Preservation in the News

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

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

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UWS Council hopefuls spar at debate


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

“It was a very distinctive part of the Brooklyn waterfront skyline — for decades, as you walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, you knew you were in Brooklyn because there was the Watchtower,” said Simeon Bankoff, of the Historic Districts Council.
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How a Mott Haven Man Tries to Preserve His Neighborhood

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

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

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Save Chelsea Chosen as One of ‘Six to Celebrate’

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

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

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We must protect historic preservation

Developer still has a chance to save beloved church

New York Post By Steve Cuozzo

Preservationists are appalled.

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

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

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

Time Out New York By David Goldberg

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

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

Curbed  by 

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

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New Research on How Historic Districts Affect Affordable Housing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brownstoner by Hannah Frishberg

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

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Pepsi-Cola Sign in Queens Gains Landmark Status

Brooklyn Daily Eagle By:Lore Croghan

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

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

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



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

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Frick Museum Abandons Contested Renovation Plan

NY Times By 

The Frick Collection has yielded.

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

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

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

Curbed by Nathan Kensinger

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

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

Curbed by Nathan Kensinger

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

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

Downtown Express

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

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

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

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Howard Hughes: Here Comes The Tower

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

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Julian Niccolini on the Future of the Four Seasons Restaurant

Forbes by Karla Alindahao

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

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Council bill would give landmarks agency something new: deadlines

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

Crain’s New York By 

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

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 Simeon Bankoff: Taking the Context out of Contextual Zoning

City Land

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

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‘Citywide Rezoning Plan Would Benefit Developers, Hurt Neighborhoods’


Gotham Gazette by Andrew Berman

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

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‘Zoning Changes Made in Haste Makes For Bad Government’


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

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‘Zoning Process Too Fast For CB4’


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

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

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

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

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Woodlawn group fights for historical district status

News 12 Bronx

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

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

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

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


Op-Ed: No Tower on the Seaport


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bloomberg Business By 

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

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

New York Times By 

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

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

Behind Commission Decision Are Almost 100 Tales of Potential Landmarks

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

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

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

Curbed by Hana R. Alberts

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

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

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

New York Times By MATT A.V. CHABAN

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

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

By Heather Holland

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

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

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

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Independent Engineer Report Supports Dismantling the Harlem Watchtower

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

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

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

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Community plan to unlock south Bronx waterfront recognized by state

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


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

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

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

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Frick Opponents Get Organized

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

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

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

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Historic Districts Council Opposes Frick Expansion

New York Times, By 

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

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

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Redevelopment of Former Indigent Farm Community Proposed

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

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How to Turn Your Block Into an Historic District

By Nikhita Venugopal

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

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

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

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City Planning appoints inaugural COO

Crain’s New York, BY 

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

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

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

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

Huffington Post By Charles Birnbaum

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

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Scientists recreate old beer they dug up in Chinatown

New York Post By Natalie O’Neill

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

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

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

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


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

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The War on New York’s Waterfront


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

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

Reuters By Laila Kearney

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

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

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Midtown East Steering Committee to Make Everyone Happy

New York Observer by: Tobias Salinger  

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

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Buildings With a Past

Creating New York Apartments From Unlikely Buildings


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

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

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 Readers sound off on landmarks

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

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

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

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

Pardon Me For Asking

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

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

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Save Rizzoli

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

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

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Library’s Rose Main Reading Room Closed for Six Months

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

Wall Street Journal By Jennifer Maloney

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

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

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

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Mysterious Railroad Relic Unearthed on Governors Island

DNAInfo By Irene Plagianos

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

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

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

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Closer look at two significant neighborhoods

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

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

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

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Ratner wins prize for best … preservationist?

Brooklyn Paper

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

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

Click here to read the whole story



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

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

Click here to access the full report.



Brooklyn’s Historic Churches Disappear to Make Way for Condos


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

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

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

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

Click here to read the whole article


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


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


Plan to Honor Big Developer in Brooklyn Is Criticized

NYTimes BY Matt Chaben

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

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

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

Click here to read the whole story


An economic defense of old buildings

Washington Post By Emily Badger

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

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

Click here to read the whole article


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

Daily News BY 

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

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

Click here to read the whole story


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

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

Click here to read the whole article



New Yorkers, Take Back Your City


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

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

Click here to read the whole article


Public Library Is Abandoning Disputed Plan for Landmark


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

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

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

Click here to read the full story


New York Public Library Scraps Redesign Plans

The Controversial Renovation Plan Prompted Three Lawsuits


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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article



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



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

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

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

“We insist on real involvement,” he said.

Click here to read the full story


Mayor de Blasio’s Plan to Build More Cells

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

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

Click here to read the full story


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

New York Magazine By 

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

      • Push the new apartment complex well back from Amsterdam Avenue, leaving the cathedral’s corner inviolate.
      • In exchange, allow a taller, more slender tower at the back of the site.
      • Increase the number of affordable apartments.
      • Immediately landmark the cathedral and its remaining grounds.

