer windows in the mansard originally had curved glass set within flat sash, and this crucial detail should be restored. HDC found the 2 over 2 sashes to be more attractive than the proposed 4 over 4, as they help the building to appear more attenuated. From our brief observation, it appears that the window muntins will only be installed on the inside of the building, and possibly in a glued application. We suggest using quality simulated divided lights, complete with a spacer bar, for a more authentic appearance. Finally, the sills and lintels should be replaced in stone.

Item 4

55 Washington Street – DUMBO Historic District


A neo-Classical style factory building designed by William Higginson and built in 1904. Application isto legalize construction of a rooftop terrace without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

Two Trees has completed enough projects in NYC’s historic districts to know and understand that permits are an essential part of the process, which is why we empathize with DUMBO residents in their frustration regarding this application for a legalization. This building and its roof is prominently located next to the Manhattan Bridge, where it is highly visible. While this roof deck is simply a deck, and not a grander offense such as an addition, HDC laments that its design did not benefit from LPC oversight.

Item 5

14A St. James Place – Clinton Hill Historic District


A neo-Grec style residence, built by James or William Callahan between 1882 and 1886. Application is to legalize the recladding, modification and expansion of a historic rear yard extension without Landmarks Preservation Commission permits.

HDC is puzzled as to why this application is before the Commission today, as it is in complete violation of zoning. Even without the rear extension, the existing building leaves only 24 feet for a rear yard; this extension only makes a bad situation worse by further diminishing this yard. The Department of Buildings should be notified and this extension should be dismantled.

Item 6

471 Henry Street – Cobble Hill Historic District


An Italianate style rowhouse built c. 1850. Application is to alter the front façade, stoop, and areaway walls

HDC is pleased that this house will be restored in a fashion closer to its original design. The Committee believes that creating a brownstone façade will be an attractive solution, especially since the original brick was so badly damaged by the brick veneer alteration. We do have concerns about the areaway and treatment of ironwork on the stoop, however. The tax photo shows ironwork on the stoop and as fencing at the neighboring building, no. 469. We strongly encourage the ironwork to reflect this configuration, and to eliminate the kneewalls and replace with cast-iron fencing, which would have been typical of the era and the Italianate style. There are extant examples of this period’s ironwork at the corner of Henry and Degraw Streets, and also an abundance of it on the Italianate houses on Cheever Place, one block west.

Item 8

552 Carlton Avenue – Prospect Heights Historic District


A neo-Grec style rowhouse designed by the Parfitt Brothers and built in 1877. Application is to construct rooftop and rear additions.

HDC found this application to be an unnecessary amount of work and effort for a rooftop addition. While it is sufficiently set back from the street, its 13 foot ceiling height is creating a situation where the chimneys will have to be substantially elongated. It was unclear to us why a mansard roof is being designed upon a Neo-Grec house for a rear façade. HDC suggests approaching this rooftop addition in a more traditional way by reducing the ceiling height to 10 feet and moving the addition to the center of the structure.

Item 10

4-16 Cornelia Street aka 323-327 6th Ave – Greenwich Village Historic District


A movie theater originally built as a church c. 1853 and subsequently altered; a residential and commercial two-story building built c. 1845, and later combined and altered as part of the adjacent movie theater; and a vacant lot. Application is to modify a Commission approved new building at 14-16 Cornelia Street, construct a rooftop addition on 327 6th Avenue, and alter the façades of 323-327 6th Avenue.

Given the design latitude for the new construction cocooning this theater, HDC believes it is a reasonable request for a proper façade restoration for the theater building. This is a prominent landmark and area of Sixth Avenue, and to bring life back to this façade with the flair of Art Deco would be a gift to the city. The applicant should restore the first floor facade of black Vitrolite glass bands with horizontal steel or chrome divisions, and recreate the two vertical black decorative strips in their historic material, which was likely black glazed terra-cotta. The 1937 photograph is an excellent resource to work from, and we would also like to see some semblance of the window in the center of the façade restored, as well. Currently, the sign that occupies that area where the window opening used to be is a violation, and we fear that this application will grandfather this illegal trait.

Item 12

430 West Broadway – SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District


A commercial building built in 1986 and redesigned by Greenberg Farrow Architects in 1997. Application is to demolish a building and construct a new building.

