Staten Island Preservation Forum

FREE- Walking tour with Francis Morrone with a reception at the Alice Austen House! June, 29

Alice Austen House

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Alice Austen House Museum 


Join HDC on Staten Island for a tour of a remarkable neighborhood and a discussion of preservation issues on the island. Despite Staten Island’s long and fascinating history, the borough is sorely lacking in designated landmarks. HDC has highlighted a number of individual properties (and neighborhoods) on the island through our Six to Celebrate program, but we’re always looking for new ways to build and grow preservation awareness on the island. Guests will accompany noted historian and Landmarks Lion  Francis Morrone through the Rosebank neighborhood surrounding the Alice Austen House, a National Historic Landmark and recently designated national site of LGBTQ history, followed by a small reception on the porch of the museum.


This event is FREE

Registration is suggested – RSVP to

Meet at  St. Mary’s Church, on Bay Street and St. Mary’s Avenue

HDC Is Seeking A New Development Director

The Historic Districts Council (HDC) is the citywide advocate for New York’s historic neighborhoods. HDC is dedicated to preserving the significant historic neighborhoods, buildings and public spaces in New York City, defending the integrity of New York City’s Landmarks Law, and furthering the preservation ethic.

HDC is seeking to hire a full-time Director of Development. This position will work closely with the Executive Director, staff and Board to lead, manage, and build HDC’s development efforts for corporate, foundation, public and individual giving. He/she will be responsible for the overall vision and strategy for fundraising including shaping and implementing the organization’s short- and long-term fundraising goals to secure revenue of $750,000 annually. He/she will maintain and steward the current giving base while also identifying and cultivating new donors and funding sources for a more holistic fundraising portfolio. Responsibilities will also include working with programming staff on fundraising events.




Three years of experience in membership, foundation grant-writing, and/or non-profit fundraising


Must be a New York City-area resident


Excellent written and verbal communication skills


Ability to take initiative, manage multiple tasks simultaneously, problem-solve, adhere to deadlines, and work as part of a team


Interest, knowledge, and background in New York City history, civics and/or politics a plus



Please send a cover letter & resume with references.

Must by a New York City-area resident.



This is a full-time salaried position with a full benefits package. Presence at some evening events will be required.

HDC Testimony for LPC Hearing on June 6, 2017

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

Item 1

202 Guernsey Street – Greenpoint Historic District


An Italianate style rowhouse built c. 1865. Application is to replace windows.

On a house of this size that comes so close to the street, any change in materials will be obvious. Thus, HDC would like to see the windows and brick molds of this historic rowhouse returned to their original wooden material instead of aluminum.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 3

115 Atlantic Avenue – Brooklyn Heights Historic District


An altered commercial building with Gothic Revival style details. Application is to reconstruct the rear façade, which was removed without Landmarks Preservation Commission permits, construct a rear yard addition and rooftop bulkhead, and excavate the rear yard.

HDC does not support this application. The proposed bulkhead’s stucco cladding is obtrusive and inappropriate for the Brooklyn Heights Historic District, especially considering its visbility from State Street. Our committee would like to see the design of the bulkhead changed to reflect a more utilitarian approach. We suggest cladding it in copper or zinc or a similar material that would be less noticable than stucco. Additionally, the corbelled cornice at the rear is a fine architectural detail and we would like to see it repaired and restored.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 4

20 Willow Street – Brooklyn Heights Historic District


A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1846. Application is to construct rooftop additions.

HDC does not support this application. The proposed rooftop addition disrupts the roofline too much and compromises the building’s relationship to the rest of the row by removing its roof scale. Pitched roofs are a distinctive feature of Greek Revival style houses, a feature that has been retained on the roofs of 20 Willow Street’s neighboring houses. We look forward to seeing a revised application that better addresses the historic architectural style of this beautiful rowhouse.

LPC determination: No action

Item 5

191 Baltic Street – Cobble Hill Historic District


A rowhouse built c. 1841. Application is to legalize the reconstruction of a portion of the rear façade without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

HDC finds this application to be very inappropriate and asks that it be denied. The proposed addition has no hierarchy of fenestration and is not in keeping with the pattern of punched window openings that are typically found on rowhouses historically. The stucco on the rear of the top floor is inappropriate for a rowhouse from 1841 and everything about the worksmanship done is completely unacceptable.

