HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on July 24, 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 2

343 Canal Street – SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District


A neo-Grec/French Renaissance Revival style store and loft building designed by Isaac Duckworth and built in 1868. Application is to demolish a one-story rear addition.

HDC found this rear extension to be quite interesting, and we couldn’t determine ever seeing an architectural feature like this in applications in the past. Given the very unusual application of a vault light ceiling, we are inclined to believe that this addition is either original to the building or very much of the era. While HDC concedes that this room is in poor condition, and this space will not be visible after the new construction of an adjacent building is complete, it seems like a mistake to totally lose this very unique relic of historic fabric. As it is only one story, it could easily be shored and the steel beam can be replaced. If the contour of the ceiling is retained and the vault lights are restored, this could easily be one of the most beautiful spaces and the newest commodity in SoHo.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 3

351 Canal Street – SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District


A store building with neo-Grec style elements designed by W. H. Garylor and built in 1871-72. Application is to replace cast iron elements with fiberglass.

Given the extent of replacement capitals necessary, HDC is concerned about the large visual impact the faux ornament will have over time. Fiberglass is a far inferior material than cast-iron, and it will age differently and thermally from the rest of the building. Since the molds will have to be produced regardless, we very much hope that this façade can be restored in cast-iron. If not, the ornament should be left alone until it can be restored properly, rather than replacing this much of the façade with a faux material.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 4

653-655 Broadway – NoHo Historic District


Two Italianate style store buildings designed by Henry Fernbach and Griffith Thomas and built in 1882-83 and 1866-67 and later altered by Avinash K. Malhotra in 1979-81. Application is to replace storefront infill and install signage.

The arched banding which unifies all of the storefronts on this part of the block was likely conceived some time after the 1979 fire. Over 40 years later, HDC believes it is time and it would be optimal to re-expose the cast iron columns which framed these storefronts nicely. While the proposed infill does no harm, it is a missed opportunity to move in the right direction.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 6

159 Charles Street – Individual Landmark


A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1838. Application is to construct a rear-yard addition; modify masonry openings, lintels, and door surround; install rooftop mechanical equipment; and paint the front and rear facades.

This 1838 house is one of a handful of surviving houses from the early development of the western portion of Greenwich Village. Sitting mere feet from the Hudson River, this and one other building are the only extant 19th century structures on a street otherwise characterized by steel and glass. HDC found some of the proposed façade changes to lean toward fitting in with its contemporary context, as opposed to wearing a patina proudly. To that end, we would like to see the paneled lintels, which are present in the 1940s tax photograph, remain. While not original, they are historic, and are more authentic than the proposed recreation of faux brownstone. If the brick has not lost its fire skin and can be saved and remain unpainted, we strongly argue for this natural finish. The proposed paint colors for the façade and cornice, while attractive, are too cool for a 180 year old dwelling and are more suited for new construction. Overall, we find that the proposed interventions will clean this building a bit too much, and we urge the Commission to look carefully at which features stay or go.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 8

430 Broome Street – SoHo-Cast Iron Extension Historic District


A Queen Anne style store and factory building designed by Julius Kastner and built in 1894-95. Application is to legalize the construction of a rooftop addition built in non-compliance with Certificate of No Effect 18-5912.

It is unfortunate that this staff-level rooftop addition deviated not only by building larger than approved, but also strayed aesthetically from what LPC staff determined to be appropriate. The result is a poorer-designed façade and reprehensible land-grab. It is puzzling as to why a staff level permit was secured, which precluded a public hearing, only to ultimately attend a public hearing today for a violation. HDC believes that the Commission should enforce its permits, and that if what was originally approved was non-visible from the public way, then this should be, too.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 9

442 6th Avenue – Greenwich Village Historic District


A house built in 1834-35. Application is to legalize storefront infill and signage, installed in non-compliance with Certificate of Appropriateness 12-4488.

This storefront should be modified to follow the LPC-approved drawings. As built, the overlap of the sign band beyond the storefront glazing on West 10th Street appears sloppy. On 6th Avenue, the sign band spans the length of the entire façade, instead of allowing the brick of the building to frame it. These key corrections should be made, not legalized.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 11

880-888 Broadway – Ladies’ Mile Historic District


Item 12

34-38 East 19th Street – Ladies’ Mile Historic District


A Commercial Palace style store and warehouse building built in 1882 and designed by William Wheeler Smith. Application is to construct rooftop additions, alter the storefront, replace windows and doors, and install signage, lighting and a flagpole.

In its day, this building was named among the “best ten buildings in America” in the professional architectural realm, and it is known for its intricate decorative detail, including its floral cast-iron storefronts. HDC is pleased that the cornice will return to the ground floor storefronts along Broadway, and that the new entrance infill will utilize steel, a quality material. That said, the nature of this building is highly florid, and steel is a versatile medium, so we aren’t convinced that the stripped-down appearance of the new entrances is the best approach to settle on. HDC suggests working from historic documentation to inspire and determine a solution for this. Regarding the rooftop addition, the visibility should be eliminated from the corner of 19th and Broadway. This building’s piers run the length of the building and puncture the cornice line and creates a distinct silhouette, which the addition partially obscures.

LPC determination: Approved 

Item 13

9 West 16th Street – Individual Landmark


A Greek Revival style house, designed by Robert Kelly and built c. 1846 with later alterations. Application is to modify the penthouse.

There are four surviving bow-fronted Greek Revivals on this block, and only two have non-visible pentouse additions. These buildings were all designated individually because of the rare bow front feature from this particular era, and also as survivors of this neighborhood as an affluent enclave in the mid-19th century. While the neighbors of no. 9 have visible penthouses which sprout immediately out of the cornice, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these additions are successful or even attractive. HDC suggests preserving the recession of the current penthouse within its footprint, which will keep it minimally visible from the street, and instead reconfiguring the fenestration as proposed today. Gaining a mere three feet won’t give an interior a tremendous amount of space, but at the same time, this three feet will be consequential to the streetscape.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 16

309 West 85th Street – Riverside – West End Extension I Historic District


An altered Renaissance Revival style flats building designed by Neville & Bagge and built in 1901. Application is to legalize the installation of windows without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

Admittedly, time and human interventions have not been the kindest to this house. That doesn’t mean that unfortunate things should keep happening to it. The illegal aluminum windows do nothing to help this façade, and the restoration of their original openings with a higher quality window could be the first small step of work to bring this building back to its former glory.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 17

753 Madison Avenue – Upper East Side Historic District


An apartment building designed by Anthony M. Pavia and built in 1959. Application is to legalize work at the corner storefront in non-compliance with Certificate of Appropriateness 19-15330 and Miscellaneous/Amendment 19-17653.

HDC believes that the staff-level storefront design is far more successful than the legalization being proposed. With the glazed corner eliminated and details missing, this storefront now looks chaotic as opposed to clean. HDC strongly prefers that the applicant adhere to what LPC staff recommended, and that the Commission enforce its own permits so that we can all benefit from a well-designed storefront.

(as approved)

(as built)

LPC determination: NO ACTION

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