The overall design of this building is thoughtful, and possesses a high-quality materials palette. HDC especially appreciates the recessed brick cavities in the façade, which greatly help to break up this large building into a composition more related to the neighborhood’s scale and building frontages. Despite this feature, we believe this building to be too large for its immediate streetscape context. Because it is a new building in a different color in a red-brick environment, the additional height above its neighbors is especially pronounced. It was a sound decision to align the storefront heights of the new building with its neighbors, and if the cornice is also brought into alignment, it will sing in proportional harmony. We ask the Commission to look closely at the large set back, which, for this block, seems to loom more than what feels comfortable, especially when viewed from the southwest corner. It would be extraordinary if this bulk could be reduced, or at least introducing a notch to soften this heavy presence.

existing building (to be demolished)

Item 14

405-409 West 13th Street – Gansevoort Market Historic District


An Arts and Crafts style store and loft building designed by Charles H. Cullen and built in 1909. Application is to construct a rooftop addition and replace storefront infill.

HDC found it a bit hyperbolic to call a proposed three story extension to a three story building an “addition.” Rather, we regard it as a new building atop an old one, and it should be evaluated as such. There are several examples throughout the realm of architecture where such a feat is accomplished successfully, and we felt that this new building could achieve a more inspired design rather than a contemporary off-the-shelf appearance. These small, plain, Arts and Crafts style buildings are disappearing across the city and we feel that its presence could be celebrated by a more creative transformation. This district’s aesthetic has changed dramatically over the past 15 years, and it would be most welcome to attain a stand-out architectural composition.

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HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on May 29, 2018

Posted by on Friday, May 25, 2018 · Leave a Comment 

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

Item 1

1 East 70th Street and 10 East 71st Street – The Frick Collection – Individual Landmark


A French Louis XVI style mansion designed by Carrere & Hastings and built in 1913-14, and altered by John Russell Pope in 1931-35; an Italian Renaissance Revival style art reference library designed by John Russell Pope and built in 1931-35; a Beaux-Arts style reception hall addition designed by Bayley, Van Dyke, and Poehler and built in 1977; and a viewing garden designed by Russell Page and built in 1977. Application is to construct rooftop and rear yard additions; install barrier-free access ramps and windows; and reconstruct the garden.

HDC finds the present scheme for the expansion of The Frick Collection’s campus to be, on the whole, much more sympathetic than previous iterations of the plan. In particular, we laud the retention of the beloved garden by Russell Page on East 70th Street, which is proposed to be recreated in situ. We also applaud the project team’s robust community outreach efforts and thank them for presenting the plans to our committee, as well as making their materials available to us at an early date.

Concerning the additions to the museum, library and reception hall buildings, HDC appreciates the use of high quality materials and a generally thoughtful approach throughout, but has several small suggestions which we feel would make the proposal more appropriate.

First: currently, the garden benefits from a shelf above the north garden wall that is planted with trees to soften the garden’s backdrop and to screen the present rear façade of the library building. This greenery was a deliberate part of the original Russell Page design and vision for the space. Our committee finds that this element could easily be maintained by pushing the library addition back by a few feet to recreate this shelf for the purpose of including some greenery above the garden wall. An added benefit of such a move would be to set the addition back slightly from the garden wall to differentiate it from the masonry above and to make very clear what is old and what is new.

Second: the idea of connecting the museum and library buildings with the construction of a “link” building is a logical programmatic approach, and we were convinced by the presentation that allowing for circulation between the two spaces will open up a lot of possibilities for the institution. The design of the link building gave us pause, however, conjuring up images of midcentury school buildings. We would, therefore, ask that more effort be made to integrate this element while still allowing for the separation of the museum and library buildings, perhaps with the inclusion of more masonry, to better honor the existing architecture.

Third: as previously stated, the plan is generally much more sympathetic than previous iterations on the exterior, but it is unfortunate that the rearrangement of bulk has been made possible in part by sacrificing the original configuration of a wonderful interior space, John Russell Pope’s music room. While we understand that the interior is not within the LPC’s purview, the museum is a much beloved public space and we wonder if further study might allow for the retention of the music room.

Finally: while it is very clear that the rooftop addition on the reception hall will be visible from multiple angles, HDC feels that given how close it is to the public view, a mock-up would be very helpful in allowing the public to best experience and comment on the proposed change.


