HDC Testimony for LPC Hearing on June 27, 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

841-847 St. Nicholas Avenue – Hamilton Heights/Sugar Hill Northwest Historic District


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

HDC applauds the height, bulk and materiality of this proposed new construction. 

While this building is playing by all the correct urban design rules, as Mies van der Rohe famously said, “God is in the details.” To this end, the details in the facades need some harmonizing. The corner windows’ arrangement could work, but the glazing should be lowered to the floor instead of stopping short, which would result in a much better anchored corner. There are several precast belt courses on this building, but there does not seem to be any hierarchy between the different stories of the building. For instance, the 2nd story course works much better than the 5th story, which appears as a termination of the building despite a cornice directly above it. This could be solved by adding this element directly below the cornice or reconfiguring the profiles of these courses to make them less prominent. 

HDC finds the PTAC units unacceptable and the street-facing louvres unattractive. The fenestration appears inconsistent and the large expanse of brick along the street facade is asymmetrical. According to the interior plans, there is no programmatic need for this wall of brick. Single punched openings could ameliorate this void of space and these openings are found on neighboring buildings in the historic district. 

Overall, this is a contextual building which, after some tinkering, could be a rather handsome addition to the neighborhood. 

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 2

1107 Fifth Avenue – Carnegie Hill Extension Historic District


A neo-Renaissance style apartment building designed by Rouse & Goldstone and built in 1925. Application is to enlarge a rooftop bulkhead.

Our committee objects to the height of the proposed rooftop bulkhead on such an important Fifth Avenue building. 1107 Fifth Avenue was constructed with special attention to the upper three floors, which were designed specifically for Post Cereal heir Marjorie Merriweather Post Hutton. The proposed bulkhead would be highly visible from street level, and plopped down on top of these important upper floors, would be a major disruption to the building’s historic character. If the water tank is an issue here, our committee wonders if it could be moved to an adjacent location on the roof. Or, better yet, the applicant could simply leave the water tower exposed. Water towers are an iconic piece of New York City infrastructure and should be celebrated as vital rooftop furniture.

LPC determination: No action

Item 4

41 Worth Street – Individual Landmark Historic District


A Venetian-inspired Italianate style store and loft building designed by Isaac F. Duckworth and built c. 1865. Application is to replace storefront infill.

The new storefront proposed in this application is not sensitively researched or executed. An individual landmark such as this deserves a better quality of work and a more thorough investigation into its original historic appearance. It appears the applicant is attempting to return the building’s storefront design to how it appeared in the 1940s tax photo. Our committee does not believe this 1940s photo shows the original storefront. The building’s original storefront should be found and copied. We look forward to seeing a more carefully researched proposal, one that presents the other façade iterations of this 150 year old individual landmark.

LPC determination: Approved 

Item 5

55 Horatio Street – Greenwich Village Historic District


A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1848. Application is to construct an areaway.

While HDC appreciates the applicant’s effort to restore this building’s historic ironwork, good urban design would involve bringing the ironwork into alignment with the neighboring ironwork, in order to achieve a consistent treatment of streetscape features. We recognize that for this to occur, the owner has to pursue a revocable consent from the Department of Transportation. We hope the applicant takes this measure to bring the areaway into the lot line of the neighboring properties.

LPC determination: Approved 

Item 6

32 Perry Street – Greenwich Village Historic District


A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1845.  Application is to construct a rooftop addition and alter a rear addition.

HDC asks that the Commission reject this proposal on the grounds that this application is incomplete. The visibility of the proposed rooftop addition is not documented, and the applicant did not make a mock up on the roof, as required. With no photos of a rooftop mockup taken from the roof or neighboring streets, our committee has no way of knowing how visible this rooftop addition would be. From what is provided in the proposal, our committee finds the rooftop addition awkward and not well executed. We question how such a structure would be supported. We look forward to seeing a revised application that is complete with all required elements, and that presents a rooftop addition that is better integrated with the building.

LPC determination: Approved 

Item 8

158 Halsey Street – Bedford Historic District


A neo-Grec style rowhouse designed by John S. Frost built c. 1882. Application is to construct a rear yard addition and modify the roof.

HDC finds the proposed rear yard addition bulky, oversized, and inappropriate for the pristine block on which this house sits. Three stories is far too much and far too tall for such an addition. Going full width three stories, when everything else on the block is half width and two stories, is a real departure from the interior courtyard wall. Programmatically, the owners of this building do not need an addition on the 2nd floor, and our committee asks that the second floor addition not be extended. More room for their master bedroom suite does not justify an intrusion such as this. Furthermore, we find the proposed material, stucco, inappropriate. Any new addition should be brick and should be similar in texture to what is present in the existing neighborhood. Our committee would like to see the 2nd and 3rd floors restored so that this building can contribute in a harmonious way to the donut and maintain the building’s relationship to the other houses in the row.  

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 9

459 14th Street – Park Slope Historic District


A late Romanesque Revival style rowhouse designed by G.F. Beatty and built in 1891. Application is to replace windows and construct a rear yard addition.

HDC finds the proposed rear yard addition unnecessarily large and inappropriate. There is no precedent for an addition of this size. A more efficient floor plan would provide the applicant with more space on the parlor floor, which, at 45 feet in length, should be able to work graciously without such a massive addition. Given the small scale of this donut, the full width addition at parlor level is a significant intrusion into the garden space. The scale of this donut will be adversely affected by such an addition. HDC also objects to the 2nd floor of the proposed addition as it doesn’t add any significant functionality to the floor plan.   

LPC determination: No action

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