Defending Historic Preservation in New York City

Harrison Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Resources:

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

Six to Celebrate 2018 Application

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

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

View the Application

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

If you have any questions call 212-614-9107 or e-mail Barbara Zay bzay@hdc.org


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

 

 

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

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

Item 1

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

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1918335

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

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

LPC determination: Approved


Item 3

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

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1916384

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

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

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 7

300 Kenmore Road – Douglaston Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1912318

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

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

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

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

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

LPC determination: NO ACTION


Item 8

4637 Grosvenor Avenue – Fieldston Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #194624

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

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

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 9

67 Remsen Street – Brooklyn Heights Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1917516

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

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

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 10

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

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1917542

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

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

LPC determination: NO ACTION


Item 11 

156 Gates Avenue – Clinton Hill Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1911604

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

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

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

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

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

Item 2

132 Calyer Street – Greenpoint Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #q09718

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

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

LPC determination: Approved

Item 4

58 Bank Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #q17197

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

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

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 5

170 Bleecker Street – South Village Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #q17090

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

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

LPC determination: Approved


Item 6

269 West 11th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #q17793

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

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

LPC determination: Approved

Item 7

307-317 East 44th Street – Individual Landmark

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #181199

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

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

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 10

3560 Broadway – Individual Landmark – (Former) Hamilton Theater

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #q11855

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

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

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 11

290 West 246th Street – Fieldston Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #q11687

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

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

LPC determination: Approved

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

Posted by on Monday, November 13, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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

Item 2

1370 Dean Street – Crown Heights North Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

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

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

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

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

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 9

184 Waverly Place – Greenwich Village Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

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

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

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 10

156 West 10th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

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

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

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 11

34 King Street – Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

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

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

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


 Item 12

125 East 11th Street – Individual Landmark Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

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

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

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

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 15

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

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

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

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

LPC determination: Approved


Item 16

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

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

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

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

LPC determination: Approved


Item 18

22 East 80th Street – Metropolitan Museum Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

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

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

LPC determination: LAID OVER

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags:

Landmarks Lion 2017 – Jeff Greene / EverGreene Architectural Arts

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

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

Posted by on Monday, October 30, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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

 

Item 1

51 MacDougal Street – Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #19-12359

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

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

LPC determination: Approved


Item 3

71 Fifth Avenue – Ladies’ Mile Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #19-17136

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

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

LPC determination: NO ACTION


Item 6

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

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #19-13323

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

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

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 7

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

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #19-17545

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

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

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

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

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

LPC determination: NO ACTION


Item 8

82 John Street – DUMBO Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #178049

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

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

LPC determination: NO ACTION


Item 9

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

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #19-17533

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

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

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

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

LPC determination: Approved

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags:

HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on October 24, 2017

Posted by on Monday, October 23, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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

Item 2
19 Fillmore Place – Fillmore Place Historic District
CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #q17027
An Italianate style flats building built c. 1853. Application is to construct a rear yard addition and alter rear façade.
HDC objects to the proposed rear yard addition. The only precedents for rear yard extensions in this historic district are 2 story full-width extensions, which can be seen at the house adjacent to 19 Fillmore. At the very least, this addition should be scaled down to follow that adjacent addition, which would preserve the masonry and window openings as the neighbor has. This is the only historic district in this neighborhood. If this look is what the applicant desires, there are many non-historic buildings to choose from in Williamsburg.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 10
301 Canal Street – SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District
 
CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #q16556
A taxpayer built in 1955 and a one-story restaurant and shop. Application is to demolish buildings and construct a new building on both lots.
This historic district is characterized by a general uniform cornice height of between 76 to 88 feet tall, many of which are cast-iron buildings. Using this context, it is clear that the proposed building is simply too large for this location and surroundings—its massing is completely unlike anything on this block. The proposed building should maintain and fortify the existing cornice line of adjacent buildings, not loom over them. This building will top out at 135 feet, which will hulk even above the tallest, nearest building across the street which terminates at only nine stories. HDC reminds Commissioners that nothing is as-of-right in an historic district, and a new building which is larger than the existing could work on this corner if its massing is reduced to work as a part of the existing fabric. As it stands, the bulk of this proposal is simply far too incongruous with the existing historic district to even be discussing the merits or details of its design.

LPC determination: NO ACTION


 

Item 11
15 Barrow Street – Greenwich Village Historic District
CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #196972
A stable designed by H. Hasenstein and built in 1896. Application is to replace a sign installed without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).
Our committee hopes the applicant will rethink their proposed sign. The 1969 designation photo shows a sign with a mounting armature and pin at the second floor that appears to still exist. Perhaps these elements could be utilized, a solution that would replicate historic fabric and keep the sign at the level of the actual establishment, as opposed to outside someone’s upper story apartment.

LPC determination: Approved


Item 12

337 Lafayette Street – NoHo Historic District Extension
CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #q14968
A Utilitarian style store and loft building designed by Louis A. Sheinart and built in 1922. Application is to install banner signs.
HDC finds the proposed signage to be excessive in both size and number. One corner sign could easily do the job of the three large signs that the applicant is proposing.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 13

52 King Street – Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District
CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #q17452
A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1841. Application is to remove metal caps at lintels and sills.
 
