HDC Testimony for LPC Hearing on May 2, 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 3

440 West 14th Street – Gansevoort Market Historic District


A neo-Grec style French flats building built in 1890, and a Queen Anne style French flats building built in 1887. Application is to legalize the installation of signage without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

Although historical signage did exist in the Meat Market, HDC finds this sign to be excessively large. Not only did the applicant install this sign without seeking permission, but it is much larger than the standard set up by the Department of Buildings and outlined in the LPC rules, which restricts commercial bracket signs in commercial districts to 12 x 24 inches—this sign is seven feet long. HDC asks that the Landmarks Commission reject this legalization. 

LPC determination: No action

Item 4

38 West 10th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District


An altered Anglo-Italianate style rowhouse built in 1858. Application is to modify the front façade and rooftop and to install an areaway gate.

HDC commends the restoration of the façade to its original historic appearance, but our committee is concerned about the layer of history that is being removed in this proposal. We recommend that the applicant preserve the studio window which, historically, has defined the artistic character of Greenwich Village and we would like to see retained, if only in physicality. 

LPC determination: Approved 

Item 7

710 Greenwich Street – Greenwich Village Extension I Historic District


Two neo-Classical style warehouse buildings designed by Moore & Landsiedel and built in 1909, and later altered with an addition designed by Matthew W. Del Gaudio in 1912. Application is to alter the façade, and install storefronts and signage.

710 Greenwich Street is a wonderful, muscular industrial building that should be treated with respect. This application minimizes the fact that the new proposed design disrupts the fundamental nature of the building by placing glass in front of existing piers. Wrapping piers in glass is entirely inappropriate and a disservice to the building. On a load-bearing building such as this, the piers provide structural support and should read as such. To emphasize their importance, the piers should be brought straight to the ground. Furthermore, once the piers are placed behind glass, they will become interior elements and will no longer be regulated as historic fabric. HDC looks forward to a revised proposal that takes these points into consideration and respects the industrial heritage and historic integrity of this building. 

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Items 8-9

Belvedere Castle & Belvedere Castle Paths – Central Park – Scenic Landmark


A Gothic style observation tower designed by Calvert Vaux and built in 1867, and adjacent pathways, within an English Romantic style public park designed in 1856 by Olmsted and Vaux. Application is to construct a pathway and walls for barrier free access.

Central Park is one of the most scenic landscapes on the planet. It is world-renowned and used as model internationally for deliberate, picturesque landscape design. HDC finds the proposed pathway and wall an appalling affront. The wall and ramp are far larger than they need to be and violate the cardinal rule of historic preservation, that the lightest hand should be used at all times. Frankly, this proposal is heavy handed and worst yet, not easily reversible. It is a direct and distinct design intervention that runs counter to Olmsted and Vaux’s vision for New York City’s Central Park. Its height, length, and width’s impacts on the surrounding landscape and the castle itself, whose elevation will be substantially buried because of this intrusion, is counterintuitive. In short, the experience of the resource is being compromised to bring access to it.

If accessibility is really the main concern here, there are other solutions, such as re-grading existing paths. The Central Park Conservancy has a deep well of talented designers who have done remarkably sensitive work elsewhere in the park to create barrier-free accessibility. We cannot believe this is only solution and it certainly is not the best one. Moreover, maybe it is in the best interest for all parties for the Central Park Conservancy to propose a Visitor’s Center in an entirely new structure, which would allow for the proper public vetting that this application deliberately avoids and certainly deserves.  

Finally, HDC has concerns about the proposed windows. This castle was originally intended as an open folly with no doors or windows, which is why they are not present in the historic drawings that the Conservancy presented. For this reason, every effort should be made to achieve the appearance of transparency and non-reflection within these openings. HDC strongly recommends that the LPC view a sample of the proposed window glass prior to approval.   

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

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