The Frick Collection Rethinks Its Expansion Plan

Birds eye view

Last night, it was announced that the controversial plan to expand the landmark Frick Collection has been withdrawn by its Board of Trustees.  The Historic Districts Council vigorously opposed this plan, believing it to be a myopic solution which would compromise the museum’s unique character. We are very pleased that the leadership of the Frick Collection has chosen to rethink this move and we look forward to seeing a new proposal.
We would further like to thank the institution, which has been forthcoming with presentations and participated in a lively, well-mannered public discussion.
While this issue might seem extraordinarily local, it has important lessons for all New Yorkers who care about their neighborhoods. On the one hand, there was an institution which was open about its plans and welcomed community comment before seeking governmental approvals, which is a rare and welcome circumstance. On the other, there was a well-organized coalition of neighbors and concerned citizens who calmly and diligently gathered public and critical support while seeking viable alternative solutions that could solve the identified institutional concerns. 
HDC is proud to be part of this effort and we look forward to continuing the important conversation about how the Frick Collection can continue to prosper.  We further hope that other New York City institutions follow their lead and engage New Yorkers in a real public conversation when making plans for their future. 

Image courtesy of NYC&G 

Film Screening-Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion

Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion

Documentary Film Screening

modern ruin a world's fair pavilion promo pic


The Paris Café119 South Street (at Peck Slip)

Join HDC for a film screening of Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion, Matthew Silva’s documentary about an abandoned structure designed by modernist icon Philip Johnson for the 1964 World’s Fair. This screening will be held at 6:00pm on Tuesday, June 2 at The Paris Café, which first opened in 1873. This café was frequented by such personages as Thomas Edison and Theodore Roosevelt, and it nearly closed after sustaining damage from Superstorm Sandy.

Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion tells the story of the Pavilion from the glory days of the fair, through the years of neglect, up to present day advocacy. The filmmakers hope this project will be the first step in engaging and informing people about the building in new and exciting ways. This whimsical, futuristic, and soaring structure, constructed for the 1964 fair, has been left abandoned for the greater part of 50 years. “It would be a shame if its story ended in demolition,” says producer Matthew Silva, “The dreamers see beyond the cracks, rust, and neglect to a thriving community space that will serve New Yorkers for generations.” The film’s goal is to contribute to the re-imagining of Flushing Meadows Corona Park and eventually lead to the repurposing of this great icon.

The New York State Pavilion’s abandoned observation decks and steel arena have inspired generations of New Yorkers who have grown up with this peculiar relic on the horizon. The Pavilion holds a great many surprises, and its best days may be yet to come.

Run Time: 80 minutes


This program is free and open to the public, but reservations are required.
To register, please  email Daria Tavana at or call 212-614-9107.

The Paris Café
119 South Street (at Peck Slip)
*Food and drinks will be available for purchase


HDC Testimony for LPC Hearing on June 2, 2015

Research Department Public Hearing Items

Item 2

Henry and Susan McDonald House, 128 Clinton Avenue, Brooklyn


Landmark Site: Brooklyn Block 1887, Lot 82

Community District 2


An Italianate frame house with Greek Revival style elements built in 1853-54.

The Henry and Susan McDonald House is a charming building that instantly reminds passerbys of another era.  Its striking columned porch, projecting bracketed eaves, and richly detailed window and door surrounds all speak strongly of 1850s Brooklyn.  Already part of the Wallabout National Register Historic District, 128 Clinton Avenue is deserving of the protection that can only come with city designation.

There was some disappointment when the New York City Wallabout Historic District did not include the beautiful houses along Clinton Avenue.  HDC is happy to see 128 here today, and we hope it will be only the first of many we will see proposed for designation on this avenue.


Item 3

M. H. Renken Dairy Company Office Building and Engine Room Building, 582-584 Myrtle Avenue (aka 192 Classon Avenue) and 580 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn


Landmark Site: Brooklyn Block 1909, Lot 32

Community District 2


Art Moderne structures by Koch & Wagner built in 1932 and 1937-37.

HDC supports the landmarking of the M.H. Renken Dairy Building as it helps tell more fully tell the story of the Clinton Hill neighborhood.  This simple Art Deco structure of pale yellow brick and bands of red brick was designed by Koch & Wagner and served as the head quarters for the dairy from its construction in 1932 until the company moved to Connecticut in 1962.  Its sign on the top floor would have been viewed easily by passengers on the former Myrtle Avenue El.  We thank the LPC for responding to neighborhood preservationists calls for a hearing for this unique structure and hope to see more in this section of Brooklyn.


