Corbin Building, Designation Testimony-May 12, 2015

May 12, 2015

Item 1

Corbin Building, 11 John Street (aka 1-13 John Street; 192 Broadway), Manhattan

LP-2569

Landmark Site: Manhattan Block 79, Lot 15

Community District 1

 

The Historic Districts Council is the advocate for New York City’s designated historic districts and neighborhoods meriting preservation.

The Historic Districts Council is the citywide advocate for New York’s historic buildings and neighborhoods.  HDC supports the designation of the Corbin Building on its merits – it is an outstanding architectural feature on the lower Broadway streetscape and the more Francis Kimball buildings that are recognized and protected, the better. However, we question the timing and purpose of this designation.

This building is owned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the façade, at least, is in better shape than it has been in 100 years. Since it is owned by MTA, the Landmarks Commission’s authority is advisory at best. As many are aware, the only reason for the building’s continued existence today is its inclusion on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places over a decade ago, which holds more sway over the MTA’s decision-making process. That inclusion was done at the behest of several preservation groups who were alarmed at the prospect of losing the Corbin Building to the construction of the Fulton Transit Center.  It should be noted that two significant neighboring buildings on Broadway, the 1904 Girard Building at 198 Broadway (described by the AIA Guide as “Assyrian Revival on a rampage”) and the 1911 Child’s Restaurant Building at 194 Broadway, were demolished for the construction.

Although those two sites were deliberately excluded from the final map, the Historic Districts Council successfully sponsored the inclusion of several surrounding blocks to the New York State and National Registers as the Fulton-Nassau Historic District in 2005.It should be noted that although the Landmarks Commission has designated two individual buildings noted in that district ,  the1860  James Bogardus building at 63 Nassau Street and the 1891 Keuffel and Esser Building at 127 Fulton Street by DeLemos and Cordes, the agency has declined to consider the entire district.  This is particularly unfortunate as the vast private investment and residential conversion which swept this area in the past 10 years could have greatly benefited from the agency’s oversight and guidance.  If the LPC is looking to protect open barns, it could do worse than to look at the area around the worthy but completely protected Corbin Building.

HDC Testimony for LPC Hearing on May 5, 2015

Item 1

111 Noble Street – Greenpoint Historic District

16-8795 – Block 2566, Lot 74, Zoned R6B

Community District 1, Brooklyn

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

An altered frame house built in 1855. Application is to legalize the installation of siding, and windows, and alterations to the areaway wall without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

111 Noble

A series of sad interventions happened to this house over the years and the latest iteration is not acceptable either. We ask that the applicant work with the Landmarks Commission staff to determine a compromise that would better celebrate this wooden house, a defining characteristic of the Greenpoint Historic District.

 

Item 2

73 Washington Place – Greenwich Village Historic District

16- 8622 – Block 552, Lot 65, Zoned R7-2

Community District 2, Manhattan

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1847. Application is to install a stoop gate, excavate the full lot, and construct rooftop and rear yard additions.

73 Washington Pl

This application asks a lot of a very old house and an even older neighborhood. The excavation of the entire lot is an enormous demand, especially since the rear and the top of the house will be completely blown out. Also, the Committee was confused to find the introduction of aluminum spandrel panels on a brick rowhouse. This choice alone speaks to the lack of awareness and sensitivity to this 1847 home.

 

Item 3

16-18 Charles Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

16-9365 – Block 1411, Lot 7502, Zoned R6

Community District 2, Manhattan

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

Two Greek Revival style townhouses built in 1845-1846 and combined and altered in the early 20th century. Application is to legalize and modify alterations made to the facade and areaway and the installation of key boxes and intercoms, all without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s); and to modify the areaway and install fencing.

16-18 Charles St

HDC is thrilled to see the historic trellis reincorporated into this Bohemian survivor, speaking to another era, when this building was converted for artists. The Committee asks that the application go all the way and install new bricks surrounding the door; reintroduce the irregular paving; and properly re-do the stucco as it appears in the remarkable Bernice Abbott photograph furnished as part of this application.

 

Item 4

444 6th Avenue – Greenwich Village Historic District

16-7343 – Block 574, Lot 2, Zoned C1-6

Community District 2, Manhattan

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1834-35 with a later rooftop addition.Application is to modify the rooftop addition and legalize the installation of railings and HVAC equipment in non-compliance with Certificate of Appropriateness 03-0464.

444 6th AveThis clumsy rooftop addition is regretful. The only thing that could make it worse would be to enlarge it in any way. Frankly, it would be better to view the mechanical equipment through railings than to hide it with a bigger mistake.