Furthermore, the changes to this building that were approved by at staff level should have never been approved at all.  Our committee doesn’t understand how LPC staff approved something that was so architecturally inconsistent with the fabric of the neighborhood; it’s one thing to approve a second-floor addition, it’s another entirely to permit a second-floor addition where its architecural components make no attempt to engage with its neighbors. Given the extraordinary value in real estate that comes from having a building in this district, to not restore it properly and just reap all the profits without doing the work is exploitive. The applicants should not be rewarded for this sub-par work.

LPC determination: Approved 

Item 6

490 LaGuardia Place – South Village Historic District


An Italianate style tenement building with commercial ground floor, designed by James L. Miller and built in 1870. Application is to establish a Master Plan governing the future installation of painted wall signs.

The applicant’s presentation is a wonderful potrait of how this building has improved over time, even before designation. Unfortunately, our committee believes the proposed Master Plan for signage would be taking a step back. The alignment of the proposed signage section as it relates to the overall plan of the building is aesthetically confusing. The sign zone would be better placed to correlate with the second-floor window openings and fall within a square shape ending at the existing through-wall air conditioning unit rather than this awkward horizontal band. Because of this building’s strong vertical proportions, rather than having a long horizontal sign, any advertising painted in a narrower and taller zone would work better with fensetration rhythm more of this handsome building.

LPC determination: Denied

Item 10

21 East 73rd Street – Upper East Side Historic District


A neo-Grec style rowhouse designed by J.W. Marshall, built in 1871 and altered in 1903 and 1906 with modifications to the first two floors. Application is to reconstruct the façade and alter the areaway.

HDC does not support this application. If approved, many architectural details on floors three through five will be lost. This stripping of historic details is not appropriate and not forgivable. Furthermore, while some historic elements are being taken away, new features that are completely out of context with the building’s style are being added. The cornice above the fourth floor, for instance, is totally new and shows no historic precedent. Unless there is historic documentation to justify all these changes, which we have not been presented with, they are not appropriate and should not be approved. Additionally, our committee objects to the addition of the gates across the entrance steps at the areaway. We look forward to seeing a revised application.

LPC determination: No action

Item 11

85 Bradhurst Avenue – Jackie Robinson (Colonial Park) Play Center – Individual and Interior Landmark



An Art Moderne style pool complex designed by architects Aymar Embury II and Henry Ahrens, landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke, and built in 1935-37. Application is to install fencing, lighting, paving, and alter the entrances.

HDC is pleased that the Parks Department is proposing improvements and restorations to this picturesque park which is sorely in need of more care. Our principal concern with this proposal comes in its treatment of the significant architectural brick piers and the historic iron fencing, both elements which are called out in the 2007 designation report.

The problem is not as simple as a reduction in height, though that is part of it.  It is also about marrying a stylistically inappropriate iron fence design, ornamental, with a 1930’s brick pier.  This would be like replacing Moderne windows with Victorian windows in an Art Deco building.  From a visual perspective, truncating the columns is also clumsy design. If a lower height is desired, then the circumference of the piers would also need to be reduced, otherwise they look squat and ridiculous – there would be no plausible structural reason to create a wide pier at that low height. However, once the piers were reduced to an appropriate scale for their immediate context, they would no longer relate to the majestic scale of the pilasters and other architectural features of the pool.  The tall rounded walls of the pool and the round fence piers are directly related, in scale and mass.  These Robert Moses-era structures were designed by master architects, and details are integral to their success.  The 1930’s pool buildings are modern, have little or no ornament, and their design impact depends on scale and massing.

This fence proposal destroys those two qualities; scale and massing.  It takes an existing, original design detail with integrity, that relates to the overall architectonic treatment, and trivializes it. This is really no different than a building campus, like Rockefeller Center.  Imagine if Rockefeller Center arbitrarily decided to lower all the walls and planters, but to use the same type of stone.  It would trivialize and ruin the heroic scale and impact of the place. If one takes details that were intentionally designed by good architects, like windows and doors and columns, and start stretching them, shrinking them, the integrity of the design is ruined.

Finally, the destruction of original historic fabric should not be taken lightly. The piers that exist now are made from materials which would be difficult to duplicate and were constructed with a craftsmanship which is increasingly rare.