Preservation Department Public Hearing Items

Item 2

272 Lafayette Avenue-Clinton Hill Historic District

16-1445- Block 1946, Lot 23, Zoned R6B

Community District 2, Brooklyn


An Italianate style rowhouse built in 1868. Application is to construct a rooftop addition.

272 Lafayette

This rooftop addition would be the first accretion to this otherwise unbroken row of houses. The addition is highly visible from the public way, and will also be shiny because of the material selected. HDC asks that its visibility and materials, both on the railings and the penthouse, be re-examined.


Item 3

16 Court Street, aka 206-212 Montague Street – Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District

17-1029 – Block 250, Lot 14, Zoned C5-2A

Community District 2, Brooklyn


A neo-Romanesque style office building designed by H. Craig Severence and built in
1925-27. Application is to replace storefront and entrance infill and install a canopy.

16 Court

In general, this application is moving in the correct direction, especially the restoration of the entry surround. The applicant produced compelling archival research which influenced the design of the surround. We feel that the original photographs should prescribe its appearance, not simply inform it.  Working from these historic photographs , HDC would like to see a master plan for the future treatment of storefronts on this skyscraper.


Item 5

69 Greene Avenue – Fort Greene Historic District

17-0815 – Block 2121, Lot 45, Zoned R6B

Community District 2, Brooklyn


An Italianate style rowhouse built circa 1860. Application is to reconstruct the front
and rear facades, construct a rooftop addition, and excavate at the rear yard.

69 Greene Ave

HDC finds the extensive excavation troubling on this unreinforced masonry house. Because of this building’s siting, both the proposed rooftop addition and rear facades will be highly visible. The herringbone rear façade treatment is unusual and the Committee fears that what is supposed to look like an elegant brick arrangement will actually appear like a veneer. HDC suggests creating smaller areas, like spandrel panels for example, to incorporate the herringbone pattern.


Item 8

400 West Broadway – SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District Extension
17-0121 – Block 488, Lot 22, Zoned M1-5A

Community District 2, Manhattan


An Italianate style store building designed by William Jose and built in 1870-71, and
altered in the late 20th century. Application is to install a new storefront infill and

400 West Broadway

HDC finds this new storefront an improvement to the former, especially the incorporations of historically-derived elements like a recessed entry, bulkheads, and opaque transoms. The Committee suggests incorporating some type of simplified cornice, or projection to separate the storefront from the bricks, which currently reads as a bit flat.


Item 11

475 6th Avenue, aka 475-485 6th Avenue and 100-114 West 12th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

16-7516- Block 607, Lot 38, Zoned C1-7, R6

Community District 2 , Manhattan


An apartment building designed by Horace Ginsbern & Associates and built in 1956.
Application is to establish a Master Plan governing the future installation of storefront signage and lighting.

475 Sixth Ave_a 475 Sixth Ave

The rusticated brick on West 12th Street is the only decorative element applied to this building, and was meant to be seen as it was executed at the pedestrian level. The Committee finds it unnecessary to cut perforations into this feature by means of a small storefront window and service door. If the window is meant to allure customers at the corner to direct them to the main entrance, this could be done in a reversible manner, such as a blade sign. Regarding the proposed signage, we ask the Commission to compare the scale of the neighboring rowhouse storefronts’ signage, and ask that the signage proposed in this application be reduced to reflect its context.


Item 12

355 Bleecker Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

17-0185 – Block 620, Lot 44, Zoned C1-6

Community District 2, Manhattan


A rowhouse built in 1829-1830. Application is to legalize window replacement and
storefront alterations performed without Landmarks Preservation Commission
permits.355 Bleecker

This illegal work resulted in the loss of both a bulkhead and a charming arch, elements which enlivened this storefront. At the very least, HDC asks that the transom be continued from the doorways across the show window in effort to reference a historic configuration. Regarding the illegal windows, the application did not contain sufficienct information for the Committee to determine any suggestions.


Item 14

9 Vandam Street – Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District

14-9769 – Block 469, Lot 9, Zoned R7-2

Community District 2, Manhattan


A Federal style rowhouse built in 1829-30. Application is to construct a rear yard
addition, modify a dormer, and excavate the cellar and rear yard.

