HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on August 7, 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.

Public Meeting Item

Item 2

381 West End Avenue – West End Collegiate Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1920490

A Flemish Renaissance Revival Style rowhouse designed by Frederick White and built in 1885-1886. Application is to construct a rooftop addition and replace windows.

HDC is thrilled to see a sensitive façade restoration on this building, especially the return of the multi-storied bay. These improvements will redefine this corner and make an attractive dwelling an exceptional one. While the rooftop addition is sensitively done in terms of LPC requirements and is quite demure, we have pause about covenants that were included at the completion of construction of these buildings which prohibited rooftop accretions.


Public Hearing Items

Item 1

41-49 47th Street – Sunnyside Gardens Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1915258

A brick rowhouse with Colonial Revival style details designed by Clarence Stein, Henry Wright and Frederick Ackerman and built in 1924. Application is to construct a new brick stoop and install paving at the areaway and to legalize the replacement of the entrance hood.

HDC has some concerns about this application. While it appears that the larger porch is being removed or at least reduced, which is a positive alteration, HDC is deeply concerned about the proposal to install new paving in the areaway. A significant feature of Sunnyside Gardens is the prevalence of garden space, including front-facing gardens. Paved areas, regardless of the design of the paving, should be the exceptions in this neighborhood and historic district.

With regard to the entrance hood, the original hood had a character much more in keeping with the building’s other spare decorative elements. While this hood is typical of many of New York City’s rowhouse districts, its ubiquity should not be substituted for license, especially – considering its durability – it will become a permanent feature of the building and might lead to an unfortunate precedent for future applications in the historic district.


Item 2

175-12 Murdock Avenue – Addisleigh Park Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1918923

A Medieval Revival style house designed by G. English and built in 1928-29. Application is to legalize a masonry wall constructed without Landmarks Preservation Commission Permit(s); and install light fixtures, gates, and pavers.

According to the presentation, there seems to be rash of new, perhaps illegal, street walls being constructed within this historic district. This is quite unfortunate as photos taken during the designation process and even on Google street views show a neighborhood where the majority of homes are delineated by soft hedge plantings rather than hard masonry or chain-link fences. Concern about the proliferation of fences was voiced during the community discussions about designation ten years ago and it is sad that the negative implications which caused those concerns are now becoming evident. Good fences may make good neighbors, but imposing fences sunder communities and create clutches of fortresses lining a street. The wall being proposed to be legalized imposes a barrier to the block and the gate proposed to be installed is several steps too far. We should be grateful the water feature is being proposed to be restored and not transformed into a moat. We strongly recommend that the LPC instruct the applicant to investigate another solution to their desire for a wall which doesn’t insert itself so aggressively.

Additionally, the design and color of the proposed pavers are not appropriate to the site or the property and should be reexamined. In truth, the entire scheme could greatly benefit from a consultation with a qualified landscape architect.


Item 7

123 Rutland Road – Prospect-Lefferts Gardens Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1926234

A rowhouse designed by Benjamin Driesler and built in 1911. Application is to replace a deck, modify masonry openings, and install HVAC units at the roof

This house and the block it occupies are completely intact and HDC has pause about the amount of glass proposed for a small masonry house. The proposed intervention tries to make a brick house appear to be a modern glass box—which it’s not. The desire for more glass could be achieved by combining the existing masonry openings on the ground floor and reincorporating the segmental arch element. HDC asks that staff work with the applicant to determine another solution which will not aggressively alter the rear facade.


Item 8

83-85 Worth Street – TriBeCa East Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1927732

An Italianate style store and loft building built in 1859-60. Application is to construct rooftop additions, alter the rear façade and install a canopy.

It is correct to uncover the cast-iron columns and pilasters at the base of this building, but folly to not restore the Corinthian capitals. The 1885 photo provided in the application displays a detail of how these elements originally appeared and they absolutely should be re-created, despite being missing elsewhere on the block.

HDC found the treatment of the rear facade to be touched quite heavily, essentially eliminating a facade that has remained intact, including the presence of some fire shutters, since the building’s construction in 1859. The four upper floors of this facade especially are of a character of this building’s era, and HDC suggests leaving these floors intact and allowing more flexibility on the floors below them. The program should be further investigated to avoid destroying so much historic fabric in this area.

While there are other rooftop additions present on this block, the proposed 14 foot penthouse and 24 foot elevator bulkhead at this location are extremely visible because of the presence of a block-through public plaza which immediately faces the property. The mass should be scaled down and/or set back to minimize the visual impact this addition will have on the public realm.


Item 12

305-313 West 22nd Street – Chelsea Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1923929

Four French Second Empire style rowhouses built in 1873, altered and enlarged in 1985- 1986 with an addition and a penthouse enlargement designed by Weinberg, Kirshenbaum & Tambasco. Application is to replace windows.

The Historic Districts Council sees no valid reason contained within this application why these wooden windows could not be repaired or if determined irreparable, replaced in kind. If all these windows were replaced in 1986 –and not just the dormers, a point which is unclear from the written material – then a strong point could be made that wood has been proven to be a lasting material on this site. Could the same be said of the proposed aluminum replacements?


Item 15

101 West 123rd Street – Mount Morris Park Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1926570

A late Victorian Gothic Revival style church building designed by J.R. Thomas and built in 1885-1887, and altered in 1901. Application is to install signage.

HDC is pleased that the current sign will be removed and that the stone where it was mounted will be restored. While the new sign’s mounting will match the building’s stone, its design will not. The mounting appears quite sharp, almost resembling a shard. A softer execution should be explored, possibly in the Gothic style of the building, to rectify this.

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