LPC determination: Approved in part/No action

Item 12

415 Broadway – TriBeCa East Historic District


A Moderne style bank building designed by Walker & Gillette and built in 1927. Application is to legalize removal of entry ironwork without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

HDC does not support this application. The current owner’s removal of historic ironwork, done without the permission of the LPC, is unacceptable and should not be ignored. The applicant should be required to find the original ironwork and recreate it. Anything less sets a dangerous precedent for other historic properties. We ask the Commission to take a firm stand in support of its own regulations requiring property owners in historic districts to seek approval of the LPC prior to working on their building, and to deny this application.

LPC determination: Denied

Item 13

312-322 Canal Street – TriBeCa East Historic District


Five buildings originally constructed in 1825-26, and altered in 1851, 1892, and 1962-65. Application is to demolish the buildings and construct a new building.

HDC finds this application completely inappropriate and urges the Commission to reject it outright. The five former Federal dwellings the applicant seeks to demolish are integral parts of the commercial character of the TriBeCa East Historic District. In the 1992 designation report, they are noted for their history and existing historic fabric. Even if their demolition was permitted, the new building being proposed to replace them has no relation to the historic district. The building, a full two stories taller than any adjacent building, is completely out of context with the rest of the block and with TriBeCa’s loft-building style. Its 97-foot height changes the look and feel of Canal Street and disrupts the street’s low-rise scale, a survivor of pre-Civil War New York. Even the detailing on the new building is inappropriate, as the building’s window operation and configuration has no relationship to those of its neighbors.

Apart from being architecturally inappropriate, the process by which the owner arrived at the building’s current configuration is deeply problematic and speaks volumes about their complete lack of respect for their buildings and the historic district. In 2010, the current owners performed substantial illegal work on the facades, which resulted in two LPC violations and several DOB violations. The applicants subsequently  rebuilt the facades of 312-322 Canal Street without LPC permits. In doing so, they destroyed original historic fabric including the façade of Flemish-bond brickwork (noted in the designation report) with original window openings, original window lintels and sills on all windows; the seams in the brick delineating the different buildings; and historic cast iron columns at the storefront openings. The owner tore all of these historic details out and built a façade of running bond brick with smaller window openings, no header or sills, and no divisions between the historic building lots. They also removed or are not disclosing the presence of the historic cast iron that had to be there to serve as structural support. In 2011, the architects presenting today appeared before the LPC seeking retroactive legalization of their illegal work. The Commission denied the application and requested the owners revise it and return to present again. The owners and architects never returned and the LPC violations remain open to this day. Now, 6 years later, the owners and architect are back seeking to demolish the buildings. They committed enormous violations and now want to be rewarded with a new building. Rewarding the applicant’s criminality with permission to build a brand-new building is wholly unacceptable and would set a dangerous precedent for buildings in all historic districts. A building owner who has routinely violated the rulings of the Landmarks Preservation Commission should be fined, not given lucrative opportunities to capitalize on their prime location in a historic district. HDC urges the Landmarks Commission to entirely reject this inappropriate proposal and command the owners to restore their buildings properly.

LPC determination: No action

The Gargoyle Hunter-Book Reading and Signing

Posted by on Tuesday, May 30, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

FREE- Enjoy a reading from John Freeman Gill on Thur., June 8 ; 6:30pm at The General Society Library

The General Society Library,

20 West 44th Street, New York City

Thursday, June 8th, at 6:30 p.m.

Hilarious and poignant, The Gargoyle Hunters is a love letter to a vanishing city and a deeply emotional story of fathers and sons. Intimately portraying New York’s relationship with time, the novel presents the mystery of a brazen and seemingly impossible architectural heist— the theft of an entire historic Manhattan building. Through the voice of thirteen-year-old Griffin Watts, author John Freeman Gill implores readers to look at New York with a new perspective. The Washington Post writes, “After a few chapters with Watts, it’s impossible not to turn your gaze toward the sky. You’ll never look at the Woolworth Building the same way again.”


John Freeman Gill is a long-time New York Times contributor as well as the architecture and real estate editor of Avenue magazine. His work has also appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Observer, The Washington Monthly, The International Herald Tribune, the website of New York magazine, Premiere, the New York Times op-ed page, and The New York Times Book Review.


Free Admission. 


Reception and Book Signing to follow. Advance Registration is required.



Presented in Partnership with The General society of Mechanics and tradesmen of the City of New York

The Lectures take place in The General Society Library, 20 West 44th Street, New York City.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.


Category: Program & Events · Tags:

HDC Testimony for LPC Hearing on May 23, 2017

Posted by on Thursday, May 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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

Item 1

204 6th Avenue – Park Slope Historic District Extension II


A Neo-Grec style store and apartment house built in 1879. Application is to alter the storefront.