9 Vandam facade 9 Vandam

HDC does not support this application. Federal style rowhouses, as the Commission knows, are few and precious survivors in New York City, and this is a house from 1830 with an unchanged footprint.. This proposal is essentially facadism; restoring a stoop does not justify the obliteration of this building’s original shape and fabric. If the applicant desires more square footage, we ask why a Federal style rowhouse was attractive to the applicant, as these structures were purpose-built to be diminutive, modest houses. There is an abdundance of grand 4 and 5 story townhouses in non-designated districts throughout the City that would better suit this type of space and taste.


Items 16-17

126 West 18th Street – 126 West 18th Street – Individual Landmark

17-1182 – Block 793, Lot 55, Zoned C6-2A

Community District 4, Manhattan

128 West 18th Street – 128 West 18th Street – Individual Landmark

17-1183 – Block 793, Lot 54, Zoned C6-2A

Community District 4, Manhattan


A round-arch utilitarian style stable built in 1864. Application is to install new
storefront infill.

126-128 W 18 St 126-128 W 18 St_2

This collection of buildings is one of only two remaining stable rows in Manhattan, the other being Sniffen Court. These little buildings were integral to the functioning of the City before the age of the auto and mass transit. Their still-gritty, utilitarian appearance is arguably a large part of these structures’ allure, and we ask the Commission and the applicant to consider this. HDC feels that the façade treatment of solid sheets of glass may detract from the interest of these façades. Perhaps mullions and muntins can be introduced to recall some memory of the stable door, or later garage door.


Item 18

354 West 20th Street – Chelsea Historic District

16-6412 – Block 743, Lot 76, Zoned R7B

Community District 4, Manhattan


An Italianate style rowhouse built in 1853-54. Application is to construct a rooftop
addition, alter the rear facade and rear yard, and excavate a sub-cellar.

354 West 20


While HDC does not take issue with the glassy rear elevation which will no doubt allow natural light to spill into this townhouse, we wonder why the excavation will dig so deep below this house to create a space which is quite the contrary—underground with no windows. The excavation component of this application is excessive, especially in a fragile, old neighborhood like Chelsea.


Item 21

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

17-0584 – Block 1147, Lot 41, Zoned R8B

Community District 7, Manhattan


A Renaissance Revival style rowhouse designed by Thom & Wilson and built in 1890-1891. The application is to construct rooftop and rear yard additions.

118 W 76

This is a case of where decades-long neglect resulted in an untouched, complete historic house from 1891.  HDC supports this home being restored and suitable for habitability again, but feels that this proposal moves too far in the speculative direction. The building’s original footprint is being obliterated by going full-width in the rear, adds clumsy and visible bulk to the roof, and hollows out the earth beneath it. There surely are better ways to deal with the rooftop mechanicals. The all-glass rear façade and doors appear strangely commercial, like entries to retail. HDC recommends a lighter-handed intervention to this house and also a closer look at the aesthetic approach of the new design, which at the moment, does not display sensitivity to nor derive its design from the historic district.

Category: HDC@LPC · Tags:

2015 Grassroots and Preservation Party Awardees

Posted by on Friday, May 29, 2015 · Leave a Comment 


Grassroots Winners:

SuzanneSuzanne Spellen learned to appreciate architecture and history by growing up in Gilbertsville, a historic village in upstate NY. After attending Yale University, she moved to New York City to pursue a career in opera. Suzanne is a board member of the Crown Heights North Association, Inc. (CNHA), which has worked tirelessly for landmark designation for the neighborhood. She is a columnist for the popular blog under the pen name “Montrose Morris.” Her expertise on the architecture and history of Central Brooklyn has led to lectures, walking tours and research projects for many organizations and causes. In 2012, Suzanne left Brooklyn for Troy, NY. She is a board member of Troy’s new Community Land Bank, and on the citizen’s advisory board for the Comprehensive Plan for Troy. Suzanne is the co-author of The Fallen Heroes of September 11th: The Wall of Remembrance at Coney Island, (2011). She is currently writing a designation report for the State and National Register of Historic Places on the Carnegie Libraries of New York City. She is also working on a novel, as well as planning two books about Brooklyn architecture and history.


