HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on March 6, 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.

Designation Testimony

Item 1

LP – 2598

BOROUGH OF BROOKLYN

THE DIME SAVINGS BANK OF WILLIAMSBURGH, 209 Havemeyer Street

In a neighborhood sorely lacking in landmark designations and which has experienced rapid change – even by New York City standards – the recognition and protection of the Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburgh would be a welcome action. The neo-Classical structure already reads as a local landmark, with its robust temple front, Indiana limestone façades and intact decorative elements. It is remarkable that this building has managed to remain standing in spite of massive redevelopment aided by the city’s rezoning of this neighborhood, and we are glad to see that achievement institutionalized through the safeguarding of its future. HDC is happy to endorse the landmark designation of the Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburgh.


Item 2

LP – 2608

BOROUGH OF BROOKLYN

MAURICE T. LEWIS HOUSE, 5501 4th Avenue

The Historic Districts Council is astonished with the swift action the LPC took to calendar this building only two weeks ago. We are elated to be able to testify on this property today, which we identified in 2013 in our Six to Celebrate brochure of Sunset Park. The community group we worked with that year, the Sunset Park Landmarks Committee, is also here today and we thank them for closely monitoring their neighborhood and discovering the imminent threat to this mansion, and we thank the Commission for acting so fast to prevent destruction. There are many changes occurring in southern Brooklyn, and we greatly look forward to Sunset Park being designated as an official New York City historic district, it cannot come soon enough. In this vein, we urge the Commission to look to neighboring areas of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, both of which have called on the LPC this past year for protection of their historic resources.

Dr. Maurice Lewis graduated from Long Island College Hospital in 1892 and practiced medicine for forty years. Later in his life, he became the president of the Bay Ridge Savings Bank. Under his leadership, at least two, limestone bank branches were constructed in Brooklyn. Not by coincidence, an imposing, neo-classical branch was erected at the end of his block at 54th and 5th Avenues. Today, Dr. Lewis’s legacy continues to bookend 54th Street with the presence of these prominent and stately buildings at each corner. With such wealth, it is no surprise that Dr. Lewis erected the only mansion in this neighborhood, which is otherwise characterized by rowhouses and tenements. This Renaissance Revival brick mansion with a rusticated limestone base was designed by Harde & Short, a prestigious firm that was also responsible for many grand apartment houses, including the fanciful, terra-cotta-adorned Alwyn Court on Seventh Avenue and West 58th Street in Manhattan. The building survives intact, and we are thrilled that this corner of the neighborhood will survive.

We hope that this designation preserves and safeguards this corner and stately mansion, as opposed to being swallowed by out of scale development which is occurring to the individually landmarked 68th Precinct and stable at 43rd Street in Sunset Park.


Certificate of Appropriateness Testimony

Item 3

150 Remsen Street – Brooklyn Heights Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1918419

An apartment house designed by Oscar Silvertone and built in 1936. Application is to alter the areaway and install a barrier-free access lift.

HDC finds this access lift to be a very significant alteration and visual obstruction to the façade and streetscape. We would ask that the applicant consider a free standing rail without a cement wall and explore other solutions for ADA access, such as the possible installation of a LU/LA type lift to one side of the stairwell. Our committee would also like to point out that there’s seems to be enough frontage for a ramp.

LPC determination: NO ACTION


Item 5

35 South Portland Avenue – Fort Greene Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1918911

An Italianate style rowhouse built in c. 1867. Application is to replace windows and enlarge window openings.

The new interior program of this house is driving the fenestration changes on the rear, resulting in a clumsy composition. The most problematic element of this rear façade is the second story, where two window openings have been expanded. These two windows have zero relationship with neither the punched openings above them, nor the expanse of glass and a bay window below them. This façade lacks a visual coherence and should be reconfigured.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 6

208-212 Decatur Street – Bedford Stuyvesant/Expanded Stuyvesant Heights Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #191191

A flats building with a store designed by Alfred S. Beasley and built c. 1897. Application is to reconstruct the garage, raise the parapets, and install a curb cut.