Item 7

104 West 76th Street – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District

A Renaissance Revival style rowhouse designed by C. Abbott French & Company and built in 1888-89. Application is to modify window openings and install a rooftop bulkhead.

HDC recognizes the high visibility of this line of rowhouses as they face both a school, athletic track and playground. We find the proposed rooftop addition would cause an unnecessary disruption in the cornice line and believes that with a more thoughtful design, the addition could be made invisible. We would suggest sloping the front to avoid creating a visible break in the cornice line.

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags: , ,

Set Sail Summer Fundraiser

Posted by on Friday, May 25, 2018 · 1 Comment 

All aboard the historic Clipper City! Enjoy an open bar and lunch while we sail through New York Harbor 

All aboard the historic Clipper City Tall Ship

Sunday, June 24, 2018

1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Join HDC aboard the historic Clipper City sailboat for a fun trip through New York City harbor. Hear from architectural historian, Kyle Johnson and learn about the landmarks we pass during the trip. Enjoy an open bar and lunch while we cruise through the water and take in the majestic sites of our island city. The original Clipper City was built as a lumber schooner just prior to the Civil War. The current Clipper City was rebuilt from the original plans, on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, and recently refurbished.

2 LU AIA credits available 


Sponsorship Level- $500

Sponsors to the Set Sail Summer Fundraiser will receive 3 tickets as well as their company name and logo on all materials for the event

General Admission – $200

 Seniors and Young Professionals (Under 35) – $125


Please note for your records that, all but $100.00 of your ticket is tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law 


Sponsors :

Sandra Canning

C.T. A. Architects

Thomas Fenniman

Alyssa Loorya

Susan A. Mathisen


Promotional Partners:

FRIENDS of the Upper East Side Historic Districts

Municipal Art Society

Preserving East New York 


With a length of 158 feet and masts rising 120 feet, the Clipper City can comfortably sail 149 people – the most of any passenger sailboat in the United States. You will look up and see sails that are bigger than your house. During your journey, we’ll fly 5,000 feet of sail. This large sailboat has chest-high railings and provides a large, open deck with benches, hatches and a raised quarter deck where the captain steers. With 12-story masts, the majestic Clipper City just fits under Brooklyn Bridge.

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Sculpture in Gotham – Book talk with Michele Bogart

Posted by on Thursday, May 24, 2018 · Leave a Comment 

Join HDC, NYPAP and the J.M. Kaplan Fund for a FREE book signing and reception

June 13, 2018

6:00 – 8:00 P.M.

The J.M. Kaplan Fund

71 West 23rd Street, 9th Floor

Join HDC and NYPAP at the J.M. Kaplan Fund for a book talk with author Michele Bogart. Ms. Bogart’s book Sculpture in Gotham: Art and Urban Renewal in New York City tells the story of how the City of New York came to be committed to public art patronage beginning in the mid-1960s. In that era of political turbulence, cultural activists and city officials for a time shifted away from traditional monuments, joining forces to sponsor ambitious sculptural projects as an instrument for urban revitalization. Ms. Bogart will give a presentation on the various sculptures around NYC, and explain their importance to New Yorkers and the built environment.

After the presentation there will be a reception and book signing

This event is FREE, registration is encouraged

Michele H. Bogart is professor of art history at Stony Brook University. She was vice president of the Art Commission of the City of New York from 1999 to 2003 and is a member of an advisory group to the commission. She is on the board of the New York Preservation Archive Project. She also is the author of Public Sculpture and the Civic Ideal in New York City, 1890–1930 and Artists, Advertising, and the Borders of Art, both published by the University of Chicago Press.


Co-Sponsors – New York Preservation Archive Project  and the J.M. Kaplan Fund






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Richmond Hill History Day

Posted by on Thursday, May 24, 2018 · Leave a Comment 




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HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on May 15, 2018

Posted by on Monday, May 14, 2018 · Leave a Comment 

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

Item 1

39-44 47th Street – Sunnyside Gardens Historic District


A simplified Art Deco style rowhouse designed by Clarence Stein and Henry Wright and built in 1925. Application is to replace windows.

HDC was puzzled why teak was chosen as the material for these windows, as the historically appropriate paint proposed for them will likely fail. Maybe it is better to choose a different material for these windows which will allow them to be painted.

Item 2

39-25 48th Street – Sunnyside Gardens Historic District


A simplified Colonial Revival style rowhouse designed by Clarence Stein and Henry Wright and built in 1927. Application is to legalize and modify the stoop and legalize the areaway paving.