This application amounts to nothing more than a proposal to remove historic fabric, specifically metal lintel caps that are attractive historic features. Perhaps removal of these features with a specific proposal for some kind of restoration may be appropriate, but this application includes no such proposal. The applicants should return to the LPC when they have a coherent and comprehensive restoration plan, as opposed to just removing historic features. These features, while they may not be original are historic and an integral part of the façade.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 14
CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #196968
An Italianate style rowhouse built in 1853. Application is to install awnings and signage.
HDC finds the proposed signage to be excessive. The blade sign’s removal is positive, but the second floor awnings’ signage appears too busy and detracts from the residential character of the building, and it would be a big improvement to remove this as well.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 15

181 Bleecker Street – South Village Historic District
CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #198638
A stripped Greek Revival style rowhouse originally built in 1829. Application is to reconstruct the primary façade above the ground floor.
While the proposed façade re-design will harmonize some features, it truly needs further study. The tax photo displays defining and attractive features such as a cornice, storefront, and original window openings. HDC suggests incorporating these major features, which will assist the design in proportion. For instance, the current window openings are too small for the building, which are further emphasized by the large swath of brick where a cornice should be.  The ground floor remains unresolved in the proposed elevation, with a picture window and innappropriate doors. Overall, for all the work, the final composition still comes across as a mediocre building and a wholesale, unifying design should be conceived and then implemented.

LPC determination: Approved


Item 16
18 East 50th Street – Individual Landmark
CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #q14586
A neo-Gothic style commercial building designed by Rouse & Goldstone and Joseph L. Steinam and built in 1915-16. Application is to modify storefront infill and relocate flagpoles.
While this storefront proposal is an improvement to the façade of this building, HDC asks that the applicant push the glazing all the way back to its original plane. The deep recess behind the arches was a characteristic of the building’s design to have an imposing, striking entrance. If the glass were pushed all the way back, the loggia space beneath the arches would be restored and make for an attractive entry without sacrificing much square footage or the programmatic needs of the tenant. Re-exposing this defining feature, rather than continuing to cover it behind glass, is very much the caliber of work that would strengthen and restore this individual landmark.

LPC determination: Approved


Item 17
3 Riverside Drive – Individual Landmark
CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #q14216
A French Renaissance Revival style town house designed by C.P.H. Gilbert and built in 1896-98. Application is to excavate the cellar and rear yard, and construct below-grade additions.
HDC is puzzled as to why a two-story, or 21 foot excavation is necessary. Incorporating not one, but two subcellars is certainly the deepest excavation that we have ever seen. As with all excavations, we are concerned about the safety of the building and its surrounding neighbors. No engineering information was provided about how this excavation will be conducted or if there will be underpinning. HDC asks Commissioners to look closely at the floor plans of these spaces and determine if the second subcellar is appropriate or necessary, especially as one has to pass through a “storage room” that is even further below-grade to access the basketball court.
LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags:

Saving Our Architectural Treasures and Our History

Posted by on Monday, October 16, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

Save Chelsea panel discussion about inappropriate LPC approved alterations – Thursday, Nov. 9th

 

Thursday, November 9th, 6:30-8:30 PM

Brotherhood Synagogue, 28 Gramercy Park South, NYC

An architectural jewel, Brotherhood Synagogue was built in 1859 and designated an Individual Landmark in 1965.

 

In recent years, a string of major alterations to landmark-designated buildings – approved by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission – have frustrated communities across the five boroughs. A panel made up  of some of these concerned citizens will discuss this recent trend, as well as how community members might have a more active role in the process and how organizations might learn from one another’s efforts to explore strategies  for maximizing preservation goals and agendas.

 

Space is limited.

Admission: $5

Light refreshments will be served.

 

Panelists:

Moderator: Simeon Bankoff – Executive Director, Historic Districts Council

Adam Jacobs, MD is a resident of the Stuyvesant Square Historic District. He was instrumental in the fight against the expansion of the Friends Seminary School and is the lead plaintiff in an Article 78 lawsuit against the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. He is a doctor at the Mount Sinai Hospital.

          Topic: Understanding the Process, Pitfalls, and how to be Pro-active

 

Robyn Berland is the Chairman of the Board of Friends of Brower Park, an organization focused on preserving natural spaces in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. As part of the St. Marks Avenue Independent Block Association, she has been working to prevent the construction of residential housing in the gardens of the 1870 Dean Sage Mansion, whose garden Mark Twain once enjoyed. Robyn has Masters Degrees in Educational Technology and Digital Media from NYU.

          Topic: The Fight to Protect the Last Parterre Garden in Crown Heights North

 

Jeffrey Kroessler is a long-time board member of HDC and was involved in the battle to designate the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District (designated in 2007). He has a doctorate in urban history from the CUNY Graduate Center, and is currently a librarian at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

          Topic: How Regulation is as Much of a Struggle as Designation

 

David Holowka is on the Board of Directors of Save Chelsea and a member of Community Board 4. He is a licensed architect who has worked in New York’s private and public sectors. David has extensive experience in historic preservation of designated landmarks and landmark-quality buildings.