HDC objects to the placement of the awning over the stained glass transom. Storefronts with stained glass transoms are increasingly rare and we would like to see this unique historical feature accentuated, not obscured. The proposed awning would go on a corner of a block that faces east, eliminating the need for an awning. If the applicant cannot part ways with this awning, however, HDC would like to see the awning placed underneath the transom in order to better highlight the beautiful leaded glass on this historic 19th century apartment house.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 2

416 West 13th Street – Gansevoort Market Historic District


A neo-Classical style factory building designed by Trowbridge & Livingston and built in 1901- 1902.  Application is to construct a rooftop addition, elevator bulkheads, and a covered walkway at the roof.

HDC does not support this application. The rooftop addition and elevator bulkheads are very visible in relationship to the front façade. Our committee questions the placement of the elevator in its current configuration. Moving it back even three feet might make the difference between a highly visible addition and a less noticeable one. Our committee also wonders if there aren’t any further steps that could be taken to push back the addition or minimize its view from the street. Perhaps the function of the elevator could be switched so that the freight elevator is moved to the front and the passenger elevator to the back, allowing a less noticeable bulkhead at the front of the building. HDC looks forward to seeing a revised application with a rooftop addition that is pushed back and reduced in size.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 3

28 West 12th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District


One in a pair of adjoined Anglo-Italianate style rowhouses built in 1851-1852. Application is to legalize the installation of a cornice in non-compliance with Permit for Minor Work 15-8973.

HDC objects to the proposed legalization in this application. The cornice that has been incorrectly added to this 1851 rowhouse is completely inappropriate. The extra bracket wedged in is not evenly spaced and needs to be positioned correctly. Furthermore, Greenwich Village is a historic district comprised of numerous different architectural styles. The examples of other cornices provided in the application as precedent, however, are not labeled with address or style and have no relation with what they are trying to justify. We ask the Commission to take a firm stand in support of its own regulations requiring property owners in historic districts to seek approval of the LPC prior to working on their building, and to deny the application.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 4

13 Bleecker Street – NoHo East Historic District


A Federal style residence with Italianate style alterations, built c. 1822-25 and altered several times between 1869 and 1925. Application is to replace the commercial infill.

While 13 Bleecker Street has been altered several times between 1869 and 1925, many of these alterations have added style and character to this charming Federal-style home.  HDC wishes to see these historic changes restored and maintained. The existing attenuated door on the right hand side of the transom is an interesting intermediate historical item that could be replicated or restored and would create an interesting composition. Duplicating this work on the other side of the facade would add symmetry and provide some recollection of the historical state of this nearly two-century -old building. Additionally, if the applicant is removing such a significant portion of historic brick, our committee would like to see at least some of the remnants of the doors and the surrounding buff brick maintained and restored.

LPC determination: Approved 

Item 8

50 East 96th Street – Expanded Carnegie Hill Historic District


A neo-Renaissance style apartment building designed by George F. Pelham and built in 1905-06. Application is to construct a rooftop addition.

First of all, HDC would like to thank the applicant for sharing this presentation with us. HDC does not support this application. The mock-up of this addition shows it to be highly visible over the primary facades. Allowing its construction will detract from the architectural integrity of this historic 1905 building. The height of the addition is not in keeping with the scale of other additions approved within the district. There are no other LPC-approved additions in the Carnegie Hill Historic District that are so visible. There are other obtrusive additions on other flat buildings nearby on Madison Avenue, but they all pre-date designation and thus are grand-fathered. Our committee also objects to the glass railing which, as the application shows, will be highly visible. Viewed in relationship with the cornice, the railing would detract from this crowning element on the building.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 9

895 Madison Avenue – Upper East Side Historic District


A neo-Renaissance style apartment building designed by W.L. Rouse and L.A. Goldstone and built in 1916. Application is to legalize the installation of awnings and planters without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

HDC objects to the proposed legalization in this application. We wonder what confusion the applicant might have had about illegally modifying their property in an area that has been designated as a historic district for 37 years. We ask the Commission to take a firm stand in support of its own regulations requiring property owners in historic districts to seek approval of the LPC prior to working on their building, and to deny the application. To do otherwise is to undermine the Commission’s authority and discretion. Finally, we cannot believe the LPC would allow planters to be attached to a building’s façade in this manner and they should not be allowed post factum.