 

Item 5

154 West 14th Street -154 West 14th Street Building-Individual Landmark

16- 2086- Block 609, Lot 7, Zoned C6-3A, C2-6

Community District 2, Manhattan

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

A loft building incorporating Secessionist, Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts, and Mission Revival style motifs, designed by Herman Lee Meader, and built in 1912-13. Application is to install rooftop mechanical equipment.

154 W 14 StHDC suggests exploring other roof areas to place this mechanical equipment, especially considering its placement is currently in the center of the roof. Setting it back would greatly reduce its visibility from low-scale Greenwich Village, immediately to the south.

 

Item 7

150-152 Mercer Street, aka 579-581 Broadway – SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District

16-8173 – Block 512, Lot 20, Zoned M1-5B

Community District 2, Manhattan

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

A storehouse built c. 1860. Application is to install storefront infill, signage and lighting.

150-152 Mercer StThe Committee wishes to see some utilitarian features retained on this facade, as this was originally a rear façade. The evidence of this, such as the iron shutters from the Jackson Foundry will be eroded away by likely fancy shops. We ask the Commission to study the dimensions of the second story windows. Windows of this height on a narrow street seem ill-fitting and over-scaled.

 

Item 9

190 Bowery, aka 1-3 Spring Street – (Formerly) Germania Bank Building – Individual Landmark

16-9367 – Block 492, Lot 38, Zoned C6-1

Community District 2, Manhattan

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

A Beaux-Arts style bank building designed by Robert Maynicke and built in 1898-99. Application is to alter the facade, install a new entrance, and modify windows.

190 Bowery 190 Bowery 2

HDC applauds the sensitive restoration of this exquisite Bowery landmark. Even the new entrance has been designed carefully so that the historic fabric that is removed will be reincorporated into the building, unlike so many applications where fabric is merely discarded. Further, so many landmarked buildings are altered with additions and alterations in exchange for kind restorations. This example shows that it is possible to restore without adding square footage, and we find that remarkable.

 

Item 11

10 East 78th Street – Metropolitan Museum Historic District

16-7289 – Block 1392, Lot 65 Zoned R8B

Community District 8, Manhattan

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

A rowhouse built in 1886-1887, and altered in 1946. Application is to alter the front and rear facades and areaway, and construct a rooftop addition.

10 E 78 StThere is a severe disconnect between the historic-inspired “period piece” façade design chosen for this building and the windows selected. If the goal is to make this house look historic, then choose a historically accurate window configuration to rectify this problem.

 

Item 12

28 Liberty Street (Formerly One Chase Manhattan Plaza) – One Chase Manhattan Plaza – Individual Landmark

16-8200 – Block 44, Lot 1, Zoned C5-5

Community District 1, Manhattan

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

An International Style skyscraper designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and built in 1957-64. Application is to alter the plaza and tower base, and install storefronts, signage and a stair enclosure.

28 Liberty existing 28 Liberty proposed plaza original plaza proposed

The Historic Districts Council does not support this proposal. 28 Liberty Street, or One Chase Manhattan Plaza is described as “one of the largest and most important skyscrapers in New York City” in its designation report. This Individual Landmark is the future generation’s Empire State Building and should not be irreversibly altered because of a change in ownership and taste.

This Modern masterpiece tower floats upon a solid black granite plinth, its pedestal, which is integral to the perception of this massive building from the street and functions as a signifier of the plaza and public space that rests upon it. Replacement of nearly all of this fabric with glass storefronts is an insult to the skyscraper. A building that was designed to represent power and capital prowess does not need ground floor retail as a crutch.  It was built to stand on its own.

The public plaza is a quintessential design element of mid-century skyscraper design and the original design succeeds in its simplicity. This perfect planar space has merely one puncture, which is the equally masterful Noguchi Sunken Garden, which extends below the plaza. There is no other change in level on this platform and the Committee disagrees that adding a stepped area will enhance this space. If multi-tiers are desired, the applicant should explore furniture or sculpture that could satisfy this curiosity of levels, instead of creating something that is irreversible.

The Committee is concerned about the introduction of several more entrances into the skyscraper, especially the proposed entry on the east façade, which currently has no circulation incursions in its curtain wall. Finally, we ask the Commission to look carefully at all of the signage, which clutters an otherwise composition of clean lines and simplicity.

 

 

 

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags:

Continuing Education Panel: Cast Iron New York

The Historic Districts Council is pleased to present Cast Iron New York as part of a series of continuing education panels focusing on historic materials. These programs illuminate the complex histories, manufacturing methods, restoration process and use as a contemporary material.

