HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on January 9, 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

855-869 11th Avenue – IRT Powerhouse — Individual Landmark

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1919666

A Beaux-Arts style industrial building designed by McKim, Mead & White and built in 1904. Application is to establish a master plan governing the future installation of rooftop mechanical equipment and garage doors, and window, façade and stack modifications.

HDC is thrilled that the IRT Powerhouse is now a designated NYC Landmark, ensuring its survival in the wake of construction on the far West Side of Manhattan. Once the most monumental building in the area, it is now the only low-rise structure which inherently poses challenges for minimizing visibility of necessary future rooftop accretions. HDC is hopeful that the renderings presented of potential rooftop bulk displays a concept of last and worst-case scenario solution. Occupying an entire city block, we encourage that equipment be stored inside the enormous structure as a first option. When, and if, the time comes for substantial machinery to be located outside the structure, we ask that the Commission consider a 50-foot setback from 59th and 60th Streets, as opposed to the 20 feet as proposed. Finally, we ask that a provision be made in the master plan for the commission and staff to carefully work with the applicant on the details of the window details as they come forward.

LPC determination: Approved


 Item 2

520 Clinton Avenue – Saint Luke and St. Matthew Episcopal Church- Individual Landmark

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1919357

A Northern Italian Romanesque style church building designed by John Welch and built between 1888-1891. Application is to request that the Landmarks Preservation Commission issue a report to the City Planning Commission relating to an application for a Modification of Bulk pursuant to Section 74-711 of the Zoning Resolution.

HDC has serious reservations about the amount of bulk requested because the applicant has not yet contracted a firm to complete the restoration work presented in the application. We fear that the proposed scope of restoration and declared intentions could change as the project progresses or if the budget fluctuates. HDC would like to see a scope of work as clearly documented as 462 Broadway, another 74-711 which will be presented later this afternoon.

The applicant conducted thorough studies about deference to the church’s belfry to satisfy a harmonious relationship with the landmark site. The low-scale corner achieves this, but in scale only. The proposed building’s design echoes that of the Brutalist FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and appears severe in its context. The material choice of pre-cast concrete is not harmonious with the dominant earth materials of the church and the block, which are composed of sandstones and brick. While the material choice may have been an intentional, deliberate departure from the historic materials of its surroundings, the composition comes across as stark to a fault. With the new construction of Atlantic Yards on the horizon which was exempt from public design review, it is paramount that this building offer something back to the community in terms of aesthetics. As pre-cast concrete’s hue is synonymous with drab, HDC is not convinced that an inspiring aesthetic is achieved here.

LPC determination: NO ACTION


 Item 5

70 Franklin Street – TriBeCa East Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1912141

An Italianate style store and loft building built in 1860-61. Application is to alter the sidewalk and streetbad, and install bollards.

The applicant can create their desired new entrance without removing the historic arch, which is present in the 1940 tax photograph. While the arch is an anomaly, it has historic interest and this bay could either be converted into a window or simply left locked to prevent confusion as an entrance.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


 Item 6

11 East 51st Street – Individual Landmark

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1919495

An Italian Renaissance style rowhouse designed by John H. Duncan and built in 1904-06. Application is to construct rooftop and rear yard additions, and alter the façade.

While this is a substantial and visible rooftop addition, HDC agreed that the thicket of high-rise buildings of midtown aids to neutralize the portions that are visible from the public way. That being said, the water tank enclosure is especially bulky and this facility would fare better if it was simply left as a water tower, which is less imposing and more attractive than what is proposed.

LPC determination: Approved


Item 7
23-25 West 20th Street – Ladies’ Mile Historic DistrictCERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1916740

A 20th Century Utilitarian style parking garage designed by Matthew Del Gaudio and built in 1926-27. Application is to modify the ground floor façade, install storefront infill and signage, and replace windows.

HDC is pleased to see that this former garage building will have a new life as a commercial building, therefore storefronts are imperative. The storefronts’ austere design is in harmony with the simplicity of the building, however, HDC would like to see a design element retained on the façade. In the center bay is a simple panel designed in brick which is proposed to be removed and blown out with glazing and we suggest that this design element be preserved.