Steven BarrisonSteven Barrison (Bay Improvement Group) is a third-generation resident of Sheepshead Bay, where he has lived for over 55 years. As an attorney currently practicing in midtown Manhattan, he has contributed between 1,000-2,000 hours each year to pro bono activities such as community preservation, enhancement, and revitalization in Sheepshead Bay in order to bring life and planning to its main streets. Steven has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the statewide non-profit New York Main Street Alliance since 1992, advocating Main Street revitalization from one end of New York State to the other. He has testified before numerous hearings on zoning issues as well as important Brooklyn landmarks such as The Carroll Street Bridge, the Parachute Jump, Cyclone, and the Wonder Wheel. Steven was a founding member and elected President of the Bay Improvement Group, which was organized in 1992 to preserve and comprehensively plan the revitalization of Sheepshead Bay’s main streets and its waterfront Special District. Steven has dedicated over 32 years of community service to making New York State, New York City, Brooklyn, and Sheepshead Bay better places to live, work, and visit.


People for the PavilionPeople for the Pavilion (PFP) is a 501(c)3 non-profit advocacy organization whose mission is to develop a vibrant community around the New York State Pavilion and to raise awareness about the structure. PFP works toward this goal through public programs, events, and online communications, and reaches out to individuals, organizations, and institutions about the preservation effort, particularly those based around Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. In 2014, PFP secured $4.8 million of the Capital Budget to restore the New York State Pavilion with help from Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the members of the City Council. Matthew Silva, co-founder of People for the Pavilion, has recently been engaged in a campaign to light the pavilion in order to raise awareness and funding for the restoration project. Silva also just completed a documentary film, two years in the making, called “Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion.” The film explores the vibrant history of the structure through interviews with historians, architects and fairgoers, it premiered on May 22, 2015 at the Queens Theatre.


Teri DN pictureTeri Slater was a passionate preservationist, committed community advocate and fierce defender of her beloved Upper East Side. Longtime community board member, director and officer of the Historic Districts Council and numerous other preservation and community groups, she served the public with dedication, intelligence and passion tempered with grace, caring and humor. She was pivotal in numerous campaigns to protect her neighborhood from inappropriate development, especially from institutions such as hospitals and museums seeking to build enormous and unnecessary expansions. She was a convener of groups and connector of people. Teri passed on January 13, 2015, and her absence is unimaginable. She is survived by her sons Eric and Edward and all the many people whose lives she touched.


welcome2thebronx2Friend from the Media Award: Welcome2TheBronx
Ed García Conde is a social media consultant and successful blogger. Working as a real estate appraiser since 1998 has enabled him to become fluent about the histories of the five boroughs of New York City as well as the current social and cultural transitions of these areas. A lifetime resident of Melrose in the South Bronx, Ed has dedicated himself to social and environmental justice issues. Unhappy with mainstream media’s negative coverage of Melrose, the South Bronx, and The Bronx in general, he created websites to share the history and beauty of these neighborhoods and discuss with followers the issues that challenge the community, giving a voice to an otherwise voiceless neighborhood. His blog Welcome2TheBronx has become the most widely read and recognized Bronx blog (250,000 monthly visitors across all social media). Considered an authority on many Bronx issues, Ed’s stories often shape the local news, quoted by the mainstream media including The New York Times and serving as a basis for media outlet articles. In 2014, Ed and his teammates won the first ever Bronx Scavenger Hunt hosted by the Bronx Borough President’s Office.


Daniel GarodnickFriend in High Places Award: Council Member Daniel Garodnick, District 4, Manhattan
Dan Garodnick was born and raised in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village. In 2006, Dan foresaw the sale of this property would put affordable, middle-class housing at risk in New York City and initiated an unprecedented, multi-billion dollar bid on behalf of 25,000 tenants to buy the property. As another sale became imminent, Dan organized over 50 elected officials from across New York to form a Coalition Against Predatory Equity, ensuring the commitment of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac not to lend to buyers motivated to run out middle-class tenants by destabilizing affordable units. Dan made the list of City Hall newspaper’s “Rising Stars” under the age of 40 and has been praised for his “independent streak,” and “creative problem solving.”A champion of neighborhood preservation, he has been pivotal in community-based efforts to expand landmark protections along Park and Lexington Avenues on the Upper East Side as well as inserting a measured, rational vision for East Midtown.

He currently serves as Chair of the City Council’s Economic Development Committee and has authored important legislation including the Tenant Protection Act, giving tenants an opportunity to sue for harassment; the City’s first Green Energy Code, reducing carbon emissions from buildings; and the expansion of the Transit Benefits Program, allowing employees to purchase Metrocards using pre-taxed earnings.