Continuing Education Panel
Cast Iron New York

robbins_appleton_building_1-5_bond_st_detail1looking_northwest_greene_st_bet_grand_broome_st_DETAIL

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

8:30am Check-in and continental breakfast
9:00am- 12:00pm Program

Neighborhood Preservation Center
232 East 11th  Street, Manhattan

Adorning the façade of buildings citywide, architectural cast iron is one of the most striking features of the New York City streetscape. Its use is so neighborhood-defining that it is the only material  identified in the official name of a historic district. Though most densely seen in the SoHo-Cast-Iron Historic District, cast iron’s early benefits of being inexpensive, mass-produced and stylistically diverse made it a popular choice for commercial buildings, many of which remain intact today.

This program will present a thorough consideration of varied aspects of this material. Topics to be covered will include an in-depth discussion of the use of cast iron in historic architecture, the manufacturing of cast iron for restoration and for new construction and the process of restoring of these historic buildings.

Speakers:

Stephen Gottlieb, AIA- Preservation Architect
J. Scott Howell- Vice President and General Manager, Robinson Iron
Robert Bates, AIA- Principal, Walter B. Melvin Architects, LLC

Fee:
General- $100
Friends of HDC- $75

This program is available for 3 AIA LU/HSW and NYS credits.

AIA

Category: Architect Panel · Tags:

Preservation in the News

Posted by on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 · 1 Comment 

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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 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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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

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Op-Ed: No Tower on the Seaport

Strausmedia BY MARGARET CHIN AND GALE BREWER

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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.”

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole report

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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.

Click here to read the whole report

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.’

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, BY 

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.

Click here to read the whole report

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.”

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.”

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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The War on New York’s Waterfront

New York Times By PAUL GREENBERG, ROLAND LEWIS and JOAN K. DAVIDSON

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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.”

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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Buildings With a Past

Creating New York Apartments From Unlikely Buildings

NYTimes By C. J. HUGHES

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.”

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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RIZZOLI CEILING SOON TO PERISH

 

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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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].”

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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Ratner wins prize for best … preservationist?

Brooklyn Paper
BY MATTHEW PERLMAN

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.”

Click here to read the whole story

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DOWNTOWN ALLIANCE RELEASES REPORT

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.

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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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.
Click here to read the whole report

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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.”

Click here to read the whole story

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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).

Click here to read the whole article

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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.

Click here to read the whole story

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

By 
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.

Click here to read the whole article

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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.”

Click here to read the whole article

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Public Library Is Abandoning Disputed Plan for Landmark

NYTimes By ROBIN POGREBIN

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.

Click here to read the full story

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New York Public Library Scraps Redesign Plans

The Controversial Renovation Plan Prompted Three Lawsuits

WSJ By JENNIFER MALONEY

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.

Click here to read the full article

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

 

Crains BY ANDREW J. HAWKINS

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.

Click here to read the full story

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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 

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.

Click here to read the full story

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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:

Click here to read the full article

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HONORS> HISTORIC DISTRICTS COUNCIL DESIGN AWARDS

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.

Click here to read the full article

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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.

Click here to read the full story

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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“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

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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

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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

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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

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

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

BY JEFFREY A. KROESSLER/New York Observer

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

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

BY / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

 

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
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Cities Mobilize to Help Those Threatened by Gentrification

By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS/New York Times

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.”

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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

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 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

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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

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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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Category: Featured · Tags: , , ,

HDC & Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s solution to the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Back list of Considered Properties

Posted by on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 · Leave a Comment 

Support HDC & Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s solution

to the

Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Back list of Considered Properties

Dear Friend,

The public has the opportunity to provide feedback on the LPC’s proposed Administrative Action to eliminate the agency’s back list of Calendared properties but we have to act soon. We have until May 1, 2015 to contact the Landmarks Commission with suggestions on how best to consider this back list. HDC remains gravely concerned that the agency might still issue No Action Letters for these properties at a single Public Meeting, as originally proposed in November 2014. This strategy would be terrible public policy and completely unacceptable.

HDC has joined with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and a coalition of preservation groups to formulate an action plan to fairly and transparently consider all the properties currently on the LPC’s back list in a timely manner. Our plan, which has been communicated to LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan, is as follows:

• Items on the calendar for 5+ years should be brought to a Public Hearing with public testimony, with 60 days notice;

• Public notice must include address, block, lot, community district and prior date(s) of public hearings at minimum; where possible, the LPC’s official statement of significance, record or public support or opposition from original hearings;

• Items for consideration should be grouped geographically – preferably by Community District – with a minimum of 2 hearings held for Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island and Queens;

• Public Hearings for these items can occur during regularly scheduled Public Hearings;

• After the Public Hearing, at the following session, the LPC should vote on the record to a) designate an item; b) keep an item on the calendar for one year for more study and a decision; c) not designate after hearing public testimony and LPC staff presentation or d) issue a “no action” letter.

