HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on April 19, 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 1
180907- Block 148, lot 63-
39-54 48th Street – Sunnyside Gardens Historic District

A rowhouse with Colonial Revival style details, designed by Clarence Stein, Henry Wright and Frederick Ackerman and built in 1925. Application is to legalize replacement of roofing, the installation of a deck and paving without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s), and to alter the entrance.

Upon completion, Sunnyside Gardens came with built-in design guidelines in the form of 40-year preservation covenants, which preserved open space and fostered awareness of architectural qualities. When these covenants expired in the 1960s, alterations arrived and began diminishing the special character of the planned community. Responding to these changes, the City implemented Sunnyside as a Special Planned Community Preservation District to curb further alterations in 1974. In 2007, the area was designated an official NYC Historic District, adding another layer of protection to the neighborhood by regulating the exteriors of its buildings.  It is with this long history of regulation in mind that HDC respectfully asks for these illegal alterations to be denied.


LPC determination: approved w/mods


Item 3
182034- Block 149, lot 75-
9 Dekalb Avenue – Individual Landmark and Interior Landmark

A neo-Classical style bank building with a designated banking hall designed by Mowbray & Uffinger, built in 1906-08, and enlarged and altered by Halsey, McCormack & Helmer in 1931-32. Application is to alter the designated interior and exterior, demolish a portion of the building and construct a new building partially on the Landmark site.

The designation report describes this landmark interior as a “large, uninterrupted banking room interior surmounted by a central skylight.” HDC found it inappropriate, therefore, that the banking counters are treated as interruptions. These fixtures are made of marble and have ornate grillework–they are complete works of art in themselves and not made to be taken apart and assembled somewhere else. They should not be removed.
When this plan was designed, it was not viewed as losing one third of square footage to the counters as the applicant argues. If the floor area was indeed too small, it would have been designed as a larger space, but it wasn’t. What’s more, there will be a 1,066 foot tower using part of this landmark site to fulfill its design, so there is plenty of room in the tower for retail or any other of the applicant’s needs. Interior Landmarks enjoy the same protection as any other type of landmark, and they are rare, with only 117 in the entire city. Yet, here again is a proposal to destroy and remove designated, significant features. This is supposed to be an example of one of the most notable interiors of a bank in the City. How will it read that way if the things that made it a bank are discarded?

9 Dekalb counters

9 Dekalb

LPC determination: approved w/mods


Item 8
183418- Block 41, lot 1-
70 Pine Street – Individual Landmark and Interior Landmark

An Art Deco style skyscraper designed by Clinton and Russell, and Holton and George and built in 1932, with an Art Deco style lobby. Application is to establish a Master Plan governing the future installation of signage.

HDC found the blade signage excessive. The street grid is tight, and the streets are narrow in Lower Manhattan, diminishing the need for so many signs. Also, with shops in the bottom of this skyscraper, the building itself is an advertisement. Finally, clunky signs on the corners of Art Deco masterpieces are not encouraged, neither are poking holes into the limestone to hold them up.

70 Pine

LPC determination: NO ACTION


Item 9
182967- Block 717, lot 46-
404 West 20th Street – Chelsea Historic District

A Federal era rowhouse building with Greek Revival style alterations built in 1829-30. Application is to construct additions and excavate the rear yard.

When reviewing this application, we had to wonder: does this applicant even like old houses? That said, there are a number of issues which puzzled us as to why this house was purchased, as it is being destroyed.
This is the oldest house in the Chelsea Historic District. This late Federal house has a rare feature, which is an alleyway with original clapboard from 1830, leaving a space between the house and the CPH Gilbert flats building next door. This “non-compliant side yard”, as it has been billed, has been here for 186 years, and there is nothing more innappropriate than filling in a rare feature with a brick wall, as it is proposed.
This house has been around long enough to be updated in both the Italianate and Greek Revival styles, all working with the house itself. Thus, the structure is preserved in its original Federal envelope, complete with its pitched roof. This current intervention in this house’s life will preserve nothing—the entire rear and roof are being blown out. The rear of this block is clearly visible through the block from two vantage points, and all of the houses in this row are currently flush with one another. This enormous addition and its glass will be visible from everywhere, and will successfully destroy the rhythm and proportions of the block, while its early 19th century fabric is discarded. Once again, a Federal house is too small for the desired square footage of its owner, and HDC hopes that these desires do not trump the oldest house in the district.

404 W 20 existing

404 W 20 proposed

404 W 20 rear

LPC determination: NO ACTION


Item 13
171554- Block 829, lot 22-
1165 Broadway – Madison Square North Historic District

A Beaux-Arts style store and office building designed by Maynicke & Franke and built in 1906-07. Application is to install storefront and entrance infill, install lighting and replace windows.