LPC determination: Approved


Item 8

220 East 42nd Street – Daily News Building — Individual and Interior Landmark

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1912293

An Art Deco style skyscraper designed by Raymond Hood and built in 1929-30. Application is to replace storefront infill and install signage.

The reason the proposed storefront seems so at odds with the building itself is because it deviates substantially from the instated storefront master plan. While the existing storefront is non-historic, it is compliant with the master plan and therefore harmonious. The Daily News Building is a design statement in and of itself and the proposed storefront appears sterile and alien within it. Some effort should be made to retain some element of a granite water table here, and a projecting sign band is inappropriate because the storefront entry is already recessed, negating the need for an overhang. This projection overpowers the decorative Art Deco banding immediately above it, and the signage should be flush with the façade.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


 Item 935 East 76th Street – Upper East Side Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1919674

An Art Deco style hotel building designed by Sylvan Bien and built in 1929-30. Application is to replace a greenhouse structure on a terrace.

HDC applauds this tasteful removal of a large greenhouse; its absence restores the perception of the building’s signature Art Deco massing. Several additions in the past year have been proposed for Art Deco landmarks, including One Wall Street, the AT&T building and Rockefeller Center. This application for removal of bulk demonstrates how impactful additions are to set backs on buildings of this style and why it’s a good idea to not allow them. Additionally, the new design of the retained greenhouse spaces is attractive and a welcome improvement.

LPC determination: Approved


 Item 13

462 Broadway – SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1917501

A French Renaissance Revival style store and loft building designed by John Correja and built in 1879-80. Application is to request that the Landmarks Preservation Commission issue a report to the City Planning Commission relating to a Modification of Use pursuant to Section 74-711 of the Zoning Resolution.

HDC supports the modification of use in exchange for what appears to be a well-documented, researched and thorough restoration of this building. This application is a fine example of how 74-711 conversions can benefit both the historic building and the enterprises within them, and in turn, the entire city.

LPC determination: Approved


Item 14

75 Washington Place – Greenwich Village Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1918058

A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1847. Application is to construct rooftop and rear yard additions, and excavate the cellar and rear yard.

This application proposes to add nearly identical bulk and alterations as completed to its twin neighbor at 73 Washington Place, which was approved with modifications by the Commission in 2015. During the public hearing for the neighbor, the Commission was ensured by both the LPC staff and the applicant that the rooftop bulk would not be visible from a public thoroughfare. Because the project has not been constructed yet, it is difficult to determine if this is actually true. Regarding no. 75, there will be substantial visibility, and we ask that the Commission be consistent and ensure that there will be no visibility here as well, as these are the only remaining intact Greek Revivals on the block.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


 

Item 17

827-831 Broadway – Individual Landmark

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1918646

A pair of Italianate style commercial palaces with neo-Grec style elements, designed by Griffith Thomas, and built in 1866-67. Application is to construct rooftop additions, and install storefronts and signage.

HDC thanks the Commission for the miraculous and swift designation of these two architecturally and culturally significant buildings which have been an attractive and familiar sight on Broadway for 150 years. Appropriate adjectives to describe the form include “glitzy” and “glittery” which HDC concurred is fundamentally at odds with the nature of the buildings, especially in relation to the cultural significance of the artists’ occupation of them.

Actually, during the time artists used these spaces the buildings were quite derelict, forgotten, and without basic utilities. For this reason we cannot philosophically bridge the divide from the bold glamour as proposed to the raw art that it is supposed to channel. The core issue here is that if the objective of the new construction’s design is to in some way communicate a past legacy of abstract expressionism, that connection is lost and unclear to the passerby in its current inception. HDC found this type of design unprecedented atop cast-iron buildings and likened its design to that of 10 Jay in DUMBO, or possibly non-designated new construction in the Meatpacking District. In conclusion, HDC is of the opinion that the design, while attractive, should be reconsidered for this particular location and be set back more from the street as well. Finally, it was wise to retain the storefront of no. 827 which, while not historic, is attractive and an asset to the Broadway streetscape.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

 


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