HDC@LPC – Designation Testimony for LPC Hearing on April 24, 2018

Item 1

LP-2609

BOROUGH OF QUEENS

FIREHOUSE, ENGINE COMPANIES 264 & 328, HOOK & LADDER 134, 16-15 Central Avenue

HDC supports the designation of landmarks in Far Rockaway, a neighborhood that is severely underrepresented in the celebration of the city’s built heritage. A number of questions arose, however, as to why these two were chosen in particular. One could argue for a small historic district along this stretch of Central Avenue, especially on the opposite side of the street from the firehouse, which contains a number of contiguous buildings exhibiting fine architectural details that are wonderfully intact. These include the highly ornate, marble façades of the former National Bank of Far Rockaway at number 16-24; the former Rockaway News building at number 16-18; two stately office buildings with detailed brickwork at numbers 16-12 and 1600; and, on the next block, two handsome, three-story buildings that feature bracketed cornices and grand arches at numbers 15-26 and 15-22.

As the Commission’s own Brief for this building pointed out, this was one of three structures built to the same design by Hoppin & Koen. It was a common practice to recycle designs for civic structures during the flurry of such construction after the consolidation of the boroughs. Curiously, though, its twin at 242 East 111th Street in East Harlem was not one of the buildings listed as eligible by the LPC in the FEIS for the East Harlem rezoning. Given that the firehouse in East Harlem is exactly the same architecturally, why would the building’s significance, as outlined in the LPC Brief for this firehouse in Far Rockaway, be described as “an outstanding example of early twentieth century, Renaissance Revival style civic architecture”? While HDC does not disagree, we find the argument for architectural merit to be somewhat thin and inexplicable in the face of the snub in East Harlem, and would advocate for the inclusion of this building within a broader landmarking initiative in Far Rockaway.

 

Item 2

LP-2610

BOROUGH OF QUEENS

53RD (NOW 101ST) PRECINCT POLICE STATION, 16-12 Mott Avenue

Echoing our testimony for the previous designation hearing for the firehouse at 16-15 Central Avenue, HDC supports the designation of landmarks in Far Rockaway, but is somewhat perplexed at the LPC’s methodology. This lovely, intact police station, when considered in isolation, could easily qualify as a local landmark, with its robust Renaissance Revival design, rusticated base, projecting quoins and terra-cotta cornice. However, similar to the nearby firehouse also under consideration today, this fine building has a near-identical twin at 250 West 135th Street in Harlem. If the agency is prioritizing city-owned historic buildings, why not include these two in Far Rockaway in a survey-and-landmark initiative across all five boroughs? During the Dinkins Administration, the Department of General Services, under the direction of Assistant Commissioner Adrienne Bresnan, initiated prototypical programs to identify, preserve and adaptively reuse historic structures in every category of that department’s vast purview, including libraries, museums, courthouses, City Hall and Borough Halls, police stations, firehouses and other public service buildings. Assistant Commissioner Bresnan prepared scopes of work, preservation programs, adaptive reuse strategies, and plans for many of the outstanding government buildings in the City, focusing specifically on non-designated properties. HDC strongly recommends that if the Landmarks Commission is prioritizing city-owned properties, that the agency should revisit that work as a starting point. There is merit in designating this class of buildings; these prominent and dignified buildings serve as pillars in their communities and should be protected as such.

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