Click here to read the full article



Architects Newspaper By: Alan G. Brake

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

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

Click here to read the full article


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

News 1

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

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

Click here to read the full story



Demolition freeze may cover 80% of the city


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

Crains By Joe Anuta

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

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

 Click here to read the full story


Museum fears plaster disaster from next-door hotel project

The Villager by Sam Spokony

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

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


Merchant’s House-Neighboring Hotel Approved by Landmarks

Curbed by Jeremiah Budin

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

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

Click here to read the full article



LPC Likely to Protect Ladies’ Mile Buildings From Demolition


Chelsea Now by Scott Stiffler

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

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

Click here to read the full article


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

Gothamist by Ben Miller

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

Click here to read the full article


Sunset Park Leading Grassroots Effort to Preserve Its History

NY1 by Jeanine Ramirez

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article


COOKFOX Wins Award for Front Street; BK Heights Tour

Curbed by Zoe Rosenberg

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

Click here to read the full article


A Landmark Restored, From Mosaic Marble Floor to Grand Dome

Michael Nagle for The New York Times

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article


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

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


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

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

Follow us: @newyorkobserver on Twitter | newyorkobserver on Facebook

Click here to read the full article


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



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

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

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

Click here to read the full article

Cities Mobilize to Help Those Threatened by Gentrification


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

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


Argument Over a Brownstone Neighborhood

The Case for and Against a Bed-Stuy Historic District

By /New York Times

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

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

Click here to read the full article


 Renovation, restoration the trend in Midtown East

By /Real Estate Weekly

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

125 Park Avenue

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

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

Click here to read the full article


City Land Profile

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

Click here to read the full article


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

Click here to read the full article




Upper East Side City Council District 4 Candidates’ Forum

Come Meet the Canidates who are running for the City Council in District 4- Wednesday, August 30

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

 6:30 pm

House of the Redeemer, 7 East 95th Street

New York’s 51 City Council seats are up for election this year with party primaries on Tuesday, September 12th and the general election on Tuesday, November 7th.

On Wednesday, August 30th, meet the candidates running for the open seat in District 4 (currently represented by Dan Garodnick, who has reached his term limit).

Hear the candidates discuss historic preservation, the threat of overdevelopment, and the land use issues you care about. Learn how they plan to preserve the quality of life and character of our neighborhoods.

This event will be moderated by Gina Pollara, Senior Advisor at ReThinkNYC.


This event is free to the public 

Send questions for the candidates in advance and RSVP to:

Space is limited. Arrive early to guarantee a seat! For further information call 212-996-5520.

Co-Sponsored by:

HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on August 15, 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

34-15 83rd Street – Jackson Heights Historic District


An Anglo-American Garden Home style house designed by Pierce L. Kiesewetter and built in 1928-29. Application is to legalize alterations to an areaway and entrance stair, construction of walls and posts, and installation of a fence and security gate without Landmarks Preservation Commission permits.

34-15 83rd Street is one of thirty homes identified in the Jackson Heights historic district designation report as the Plymouth Houses, which the report describes as “characteristic of many similar groups of attached and semi-detached houses built in Jackson Heights during the second half of the 1920s.” The changes that have been made to this building, particularly those involving the fence and security gate, are inappropriate and uncharacteristic of these unique Plymouth Houses. Nothing short of removing these features is acceptable. The point of landmarking a district is to maintain an area’s historic integrity and encourage homeowners of significantly-altered properties such as this to restore their properties to their original conditions, preventing this type of unsympathetic incursion that is found throughout Queens. 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 2

161-02 Jamaica Avenue – Individual Landmark 


A Beaux-Arts style bank building designed by Hough & Duell, and built in 1897-98. Application is to modify masonry openings, and install storefront infill and signage.

As the Landmarks Commission is aware, it took three separate designation attempts over the course of decades to gain protection for this remarkable building. This is a building which the Commission worked very hard to designate, and it was designated as an individual landmark for its many exemplary architectural qualities. Among these, according to its designation report, is the “imposing, symmetrical, four-story limestone façade” with a rusticated high first floor. Two basement openings, “each crowned by scrolled ornament with foliate decoration,” “contain historic, metal grilles with ornate, scrollwork tracery.” The applicant’s proposed changes to these side bays will diminish many of these features and completely eliminate others. The main entrance “consists of a pair of historic paneled and glazed double doors set within a historic enframement featuring a paneled reveal, fluted engaged columns crowned by Corinthian capitals, and a pair of sidelights with paneled reveals and recessed lower panels. The columns support a frieze,” above which is “a segmental pediment ornamented with egg-and-tongue and acanthus-leaf moldings, and filled with ornament consisting of a central scallop flanked by foliate decoration. A five-paned transom with a group of three central panes separated from the two, narrower, outer panes by baluster-like mullions.” We include this long list of architectural details to emphasize everything that will be lost if this application is approved. It is unacceptable to significantly remove this much historic fabric from this storied façade. Replacing the main entrance’s historic doors and beautiful transom with aluminum glass doors is particularly inappropriate. In short, this proposal obliterates or covers all of the features that make this a designated building, replacing them with the typical fluff so characteristic of our tinhorn, consumerist society, and reducing this grand, historic building to mediocrity.

LPC determination: No action

Item 3

288 Hicks Street – Brooklyn Heights Historic District


An eclectic rowhouse built in 1856. Application is to construct a rooftop addition.

Our committee is concerned that the proposed rooftop addition is too visible and will remain visible given its adjacency to so many two-story buildings. We are surprised to see such an incongruous rooftop addition from such a usually conscientious and responsible design firm.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 4

54 South Portland Avenue – Fort Greene Historic District


An Italianate style rowhouse built c. 1864. Application is to replace an oriel window.

