HDC Testimony for LPC Hearing on April 14, 2015

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

212 Fifth Avenue – Madison Square North Historic District

166089 – Block 827, lot 44, Zoned C5-2

Community District 5, Manhattan

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

A neo-Medieval style office building designed by Schwartz and Gross and built in 1912-13. Application is to construct a rooftop addition, install storefront infill and a canopy, modify and add window openings and replace windows.

212 Fifth Avenue-10-crop

212 Fifth Avenue-11-crop

212 Fifth Avenue-2

HDC found several aspects of this proposal distressing, especially due to the prominence and visibility of the building. While we are glad to see that decorative details and the grand cornice of this building will be restored, we would prefer that these terra-cotta elements be replaced or restored in terra-cotta, rather than GFRC and cast stone. The stark dark green color of the building’s window frames calls attention to itself, especially since the original frames were more of a mid-tone color that was less prominent. The removal of the pivot windows also gave us pause, as this function is a rare species in New York. It would be a shame to lose them.

Our committee felt that more effort is needed to achieve an appropriate storefront design. The number of AC louvers seems excessive and the opacity on these should be no more than is necessary. The choice of aluminum for both the louvers and the too-simple bulkheads does not do the building justice. Our committee also questions the storefront windows’ thin structural elements, especially when juxtaposed with the very thick mullions in the windows above. Carrying the windows’ verticals through to the storefront would lend consistency to the overall design.

Regarding the south elevation, which is very visible from Madison Square, our committee had several comments. The pattern of the windows, as well as the decorative brickwork, is very specific on this façade. By eliminating so many windows, that pattern gets lost. Since blind windows are proposed for both the elevator shaft and the stairwell, we wondered whether the windows could be retained on the stairwell, thus keeping as much glass as possible. On the other necessary blind windows, we would suggest a darker brick in order to retain the façade pattern. Enlarging the windows on the end bays also changes the reading of that façade pattern. Finally, on the south façade, the removal of the central window mullions on the new aluminum windows would be a shame for a building of such strong verticality.

 

Item 7

65 Jumel Terrace – Individual and Interior Landmark

166237- Block 2109, lot 106, Zoned Parkland

Community District 12, Manhattan

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS

A Georgian style mansion built in 1765, and remodeled in 1810 in the Napoleonic Empire style with Federal style details. Application is to install a condenser unit and enclosure within Roger Morris Park and floor vents in the Octagon Room.

65 Jumel Terrace-2

65 Jumel Terrace-1

HDC questions the number of proposed floor vents to be installed in the Octagon Room, and wonders why six are necessary. Our committee would also suggest further investigation into styles and types of available floor vents, as the wide border on the proposed vents makes them appear quite clunky. A vent with a more elegant grate design would have a more honest presence in the room.

 

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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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