LPC determination: Approved 

Item 10

600 West 116th Street – Morningside Heights Historic District


A Renaissance Revival style apartment building designed by Gaeton Ajello and built in 1911-12. Application is to install storefront infill and signage.

As much as HDC supports hormone and antibiotic-free hamburgers, our committee objects to the signage proposed in this application. The large Shake Shack sign wrapping the corner of this lovely apartment building is unfortunate and does not allow the corner of the building to land. The corner should be uninterrupted by any signage so that the building’s historic masonry features can be freed up and appreciated. Obstructing the masonry piers of this building with a sign for a hamburger restaurant is an affront to its elegant architectural design. Instead, our committee would like to see signage fit within the storefront bays, even if the signage is obstructed. It is important that the three separate bays of the façade are preserved and defined. Additionally, our committee finds the wood paneling on the sign to be inappropriate for this building. We would like the faux transom currently on the building maintained, perhaps with black or mirrored glass. Finally, while our committee cannot deny the vivacity of the neon green hamburger sign included in this application, we question the appropriateness of its prominent placement on the corner. Perhaps placing this lovely neon burger in a window might be a better solution.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

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

2017 Grassroots Preservation Awards Pictures

Posted by on Thursday, May 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

Category: Grassroots Awards · Tags:

Rooftop Addition to Hopper-Gibbons House Denied!

Posted by on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

~HDC thanks Friends of LaMartine Place, our elected officials, our partner organizations, and the LPC~

On Tuesday, May 23, 2017 the Landmarks Preservation Commission denied the application to legalize the fifth story addition on the designed Hopper-Gibbons House aka 339 West 29th Street! We would like to thank Grassroots Preservation Award Winners Friends of the Hopper-Gibbons Underground Railroad Site, NY State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Michael Hiller; Six to Celebrate group Save Chelsea; the Landmarks Preservation Commission as well everyone one else who staunchly advocated to preserve the history of the Hopper-Gibbons House. Finally, after a decade of fighting to have the fifth story removed the owner Tony Mamounas has no more legal recourse and will have to adhere to the Dept. of Building order to correct and remove the addition.

 September 2016
HDC thanks Friends of LaMartine Place, our elected officials and our partner organizations for remaining in coalition for all of these years to preserve the Hopper-Gibbons house’s legacy. Our collective cause has brought us together once again in what is the latest attempt to legitimize the marring of history.
The persisting presence of the illegal fifth floor addition is an affront to our history, our culture, and the law. From start to finish, this catastrophe has been self-inflicted by the owner and has come at the expense of the community.
HDC is alarmed that an application has been filed with the LPC to determine appropriateness. What the owner has defined as appropriate in the renderings submitted has been defined as illegal by the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division. Even more concerning, another city agency, the DOB, has failed to correct this situation by court order for over a year. 
The applicant has stated that the “back story” of this building is “not relevant” to this current application to the LPC. We could not disagree more, because at no. 339, its history, and back story, is everything. This is one of the few sites in New York City that was designated for its cultural significance, as opposed to aesthetics, as this row of houses survived the Draft Riots of 1863. Further, no 339 is the only known, extant Underground Railroad stop in Manhattan. 
Of all of the alterations that can be made to this building, short of demolition, building a rooftop addition and effectively destroying the path of the building’s escapees from 1863 is the most injurious.  These houses were here before we were, and HDC will advocate to ensure that they remain long after we are gone, so that these structures can continue to speak to a past in a city that will inevitably keep changing around them.

The height of the building tells an integral part of New York City’s Civil War Draft Riots, the deadliest riot in United States history. From July 13-16 in 1863 a mob of men angry about being drafted into the Civil War rampaged through Manhattan, setting their sights on the people and places they believed were the reason for the War. The crowd violently attacked and killed Black men, women, and children, and set fire to known houses and businesses with anti-slavery ties. On July 14th several hundred rioters marched down West 29th Street and arrived at the Hopper Gibbons house, home of prominent abolitionist Abigail Hopper Gibbons. As the crowd broke into the house and began destroying everything in sight, smashing furniture, burning books, and eventually setting fire to the house itself, the frightened Gibbons daughters who were home at the time made their way up to the rooftop in a desperate attempt to escape the mob’s attack. Because 339 and its neighboring houses had flat rooftops with the same height, the young women were able to flee across the roofs and duck into a nearby building where they found shelter.