Overall, HDC finds this approach to be an improvement to the existing garage but suggest that the applicant add more architectural interest to the design. In the proposal, the applicant shows a number of other garages in the vicinity which have attractive features which benefit the streetscape. HDC suggests the applicant take cues from garages at 300 and 329 Stuyvesant Street, which they included in their packet. HDC believes small changes would further finesse this proposal, such as the addition of folding doors, the inclusion of a cornice or adding corbelling.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 8

137 West 13th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1919946

An altered Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1845. Application is to construct rear yard and rooftop additions, excavate the rear yard, and replace the windows and door.

This rear yard extension should be composed in brick, which would be far more attractive than what is currently proposed. Limestone is an inappropriate material for a Greek Revival rowhouse in Greenwich Village.

LPC determination: Approved


Item 10

230 Thompson Street – South Village Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1919020

A Renaissance Revival style tenement building with a commercial ground floor designed by Sass & Smallheiser and built in 1903. Application is to replace storefront infill.

230 Thompson Street was built as a pair with number 234, and both are visible in the tax photo. Unfortunately, much of the storefront of the subject building is obscured in the tax photo. HDC compared the tax photo of the storefront at 234 to what is there now, and it matches. Since these buildings are twins, HDC believes the best course of action for storefront infill at 230 is to match the historic storefront configuration which exists next door on its sister building. The proposed storefront, by comparison, appears clunky. If the applicant is unable to replicate the condition next door, it should at least follow its profiles and proportions.

LPC determination: Approved


Item 12

1141 Park Avenue – Carnegie Hill Extension Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1920173

A neo-Grec style flats building designed by John Sullivan and built in 1884-85. Application is to construct a rooftop addition and elevator bulkhead, replace windows, and relocate and alter ground floor entrances.

Prior to 1872, Fourth Avenue was dominated by locomotives, which eclipsed residential development uptown. 1141 Park is one of a handful of surviving buildings resulting from the 1872 Fourth Avenue Improvement Scheme, which buried the New York Central Railroad tracks beneath the avenue and therefore spurred real estate development in the form of rowhouses, tenements and flats. This pre-Park Avenue survivor was, indeed, a flats building, and the applicant is trying to convert a multiple dwelling into a townhouse. A key clue of this building’s former identity as a flats building is the presence of its entry on Park Avenue. HDC strongly discourages the removal of the door on Park Avenue and erasing history. It instead should be retained it as a vestige of this building’s former life.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 14

100 West 119th Street – Mount Morris Park Extension Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1915230

A Beaux Arts style apartment building built c. 1900. Application is to establish a master plan governing the future installation of windows.

There is evidence that the corner of this building had curved glass windows originally. Since this is a master plan, HDC strongly encourages the restoration of this feature so that moving forward; this building will achieve its original corner prominence. One of the benefits of landmarking is that incrementally, lost features return to buildings which did not survive completely intact. The Normandie has recovered its cornice, which was missing in the 1980 photograph, and these windows are a final element which will restore the building’s grandeur.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 15

633 West 155th Street – West 156th Street – Audubon Terrace Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1920023

A plaza within a complex of neo-Renaissance style buildings designed by William Mitchell Kendall and built in 1921. Application is to modify a stair and balustrades and install planters and seating at the terrace.

The formal symmetry of this plaza was established prior to the construction of Church of Our Lady of Esperanza. After the church was built, the stairway became partially obstructed by the façade of the church. Despite this sightline, the stairway’s location in the upper plaza bisects and is in relation to this space. If this stairway is moved to correct the appearance of the lower plaza, it will jeopardize the symmetry of the upper plaza. As this plaza was designed prior to the construction of the church, HDC strongly advises to keep the stairs where they are and therefore preserve the intended, formal experience of entering the upper plaza. More traditional design and materials should be explored in terms of the bench. Other Beaux Arts campuses, like Columbia University, could be explored to see how the treatment of benches in these types of spaces works best.

LPC determination: Approved

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