HDC finds the proposed scope of work unnecessary and inappropriate. This stained-glass oriel is a significant architectural feature and even if it is not original from 1864, is absolutely historic and found on the neighboring house. The nature of this alteration is purely destructive; this application could have been as simple as applying to modify an opening but instead proposes to eliminate a finite commodity. It would be quite simple to create a door opening for porch access from the middle window bay or even create French doors within this opening, leaving the stained glass intact. HDC holds that this is an important architectural feature and this application is a compelling example of why oriel windows, or any Special Window, should not be relegated to staff-level permits and out of view of the public.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 5

207 MacDonough Street – Stuyvesant Heights Historic District


An Italianate style rowhouse built in 1872- 1873. Application is to legalize the installation of windows without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

HDC finds this proposal to be completely unacceptable. 207 MacDonough is one of fifteen Italianate brownstones identified in the Stuyvesant Heights Historic District designation report that are “among the earliest in the Historic District.” Its segmental arch, characteristic of Italianate brownstones, is noteworthy enough to receive mention in this early designation report. And its removal would diminish the historic character of this house and row. 207 has a lovely composition that has a flat arch. Windows on this brownstone should follow that line and should be wood or aluminum-clad. There is an easy way to achieve this effect and maintain the historic integrity of this home, and we urge the LPC to instruct the applicant to put this building back to its proper condition.

LPC determination: Approved 

Item 6

38 Decatur Street – Bedford Stuyvesant/Expanded Stuyvesant Heights Historic District


A Renaissance Revival/Romanesque Revival style rowhouse designed by Louis Berger & Co. Architects and built in 1907. Application is to construct a rooftop addition.

38 Decatur is one of five two-story, modest rowhouses, illustrative of the different building heights and typologies in this historic district which also includes detached wood frames, French flats, and grander, higher-style rowhouses. These buildings are modest and distinct in comparison with the grander homes in the district and this is inherent to their character.  To this end, HDC objects to the quite large rooftop addition proposed for this modest home and this is a classic case of an owner buying too small of a house for his or her programmatic endeavors at the cost of the historic building and streetscape. Why wasn’t a larger house chosen for purchase, or, moreover, a house that was not located within an historic district? As shown in the visibility studies, this bulk will be quite visible down the street and mar what is now a crisp and uniform row.

It should be noted that the examples provided of other “tall” buildings in the area are either of buildings of completely different typology such as apartment buildings; or examples of alterations and accretions that occurred prior to LPC’s oversight. There is not one example in this application of a similar treatment to a house this size–or even a taller house–in the district that shows a precedent for this large of a construction project. 

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 7

63-63A Reade Street – TriBeCa South Historic District


A Moderne style commercial building designed by Frederick J. Harwig and built in 1935-36. Application is to legalize alterations to a storefront without Landmarks Preservation Commission permits and to install new storefront infill.

The proposed storefront is a vast improvement from the current configuration and HDC is happy to see this design taking cues from the handsome storefronts that occupy this small building. To that end, it would be much better if the fresh-air-intake louvers were not prominently situated about the entryway, as they are not present on the other storefronts.

LPC determination: Approved 

Item 9

83 Wooster Street – SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District


A neo-Grec style store and loft building designed by J.B. Snook and built in 1876. Application is to install a painted wall sign.

While HDC mourns the loss of any of New York’s few surviving ghost signs, the painted wall sign this applicant is proposing to cover up at 83 Wooster Street is particularly important in telling the story of New York’s industrial heritage. The sign, advertising the cardboard boxes that were once manufactured and sold in this building, is a direct connection to the thriving paper businesses that played a vital role in New York’s economy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Entrepreneurs in New York City lay claim to the first patent for corrugated boxes, as well as the invention of the pre-cut paperboard box, both of which had a major influence on the shipping and receiving of goods throughout the world. HDC objects to this proposal, as covering this sign would obscure this history. If the Commission wishes to approve a sign here, we ask that whatever is put up is removable and will not do any further damage to the underlying artifact.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 10

413 West 14th Street – Gansevoort Market Historic District


An Arts and Crafts style market building designed by James S. Maher and built in 1914, and altered by William P. Seaver in 1922. Application is to install signage.

HDC appreciates the historic research which clearly displays a precedent for signage in the building’s parapet. The committee asks that the graphic be removed from this area, however, and reserve it simply for text.

LPC determination: Approved 

Item 11

103 East 91st Street – Carnegie Hill Historic District


A rowhouse originally built in 1884-84 and altered in the neo-Georgian style by C. Dale Bradgeley in 1950-51. Application is to construct a rooftop addition.

This application includes no axonometric design, no rendering, and the only sightline studies provided are from directly across the street. Consequently, this presentation is insufficient to make an accurate determination of its appropriateness.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on August 8, 2017

Posted by on Wednesday, August 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.

Research Department Public Hearing

Item 1

86-02 Broadway – Old Saint James Episcopal Church (Old Saint James Parish Hall)


A wood frame church constructed in 1735-36 as a Church of England mission church, and modified in 1883 with Carpenter Gothic details. Borough of Queens, Tax Map Block 1549, Lot 1 in part.

The Historic Districts Council commends the efforts of the Landmarks Preservation Commission to formally recognize St. James Parish Hall as a New York City landmark.

That this building is the oldest surviving Anglican building in New York City is impressive; that it is in Queens is remarkable. The designation of this historic structure will serve as an important step in the LPC’s oft-stated commitment to reaching out to under-represented communities for landmark designation.

HDC would like to extend our appreciation to the New York Landmarks Conservancy, who helped stop a sale of the building in 1998 that would have led to its demolition. Their help funding the restoration of the church, along with the owner and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, proved a vital step in the protection of this important piece of New York City history as has their continued relationship with the church leaders.

