HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on August 2, 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
368 Clinton Street – Cobble Hill Historic District
An Italianate style rowhouse built in 1843. Application is to modify the rear facade and rear extension, and install a deck.

Project architect: Frederick Tang Architecture

This applicant has proposed sensitive alterations to the rear, but looking to the future, when the next owner may proposed a rear extension, we ask that the top row of windows be preserved with their punched openings. Perhaps this large window proposed for the top story could be moved to a lower floor. While the deck is not a concern, HDC found the choice of tilt/turn windows unusual and some simple double-hungs would be more appropriate.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications.

LPC approved, but, in unison with HDC will ensure that the top story’s punched windows will remain to preserve a highly uniform row.

368 Clinton exist368 Clinton proposed
Item 4
536 1st Street – Park Slope Historic District
A neo-Renaissance style rowhouse built in 1909.  Application is to construct a rear yard addition.

Project architect: Buro NY

HDC found this addition modest in scale and overall, not a concern. Regarding the glass on the existing extension, one minor comment is that we thought it might look better to retain some of the masonry envelope, even if it were some thin divisions between the panes of glass. 

LPC determination: Approved with modifications.

536 1st St proposed

536 1st St proposed
Item 6
576 Bergen Street – Prospect Heights Historic District
A neo-Grec style rowhouse designed by Benjamin Estes and built c. 1884. Application is to construct rooftop and rear yard additions, alter the areaway and install a railing.

Project architect: Studio a+i

Since this row is comprised of only 2 story homes, any addition is going to impact the rear yards of these neighbors. To that end, HDC asks that the visual impact of this extension be reduced by selecting a sympathetic material to better harmonize with its surroundings. The cement fiber clashes in color and composition, especially when set within large expanses of glass. Punched openings and brick would make for a better extension.  

LPC determination: Approved with modifications.

Neighbors were incensed at what is the first rooftop and rear yard additions to their block since historic district designation. In the end, staff will work to lower the rooftop so that it is not visible.

576 Bergen exist

576 Bergen proposed
Item 8
334 West 20th Street – Chelsea Historic District
A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1836. Application is to construct a bulkhead, rooftop and rear yard additions, and excavate the rear yard.

Project architect: Andre Tchelistcheff

Just a week after Chelsea’s oldest house was allowed to be destroyed and its Federal envelope zipped open, here is a speculative proposal to obliterate its Greek Revival counterpart. The LPC designation report describes this as “an excellent example of the first houses built in Chelsea. The 25-foot width shows to advantage the impressive character of the Greek Revival style.”  25 feet unfortunately was evidently not enough, as there is so much bulk proposed for this house we wonder why there wasn’t an addition proposed for the front, as well. In fact, if Commissioners look carefully, the cornice will be raised to accommodate the bulk. Ruining the proportions of the façade to accommodate bulk is the essence of inappropriate. Simply put: accretions to this 1836 property should work for the house, the house shouldn’t work for the additions. Regarding the rest of the home, the historic roof line will be decimated, and so will any historic fabric, including window openings and four stories of 180 year old brick on the rear façade.

If LPC had to rewrite designation reports now for these buildings that are irreversibly altered with preserved facades, would they still be included as excellent examples of buildings of their respective eras? Would we be able to learn from these buildings about how they were put together, with their distinct rooflines, unusual brick bonds, and methods of construction, or would we have to learn these things from a book? The best way to understand the history of our city is to physically encounter it. This proposal destroys that history and robs New York of something precious and irreplaceable.

LPC determination: No Action.

Neighbors came out in droves to protest yet another ancient Chelsea home fallen victim to tasteless aggrandization. The Chair stated that the enlargement was “overwhelming this building and its age…it’s delicate.” The Commission also wished to see the restorative elements checked with staff. So, LPC took no action and this project will come back. If 404 West 20th’s approval is any indication of what to expect to be appropriate by the Commission, we expect the additions to be scaled down but still effectually destroying the house.

334 W 20 historic

334 W 20 proposed facade334 W 20 proposed

Item 14
1150 Fifth Avenue – Carnegie Hill Extension Historic District
A neo-Georgian style brick apartment building designed by J.E.R. Carpenter and built in 1923-24. Application is to construct a rooftop addition.

Project architect: no name on drawings

This J.E.R. Carpenter apartment building already has a 2-story penthouse on top of it, and HDC understands  that the building is currently built to its zoning capacity and will need a special permit to allow more bulk. Even if this wasn’t the case, this addition is clumsy and EIFS does not have a reputation for being a quality, long-lasting material. The proposed addition doesn’t match the uniform roofline, and hovers over it. For all of the consideration and design that goes in to most penthouse additions in this part of town, this bulk falls short in terms of appropriateness, visibility and quality of architecture. 

Project architect: no name listed

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

LPC has asked the applicant to change the material from EIFS to brick.

1150 Park proposed penthouse1150 Park proposed

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