Please take this opportunity to have your voice heard and tell the Landmarks Commission how to proceed with their back list.

Email LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan at comments@lpc.nyc.gov by May 1, 2015.

Learn more about these properties – Landmarks Under Consideration

Read Borough President Gale Brewer’s Proposed Action Plan to the LPC here.

What do these points mean?

In pursuit of true transparency and public participation, HDC and Borough President Brewer ask that a 60-day public notice and comment period prior to a public hearing for any property on this “backlog.” We also ask that the LPC consider these properties at a Public Hearing, which will include public input, ensuring that these properties will be evaluated in the same manner as more recently proposed properties. All of these properties have been judged to be worthy of consideration as New York City landmarks and they deserve that consideration, based on their merit, be given to them. Anything less would not be appropriate.

Most of these properties were calendared and first considered before mass-communication technology existed for the dissemination of information about these landmarks. In the interest of the public, the extensive research compiled by LPC’s predecessors, including initial hearings’ files and statements of significance should be made publicly available at the beginning of the 60-day window. Given the length of time and the rising interest in landmark designation since the 1960′s, we feel it should be a requirement to hear public testimony.

In acknowledgment of the LPC’s limited resources, we propose holding these Public Hearings not on individual properties, but rather geographically. Hearing clusters of properties in the same or neighboring community districts will conserve time while allowing advocates from specific communities to speak up about their resources. The LPC regularly allows lengthy presentations by private applicants to landmarked properties. We feel the same courtesy should be extended to this finite list and the LPC should make time to hear these items on regularly scheduling Public Hearing days. After the Public Hearing, at the following session, the LPC must vote on record in the same manner to designate a new property or keep an item on the calendar for a maximum of one year.

Let’s celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Landmarks Law by demonstrating the growth and evolution of the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s dedication to its landmarks, the Law itself, and its transparency.

Proposed to be de-calendared:Woodbrook (The Jonathan Goodhue House) 304 Prospect Avenue,Staten IslandLast heard at Public Hearing September 13, 1966

Proposed to be de-calendared:
Woodbrook (The Jonathan Goodhue House) 304 Prospect Avenue,
Staten Island
Last heard at Public Hearing September 13, 1966

Category: Blog, Featured, Landmarks Preservation Commission, Six to Celebrate 2015, Special Blog · Tags:

Manhattan Borough President’s Office Proposed Backlog Action Plan for the LPC

Posted by on Tuesday, April 21, 2015 · 3 Comments 


MBPO Logo

April 2, 2015

PROPOSED BACKLOG ACTION PLAN FOR THE LANDMARKS PRESERVATION COMMISSION (LPC)

Over the last year, my office has met with a number of stakeholders: New York Landmarks Conservancy, Historic Districts Council, Municipal Art Society, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Friends of the Upper East Side, Landmark West!, and the Real Estate Board of New York. My office has heard from Community Boards and block associations. They all want the same thing: a clear, consistent, and transparent designation process.

But before we move forward we need to consider the current calendar volume. The current backlog at the Landmarks Preservation Commission occurred over a long period of time, over many administrations. This proposal seeks to address the current list of properties and should not be seen as the template moving forward. Real process reform needs to occur as well.

BACKGROUND

The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has the power to designate landmarks under the 1965 Landmarks Law. Landmarks include Historic Districts (collections of buildings such as the SoHo Cast Iron District), Scenic Landmarks (Central Park), Individual Landmarks (Brooklyn Bridge) and Interior Landmarks (Merchant’s House Museum).

The first step toward designation is being placed on the calendar for a hearing. However, no hearing date actually needs to be set. There are no set timeframes or milestones in the same way ULURP has in order for an item to be officially designated.

There are approximately 100 items that have been on the calendar for five years or more, and some of these items date back to 1966. In November 2014, the LPC proposed removing these items from the calendar in an administrative action with no regard to merit. This action was later postponed.

ACTION PLAN PROPOSAL

In summary, the proposal recommends that items that have been on the calendar for five years or more should be brought to public hearing and to a decision regarding designation in order to ensure a public and transparent process. However, given the volume, it is not intended that each item be heard individually. The merits of each individual item should be encouraged to be submitted in writing and a summary of that work should be presented to the Commissioners of the LPC. The purpose of the hearing is to ensure the discussion regarding these items is open, not a yes or no vote, and to allow for the public to comment within a limited timeframe on merits.