This restorative work has revealed a considerable amount of historic fabric dating back to 1883. Since this existing fabric was in situ, the structure was restored to this time period, while, of course, the entire structure itself is 150 years older. Fortunately, LPC has designated many individual landmarks that have been altered in reflections of later styles, such as numerous Federal Style rowhouses altered with additional stories and Greek Revival elements, or more drastically, the Theodore Delano Roosevelt birthplace. Other examples of individual landmarks which have been very altered over time are the Fraunces Tavern Museum, the Pieter Claesen Wyckoff Farm House, and Poe Cottage to name but a few. The 2007 designation of the Gillet-Tyler House on Staten Island, still in use as a private home, is another example of a much-altered building which nevertheless has great historic significance. Buildings of great antiquity change over time, especially in our city, but these historic sites retain their integrity – as does the St. James Parish Hall.

Like the Roosevelt house, St. James Parish Hall also has a highly significant social history in addition to its remarkable, nearly 300 year existence in our great City. We urge the Landmarks Preservation Commission to reconsider this property as an individual New York City landmark, and strongly suggest that the agency revisit its opinion on historic alterations.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Preservation Department Public Hearing 

Item 3

124 Columbia Heights – Brooklyn Heights Historic District


A neo-Federal style building built c. 1930; a Moderne style building built in 1949; and a remnant of a late-19th/early-20th century building. Application is to construct rooftop and rear additions; modify masonry openings; install windows, doors, louvers, a canopy, mechanical equpiment, and rooftop railings; and create a curb cut.

HDC found this proposal to be largely sensitive, including keeping new rooftop bulk within the profile of the top of the building’s existing shape. This will allow the large building’s skyline to appear much the same from a great distance.

At street level, we felt that beautification could be preserved by retaining the historic wood door and arched transom on the 1930 building as opposed to losing these features and materials to glass. Regarding the garage door, HDC strongly suggests removing or finding another location for this amenity other than on Columbia Heights, especially since the examples of other garages in Brooklyn Heights are compelling only in that they appear quite dreary.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 6

120 Stratford Road – Prospect Park South Historic District


A Colonial Revival style house built c. 1910, altered in 1929 and 1952. Application is to alter the façades and roofs, construct a porch, and install solar paneled roof shingles.

HDC applauds this proposal, which our committee finds to be an excellent integration of new technology into a historic building in an unobtrusive way. While the porch is larger than it was originally, it is sensitively designed. This is a perfect example of why altered properties should be included in historic districts, because they can always be brought back to a more historically appropriate design.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 7

271 Church Street – TriBeCa East Historic District


An Art Deco style office building designed by Cross and Cross and built in 1930-1931. Application is to install ground floor infill and signage.

HDC objects to this proposal. The ground floor windows are an important part of the original Cross and Cross design and part of an important public building. To discard a hardier material like bronze and replace it with aluminum is completely inappropriate. If reconfiguration is required for new programmatic reasons, then that should be done carefully using the same material and design.

LPC determination: No action

Item 10

308 West 4th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District


A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in c. 1847. Application is to modify openings at the front and rear facades, replace infill, and excavate the rear yard.

The Greenwich Village Historic District designation report lists 308 West 4th Street as a Greek Revival house that “still retains the proper proportions and corniced lintels at the windows and doorway.” The applicant’s proposed design, if approved by the Commission, will disrupt those proportions. Upon examining the historic photographs, as well as the masonry on the façade, there is no evidence that windows on the parlor floor were ever configured the way they are proposed. This is a very nice, simple Greek Revival house and the owners should treat is with the respect that a very nice, simple Greek Revival house deserves. Additionally, for all the excavation and work proposed in this application, our committee would appreciate the replacement of this building’s cornice.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 13

32 2nd Avenue – East Village/Lower East Side Historic District


A Renaissance Revival style courthouse designed by Alfred Hopkins and built in 1917-19. Application is to construct rooftop and side yard additions, and install signage.

HDC’s Public Review Committee has a few concerns with this proposal. On a building with such a bold cornice, the proposed rooftop addition confuses the existing termination. The carefully designed scale and proportions of this one hundred-year-old courthouse building are lost in the proposed design, overwhelmed by this massive addition. The detailing is not unattractive, but the entire addition must be significantly set back if maintaining the building’s historic integrity is desired. As it is currently proposed, the entire volume of this addition is pushed out to the lot line. In an ideal configuration, the building’s original volume would remain clearly perceptible. If the volume of the original massing was respected, the banded approach the applicants are proposing here would be acceptable. Additionally, we feel the signage is a bit flashy for a business that bills itself as an archive. The proposed signage seems more appropriate for an Anthology Multiplex.

With regard to the side addition, the façade details are not in keeping with surrounding masonry buildings. This seems like an updating of the currently-existing industrial roll-down gate, and that should not be a jumping-off point.  Furthermore, this paneled addition visually blocks both three large special windows which mirror the windows on the front façade as well as obscuring the interesting change in brick on the secondary façade, While a point could be made that hiding the brick on the secondary façade is historically purposeful in that the material was not meant to be seen, we believe that it is an interesting and historically-significant element which helps inform the modern viewer of the designer’s intentions and adds character and depth to an already significant building.

This is a classic courthouse building. We suggest the applicant explore the numerous examples of other historic courthouse buildings in New York and throughout the country that have added more sensitive rooftop additions.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 14

104 East 10th Street – St. Mark’s Historic District Extension


A neo-Grec style rowhouse built in 1879. Application is to construct a rooftop addition.

