HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on July 10, 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 3

233 Dean Street – Boerum Hill Historic District 


A modified Italianate style rowhouse built in 1852-1853. Application is to construct a rear yard addition.

While the proposed bulk of the rear addition seems acceptable, the expansive quantity of glass is alien to its context. Breaking up the glass with more texture, such as French doors, would be preferable.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications (top floor windows to remain one-over-one, rather than two-over-two).


Item 4

586 Bergen Street – Prospect Heights Historic District 


A Queen Anne style rowhouse designed by William Wirth and built in 1886. Application is to construct rooftop and rear yard additions, install solar canopies and railings at the roof and rear façade, legalize windows installed without Landmarks Preservation Commission Permit(s), modify window openings at the rear façade, and modify the front areaway.

While HDC does not object to the work at the areaway, front façade, rooftop addition or the bulk of the rear yard addition, the collective impact of so many solar panels seems to overwhelm the rear of this small building. The rooftop railing disrupts the rear roofline of the row, while the canopy looms very heavily above the second floor. We ask that a more elegant way of collecting solar power be investigated here.

LPC determination: No Action


Item 5

626 Vanderbilt Avenue – Prospect Heights Historic District 


A Renaissance Revival style flats building with a commercial ground floor designed by Henry Pohlman and built c. 1902. Application is to replace storefront infill, and reclad an existing awning.

HDC asks that the proposed be modified to respond better to its context. The proposed white color of the storefront is glaring, the curved window is without precedent here, and the proposed cladding of the awning draws too much attention to itself, especially on the vertical extension. Ideally, a more muted color would be chosen for the storefront, the window would follow the configuration of others on Vanderbilt Avenue, and the vertical portion of the sign band would be brought down slightly to align with its neighbors and remain in the existing dark color.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications (striped canvas cladding at box sign will be omitted and painted a solid color; work with staff on color palette of the storefront and box awning).


Item 8

Brooklyn Bridge – Individual Landmark 


A suspension bridge designed by John A. and Washington Roebling and built in 1867-83. Application is to modify infill at the arched masonry openings.

Restoring the infill of the Brooklyn Bridge’s arched masonry openings is a commendable and worthwhile endeavor, and HDC thanks the NYC DOT for undertaking this work. We do have several suggestions concerning the choice of materials for this project, however. While we do not take issue with returning the shutters, or with the use of metal for the shutters and doors, we do question the choice of stainless steel, which seems too modern to be contextual. We would also suggest that the shutters be operable, even if kept in a fixed position. Concerning the brick, we would point out that the color and finish of the brick is extremely important to get just right, and would suggest that the LPC staff be consulted to ensure that the brick is a soft mud brick with some texture to it that matches the original utilitarian brick found here, rather than an extruded modern brick.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications (work with staff to colorize/paint the stainless steel fixtures; work with staff to ensure the brick matches the existing brick to be removed; work with staff to ensure that existing brick in good condition can be reused or stored; work with staff to ensure that most restorative and reversible methods are used in restoration of windows, doors and hardware, and that louvers will include muntins that sit proud so there’s a differentiation and shadow detailing).


Item 10

119-121 2nd Avenue – East Village/Lower East Side Historic District 


An empty lot, formerly occupied by two Queen Anne style tenement buildings built in 1886, and destroyed in an 2015 explosion. Application is to construct a new building.

HDC’s Public Review Committee found that, with a few tweaks, this proposed new building could fit in quite well in the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District. Its traditional design, with punched openings and a cornice, is an appropriate approach that is unfortunately undermined by the expansive corner windows, which are extremely out of place. We would strongly recommend solid masonry corners at the junction of the two facades; this is not an Art Deco style building, and borrowing that style’s language here is somewhat discordant. The projecting window surrounds lend a modern touch to the traditional punched openings, but we would suggest that they be made of limestone instead of cast stone, which is proven to age poorly when used in this way. The effort with the brickwork throughout the building is commendable, but we would ask for a warmer color scheme for the overall cladding of the building.

No Action.


Item 12

2080 Broadway – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District 


A modern style commercial building designed by Arthur Weiser and built in 1938. Application is to replace the parapet.

Considering the low height and prominent location of this building, close attention to detail should be required for this project. The removal of the large aluminum sign band to expose the terra-cotta panels is an improvement, but the applicant should restore those panels in terra cotta, rather than resetting the existing material and replacing the rest with fiberglass. In addition to fiberglass being inappropriate at eye level, the mix of materials will result in a varied aging process that will look messy before long. Additionally, the proposal calls for reusing the egg and dart cornice only “where possible,” but where it is not possible to reuse it, those sections should be recreated in the original material, as well.

LPC determination: Approved.


Item 13

224 East 125th Street – NYPL, 125th Street Branch – Individual Landmark 


A Renaissance Revival style library building designed by McKim, Mead & White and built in 1903-04. Application is to modify the existing ramp, replace windows, and install a rooftop bulkhead and mechanical equipment.

HDC wishes to applaud the restorative nature of the proposed work for this fine NYPL branch on 125th Street, which is well deserving of such an effort. The ramp and replacement windows, as well as the restoration of the ground floor windows to their original configuration, all work together to honor this building’s original condition and contribution to the streetscape.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications (dark bronze finish of the windows doesn’t match, use lighter finish to better relate to the Renaissance Revival style of the building; incorporate the stairs better into the existing granite).

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