The LPC currently has announced a public comment period on how to proceed. It is this plan’s recommendation that at the end of that period, beginning in May 2015, on a rolling basis up to a duration of one year, the LPC should issue a 60-day public notice and comment period in advance of a public hearing at which members of the public may testify on the subject whether all, any, or none of the items for consideration shall remain on the calendar and proceed in the queue for designation.

The public notice should include at minimum the address, block, lot, community district and if hearings were held in the past, when those hearings occurred. In addition, where possible, the following additional information should be included: the LPC’s official statement of significance, and the record of public support or opposition (from the original hearings). It is recommended that a full list with this information be made publicly available before the roll-out begins.

Items for consideration should be grouped geographically, at a number set to be reasonable by the LPC. It is recommended that a minimum of two hearings be held for Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island and Queens given the density and geographic spread of items within these boroughs.

These hearings can occur coincidently with the regularly scheduled public hearings. After the hearing, at the following session, the LPC must vote on record to: a) designate an item, b) keep an item on the calendar for a maximum period of one year, at which point a decision should be made whether to designate, or c) given the summary presentation on the merits submitted by the public and presented by LPC staff, the LPC should make a decision to either not designate or d) issue a no action letter.

 

Click here to view as PDF

 

Category: landmarks law, Landmarks Preservation Commission · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

HDC Testimony for LPC Hearing on April 21, 2015

Posted by on Monday, April 20, 2015 · 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 3

32-11 Douglas Road – Douglaston Historic District

164552 – Block 8162, lot 120, Zoned R1-2

Community District 11, Queens

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

A vacant lot. Application is to construct a house.

32-11 Douglas Road-1

32-11 Douglas Road-2

Douglaston is characterized by its suburban setting, with freestanding homes in various vernacular styles situated in a park-like setting. There have been several new houses built in Douglaston that honor the neighborhood’s character, and this proposal could benefit from further study of such examples. What is proposed here neither blends in, nor seeks to respectfully introduce a new and inventive idea. It seems to ignore its surroundings with its clunky proportions and irrational window pattern. Romantic rooflines are a common feature in Douglaston, but the proposed house’s peaked roof is negated by the presence of large dormers that flatten the roofline, giving the house a box-like silhouette. The cedar cladding is an appropriate material choice, but our committee questions the gloomy, grey stain color. HDC would ask that the applicant be required to come back with a more inspired or referential design.

Our committee also felt that the landscaped berm, meant to cover up the septic system, is a major interruption to the streetscape. The berm looms up from the low, flat upland edge of Udalls Cove, which is a strange juxtaposition with the flat landscape of the adjacent properties.

 

Item 4

5001 Fieldston Road – Fieldston Historic District

153796 – Block 5829, lot 3601, Zoned R1-2

Community District 8, Bronx

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

A Dutch Colonial Revival style house designed by Dwight James Baum and built in 1918-19. Application is to replace windows.

5001 Fieldston Road-1

5001 Fieldston Road-2

HDC would much prefer that the proposed windows and doors be wood, rather than aluminum, and asks that the rails and stiles proposed for the French casement doors match the existing profiles.

 

Item 5

350 West 246th Street – Fieldston Historic District

164012 – Block 5810, lot 430, Zoned R1-2

Community District 8, Bronx

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

A Tudor Revival style house designed by Louis Kurtz and built in 1934-35. Application is to replace windows.

350 W. 246th Street-3

350 W. 246th Street-2

Steel windows are a crucial feature of the Tudor Revival style in Fieldston. Since thermally broken steel casement windows are available, HDC asks that these be considered instead of the proposed wood windows.

 

Item 6

442 Henry Street – Cobble Hill Historic District

167644 – Block 322, lot 41, Zoned R6

Community District 6, Brooklyn

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

An Italianate style rowhouse built in the 1850′s. Application is to construct a rear yard addition.

442 Henry Street-1

HDC finds the proposed design to be a major change to what is and should remain a very simple rear façade. Our committee found the lack of design consistency from floor to floor to be jarring, and with no neighborhood precedent for a bow-fronted deck, finds this part of the proposal to be an odd choice. We would ask that the proposed design of the bottom floors work better with the existing upper floors.

 

Item 11

212-222 East 16th Street – Stuyvesant Square Historic DistrictUpper

168072 – Block 897, lot 16, Zoned R7B

Community District 6, Manhattan

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

Three Anglo-Italianate style rowhouses built in 1852, and a four-story school building designed by Chapman, Evans, and Delahanty and built in 1963-65.  Application is to construct rooftop and rear yard additions, combine the rowhouses and construct a multi-story atrium behind the front facades, demolish the rear facades, alter the areaways, and install flag poles.

