HDC@LPC – Testimony for December 13, 2016

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
1324 Bergen Street – Crown Heights North III Historic District
A neo-Grec style rowhouse designed by Amzi Hill and built c. 1876. Application is to construct a rear addition.
Of this row of five modest two-story rowhouses, this is the first proposal to build out the rear in full height and width. Missing from this application were examples of other rear yard additions of this scale, design or materials within the district. In a district characterized by earthy materials of brick, brownstone and limestone, it would have been helpful to make a better case for why this design is appropriate. On its face, the glass and steel, set within a black frame clashes with its context.
LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 5

102 West 118th Street – Mount Morris Park Extension Historic District
A neo-Grec style rowhouse designed by William Guggolz and built c. 1892. Application is to construct rear yard and rooftop additions.
It is clear that this building’s conversion to a five family apartment building is driving the exterior design. While the bulk is not an issue, the window openings and private balconies appear suburban and not like something that is found in an historic district. What’s more, the examples provided as precedent for this type of design are not located within the Mount Morris Park Historic District or were constructed prior to designation. Other examples provided of rears of rows display historic punched openings with original “el” extensions, which communicate a confusing message as the proposed design deviates entirely from what is shown. The rooftop bulkhead should also be smaller and slanted to provide rooftop access from the duplex apartment. There is much unnecessary space proposed in the plan for this space and it should be reduced to lessen the impact in this district. This is a new district with only a handful of applications submitted to the Commission thus far, so it is paramount that the LPC review applications with scrutiny so that approved alterations move this district in a positive direction.
LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 7

144 West 14th Street – Individual Landmark Historic District
A Renaissance Revival style loft building, designed by Brunner & Tryon and built in 1895-96. Application is to install new storefront infill, new signage and flagpoles.
This stretch of 14th Street is a visual respite from the clutter of buildings and signage along this thoroughfare.  The soon-to-be landmarked Salvation Army Territorial Headquarters Building and 144 West 14th Street provides a juxtaposition of a strong Art Deco composition with the equally imposing classical mass of no. 144. Collectively, these two buildings communicate a strong architectural presence along the streetscape. To further improve the street experience, HDC would like to see a stronger designed ground floor configuration.  The only historic photo furnished was the 1940 tax photo. That means that the building was already a half of a century old when the photo was taken, and more research should be conducted to design a ground floor on par with an individual landmark.
LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 8

38 Bethune Street – Greenwich Village Historic District
A building originally built in 1927 as a one-story garage, and altered with the addition of two stories in 2004. Application is to enlarge a rooftop bulkhead, relocate the chimney, replace windows and doors, modify window openings, install new window openings, and install a balcony.
HDC found the 2004 alteration well conceived in context, proportion, and design. The proposed changes to the window openings results in a loss of their relationship to the ground floor proportionally. This is especially notable where the brick pier separating the door from the garage suddenly disappears at the second story. 
The creation of four rectangular windows separated by thin brick piers is out of proportion for a brick building’s openings, which would have been punched windows, not these large expanses. The applicant provided several good examples of ribbon window configurations in the vicinity, and HDC suggests the design move more toward this, or keep the existing design. The use of the steel mullions in the existing design works quite well. HDC believes that approved alterations to facades in historic districts should be improvements and aesthetics of a higher caliber than what was there previously. This proposal is trying to create a symmetrical top to an asymmetric bottom, and this attempt at regularization has lost something interesting in the process. 
LPC determination: Approved with modifications

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One Response to “HDC@LPC – Testimony for December 13, 2016”
  1. Becky says:

    I might be beatnig a dead horse, but thank you for posting this!

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