HDC@LPC- Testimony for Hearing on October 30, 2018

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 1

16 Court Street – Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District


A neo-Romanesque style office building designed by H. Craig Severence and built in 1925-27. Application is to install signage.

While this sign is certainly unlovely, our concerns lie with piecemeal and unattractive treatment of storefronts at this prominent corner. A coherent and comprehensive master plan for the restoration of the building’s storefronts is overdue.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 2

1139 Dean Street – Crown Heights North Historic District


A neo-Grec style row house designed by John Mumford and built in 1881. Application is to legalize modifying the stoop and replacement of areaway fence without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

This illegal work is unacceptable in every way, further distancing this building from its two siblings, while the poorly crafted stoop railing appears to be leaching lime. Reversion to the building’s previous condition should be compelled, and if the stoop is to be reconstructed, the work should be modeled on its neighbor, part of the matching row of three rowhouses, with its original stoop railing and newel posts. The presentation materials offer no rationale for the style of the fence, while clear precedents for cast-iron fences exist in the tax photos. We urge that any work on the front elevation serve to bring the building closer in uniformity to the two adjoining simultaneously constructed neo-Grec rowhouses, not further alienating it from them.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 3

1062 Clay Avenue – Historic District


A transitional Romanesque Revival/neo-Renaissance style two-family house designed by Warren C. Dickerson and built in 1901-02. Application is to replace windows.

The boards provided to the public were entirely inadequate for evaluating this proposal, containing little to no information about what the project entails, particularly regarding window detailing and existing window conditions.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 4

131-135 Duane Street – TriBeCa South Historic District


An Italianate style store and loft building built in 1861-62. Application is to construct a rooftop addition.

This project could easily be rendered almost invisible from public vantages by lowering the ceiling heights of the sixth floor to 10 feet and to nine feet in the penthouse story, and we ask that Landmarks encourage the applicants to do so.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 5

272 West 10th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District


A neo-Grec-style school building and playground, designed by David I. Stagg, and built in 1885-1886. Application is to demolish the perimeter wall and garage; construct a new building extension; and install rooftop mechanical equipment and screens.

This project fits in well urbanistically, and we appreciate the efforts made to respect the streetscape. We believe the project could be even better with some small changes to the design. Particularly, the expanse of glass in the planned connector is harsh in the context of Greenwich Village and not in the same language as the rest of the building. We also believe it would be improved by adding more visual interest to the monolithic grey masonry wall in front of the gymnasium, possibly by using molded, rather than extruded, brick.

LPC determination: No action

Item 7

160 East 70th Street – Upper East Side Historic District


An Italianate style rowhouse originally designed by William McNamara and built in 1872-74, re-designed with neo-Classical elements by Wallace McCrea in 1925, and altered again in 1961 by Thomas Lehreche. Application is to alter and reconstruct the front façade, excavate the areaway and construct rooftop and rear yard additions.

We find that this proposal lacks coherence and unity at the rear, using three different window types and a non-traditional glass ribbon. HDC recommends that the design be simplified for more consistency.

Given the effort and resources already going into this project, it would also be nice if the front façade could also receive some architectural attention, using the historic tax photos as reference points, to make the building a better neighbor.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 9

209 Flagg Place – Individual Landmark Historic District


An estate including a Dutch Colonial revival style mansion designed by Ernest Flagg and built in 1898 and altered in 1907, with Palladian-inspired details, and related accessory buildings. Application is to construct new single-family dwellings on the property and to alter and restore the mansion.

We urge LPC to reject this application. The Koch-era development on this site already represents a significant encroachment on this landmark, and this proposal would be a low-quality affront, diminishing and overwhelming this magnificent mansion and garden.

The proposed houses do not inspire confidence in the design team, they are poorly proportioned and the execution of details does not demonstrate understanding of buildings of this ilk. If any new buildings of this type are permitted, they should be done by an architect who specializes in this type of 1920s-style residential design, closely studying the Flagg drawings such as those on page 34 of the presentation materials.

We further object to the amount of paving this project would introduce to the landmark site, and the dearth of information about materials to be used in the proposed work included in the presentation materials.

LPC determination: No action

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