212-222 East 16th Street-5

212-222 East 16th Street-6

212-222 East 16th Street-7

HDC finds this proposal to be gratuitous and insensitive to both the Friends Seminary complex and the Stuyvesant Square Historic District as a whole. The colossal additions proposed for above the 1850s rowhouses and the 1960s school building are extremely visible from all angles. Even worse, their scale overwhelms, when, in fact, it should be subservient to this block’s wonderful assemblage of historic buildings. When viewed from Stuyvesant Square, the grey zinc cladding of the easternmost rooftop addition is not only an inappropriate material, but also lacks detail, rendering the addition a distracting mass that hovers over the complex. On the front of the rowhouses, we would like to add that the introduction of three new flagpoles seems like an unnecessary obstruction.

HDC is opposed to the complete destruction of the historic material and configuration of the rear facades of the 1850s rowhouses, and feels that at least the top floors should be left alone in order to retain a record of the original design, as the Commission customarily requires. If the rowhouses are to be completely gutted and repurposed, HDC feels that better solutions should be found to solve the problems created by previous additions, rather than exacerbating the situation to the detriment of this historic complex and district.

 

Item 12

27 East 62nd Street – Upper East Side Historic District

168419 – Block 1377, lot 24, Zoned C5-1, R8B

Community District 8, Manhattan

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

An apartment building with neo-Renaissance style details designed by Lawlor and Haase and built in 1912-1913. Application is to construct additions.

27 East 62nd Street-3

HDC wishes to applaud the applicant on a very sensitive front façade restoration, including the reintroduction of the cornice in sheet metal and the cleaning and repairing of masonry. On the west elevation, the applicant is proposing to push the wall forward without changing the character of that façade – a refreshing and sensitive approach.

 

Item 14

316 West 88th Street – Riverside – West End Historic District

162993- Block 1249, lot 57, Zoned R8

Community District 7, Manhattan

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

An Elizabethan Renaissance Revival style rowhouse designed by Clarence True and built in 1890-91. Application is to construct rooftop and rear yard additions, reconstruct a missing stoop, and excavate the areaway.

316 West 88th Street-1

HDC appreciates the restoration of the missing stoop, but finds the proposed additions to be a massive intervention. In the rear, our committee feels that the building’s relationship to the others in the row should be maintained by limiting the two-story addition to the same height as the adjacent house’s rear addition, as well as keeping the existing configuration of the top two floors and the corbelled brick cornice at the roof. Our committee also questioned the visibility of the rooftop railing, which was not clear from the application materials.

 

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags: , , , , ,

Landmarks @ 50 Honoring Our Past Imagining Our Future- 2015 Conference Tours

Posted by on Thursday, April 16, 2015 · Leave a Comment 

Historic District Council

2015 Annual Preservation Conference Series

Landmarks at 50: Honoring Our Past, Imagining Our Future

March 2015

 

~Tour Locations will be sent to registered participants a week prior to the tour~

 

 

Brooklyn Army Terminal: A Public Institution Transformed

Saturday, March 7, 2015, 12PM

BAT-Atrium_Rail-Line

Once the largest military supply base in the United States, Sunset Park’s Brooklyn Army Terminal has transformed over the past 30 years from a campus of warehouses, offices, piers, and docks to a vibrant commercial hub, home to local artisans, manufacturers and cultural institutions. Designed by Cass Gilbert and completed in 1919, the Terminal’s Building B and its 52 acres of floor space was once the largest concrete structure in the world. Join guide Andrew Gustafson as we tour the massive complex, view the spectacular atrium of Building B and highlight the use, preservation and reuse of this former bustling hub of military industry as a new commercial center and part of the revitalized Brooklyn waterfront.

See photos from the tour here

 

East Harlem Histories

Saturday, March 14, 2015, 1PM

IMG_2392

As East Harlem, also known as “El Barrio” or “Spanish Harlem,” transitions into becoming known as “SpaHa,” this tour will focus on some of the neighborhood’s diverse cultural and ethnic past. Join urban historian Justin Ferate to view delightful architectural treasures and cultural landmarks reflecting the neighborhood’s varied histories –from recent years and from generations past. Over its long history, East Harlem has been home to Cuban, Italian, Puerto Rican, African American, Jewish, Irish, Dutch, English, German, Haitian, Dominican, West African, Salvadoran, Greek and Mexican cultures – among others. Each group has left imprints on the community, but some of East Harlem’s touchstones are potentially endangered in the current reinvention of the neighborhood. Discover handsome civic structures such as the rustic brownstone Park Avenue Viaduct, the impressive Harlem Courthouse and religious edifices  Learn of important cultural treasures, contemporary housing and vest-pocket parks created by Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project. View enterprises such as the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center. Learn of people associated with East Harlem such as Langston Hughes, Piri Thomas, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Vito Marcantonio, Paul Robeson, Fiorello LaGuardia, Manny Vega, Al Pacino, James de la Vega, and Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Friend- $10

