HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on June 21, 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 2
185199- Block 1907, lot 139-
108 West 123rd Street – Mount Morris Park Extension Historic District

A vacant lot. Application is to construct a new building.

HDC found the circulation which reads on the exterior too pronounced. This slab, especially next to an open lot, does something to the streetscape which is not inviting, and seems especially tall. HDC understands that there are several examples of new construction in this immediate vicinity built prior to designation, but a new building here should aim for cohesion and scale, even less foreign materials, to complement the district.

108 W 123

108 W 123 alt

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 4
186335- Block 819, lot 26-
21 West 17th Street and 16 West 18th Street – Ladies’ Mile Historic District

A mid-20th century Commercial style converted dwelling built in 1850, and modified by Irving Kay in 1949, and altered in 1999; and a Utilitarian style converted stable built in 1867, and altered in 1910. Application is to demolish the existing buildings and to construct a new building.

HDC would like to thank the applicants for making a courteous, special presentation to our organization and stakeholders. In general, we found the proposed new construction appealing and of quality materials. While sound arguments were presented for justification of demolishing these buildings, the resounding argument here is that these buildings were chosen by your Commission to be included in the historic district.  Even more, this Commission did not find it appropriate to demolish 16 West 18th Street in 2005 because of its contributing and irreplaceable fabric to this district.  We are not arguing that these buildings are the highest or best examples of architecture, but their scale is represented by only 16 other buildings in the district.

There is a large swath of unprotected fabric not far in the Madison Square North area, which, after the community there was denied landmark status, is full of potential development sites that could produce such a building as the one proposed. In general, there has been an increasing, predatory trend in historic districts citywide to identify low scale buildings and reinterpret their significance, which is not the best preservation practice.  In conclusion, in our role as New York’s only citywide advocate for historic neighborhoods, we cannot support this application.

Ladies Mile existing

Ladies Mile proposed

LPC determination: Approved


Item 5
186334- Block 819, lot 56-
23-27 West 17th Street – Ladies’ Mile Historic District

A neo-Renaissance style store and loft building designed by George H. Anderson and built in 1906. Application is to install storefront infill and signage.

Overall, this is a vast improvement, as a storefront enhances the street much more than sheet metal. That said, HDC found the artwork proposed to be kitschy, and this storefront would succeed similarly if treated in frosted glass or some other obscured treatment.

23-27 W 17 St existing

23-27 W 17 St mural

LPC determination: Approved
Item 7
186476- Block 96, lot 1-
11 Fulton Street – South Street Seaport Historic District

A contemporary market building designed by Benjamin Thompson and Associates and built in 1983. Application is to amend Commission Binding Report 16-3334 for the installation of signage.

The advent of big box retail is on full display in the plans for signage, which is inappropriate in the South Street Seaport. The ancient street grid in this location negates the need to see signage from so far away, as this district, and much of the city, operates quite well from a pedestrian level. We urge the LPC to implore the applicant to think outside of the big box, and reduce the scale of this signage.

11 Fulton

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 10
185468- Block 214, lot 12-
11 Hubert Street – TriBeCa West Historic District

A garage designed by Dietrich Wortmann and built in 1946, with a two-story addition built in 1989-90. Application is to alter the facades and construct additions.

While HDC found the proposed scale to be appropriate, four stories of glass applied to the corner is not contextual with a mostly masonry streetscape. The 1989-90 alterations seem to work well here, almost appearing Bauhaus with its strips of ribbon windows and glass block. HDC suggests working from this regularized design to enlarge this building, as opposed to adding many different sized openings on this facade, which gives it an appearance of a block of Swiss cheese.

11 Hubert existing11 Hubert proposed

LPC determination: Approved


Item 13
185336- Block 616, lot 32-
11-19 Jane Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

A garage building constructed in 1921. Application is to demolish the existing building and construct a new building.

HDC does not support the demolition of this low-rise garage in the Greenwich Village Historic District. The garage fits seamlessly into this block, offering texture and scale, and lending a history to the automobile, which was a new feature on New York’s streets at the time of its completion. What was only 40 years old at time of designation is now nearly a century old, and worthy of preservation. What’s more, this building is remarkably intact. With only three percent of the entire city landmarked, HDC finds it appalling that low scale buildings like this one are proposed for demolition, despite their landmark status. The building proposed for this site is the antithesis of what Greenwich Village looks and feels like, and the fact that an historic building would be lost to make way for it makes it even worse.  

11-15 Jane existing11-15 Jane proposed

LPC determination: No action

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