The Historic Districts Council strongly opposes this application. East 10th Street is a beautiful, intact block with a unique architectural style and scale. The proposed rooftop addition is an egregious affront to this historic district, especially considering the careful and formal nature of this block, which is one of the things that makes this such a remarkable district. The designation report for the St. Marks Historic District Extension describes the careful thought and planning that went into East 10th Street. It reads, “Development of East 10th Street was guided by a conscious effort to create an architecturally-integrated community. Each building was designed in sympathy with its neighbors, all of them ultimately relating back to their precursors at Nos. 102 and 104.” The report mentions Rutherford Stuyvesant’s concern with “architectural harmony” between 104 and its neighbors. This architectural harmony is referenced throughout the report. “The integration it achieved with its pre-existing neighbors is noteworthy. Rather than emphasizing its individuality, No. 104 continued the brick facades, raised basements, steep stoops and uniform fenestration patterns of the buildings between which it was sandwiched. It creates an effective bridge between the small vernacular structure on its right and the taller, more recent Italianate buildings on its left, essentially repeating the proportions of No. 102.”

What the applicants are proposing here is not a harmonious bridge bringing neighboring buildings together, but an obtrusive roadblock, far more visible from street level than the application purports. If approved, the considered design that made 104 East 10th Street appear sympathetic with its neighbors will now be updated in a most unsympathetic way. The restorative work being proposed by the applicant does not justify the destruction of this historic block’s scale. If the commission allows such an addition on one of the most important buildings on this block, it is our fear that more insensitive additions on neighboring buildings will follow, until this is no longer recognizable as the charming block written about in the designation report.

The importance of 104 East 10th Street is emphasized several times in the designation report. “As the first properties on East 10th Street to be developed, the buildings at Nos. 102 and 104 helped to determine the architectural character of the block. … In style, scale and materials and especially in shared history, the two brick houses are an intrinsic part of the St. Mark’s Historic District. They enrich the neighborhood historically, while their position at the western end of the block insures [sic] its residential cohesiveness. Nos. 102 and 104 form a noteworthy addition to the St. Mark’s Historic District.” HDC hopes the Commission will respect this enriching, noteworthy building and deny the applicant’s request to alter it in any significant way.

LPC determination: No action

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A Study of New York City’s Belgian Block Heritage

Posted by on Wednesday, August 16, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

Toward Accessible

Historic Streetscapes

Prepared for the Historic Districts Council

Belgian block streets are still found in every corner of New York, sometimes paving an entire street or other times, only being revealed by some pavement which has worn off, revealing the roadbeds of the past. These streets are found both inside and outside of designated historic districts. In historic districts, these historic pavers are protected as part of the sense of place just as much as the architecture.  Historic neighborhoods like SoHo, TriBeCa, the Gansevoort Market and DUMBO are just a few places around town where these types of streets characterize the look and feel of the place.


Although protected features in historic districts, many of these stones are being eroded from the streets. They are ripped up, discarded and paved over by utility companies who incorrectly complete their work. Each stone is supposed to be replaced in kind, but instead, the patches are paved over with cementitious materials which have pock-mocked the streets. This practice has been especially prevalent in DUMBO, where the rails and abundance of historic pavings give this former industrial neighborhood its character. The DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance and HDC were able to bring this important issue to the attention of Councilmember Steve Levin and, ultimately the Landmarks Preservation Commission. These efforts culminated in the creation of a professional report, Toward Accessible Historic Streetscapes.


HDC hired Denisha Williams and Jeff Byles of Being Here Design to study New York City’s historic street pavements and write this report, the first ever of its kind. In the new report, our city’s historic roadbeds, sidewalks, crosswalks and even embedded train rails are examined.  This thorough report identifies past and present solutions to our historic streets and examines the feasibility of them in the context of ADA.


We are excited and proud to release this report and encourage you to have a read!


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City Council District 2 Candidates Forum

Posted by on Monday, August 7, 2017 · Leave a Comment 


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Secret Lives Tour- Morgan Library

Posted by on Monday, August 7, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

~~Secret Lives Tour of the landmarked Morgan Library & Museum with Deputy Director Brian Regan~~

225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street

August 17, 2017

3:00 pm

Pierpont Morgan’s 1906 library is among the great treasures of New York. Deputy Director Brian Regan will give an insider’s look at the Morgan’s splendid architecture, including the designated McKim, Mead & White library and annex and the Renzo Piano expansion, now celebrating its tenth anniversary. Attendees can also view the designated Phelps Stokes – J. P. Morgan Jr. House which now houses the gift shop and cafe.


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HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on July 25, 2017

Posted by on Thursday, July 27, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

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

Preservation Department Public Hearing Agenda

Item 3

126 East 73rd Street – Upper East Side Historic District


An Italianate style row house built in 1873, and altered in the neo-Elizabethan style by Benjamin H. Webber in 1912. Application is to legalize the installation of an areaway gate, fence, and planter boxes without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

On a building in a historic district such as this, a railing with no curb is awkward and out of place. As demonstrated by the applicant in their own presentation, a typical setting for a railing is a curb. Our committee would like to see such a curb installed so that the fence meets the ground plane properly. 

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Preservation Department Public Meeting Agenda

Item 1

113 Congress Street – Cobble Hill Historic District


An Italianate style row house built in 1862. Application is to construct rooftop and rear yard additions, replace windows and install Juliet balconies and an areaway railing.