Category: Featured, LPC · Tags: , , , ,

Six to Celebrate Tour- Port Morris

Posted by on Thursday, May 18, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

Come celebrate Bronx week with HDC and the Friends of Brook Park on a tour around Port Morris! 5/21

Sunday, May 21, 2017

11:00 AM

For more information and to register go to our

Six to Celebrate website 

Category: Six to Celebrate · Tags: ,

Secret Lives Tour: Met Arms & Armor Department

Posted by on Wednesday, May 17, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

Secret Lives Tour of the galleries and the Conservation Lab of the Met Arms & Armor Department- Wednesday, May 24


Wednesday, May 24, 2017


The Metropolitan Museum of Art boasts one of the most comprehensive and encyclopedic collections of arms and armor on the globe. The collection comprises approximately 14,000 objects, of which more than 5,000 are European, 2,000 are from the Near East, and 4,000 from the Far East. Join the Historic Districts Council for a special behind-the-scenes look with Stephen Bluto, the Department’s Collections Manager. The tour will include a trip to the galleries and the Conservation Lab, where Met Armorer Edward Hunter will explain the ins-and-outs of armor conservation. Don’t “shield” yourself from this unique opportunity!

Due to capacity constraints, attendance for this unique tour will be capped. Please do not delay in making your reservation.

$50 – Friends / Seniors

$75- General Admission


Category: secret lives · Tags:

HDC Testimony for LPC Hearing on May 16, 2017

Posted by on Monday, May 15, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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

Item 1

135-29 Northern Boulevard – Interior Landmark 


A Churrigueresque style movie palace interior designed by Thomas Lamb and built in 1928; including the ticket lobby, original ticket booth, grand foyer, ceilings, and fixtures and interior components of these areas. Application is to re-authorize Certificate of Appropriateness 06-1202 for the construction of a new building to enclose the interior landmark, and to disassemble, restore off-site, and reinstall salvaged ornamental plasterwork and woodwork and replicas.

While the Historic Districts Council has no objection to the proposed restoration of what is sadly left of this historic theater, we are very concerned about aspects of this larger project. Principally, our concern is regarding the eventual disposition of this long-fought-over Interior Landmark. As the commissioners are very aware, public accessibility to an interior landmark is a key characteristic of its designation, which only stands to reason as an inaccessible interior would be hard put to serve a public purpose. Historically, this consideration has prevented the Landmarks Commission from acting to designate private apartment lobbies as they are not “customarily open and accessible to the public or to which the public is customarily invited.” Unlike lobbies for office buildings or publicly-oriented spaces such as restaurants, theaters and bank lobbies, people are not permitted into the lobby of a residential building except at the invitation of a resident. Quite recently, this LPC chose not to act on the designation of the Osborne Apartments partially for this reason. The transformation of this theater lobby into a residential lobby must therefore be carefully examined with regard to its program, so that the essential nature of its designation as an interior landmark and public good remains intact.

From a physical design perspective, the glass antechamber with its idiosyncratic sloped roof separates the lobby from the street, visually as well as physically. Understanding the complexity of the regulatory web surrounding this building project, HDC nonetheless strongly suggests that specific aspect of the design, the interface between the street and landmark lobby be reexamined in order to facilitate greater public access to and awareness of the wonders which lie behind the doors. At the absolute, very least, appropriate and visible wayfinding and informational signage delineating hours of public accessibility must be posted where the public will see it.

This brings us to the next point; the programming of public accessibility to the designated space. While it might be beyond scope for the LPC to publicly deliberate on negotiations with the owners, it is imperative in this case that the Landmarks Commissioners ensure that the public will be able to regularly visit and experience this fantastic landmark, especially considering all the fine work which this team is putting into restoring it. More than any other interior landmark we can think of, the tortured history of the RKO Keith’s demonstrates the importance of binding public protections. This is a site which has been abused, neglected and passed from owner to owner like an albatross. We do not mean to judge the current owner by the misdeeds of previous ones, but the history of this site makes us very concerned about the future of the site when it inevitably changes hands and new management entities become responsible for this fragile landmark. There are two historic spaces – the ticket lobby and the grand foyer – which still exist, thanks to the Landmarks Law, and which this team is putting a great deal of work into restoring and recreating. They must both be open and accessible to the public in order for the Landmarks Law to be truly served. If there are concerns about security, they could possibly be answered with measures incorporated within the non-historic elevators, such as keypad security codes or key cards. The permittance of regular “open hours for the public” for the Grand Foyer which are publicly posted and supervised by building staff would be another, non-intrusive remedy for this concern. This could take a form of regulation analogous to how “privately-owned public spaces” are supposed to be regulated.