HDC asks that the storefront configuration be consistent—we noticed the presence of bulkheads on Broadway, but there was a patch missing on 27th Street. Overall this is an improvement, but we ask for a better treatment of the entrance lobby in a more historic, less glassy configuration. The standard, all glass doors should especially be reconsidered.

1165 Bway existing

1165 Bway proposed

LPC determination: approved


Item 12
183419- Block 1335, lot 5-
320 East 43rd Street – Individual Landmark and Interior Landmark

A Modern style office building designed by Eero Saarinen Associates, later Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo Associates, and built in 1963-67. Application is to modify hardscape and planting areas at the garden; install a barrier-free access lift; install security cameras and A/V equipment; modify existing windows and doors; and install new doors.

In so many cases under review, HDC and the Commission laments the loss of original features of a landmark. We see elements like doors, cornices, and storefronts recreated as best as possible from grainy photographs, and often, we can only speculate on how something may have looked.
At the Ford Foundation, time has been kind. With the exception of the plantings, this space has remained intact since its 1967 completion. It is with that in mind that we stress that the retention of original features must be paramount. An approval today can easily be a regret a generation from now.  The original bronze doors which are not ADA compliant: is there a way to make them power operated instead of merely throwing them away? Has every option been explored to try and save them?
The planters are an original design feature and designated as part of the interior landmark. These objects were inserted above grade almost as a foreshadowing to the garden enclosure that is just steps beyond them and were meant to be permanent, which is why they are anchored into the floor. Their removal is unjustified, as they are currently ADA compliant.
The interplay of the outside with the inside is a hallmark of Modernist design, and the Ford Foundation’s atrium, as a twist, brings the outside to the inside with its indoor landscaped vegetation. Luring the passerby inside, the tiled pavers used on the interior of the building continue through the curtain wall onto 42nd Street, melding together pedestrian and garden. If one follows the tiles and approaches the glass façade, the interior garden is revealed, with plantings abutting the majority of the 42nd Street façade. This important feature will be eliminated in this proposal, replacing the plantings along the glass with paving. This pathway is an inappropriate intervention to an interior landmark, and an accessible design should incorporate existing pathways instead of inserting one at the focal point of interaction between the street and the garden.
It can be a challenge to update an historic design to modern accessibility standards, but we are certain that this skillful team is up to it. The alternative, and what is proposed, risks losing the deliberate and protected sense of place.

Ford existing

Ford proposed

LPC determination: approved w/mods
 Item 13
180251- Block 1322, lot 18-
241 East 48th Street – Turtle Bay Gardens Historic District

A rowhouse built in 1860-61 and redesigned by Clarence Dean in 1920-23. Application is to replace windows and construct rooftop and rear yard additions.

Regarding the rooftop addition, it should not be visible from the street or up the block. This rowhouse terminates with a pediment, an unusual feature, and this form should read clean against the sky. Perhaps a flat roof would work better. In the rear, the Committee found the fenestration inconsistent with the historic district itself. While the glass at the garden level is appropriate, the parlor level should retain its punched openings and thick cheek walls. This aesthetic is more palatable for the interior block, which does share a common garden area for which this district was designated.

turle facade proposed

turtle rear proposed

LPC determination: approved w/mods


Item 16
174541- Block 1218, lot 36-
570-572 Columbus Avenue – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District

A Renaissance Revival style apartment building with Romanesque style elements designed by Jacob H. Valentine and built in 1893-1894.  Application is to install storefront infill.

As the original storefront is long gone, this space could easily be perceived as a blank slate, which is what HDC initially thought. Upon closer examination, it is clear that there are many historic elements that exist here, which should be preserved. On the 88th Street façade, there are rounded arched window surrounds above blind windows as well as rough-cut ashlar, surmounted by a terra-cotta dentilled cornice, and we are glad to know that these features will remain.  On Columbus Avenue, there is a Moderne recessed entry, complete with black paneling, mosaic step and curved glass. A creative and handsome storefront awaits, and we implore the Commission to ask for a re-design which incorporates these noted features.

columbus curved

columbus proposed

LPC determination: approved w/mods


Item 17
176929- Block 1493, lot 69-
1009 Fifth Avenue – Individual Landmark

A Beaux-Arts style mansion designed by Welch, Smith & Provot and built in 1899-1901. Application is to alter the areaway.

HDC applauds the retention of the moat, a significant architectural feature once commonplace, which has become rare.  The Committee recalled two other landmarked buildings with moats, the Dakota and Evelyn (101 West 78th Street), which have survived with their cast-iron railings unadulterated. We ask that a more elegant solution be found here for the railing treatment, or even better, if it can be left alone completely. 

1009 5th Ave

LPC determination: approved w/mods


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