HDC has reviewed this application and our committee has no objection to the proposed front façade work. The proposed rear yard addition, however, is unacceptable for the pristine block it would impose itself on. This entire block of Congress Street features a completely intact set of rear yard two-story tea porches. The addition the applicant is proposing would break that line and disrupt this rare stretch of undisturbed porches in the Cobble Hill Historic District. Additionally, the proposed rooftop addition is clunky and requires further study. Its awkward design and amateurish window configuration presents a language that is inconsistent with this district. Finally, the materiality of the addition is inappropriate. Copper or lead-coated copper or zinc are all materials which are approved in this district on a regular basis. Stucco is not. There is ample precedent in this district for how to build a sensitive rooftop addition. We encourage the applicant to explore these options. 

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 3

540 and 544 Hudson Street – Greenwich Village Historic District


A utilitarian style gasoline filling station and open lot and a garage building extensively remodeled in 1934-36. Application

At the risk of sounding facetious, the Historic Districts Council would like to briefly address the creeping disappearance of gasoline fueling stations throughout our historic districts. As an unloved but necessary part of the urban fabric, they are neglected but critical portions of the historic record of our city. As Robert Moses reshaped the city for our car, the car has reshaped our historic environment and there is historic reasoning behind preserving these reminders of the horseless carriages which transformed human life.

If demolition is favored, however, we feel the applicant can do better than the current proposed design, which our committee finds to be too big, too bulky, and overall, seemingly swollen. Along this block of Hudson Street, there is a strong horizontal line at street level creating an effect of storefronts that are quite readable. The plinth upon which the building sits should be much stronger so that this line can be maintained in a more overt and strong way. The brick piers coming down to grade level do no favors for this situation. Instead they make the building look like it is sitting on stilts. A more glaring problem is the sheer bulk of the proposed design, which makes the building appear over-scaled and incongruous with its surrounding neighbors. A favorable solution would involve reducing the overall building height by one floor. Perhaps the applicant can explore dividing the façade so that it doesn’t read as one giant mass and instead relates to the smaller buildings next to it and on the rest of the block. Ultimately, this proposal looks like a compelling idea on paper, but will be overwhelming and over-scaled when built. With a few changes this could be a much more appropriate addition to the Greenwich Village Historic District. 

LPC determination: No action

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Posted by on Tuesday, July 25, 2017 · Leave a Comment 

~~Hear From Your City Council Candidates.  Make Your Voice Heard. Monday, July 31st 6:00 pm- CD6~~

The Balance Between Land Use and Quality of Life

Co-hosted by 

The Historic Districts Council, LANDMARK WEST!, 

 and Fordham University

Monday, July 31, 6:00pm

This event is FREE but we ask that you RSVP HERE.

All 51 City Council seats are up for election this year with partisan primaries scheduled for September 12th

and the general election following on November 7th.

On Monday, July 31stDistrict 6 City Council incumbent Helen Rosenthal (D) will join fellow candidates Cary Goodman (D), David Owens, William Raudenbush (I), and Mel Wymore (D) to discuss the important preservation, land use and development issues faced by YOU, the citizenry of Council District 6.

Moderator: Lesley Massiah-Arthur, Associate Vice President for Government Relations and Urban Affairs, Fordham University

There will be brief opening remarks followed by questions from the floor. Make your voice heard! Topics to include landmarks and historic districts; small business retention and support; zoning; the accumulation and use of development rights; the protection of public assets such as parks, light and air; citizens’ rights to information; and access to the decision-making process.


Special thanks to FORDHAM UNIVERSITY for hosting.


Category: Event · Tags: , , , , , , ,

HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on July 18, 2017

Posted by on Wednesday, July 19, 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

476 Fifth Avenue – aka 460-476 Fifth Ave. 1 West 40th St., 11 West 40th St., 2 West 42nd St. – New York Public Library (Stephen A. Schwarzman Building) Interiors, Main Reading Room and Catalog Room (now Rose Main Reading Room and Bill Blass Public Catalog Room)


Proposal to designate the Main Reading Room, now known as the Rose Main Reading Room, and the Catalog Room, now known as the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room, on the third floor of the Beaux-Arts Individual Landmark New York Public Library (Stephen A. Schwarzman Building), designed by Carrere & Hastings and opened in 1911.

When people enter the Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public Library Main Branch, either as students, tourists, architecture lovers, or academics, they are immediately transported back in time to the original Gilded Age. The gaze is inexorably drawn upward and laterally, and both first-timers and daily scholars are awed by the glorious space. The Rose Main Reading Room is truly the most accessible form of high style Beaux-Arts interior that many of us will ever have the privilege of visiting and using. As a uniquely inspiring place that sought to raise the fortunes of the people of the city since 1911 through accessible world-class resources, it is a wonder that the majestic interior of the Reading Room has not yet been declared a protected interior landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and by the city to which the library has given so much. Therefore the Historic Districts Council is very excited today to testify in support of the designation of the magnificent Rose Main Reading Room.

Measuring 78 feet by 297 feet – approximately the size of a football field – and 52 feet in height, the Reading Room is one of the most breathtaking of the grand interior spaces in the Main Branch. It undoubtedly is the culmination of the dramatic ceremonial route from the entrance steps. Although it has seen several renovations, including the major 1998 restoration by Lewis Davis, the most recent renovation resulted in additionally thorough repairs and renovations of the plaster ceiling and mural. It began in May of 2014 when a rosette fell 50 feet to the floor and shattered, raising concerns that the beautifully ornate ceiling was not as secure as had been previously believed. The extensive repairs and renovations, completed in October of 2016, have brought back to life what the AIA Guide to NYC calls “the apogee of Beaux Arts for New York.” Highlights of the Rose Main Reading Room include: the desk of engaged, fluted Doric columns and doorways with arched pediments housing the mechanical lifts for the books; the painted, molded plaster ceiling with its decorative relief framed panels depicting a veritable cornucopia of classical motifs moldings;  Yohannes Aynalem’s modern versions of James Wall Fine’s paintings of a glorious sky of clouds; two long rows of chandeliers with bulb rosettes; the Room’s monumental casement windows and nine arched bays; and precious furnishings designed by Carrère and Hastings.

