HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on April 5, 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
182959- Block 2475, lot 12-82-10 Queens Boulevard – Individual Landmark and Interior Landmark Historic District.A neo-Classical style club building designed by Ballinger Company and built in 1923-24. Application is to replace windows, install through-window air conditioners and signage.The designation report mentions some historic wooden casement windows which survive on this building, but it was unclear from the presentation where they exist and if this configuration is being replicated. An historic photograph would have been helpful, and we are also curious as to the method of AC placement, and whether it is random or there is a master plan.

 LPC determination: APPROVED

Item 5
181511- Block 1917, lot 30-
230 Washington Avenue – Clinton Hill Historic District


A French Second Empire style rowhouse built in 1872. Application is to construct a stair bulkhead, install rooftop railings and a cornice, construct a deck at the rear yard, and legalize the removal of a bluestone sidewalk without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

Providing a map of how little bluestone remains on this block is all the more reason to put it back. What was taken out illegally should be replaced in-kind: tinted concrete is quite a different thing. Despite that, HDC found the proposed work ameliorative on this house and especially welcomes the return of the lost cornice.

  LPC determination: APPROVED

 Item 8
165631- Block 1097, lot 34-
624 11th Street – Park Slope Historic District

An apartment house designed by Axel S. Hedman and built in 1912. Application is to legalize the installation of windows without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

Illegal windows make quite a statement, and these appear too clunky for the building. Park Slope has been a designated historic district for some time now, all one needs to do is look at the street signs, and it is unclear how or why this happened.

 LPC determination: DENIED


Item 11
165008- Block 181, lot 19-
175 Franklin Street – TriBeCa West Historic District

A Romanesque Revival style store and loft building designed by Martin V. B. Ferdon and built in 1889-90. Application is to legalize a rooftop bulkhead constructed in non-compliance with Certificate of No Effect 11-4477.

In an historic district, one foot can make all of the difference, and this improperly constructed bulkhead is perched right within the cornice, peeking above the building. HDC asks that any remediation be done here to fix this visible outcropping.

 LPC determination: APPROVED w/mods

Item 14
174465- Block 588, lot 3-
86 Bedford Street – Greenwich Village Historic District
A house and stable built in 1831 and altered in the 20th century. Application is to legalize alterations at the roof completed in non-compliance with Certificate of Appropriateness 08-8732.
HDC understands that what happened here at no. 86 is not visible from the street, but for the record and as a matter of principle, we have to condemn this illegal mutilation of an 1831 pitched roof. The shed is especially large, and it is astonishing at how far the design falls from the LPC approved version, which did not allow this expansion but rather had a punched window configuration, complete with a sill and lintel, as opposed to this selfish suburbanization of this Federal style house. It is clear from the deviation of what was approved that the applicant did not make a mistake reading the drawings, but rather decided to flaunt the law and build what we have before us today. Further, abiding by LPC regulation is not a new or uncommon part of life for property owners in the Greenwich Village Historic District, and this alteration is exactly the type of alteration that the Law can prevent.

 LPC determination: APPROVED

 Item 15
175791- Block 567, lot 16-
20 East 10th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

A Greek Revival style rowhouse with Italianate Renaissance style details built in 1846. Application is to alter the front stoop and areaway, construct rooftop and rear yard additions, and excavate the rear yard.

The stepped, paneled wingwalls flanking the stairs are survivals from the original Greek Revival configuration of this house, which means that they date to 1846. To rip out the only original feature of the house and replace it with a false interpretation of an historic design is a myopic choice and should not be approved. Whether or not it is contextual or looks nice, or it happened down the block are not relevant factors in justifying the discarding of an attractive original feature. The applicant should conduct some research and determine what the original ironwork looked like within these wingwalls, and put that back as well.

  LPC determination: APPROVED w/mods

Item 16
181733- Block 610, lot 75-
27 Christopher Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

A Georgian Revival style institutional building designed by Joseph Duke Harrison and built in 1911. Application is to replace entrance infill, install a flag pole, alter the rear façade, excavate the cellar, and construct a rooftop addition.

While HDC and the Commission regularly reviews institutional expansions, it is a difficult argument to pose that there is not enough room in this institutional building for a private residence. Everything on the roof should be eliminated, as the much-taller chimney problem is directly related to the large bulkhead being proposed. The appearance and preservation of Landmarks should not come at the price of the program of an interior, which in this case, there is ample space. Finally, while not visible, an excavation on a building of this size is supremely selfish, and HDC does not understand why it is necessary in old Greenwich Village.

  LPC determination: APPROVED w/mods

Item 17
181572- Block 540, lot 13-
128 MacDougal Street – South Village Historic District


A Queen Anne style tenement building built in 1893. Application is to install storefront infill.

Tragically, while the building on Second Avenue did not survive last year’s explosion, HDC warmly anticipates Pommes Frites’ reopening farther west in the neighborhood, and we wish you all the success in your new location. This ground floor is truly a blank slate, and HDC felt that a different approach to your brand could be tried here in terms of the storefront design. The neo-Tudored, half-timbering seems odd in such a little expanse, and maybe it is more appropriate and beneficial to engage in the high volume, pedestrian nature of MacDougal Street. In a rare design suggestion from HDC, this may be an ideal place to have an open, accordion door storefront.

 LPC determination: APPROVED

Item 19
180672- Block 1185, lot 88-
326 West 77th Street – West End Collegiate Historic District


A Renaissance Revival style rowhouse designed by Charles T. Mott and built in 1891-92, and altered in 1923. Application is to install a stoop, alter the areaway, construct rooftop and rear additions, and excavate the rear yard.

Mansard roofs should terminate as mansards, and this mass on top, including the glass railing behind the dormer windows, clashes with the building’s design. A small addition could have been hidden toward the rear of this roof, but this is not modest whatsoever.

 LPC determination: APPROVED

Item 23
180406- Block 1390, lot 12-
11-15 East 75th Street – Upper East Side Historic District


Two Queen Anne style rowhouses designed by William E. Mowbray and built in 1887-89; and one rowhouse originally built in the Queene Anne style in 1887-89 and redesigned in the neo-Federal style by Henry Polhemus in 1923. Application is to replace the front façade of 11 East 75th Street; and alter the areaway and rear facades, remove party walls, construct rooftop additions, excavate the cellar and create green walls in the rear yard at all three houses.

Combining three individual mansions into one is a whole new level of egregious consumption, and HDC can only hope that the owner will have a sensitivity to these homes and to this block commensurate with the amount of space that is being taken over here. To that end, it is absolutely inappropriate to destroy the façade of no. 11. It is not an alteration in any way, but rather, a demolition. There is more than a dollars and cents price tag when one purchases history, there is also the cost of intelligent stewardship and this proposal is anything but.

It is well established that 1920s neo-Federal and neo-Georgian alterations are a character-defining attributes of the Upper East Side’s townhouses, rather than mistakes that must be corrected. The applicant showed several examples of this building type throughout the neighborhood as justification to get rid of it, but we feel all of these examples are clear arguments that this style has a well established home within the district. With the party walls being ripped out, HDC wonders how this building will not read as a large shell from the street? In the past, LPC has assured that these multi-building conversions maintain an appearance of individual homes from the street, and we hope every effort is made here as well. Finally, the rear façades’ obliteration renders this project to facadism, at best.

 LPC determination: NO ACTION

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