Category: Grassroots Awards, Program & Events · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

HDC Testimony for LPC Hearing on May 19, 2015

Posted by on Monday, May 18, 2015 · Leave a Comment 

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


Item 1

150 East 42nd Street – Individual Landmark

166138 – Block 1296, lot 46, Zoned C5-3, C5-2.5

Community District 6, Manhattan


An International style skyscraper designed by John B. Peterkin and Harrison & Abramowitz and built in 1954-56. Application is to install signage.

150 East 42nd Street

While HDC does not object to the size and style of these signs, we do question the necessity of inserting more signage on this very simple base since this will not be a public facility for Mount Sinai.

LPC determination: Approved


Item 4

127 Noble Street – Greenpoint Historic District

167294 – Block 2566, lot 66, Zoned R6B

Community District 1, Brooklyn


An Italianate style house built in 1866. Application is to construct rooftop and rear yard additions.

127 Noble Street-existing

127 Noble Street-proposed

HDC finds the double-height rear yard addition to be out of keeping with the neighborhood and its heavy-handed masonry to overwhelm this remarkably intact house. The wood façade would be a nice feature to retain, at least in part, on the rear.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 5

413 Sterling Place – Prospect Heights Historic District

168089 – Block 116, lot 73, Zoned R6B

Community District 8, Brooklyn


A Renaissance Revival/Romanesque Revival style rowhouse designed by Axel S. Hedman and built c. 1898. Application is to alter the rear façade and construct a rear yard addition.

413 Sterling Place

The row of bay windows on these rear facades is a feature of the block, and we fear that the proposed removal of this one on number 413 would set a precedent for others to follow. The restoration of the bay, which appears to have originally been pressed metal, would be a more sensitive solution and would allow for the same amount of light in the rear. If access to the rear deck is desired, we would suggest extending one of the bay’s window openings down to become a door.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 7

249 Church Street – TriBeCa East Historic District

168660 – Block 174, lot 7501, Zoned C6-ZA

Community District 1, Manhattan


An Italianate/Second Empire style store and loft building built in 1866-67. Application is to install storefront infill and a barrier free access ramp.

249 Church Street

HDC finds this access ramp to be a very significant alteration to the ground floor. We would ask that the applicant explore other solutions for ADA access, such as lowering one storefront bay and installing an interior lift. We would also ask the overly simplistic storefronts be reconsidered in favor of a more detailed approach.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 8

36 East 68th Street – Upper East Side Historic District

164137 – Block 1382, lot 47, R8B

Community District 8, Manhattan


A rowhouse designed by R.W. Buckley, and built in 1879, and modified in the neo-Classical style by Morris & O’Connor in 1932. Application is to reconstruct the front façade, modify the roof and rear façade, and excavate the cellar.

36 East 68th Street

HDC finds many of the proposed changes to this house to be unnecessarily fancy, and asks that any changes be based on historical precedent for this house, rather than features found elsewhere in the neighborhood. Both the large central entrance and the copper roof appear heavy-handed, and our committee wondered why the window muntin pattern could not be retained on the front façade. As usual, we also ask that any excavation work be handled with care, especially given the breadth of what is proposed here.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 9

2195 Broadway – West End-Collegiate Extension Historic District

169149 – Block 1169, lot 57, Zoned C4-6A/R10A

Community District 7, Manhattan


A Romanesque Revival style flats building with neo-Grec style elements designed by Gilbert A. Schellenger and built in 1891-92. Application is to install storefront infill and signage.

2195 Broadway-existing

2195 Broadway

HDC appreciates that the cast iron elements will be restored, but finds the storefront design to be a disappointment in its minimalism. The proposed storefront bay without any signage looks as if it is unoccupied, while the bronze anodized aluminum storefront system has a generic appearance. More attention to details would enliven this proposal.

LPC determination: Approved


Item 11

555 West End Avenue – Riverside – West End Historic District

170198 – Block 1248, lot 36, Zoned R10A

Community District 7, Manhattan


A Collegiate Gothic style institutional building designed by William A. Boring and built in 1907-08. Application is to create a new entrance, install a canopy, create new window openings, replace special windows, construct a rooftop and rear yard additions, and modify the rear facades.

555 West End Avenue-2

HDC wishes to thank the applicant for an admirable restoration job and for bringing back so many of this magnificent building’s original features, including the parapets and the historic mullion and glazing pattern on the courtyard vault end. We look forward to seeing these improvements come to fruition.