In addition the HDC commends the Commission and staff for calendaring the Reading Room, and especially would like to commend Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan for stating that “this would be an opportune moment to consider landmarking these iconic spaces,” especially since “they have been meticulously restored.” This is indeed the most opportune moment to landmark the Reading Room, when it has been returned closest to its pristine state, with the ceiling mural restored and comprehensive systems upgrades to lighting and technology.  

Very few interior landmarks are as lucky to remain in such original conditions over the course of decades, and to be lovingly restored to an impeccable state. Not only was the Reading Room’s ornate ceiling restored, with all its 900 plaster rosettes secured, and new LED lighting installed on the eighteen refurbished, ornate, tiered, brass chandeliers, but in addition renowned muralists EverGreene Architectural Arts recreated a James Wall Finn mural in the Bill Plass Public Catalog Room. This is another incredibly splendid room which the Commission should also consider landmarking.

In fact, the HDC strongly believes that several other interiors within the Main Branch should be landmarked, similarly because they exude a level of craftsmanship and opulence that will probably never be replicated again at such an expert level. Along with the Committee to Save NYPL, the HDC believes that other spaces worthy of designation include the South-North Gallery, the DeWitt Wallace Periodicals Room, the Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall, the 42nd Street Staircases, the Edna B. Salomon Room, the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art & Architecture Room, and the Celeste Bartos Forum. We believe that the Commission will agree that the whole interior of the magnificent Main Branch library should at one point in the near future be protected, and we salute State Senators Brad Hoylmann and Liz Kreuger for their support for preservation. We must all ensure that the magnificent interiors of Carrère and Hastings’ masterful creation are there to enrich the lives of future generations, just as it has inspired all who stand in awe for more than one hundred years. Hopefully this is just the start of the Commission’s realization that the whole interior should be protected. Nonetheless the HDC is thrilled to be testifying in support of the designation of the Rose Main Reading Room as an interior landmark, and we hope to continue working with the Commission in the future to safeguard the remaining spaces. 

LPC action: Motion to close public hearing


Item 1

233 Arleigh Road – Douglaston Historic District


A Ranch house built in 1961. Application is to demolish the building and construct a new building.

Adhering to the parameters of the Douglaston Historic District designation report, this application is troubling on many levels. To begin, it is an unfortunate loss that the 600-year old Great White Oak which is listed as a significant site feature and photographed for the report was destroyed and removed, possibly for construction which has yet to be approved by the LPC.

Equally disturbing is that a Style building is being proposed to be demolished. Mid-century Ranch-style buildings are found throughout the historic district and were included in the report with full descriptions, devoid of language such as “no style” or “non-contributing.”  While the LPC has a history of permitting ranch houses in the Douglaston Historic District to be demolished and replaced, they remain “style” buildings and this  proposal inherently changes the style. If this is approved, how will this house still be considered a “style” building? HDC cautions that permitted work like this could undermine the landmark site in the future. This is a matter of great concern as the Commission begins to institutionalize its behavior and stance on “non-contributing” buildings.  Our committee was further puzzled why someone would choose to purchase a home in an historic district and then propose to completely destroy the house. With very few designated historic districts in Queens, there is an ample supply of houses and perhaps lots in non-landmarked areas where the applicant could have chosen to build whatever he/she pleases without the review process of the LPC.

​Regarding the design itself, it is unacceptable for an historic district. This house has all of the red flags of the “McMansion,” such as the massive lot coverage of this building compared to the existing houses in the district; it is stylistically inconsistent from one elevation to the other;  ​it has multiple rooflines; a strangely placed ocular window on the front facade; multiple styles of balusters which are out of proportion; a single column supporting a copper eave and a two-story chimneyed outdoor porch. Compared with larger houses in the district, this one is extremely ostentatious despite not being as grand. HDC believes the Ranch house can be added to sympathetically and that this new construction should not be permitted on a landmarked lot, especially in this iteration.

LPC determination: No action

Item 2

60-83 68th Avenue – Central Ridgewood Historic District


A Renaissance Revival style house built in 1909. Application is to legalize reconstructing the front stoop without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

HDC objects to the illegal alterations made to this stoop. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Ridgewood historic districts is the consistency of materials and architectural design. Unfortunately, this proposal does not rise to that standard. This presentation includes no historic photos, but we know that at the time of designation, 60-83 68th Avenue had its original stoop. It is unfortunate then that it has been removed and given an inadequate replacement. As it currently stands, it interrupts the rhythm of the block. Other stoops on the block have been altered, but their massing remains the same, creating a consistent rhythm that has now been lost. Additionally, the railings are inappropriate and our committee would like to see the pipe railings returned. Perhaps the applicant can work with staff on this, as well as on finding better materials for the stoop, such as pre-cast concrete. 

LPC determination: No action

Item 4

27 Monroe Place – Brooklyn Heights Historic District


A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1844. Application is to alter the areaway.