Suitably named, Sunnyside Gardens is known for its green space, boasting both front and rear garden areas. Thus, HDC is concerned by the illegal hardscape in this application, which is inappropriate. Concrete in front yards proliferates in much of non-designated Queens, which collectively has a severe aesthetic consequence. HDC asks the LPC to have the applicant remove this concrete from the front yard, and thus not give any neighbors any ideas to follow suit.

Item 3

81-02 35th Avenue – Jackson Heights Historic District


A neo-Tudor style church building designed by F.P. Platt and built between 1920-1923. Application is to install signage.

HDC finds the existing site furniture to be more sensitive to the church grounds and neighborhood. The scale, and, especially the introduction of LED signage is a departure from the residential character of Jackson Heights.

Item 4

187 Dean Street – Boerum Hill Historic District


A late Italianate style rowhouse built in 1870-71. Application is to construct a rear yard addition and alter the areaway.

HDC would like to note that the proposed addition would extend beyond any other addition on this side of the donut. The introduction of the rounded arches at the garden level is a foreign design element on the rear of this row, and perhaps these arches should be at minimum be centered or symmetrical within the façade to establish some harmony.

Item 6

43 Willow Place – Brooklyn Heights Historic District


A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1846. Application is to replace windows.

HDC is concerned about the appearance of the simulated divided lights in this proposal. At minimum, there should be a spacing bar to avoid having a “snapped on” appearance.

Item 10

128 West 119th Street – Mount Morris Park Historic District


A Renaissance Revival style rowhouse designed by Alfred H. Taylor and built in 1897-98. Application is to replace windows.

HDC urges the Commission to ask the applicant to return the glass to the original bowed configuration. As noted in the designation report, “The love and care lavished on these fine houses bears witness to the pride of both their original owners and their present occupants.” Therefore, we find it reasonable to ask that as significant investment occurs in this historic district, that a certain level of care be considered by this applicant.

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags: , , , , ,

URGENT- Proposed Bill to Lift FAR Cap

Posted by on Friday, May 11, 2018 · Leave a Comment 

No to bill S.6760 

On behalf of the Historic Districts Council and our partner organizations, we implore you to contact your Senator and tell her/him to veto bill S.6760 which would lift the current State cap (FAR 12) for residential development. This bill has not been vetted to the public, who it will directly affect. Instead has quietly resurfaced in the Legislature after being vetoed once this past March thanks to swift action on behalf of the public and our representatives who did not allow it to proceed.

This ill-conceived bill is tantamount to yet another handout to real estate developers. Not surprisingly, the Real Estate Board of New York and Mayor De Blasio fully support it. Both parties claim that this will allow for construction of affordable housing, the Mayor’s prime objective. However, there is nothing in this bill regarding affordable housing, it only increases developers’ already broad latitude to build. NYC does not have a housing shortage—there are nearly 250,000 empty units, or about 11% of the city’s total rental apartments, which currently sit empty.  There is enough housing for everyone, but developers build for maximum profit, not for people. Mayor de Blasio cannot build NYC out of a housing crisis, and the numbers show that what is being built is unattainable for most New Yorkers. This bill will only exacerbate this very real problem.  

With the Mayor already upzoning so many fragile, residential neighborhoods in New York right now, it is paramount to retain as much quality of life as we can. The cap has already been lifted, per se, by rezonings in East New York, Brooklyn; Downtown Far Rockaway, Queens; Bay Street, Staten Island; Inwood, Manhattan; East Harlem, Manhattan; and Jerome Avenue in the Bronx. There are more rezonings to come. Lifting the FAR cap citywide is overkill and gives back nothing to the people who live here. 

Act today and please contact your Senator!