General- $20

 

 

Village Institutions

Saturday, March 21, 2015, 11AM

Public Theater

Over the years, Greenwich Village has attracted an evolving roster of cultural and philanthropic organizations. Join architectural historian Matt Postal for a walking tour that considers the unique structures that these groups commissioned and ways in which these distinguished historic buildings have been thoughtfully adapted to contemporary purposes. Of particular interest will be the pioneering work of architect Giorgio Cavaglieri, who during the 1960s breathed new life into both the Astor Library (1853-81) and the Jefferson Market Courthouse (1874-77). Participants will learn about the history of these institutions and how specific structures have been preserved and re-imagined as schools, libraries, residences and performing art centers. Likely stops include Public School 16 (begun 1869), the Village Community Church (1847), the Mercantile Library (1890) and the original Whitney Museum of American Art (1838/1931).

Friend- $10

General- $20

 

Classical Culture at Carnegie Hall

Saturday, March 28, 2015 11AM

Carnegie

Skip the practice and get to Carnegie Hall with the Historic Districts Council! Arguably the most famous performance venue in the world, Carnegie Hall is an architectural gem inside and out. Designed by William Burnett Tuthill and completed in 1891, the building was funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie as part of his massive cultural endeavors. Join Carnegie Hall historians to tour the heart of this cultural icon, the iconic Isaac Stern Auditorium, home to world class music since the 19th century and named after the famous violinist whose efforts worked to save the building from demolition in the 1960s. We will also peek into the beautiful and newly created Resnick Educational Wing, home to the Weill Music Institute’s diverse educational programming.

Friend- $10

General- $20

SOLD OUT

 

DUMBO and Fulton Ferry

Saturday, April 11, 2015, 11AM

5-7 Front street

When the Fulton Ferry Historic District was designated in 1977, the small district, with its 15 buildings of mostly low-scale commercial and residential structures, recognized not only classic mid-19th century architecture, but also the pivotal part this area played in the early development of Brooklyn. Exactly 30 years later in 2007, Fulton Ferry’s neighbor DUMBO was designated, recognizing one of New York City’s most significant surviving industrial waterfront neighborhood. In contrast to Fulton Ferry, DUMBO consists of over 90 buildings, most of which were heroically-proportioned manufacturing structures and warehouses, epitomizing the late-19th- and early-20th-century industrial character of the Brooklyn waterfront. Join HDC board member and Director of the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance Doreen Gallo for a walking tour of these diverse adjacent neighborhoods and a discussion of the current battles to maintain their historic integrity.

Friend- $10

General- $20

 

Preserving West Chelsea

Saturday April 18, 2015, 11AM

Auto showrooms  on West 26th Street2

Between 1970 and 2009, three small but significant historic districts were designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in West Chelsea.  Led by architectural historian Matt Postal, participants will walk through each district, tracing their shared history and evolution. While the Chelsea Historic District (and its extension) emphasized rows of fine-looking brick town houses and religious buildings that stood on property that was once owned by scholar and real estate developer Clement Clarke Moore, the later districts contain structures connected to the abolitionist movement and the Civil War, as well as the Hudson River’s evolution into a major mercantile center at the start of the 20th century. Highlights will include Cushman Row (1840), the General Theological Seminary (1838-1900), Empire Diner (1943), R.C. Williams Warehouse (1927-28), and a segment of the former New York Central Freight Railway (1929-34) now better known as the High Line.

Friend- $10

General- $20

 SOLD OUT 

 

 Click here for information about the Keynote and Reception

 

and the Conference Panels 

 

 

The title “Landmarks at 50: Honoring Our Past, Imagining Our Future” was created by Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, Chair of the NYC Landmarks 50 Alliance, and is used with permission.

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 City Councilmembers Margaret Chin, Inez Dickens, Matthieu Eugene, Daniel Garodnick, Vincent Gentile, Corey Johnson, Ben Kallos, Stephen Levin, Mark Levine, and Rosie Mendez.

