HDC Testimony for LPC Hearing on May 9, 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 2

108 Milton Street – Greenpoint Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #198233

A three story building that was under construction at time of designation. Application is to alter the façade.

Our committee appreciates the applicant’s desire to improve the appearance of this house, but the design as proposed is neither here nor there. It seems that the applicant desires an aesthetic that reflects the 19th century and to achieve this, the proportions of the details must be studied more carefully. HDC suggests carefully examining similar structures where a garage or carriage house door has to live in concert with a 2-story structure, of which there should be ample precedent in the district. Elongating the windows was a positive move, but the proportions of the lintels appear too thick for their respective openings and do not have a relationship to the sills.

LPC determination: Approved 


Item 5

Governors Island Building 110 – Governor’s Island Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #Q10524

A Utilitarian Romanesque Revival style storehouse built in 1870-79. Application is to alter the facades.

HDC does not support this application and the brick should be repointed and repaired. This was designed as a brick building and it survives in its historic condition today. While in 1904 there is evidence of a stucco application, HDC does not feel that this argument is strong enough to merit the building to be re-stuccoed. What’s more, at some point either the stucco failed or it became unattractive and it was decided to be removed.

The building in its current condition is attractive and has texture, while the renderings of the stuccoed facades significantly flatten the building. Features like contrasting limestone lintels, sills, and keystones are lost when the building will be applied in a material of the same color. Further, the buildings on Governor’s Island contain a large palette of brick, which speaks to their purpose-built history and connection to one another. Our committee would also like to remind the Commission that stuccoing a building can accelerate its degradation, while conducting a proper rehabilitation of these facades will make them ultimately last longer.

LPC determination: Approved 


Item 6

Governors Island Building 110 – Governor’s Island Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #Q10309

A Utilitarian Romanesque Revival style storehouse built in 1870-79. Application is to install a barrier-free access ramp, replace areaway railings, and install rooftop mechanical equipment.

Our committee suggests the applicant work with staff to find an appropriate railing, perhaps a pipe railing reminiscent of the historic railings which are present, which would be less dense and wouldn’t obscure the historic façade behind it.

LPC determination: Approved 


Item 7

159 John Street – South Street Seaport Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #Q09771

A Greek Revival style commercial building built in 1836. Application is to install new entry infill.

HDC does not support this application. Our committee prefers to leave the historic fabric of this 1836 building in place given its age, its pedigree, and its location in the oldest built section of the city. What’s particularly problematic about this application is the insertion of the stair and stoop into the corner of the building. The strong anchoring of this corner should remain and not be obscured by inserting an entrance, especially when there is a prominent entrance four bays away along John Street. Maybe the reversible intervention for this problem is to apply for signage along the Front Street façade denoting the shop’s presence. This portion of Front and John Streets is pedestrian-only, making way-finding to the entrance simple.

HDC does not believe that moving the door and destroying historic fabric will mitigate a retail store’s problems with competition from online retailers, which is affecting shops everywhere. Further, as a bargain lessee of city-owned property, Howard Hughes should go to great lengths to leave as small an impact as possible on our city’s public assets, especially the fragile Seaport. After all, the corporation is building a brand-new mall with LPC approval on Pier 17 just a block away, where there is plenty of opportunity for new entrances and retail.

LPC determination: No action


Item 9

121 Chambers Street – TriBeCa South Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #193880

An Italianate style store and loft building built in 1860-1861.  Application is to construct a 2- story rooftop addition and remove a fire escape at the Reade Street façade.

While a one-story rooftop addition might be appropriate here, the proposed 2-story addition is not. The applicant’s work restoring the storefront is commendable and sufficient for a change of use, however it does not justify the change of bulk that would be increased with this addition. This addition will be visible, and the segmental arched windows on the top story draw attention to themselves, which gives the effect of stretching the building’s original proportion and openings far beyond the historic building’s termination. This addition should be scaled down and re-designed.

LPC determination: Approved 


Item 11

318 West 20th Street – Chelsea Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #198808

A Greek Revival style rowhouse, built in 1837. Application is to construct a rooftop and a rear addition.

The alterations proposed in this application are completely inappropriate for an 1837 house. At 25 feet wide and 5,200 square feet in volume, this is not a diminutive rowhouse. The interior program is typical of a developer’s speculative kit for the maximization of profit, rather than a need for more space. The plans display full-length rooms of 25 feet in both the rear and front of the house and destroying the entire rear façade for a seven-foot bump out is not justified for so little gain.

HDC is not convinced that this house’s program cannot work without this extra square footage. At most, a rear extension on the first and second floors in the rear could be appropriate and salvage both the envelope of this Greek Revival house and the garden core, both of which are completely intact. Further, the proposed rooftop addition is actually nearly an entire story added to the house and should be reduced. It must be remembered that this is a nearly-200 year old house, in fine condition and protected by the Landmarks Law. It should be treated with respect and sensitivity, and not as a tabula rasa for castle-building.

LPC determination: No action


Item 12

267 Columbus Avenue – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #Q10479

A neo-Grec style flats building designed by Charles Buek and Co. and built in 1888-89.

Application is to replace cast-iron vault covers.

HDC would like to see this sidewalk repaired with new vault lights that match the existing ones. Vault lights are still manufactured, so they should be replaced in kind. A sensitive historic restoration of this feature would only create value in this subterranean space.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 13

269 Columbus Avenue – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #183856

A neo-Grec style apartment building designed by Charles Buek, and built in 1888-89. Application is to legalize signage installed without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

HDC objects to the proposed signage in this application. We wonder what confusion the applicant might have had about illegally modifying their property in an area that has been designated as a historic district for 27 years. 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. To do otherwise is to undermine the Commission’s authority.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 14

50 West 77th Street – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #185320

A neo-Renaissance style hotel building designed by George F. Pelham and constructed in 1902-03. Application is to install a barrier-free access lift.

Our committee would like to see the entire barrier-free access lift painted black to match the historic existing ironwork.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

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