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HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on May 8, 2018

Posted by on Friday, May 4, 2018 · Leave a Comment 

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

Designation Testimony

Item 1

LP – 2599



HDC wholeheartedly supports the designation of the proposed Boerum Hill Historic District Extension. The proposed district would take in a number of historic blocks that are equally representative of the neighborhood’s character as those in the Boerum Hill Historic District, designated in 1973, and we thank and applaud the Commission for bringing this extension forward. The inclusion of the former Cuyler Presbyterian Church at 360 Pacific Street is especially welcome. While the building was converted to residential use in the 1980s, from the 1930s to the 1950s, the church was an important gathering place for the Mohawk Native Americans who began settling in this part of Brooklyn in the 1920s to work in the construction of New York’s steel-frame skyscrapers. It is believed that the presence of the headquarters of the Brooklyn Local 361 of the Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Ironworkers’ Union at 542 Atlantic Avenue was the reason for their settlement here. The forward-thinking church welcomed this new community with open arms, offering services in the Iroquois language and holding cultural events for this significant sector of the parish. The church stands as an important reminder of the Mohawks’ tenure in and mark on the neighborhood, especially since two other touchstones of the community face questionable fates. The former union headquarters at 542 Atlantic Avenue, subsequently a U. S. Post Office that closed in 2017, has been dogged with rumors of demolition for years, while Hank’s Saloon at 46 3rd Avenue, a popular Mohawk hangout, is slated to close later this year and redevelopment is planned for the site.

HDC is also thrilled to see the inclusion of properties along Atlantic Avenue between Hoyt and Nevins Streets, whose Victorian-era storefronts are the jewel in the crown, so to speak, on this bustling thoroughfare. In 2014, HDC selected Atlantic Avenue as one of its Six to Celebrate to raise awareness of the street’s historic significance and intact architectural character, particularly along the stretch being heard today. As we stated in our self-guided walking tour brochure of Atlantic Avenue, “while there are many intact Victorian-era storefronts on Atlantic Avenue, the blocks between Hoyt and Nevins Streets contain a particularly dense concentration.” These storefronts likely date to just after the Civil War, when the development of plate glass made large storefront windows possible, so they stand as important reminders of Atlantic Avenue’s early history as a bustling shopping district. The buildings’ intact storefronts remain a draw for visitors today, as evidenced by the steady stream of patrons walking the Avenue on any given weekend. While we would be even more delighted to see the inclusion of the north side of Atlantic Avenue between Bond and Nevins Streets, especially numbers 403 and 413-415 – two charming churches designed in the Gothic Revival and Romanesque Revival styles, respectively – we are pleased to see so many of the Avenue’s 19th century commercial structures included in this proposal. Another fine example is number 368 Atlantic Avenue, with its distinctive Moorish Revival façade dating to 1917. This building has long been deserving of landmark status, and we are hopeful that this will finally come to pass with this designation.


Item 2

565A Carlton Avenue – Prospect Heights Historic District


An Italianate style rowhouse built c. 1869-1880. Application is to construct rear yard and rooftop additions.

HDC is opposed to a rooftop addition that would interrupt the continuity of this otherwise pristine and unbroken roofline. Because it is visible from multiple vantage points, we find that it would be an unfortunate and distracting incursion into the block. We would also suggest that the rooftop addition be set back from the rear façade, where, as presented, it looms over the façade and draws undue attention to itself from within the block’s interior donut.


Item 7

950 Park Avenue – Park Avenue Historic District


A Renaissance Revival style apartment building designed by J.E.R. Carpenter and built in 1919-20. Application is to replace windows.

This building is a prime example of the legacy of J.E.R. Carpenter, one of the premier apartment house designers in New York City. HDC finds it unfortunate that the building was treated poorly prior to designation and finds the proposed window installation to be a continuation of this insensitivity to this building. We would encourage the Commission to use this opportunity to suggest a window master plan to return the windows to their original configuration, which was noted in the designation report as containing both 10-over-10 and eight-over-eight double-hung sashes.


Item 8

1065 Park Avenue – Park Avenue Historic District


A Modern style apartment building designed by Stephen C. Lyras and built in 1969-73. Application is to establish a master plan governing the future installation of windows.

HDC appreciates that this building will adopt a window master plan to regularize the façades of this very large building. However, we find the proposed master plan to be problematic in a number of ways. First of all, eliminating all divisions will take away from the building’s visual texture. Secondly, the increased width of the window frames will appear clunky on this otherwise modern, sleek style building. Lastly, we question the practicality and danger of the tilt-and-turn operation for such large windows. Not only will they be an obstruction when opening inward, but they also pose a safety threat in the maintenance and cleaning of them.


Category: HDC@LPC · Tags:

2018 Grassroots Preservation Awards pictures

Posted by on Friday, May 4, 2018 · Leave a Comment 

Category: Grassroots Awards · Tags:

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

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