HDC urges the Landmarks Commissioners to legally insist on regular public accessibility to both these spaces before granting any other permits. 

LPC determination: Approved 

Item 2

316 Grosvenor Street – Douglaston Historic District


An Arts and Crafts style house with Colonial Revival details designed by Edward A. Maclean and built in 1910. Application is to construct an addition and retaining walls and perform excavation.

The Historic Districts Council finds the proposed addition to be inappropriate. This Arts and Crafts style house has a simple, vernacular layout which appears to have remained unchanged for over a century. The sheer bulk of this addition destroys the character of this historic house. A small setback addition to expand the size of the bedroom and family room might be appropriate, but that is not what is being proposed here. This application seeks to nearly double the size of the house, and would disrupt the house’s symmetrical massing, central dormer, and two lovely bays.

Additionally, freestanding garages are a signature feature of the neighborhood whereas underground, in-house parking garages, while they do appear in the district, diminish the role of the house in its landscape, which is also a defining characteristic of the district.

We’ve seen excellent examples of sensitive additions to houses in Douglaston. This is not one of them.

LPC determination: No action 

Item 4

235 Lincoln Place – Park Slope Historic District


A Neo-Federal style apartment building designed by Charles Kreymborg and built in 1937. Application is to replace windows.

HDC questions the change in operation from an elegant arrangement of windows that open side by side to windows that run in the same direction but open right into the fire escape. Our committee would also strongly recommend the applicants replace the windows with thermally-broken rolled steel windows, which are readily available and have a much more slender profile than the windows currently proposed.

LPC determination: Approved 

Item 5

456 East 18th Street – Ditmas Park Historic District


A Colonial Revival style house designed by Arlington D. Isham and built in 1905. Application is to replace the entrance stairs.

HDC does not support this application. The bluestone being proposed here, which is quite lovely, is an inappropriately fancy material for the lovely, informal nature of this house. An ideal historic restoration would return this stoop to its original wood, although a simplified brick stoop would be acceptable as well.

LPC determination: Approved 

Item 6

77 Washington Place – Greenwich Village Historic District


A Greek Revival style townhouse built in 1844, and altered in 1917. Application is to construct rear yard and rooftop additions; modify masonry openings at the rear facades; and replace skylights and install railings at the roof.

HDC has no objection to the proposed modifications to the back house and the removal of the glass block infill on the rear of the main building. We would, however, ask that the rooftop mechanicals for the HVAC units be made less visible if possible, and that the upper portion of the rear façade which is not being covered by the elevator be retained and restored. This rear elevation is an interesting and visible layer of century-old history with windows, sidelights, and balconies which add historic character and complexity to a very old house.

LPC determination: Approved 

Item 7

225 Fifth Avenue – Madison Square North Historic District


A Beaux-Arts style store, loft, and offices building designed by Francis H. Kimball and Harry E. Donnell, and built in 1906-07.  Application is to install sidewalk planters

HDC does not support this application. As many New Yorkers will know, pedestrian space on this busy stretch of Fifth Avenue is already a rare commodity. The proposed sidewalk planters add unnecessary clutter to a sidewalk that is crowded enough as is with hot dog carts, phone booths, parking meters, and a mailbox. In effect, the planters create a wall and a barrier in a place where space is at a premium and where pedestrianism and foot traffic should be encouraged, not deterred.  Finally, the reasoning behind these large planters eludes us, as there is a magnificent green space, one of the few in lower Midtown, directly across the street from this building.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 8

420 Lexington Avenue – Individual Landmark 


An Art Deco and Byzantine style office building designed by Sloan & Robertson and built in 1925-27. Application is to alter the façade and install signage.

HDC finds the changes to the historic Graybar Building proposed in this application to be inappropriate. Façade changes made prior to designation should not be a defacto guide to permitted work, especially when one considers that this building has been a landmark for less than a year. This application proposes to remove historic fabric for a transitory use in order to create a visual symmetry which erodes the monumentality of this building. It is important to consider that this building lies at the focal point of an important view corridor on 44th Street westward towards Grand Central. A far less intrusive solution, if a needless symmetry is desired, would be to affix the sign band to the stone such that it could be removed at some later date with far less impact on the historic material. 

LPC determination: Approved 

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

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