HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on May 8, 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 – 2599

BOROUGH OF BROOKLYN

PROPOSED BOERUM HILL HISTORIC DISTRICT EXTENSION

HDC wholeheartedly supports the designation of the proposed Boerum Hill Historic District Extension. The proposed district would take in a number of historic blocks that are equally representative of the neighborhood’s character as those in the Boerum Hill Historic District, designated in 1973, and we thank and applaud the Commission for bringing this extension forward. The inclusion of the former Cuyler Presbyterian Church at 360 Pacific Street is especially welcome. While the building was converted to residential use in the 1980s, from the 1930s to the 1950s, the church was an important gathering place for the Mohawk Native Americans who began settling in this part of Brooklyn in the 1920s to work in the construction of New York’s steel-frame skyscrapers. It is believed that the presence of the headquarters of the Brooklyn Local 361 of the Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Ironworkers’ Union at 542 Atlantic Avenue was the reason for their settlement here. The forward-thinking church welcomed this new community with open arms, offering services in the Iroquois language and holding cultural events for this significant sector of the parish. The church stands as an important reminder of the Mohawks’ tenure in and mark on the neighborhood, especially since two other touchstones of the community face questionable fates. The former union headquarters at 542 Atlantic Avenue, subsequently a U. S. Post Office that closed in 2017, has been dogged with rumors of demolition for years, while Hank’s Saloon at 46 3rd Avenue, a popular Mohawk hangout, is slated to close later this year and redevelopment is planned for the site.

HDC is also thrilled to see the inclusion of properties along Atlantic Avenue between Hoyt and Nevins Streets, whose Victorian-era storefronts are the jewel in the crown, so to speak, on this bustling thoroughfare. In 2014, HDC selected Atlantic Avenue as one of its Six to Celebrate to raise awareness of the street’s historic significance and intact architectural character, particularly along the stretch being heard today. As we stated in our self-guided walking tour brochure of Atlantic Avenue, “while there are many intact Victorian-era storefronts on Atlantic Avenue, the blocks between Hoyt and Nevins Streets contain a particularly dense concentration.” These storefronts likely date to just after the Civil War, when the development of plate glass made large storefront windows possible, so they stand as important reminders of Atlantic Avenue’s early history as a bustling shopping district. The buildings’ intact storefronts remain a draw for visitors today, as evidenced by the steady stream of patrons walking the Avenue on any given weekend. While we would be even more delighted to see the inclusion of the north side of Atlantic Avenue between Bond and Nevins Streets, especially numbers 403 and 413-415 – two charming churches designed in the Gothic Revival and Romanesque Revival styles, respectively – we are pleased to see so many of the Avenue’s 19th century commercial structures included in this proposal. Another fine example is number 368 Atlantic Avenue, with its distinctive Moorish Revival façade dating to 1917. This building has long been deserving of landmark status, and we are hopeful that this will finally come to pass with this designation.

 


Item 2

565A Carlton Avenue – Prospect Heights Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1917675

An Italianate style rowhouse built c. 1869-1880. Application is to construct rear yard and rooftop additions.

HDC is opposed to a rooftop addition that would interrupt the continuity of this otherwise pristine and unbroken roofline. Because it is visible from multiple vantage points, we find that it would be an unfortunate and distracting incursion into the block. We would also suggest that the rooftop addition be set back from the rear façade, where, as presented, it looms over the façade and draws undue attention to itself from within the block’s interior donut.

 

Item 7

950 Park Avenue – Park Avenue Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1919188

A Renaissance Revival style apartment building designed by J.E.R. Carpenter and built in 1919-20. Application is to replace windows.

This building is a prime example of the legacy of J.E.R. Carpenter, one of the premier apartment house designers in New York City. HDC finds it unfortunate that the building was treated poorly prior to designation and finds the proposed window installation to be a continuation of this insensitivity to this building. We would encourage the Commission to use this opportunity to suggest a window master plan to return the windows to their original configuration, which was noted in the designation report as containing both 10-over-10 and eight-over-eight double-hung sashes.

 

Item 8

1065 Park Avenue – Park Avenue Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1913316

A Modern style apartment building designed by Stephen C. Lyras and built in 1969-73. Application is to establish a master plan governing the future installation of windows.

HDC appreciates that this building will adopt a window master plan to regularize the façades of this very large building. However, we find the proposed master plan to be problematic in a number of ways. First of all, eliminating all divisions will take away from the building’s visual texture. Secondly, the increased width of the window frames will appear clunky on this otherwise modern, sleek style building. Lastly, we question the practicality and danger of the tilt-and-turn operation for such large windows. Not only will they be an obstruction when opening inward, but they also pose a safety threat in the maintenance and cleaning of them.

 

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