LPC determination: No Action


Item 12

375 Park Avenue – Four Seasons Restaurant, Ground Floor and First Floor Interior Landmark; Seagram Building – Individual Landmark

168263 – Block 1307, lot 1, Zoned C5-2.5, C5-3

Community District 5, Manhattan


An International style restaurant interior designed by Philip Johnson and built in 1958-59, within the Seagram Building, an International style office tower, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with Philip Johnson, and Kahn & Jacobs, and built in 1956-58. Application is to alter portions of designated interiors and alter the sidewalk canopies.

375 Park Avenue-Four Seasons-2

375 Park Avenue-Four Seasons-1

The Four Seasons Restaurant is an iconic space and a Modernist treasure in New York City. Its simple and streamlined rooms are enlivened and defined through innovative spatial arrangement, with multiple tiers and permanent fixtures creating intimate spaces and programmatic functions. In the Grill Room, this proposal seeks to remove one of these permanent fixtures and replace it with movable planters. HDC feels that this measure would undo the designer’s original intent, bringing the room closer to a 21st century desire for big, open floor plates, rather than the mid-20th century vision that this space continues to provide. HDC also feels that it is inappropriate to describe the glass and bronze partition as “non-original”, as it was, in fact, a later alteration by the original architect, Philip Johnson, and has been there for most of the life of the restaurant. It is, therefore, a significant component of the overall plan. The Commission may be aware that there are currently legal conversations in process about the approved transference of elements within the Interior Landmark spaces at 346 Broadway, and whether this constitutes a de-designation. The transformation of permanent fixtures into movable ones at the Four Seasons represents an effective de-regulation of those elements, similar to the situation at 346 Broadway. This leaves them vulnerable to future design changes without LPC oversight. HDC urges the Commission to avoid the emergence of a disturbing trend toward chipping away at Interior Landmarks in order to strip the LPC of its power to protect them.

HDC has for many years held its annual Landmarks Lion gala at the Four Seasons Restaurant, with people sitting on both levels of the Pool Room, and it works beautifully. HDC has a hard time understanding why the proposed operable panels are needed, given the expert functionality of the space. It would be a shame to tamper with what has become a classic, simply to appease a new owner’s sensibilities. Further, due to the pool’s position directly in the center of the room, opening up the panels to the upper dining space would change the perceived dimensionality and symmetricality of the room.We would also suggest that the carpet be reconsidered in favor of a more toned down color scheme.

LPC determination: Mixed (carpet was approved, other elements were not)


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

Corbin Building, Designation Testimony-May 12, 2015

Posted by on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 · Leave a Comment 

May 12, 2015

Item 1

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


Landmark Site: Manhattan Block 79, Lot 15

Community District 1


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

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

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

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

Category: HDC@LPC, Landmarks Preservation Commission, LPC · Tags:

HDC Testimony for LPC Hearing on May 5, 2015

Posted by on Monday, May 4, 2015 · Leave a Comment 

Item 1

111 Noble Street – Greenpoint Historic District

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

Community District 1, Brooklyn


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

111 Noble

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


Item 2

73 Washington Place – Greenwich Village Historic District

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

Community District 2, Manhattan


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

73 Washington Pl

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


Item 3

16-18 Charles Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

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

Community District 2, Manhattan


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

16-18 Charles St

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


Item 4

444 6th Avenue – Greenwich Village Historic District

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

Community District 2, Manhattan


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

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


Item 5

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

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

Community District 2, Manhattan


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

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


Item 7

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

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

Community District 2, Manhattan


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

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


Item 9

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

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

Community District 2, Manhattan


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

190 Bowery 190 Bowery 2

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


Item 11

10 East 78th Street – Metropolitan Museum Historic District

16-7289 – Block 1392, Lot 65 Zoned R8B

Community District 8, Manhattan


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

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


Item 12

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

16-8200 – Block 44, Lot 1, Zoned C5-5

Community District 1, Manhattan


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

28 Liberty existing 28 Liberty proposed plaza original plaza proposed

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

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

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

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




Category: HDC@LPC · Tags:

Continuing Education Panel: Cast Iron New York

Posted by on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 · Leave a Comment 

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

Continuing Education Panel
Cast Iron New York


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

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

Neighborhood Preservation Center
232 East 11th  Street, Manhattan

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

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


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

General- $100
Friends of HDC- $75

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


Category: Architect Panel · Tags:

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

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

Support HDC & Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer’s solution

to the

Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Back list of Considered Properties

Dear Friend,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan at by May 1, 2015.

Learn more about these properties – Landmarks Under Consideration

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

What do these points mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


April 2, 2015


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Click here to view as PDF


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

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