HDC commends the applicant on a sensible proposal that reestablishes the street line and rhythm. We also appreciate the paving materials. We only ask that the applicant work with staff to better match the neighboring ironwork.

LPC determination: No action

Item 7

50 Hudson Street – TriBeCa West Historic District


An early 20th century Commercial style factory building designed by William F. Hemstreet and built in 1925. Application is to construct rooftop additions, enlarge window openings, and install a garage door and curb cut.

HDC finds the proposed application to be completely inappropriate. This building had a very considered proportion. The proposed addition almost doubles the height of the building. The applicant has argued that the building as it currently stands is “out of scale with the taller buildings” nearby and that “the added height would help it fit in with its neighbors.” Our committee finds this justification confusing. According to this thinking, Grand Central Terminal is extremely out of place between the Chrysler Building, the Met Life Building, and the new One Vanderbilt. Should we then revisit the idea to build a 50-story office tower over so the added height helps it fit in with its neighbors? The applicant quotes the Tribeca West Historic District Designation Report as saying that Duane Park’s “spatial quality is further enhanced by the uniform street walls of the warehouse and store and loft built-ins surrounding it.” The architect of this project says that raising this building two or three stories will “complete the park.” Our committee wonders if Washington Square Park is also in need of “completion.” Perhaps the problem of differing building heights can be addressed by adding 50 foot tall rooftop additions to every house on The Row.

Extremely stretched justifications aside, the owner is seeking to remove historic masonry and replace two windows with a big garage, of which there is no precedent nearby. Taking two openings which are a part of a composition of openings, part of a considered façade, and replacing it with something that doesn’t exist in the district is not acceptable. There is a certain point when a new addition overwhelms the historic building, and this proposal has reached it. A more appropriate solution would involve reducing this addition by one story and setting it back so that it is not as blatantly visible.  

LPC determination: No action

Item 8

109-111 East 15th Street – Individual Landmark 


A neo-Grec style clubhouse designed by Gambrill & Richardson and built in 1896. Application is to alter the façade and replace entrance infill.

Item 9

109-111 East 15th Street – Individual Landmark 


A neo-Grec style clubhouse designed by Gambrill & Richardson and built in 1896. Application is to request that the Landmarks Preservation Commission issue a favorable report to the City Planning Commission relating to an application for a special permit for bulk waivers pursuant to Section 74-711 of the Zoning Resolution.

The modest facade restoration of this individual landmark is not an equal trade-off for the bulk that is being sought, which would allow the as-of-right zoning to increase from a maximum height of 120 feet to a total of 283, more than doubling the allowable envelope. This is not a fair exchange for a modification of bulk, as the facade is not in that bad of shape to begin with.  Thus, this enormous bulk tips the scale in favor the developer, with minimal trade-off for the landmark. 

The landmark building’s facade has some minimal maintenance issues, such as painted stone which has damage consistent with a building of its age. The other major issue with the facade is its unsympathetic infill, which is exclusively a cosmetic problem. Routine maintenance and beautification do not equate to a first-class restoration.

One unsolved problem with the building’s facade is the proportions of the entry as a result of modifications and ultimate removal of the entry stoop, which skewed the proportions of the large transom window above the door. While the applicant chose to place a non-divided transom light in this area for historical purposes, this appearance only worked visually when the size of the light was smaller because it was compacted because of the stoop. When the stairway was reduced, as evidenced in the 1938 photo, the transom had divided lights to break up the massing of the expanse of glass. Today, with no stoop whatsoever, the area above the door is an awkward space, with a large piece of glass that is floating and not quite fitting in to the facade. 

Even if the transom problem was solved, HDC objects to the reward of the bulk. In the end, this proposal is weighed heavily in favor of the development, not the landmark.

LPC determination: No action

Item 10

162 Fifth Avenue – Ladies’ Mile Historic District


A Beaux-Arts style store and loft building designed by Buchman & Fox and built in 1903. Application is to construct a rooftop addition.

Our committee applauds the applicant on this modest proposal. The owners have found a sensible way of getting the space they want without offending the public view and we appreciate their effort. We find this to be a reasonable extension of the existing material, and an excellent example of how a historic building can add a reasonable rooftop addition that effortlessly camouflages with the existing building.

LPC determination: Approved 

Item 11

51 West 52nd Street – Individual Landmark 


An office tower designed by Eero Saarinen & Associates, completed by Kevin Roche & John Dinkeloo, and built in 1961-64. Application is to install a barrier-free access ramp.

While HDC appreciates the applicant’s plan to provide a barrier-free access ramp to the historic Black Rock Building, our committee cannot approve what amounts to a non-minimally detailed ramp for an extremely minimally designed building. The obtrusiveness of the details is particularly striking. A more sensitive approach would take its cues from the existing ramp. Instead, what is proposed here is clumsy and heavy-handed, with too much metal and too many intrusions. The very clunky, bronze finish aluminum railing is not a true bronze railing.  This elegantly modern minimalist landmark deserves a lighter touch. 

LPC determination: Approved

Item 12

169 West 85th Street – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District


A Romanesque Revival style rowhouse designed by John G. Prague and built in 1889-90. Application is to construct a rear yard addition, excavate the rear yard, and alter the façade.

Despite the commercial use of this building, the proposed rear yard addition is still a very large incursion into a pristine block. Building out the entire rear yard is a departure from all other rowhouses on the block. We encourage the applicant to work with staff on a more modest proposal that does not take up 3/4 of the lot. 

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

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

About Us

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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Historic Districts Council
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New York, NY 10003
Tel: (212) 614-9107
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