           Topic: Sanctioned Facadism and the Hollowed-out Historic District.

 

 

Category: Six to Celebrate · Tags: , , , , , , ,

HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on October 17, 2017

Posted by on Monday, October 16, 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.

 

Designation Testimony – 827-831 Broadway 

The Historic Districts Council fully supports the designation of 827 and 831 Broadway. In addition to being architecturally significant cast-iron buildings, 827-831 Broadway played a significant role in the development of Abstract Expressionist art, the first art movement to put the United States at the center of the Western art world. It was here that Willem de Kooning painted many of his seminal works, paving the way for future artists to experiment boldly with color, size and scale. So, for both their architectural and cultural contributions, HDC embraces their designation as Individual Landmarks.

Through their many uses over the years – from sewing machine headquarters to cabinetmakers’ showroom to Turkish rug store to artist lofts – 827-831 Broadway have reflected the commercial and manufacturing trends that similarly distinguish neighboring downtown areas in SoHo and TriBeCa. These cast-iron palaces, built for industrial use in the 19th century, became ideal studios for New York’s emerging art scene, aided in part by the plentiful natural light provided by their large, steel-supported windows, and by the spacious open-layouts that have since become a staple of Downtown-chic apartments. Today, many buildings belonging to this typology have again transformed into desirable office spaces for the tech industry, highlighting the evolution of New York City and speaking to its resiliency and adaptivity in the face of tumultuous economic change. We are grateful, then, that buildings such as these at 827-831 Broadway, constructed in 1866, remain standing to help illuminate this story, and we encourage the LPC to designate them so that they may continue to do so.

HDC is concerned about rampant destruction and defacement of historic architecture in the vicinity of Union Square and Astor Place. Aesthetically vacuous glass boxes, garish commercial monoliths and grossly out-of-proportion storefronts have been constructed to take advantage of pedestrian traffic, but only function as eyesores that do nothing to enliven the street scene. There is hope, however, in the individual buildings that do lend character to this part of the city, and some of these have fortunately been designated as landmarks by this Commission. What had been proposed to take the place of 827-831 Broadway was a 300-foot-tall retail and office tower – something that could be plopped down in Anywhere, U.S.A. – and that would have been a shame, but not entirely unheard of for the area. We, therefore, applaud the strong, swift action of the LPC to calendar these significant buildings to protect against yet another attempt to chip away at the culture, liveliness and sense of place that makes this heavily trafficked corridor special, and also thank the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s hard work and strong advocacy on the part of these buildings. We urge the Commission to approve the designation of 827-831 Broadway as New York’s newest Landmarks.

 

Item 1

351 Hollywood Avenue – Douglaston Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #184894

A Colonial Revival style house designed by Harold Paddon and built in 1925. Application is to construct additions.

HDC objects to the proposed addition, which our committee finds overly large and incongruous with the existing building. Our committee questions the need for additional garage space when the current home already has a matching two-car garage in the back, as noted in the designation report, which is perfectly functional and characteristic of Douglaston. Additionally, this application leaves us with more questions than answers, as we do not know what the proposed retaining wall is made of or how it will fit into the existing landscape. For such a significant proposed change in the landscape, our committee believes the landscape should be presented in the application so that it can be properly evaluated.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 2

271 Hicks Street – Brooklyn Heights Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #q14345

A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1846. Application is to construct rear yard and rooftop additions, excavate the rear yard, and replace windows.

HDC finds the proposed rooftop bulkhead too visible. Our committee also objects to the applicant’s plan to install single pane, in-swing casement windows on the back, a configuration that we find aesthetically distressing. Perhaps a more traditional window divide like one-over-one would befit this handsome rowhouse.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 3

40-44 Greene Avenue – Individual Landmark

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #q14331

A Rundbogenstil church building attributed to Rembrandt Lockwood, built in c. 1864, and altered in 1890 by Frederick Weber. Application is to install a barrier-free access ramp, alter the façade and install signage.

HDC commends the applicant on what seems to be a good solution to creating an accessible entry into this building. We applaud that the restoration work is done sensitively, which will benefit the community, as well.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 6

536 1st Street – Park Slope Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #q10514

A neo-Renaissance style rowhouse designed by Eisenla and Carlson and built in 1909. Application is to construct a rooftop addition.

536 1st Street is one of four houses built together with “beautifully handled” roof cornices, as detailed in the Park Slope Historic District designation report. The proposed rooftop addition will completely disrupt this grouping, and would render this handsome rowhouse incongruous with its neighbors, potentially setting a deleterious precedent for insensitive rooftop additions on the rest of this block and throughout this historic district. This stretch of First Street is a block without a history of rooftop accretions and it should remain so. Our committee urges the LPC to reject this application and maintain the scale and historic integrity of this charming Park Slope block.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags: , , ,

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

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