Category: 21st Annual Preservation Conference- Landmarks @ 50, conference, Program & Events, Walking Tour · Tags:

Six to Celebrate Spring/Summer Walking Tours

Posted by on Thursday, April 16, 2015 · Leave a Comment 

STC_Logo_Web

 

For more information about the walking tours go to our Six to Celebrate website 

 

ClockTower_29-27_Queens_Plaza_NorthLong Island City – Tuesday,  June 30 at 6PM

Tour led by: Richard Melnick

To register click here

 

 

 

 

 

For more information about the tours and to register click here 
Tours are $10 for Friends of HDC and $20 for general admission

 

Category: Featured, Program & Events, Six to Celebrate 2015, Walking Tour · Tags: , , , ,

Simeon Bankoff: Taking the Context out of Contextual Zoning

Posted by on Tuesday, April 14, 2015 · Leave a Comment 

City Land 04/14/2015

Simeon Bankoff, Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council

In March 2015, the City Planning Commission announced a proposal called Zoning for Affordability and Quality, which broadly calls for three principal changes in the current citywide zoning resolution. The plan proposes to change and enlarge definitions of senior housing to include more types of housing providers than currently permitted. It also proposes to increase buildable space for senior housing in some instances. The proposal also seeks to lessen or some instances no longer mandate parking requirements for designated affordable housing units or senior housing based on their proximity to mass transit. Finally, the proposal recommends raising the streetwall and building height limits from 10 – 20% within medium- and high-density contextual residential zones. The agency rationale for the proposal is to provide better development opportunities within the city which more fully utilize sites full allowable bulk. The agency further explains that by loosening building envelope and parking regulations especially for senior and quality housing developments, more housing inventory will be created to help address the city’s need for these kinds of housing. The City Planning Commission is accepting comments on the draft scope of the environmental review for the proposal until April 30 2015 and, according to the agency’s projected timelines, hopes to bring the final proposal forward for public review and discussion in the early Fall.

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. Usually there is a great deal of compromise in all these negotiations and many community-driven proposals never came to fruition because of irreconcilable differences between the stakeholders and the city. It is actually uncommon for a community-driven plan to be adopted by City Planning. To rearrange the ground rules on a citywide basis as this proposal does, ignores the long effort, careful study and strong investment of community members and planning professionals.

Frankly put, this plan as it is proposed, takes the context out of contextual zoning.  It arbitrarily raises height limits and diminishes yard requirements across the city according to a mathematical nicety, not based in the actual built fabric of our city’s neighborhoods. New York thrives because of the diversity of its neighborhoods, yet this proposal’s approach will deal with each neighborhood as the same, with a one-size-fits-all approach. A calculation of potential growth based on a model is not the same as actual development, especially when one considers the diversity of New York’s built environment. The department has not released any information to show that studies of the median street wall, set-back height or yard coverage of all the potential areas affected will be done. This amendment will affect a lot of properties – approximately 10.4% of New York City, according to our calculations. The potential impact must be studied carefully before being executed.

This is a plan without prescription. It should be prescribed that only units constructed for affordable or senior housing receive height bonuses, which would incentivize construction of the housing stock that is the genesis of this proposal and that the City so desperately needs. At this moment, the proposal incentivizes all development, without any guarantee that it will actually house New Yorkers who are rent-burdened.  In fact, a point could be made that this might incentivize demolition of existing housing in order to replace it with new development utilizing the proposed as-of-right height limits. This could increase displacement while only adding more market-rate housing to the pool. Bigger buildings do not equal lower rents, if that were the case, West 57th Street would be Manhattan’s newest neighborhood for the middle class.

There is also no explanation of how building higher will mandate construction of quality buildings like the examples in the proposal. Interestingly, the new construction that City Planning aspires to create is found in historic districts in all five boroughs, as these buildings are designed from a human perspective and new development is carefully scrutinized to meet its context. It is outside of the city’s historic and contextual districts where true banality dwells and quality design is an elusive sight.

Finally, the Historic Districts Council is concerned that this proposal has not taken into consideration the undue burden on contextually-zoned properties that are regulated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).  LPC is already hard-pressed regulating property for “appropriate” development in instances when the as-of-right base zoning allows substantially more potential building mass than what is actually built – relief of this pressure is one reason why contextual rezonings are often paired with historic district designations. By raising the height limits and lessening the yard requirements to landmark properties, the development expectations are increased and the LPC is given the unenviable task of having to resist policy enacted by a sister city agency.  This could result in hardship claims, legal challenges and undue pressures on the LPC to act outside of its own mission.

Truly, this is a plan which was not formulated with New York’s neighborhoods or the people who love them in mind.

 

Simeon Bankoff is the Executive Director of the Historic Districts Council.

Category: Blog, Upzoning · Tags: , , ,

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