HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on October 2, 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.

PUBLIC MEETING ITEM (Written testimony only)


60 Norfolk Street – Beth Hamerdash Hagodol Synagogue – Individual Landmark


A modified Gothic Revival style synagogue built in 1850 and altered in 1885. Application is to demolish more portions of the building and integrate the remaining structure into a new modern style apartment building.

HDC urges the Commission to object to the further modifications of what remains of the synagogue. In summer 2017, the applicant desired to demolish the entire building out right. At the public hearing for its demolition application, Commissioners were unanimously firm in their instructions to the applicant to salvage as much as possible of this building to the extent of safety. The parts of the building that could be saved, were. Now, the applicant wishes to deliberately demolish portions of the building that they were instructed to retain, a request which should be unequivocally denied.

LPC stipulated at the public hearing that any finished surfaces and architectural detail that could be salvaged should remain. Some stabilized sections retain significant details, including a portion of one tower with an arched window with molding and tracery, and a formal entry staircase. As proposed, each of these significant remaining features would be demolished by the applicant.

This proposal serves a future building for this site, not the existing one. The applicant should work around the existing structure instead of treating it like an impediment. Despite this building’s sad past, it remains an individual landmark and is an important building, designated early in the Commission’s life in 1967.

In existing conditions, the building’s walls and footprint are legible and communicate its former life. HDC implores the LPC to require the applicant to maintain what remains and deny any further destruction to this edifice.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Certificate of Appropriateness Items

Item 1

283 St. Paul’s Avenue – Stapleton Heights Historic District


A neo-Colonial style free-standing house designed by Charles B. Heweker and built in 1913 Application is to legalize the demolition of a garage and modifications to bay windowswithout Landmarks Preservation Commission permits.

This is a handsome building in the Stapleton Heights historic district, and while we are not concerned about the loss of the garage, the modifications to the windows are unfortunate and should not be legalized.

LPC determination: Approved

Items 2 & 3

34-12 36th Street –Paramount Studios, Building No. 1- Individual Landmark


A modified Classical style movie studio building designed by the Fleischman Construction Company and built in 1919-21. Application is to establish a Master Plan governing seasonal installations.

Application is to legalize the installation of awnings, lighting, fencing, and an outdoor bar without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

HDC finds the proposal to be an appealing means of activating the porte-cochere, and we are pleased that most of the interventions are confined to a utilitarian corner. We do object to the fence around the building’s historic main entrance as detrimental to the character of this individual landmark. We believe planters would serve the applicant’s purposes while retaining some of the open welcoming character of the entrance to this historic studio building.

LPC determination: Laid over

Item 4

119 Hudson Street – TriBeCa West Historic District


A Romanesque Revival style warehouse building designed by Thomas R. Jackson and built in 1888-89. Application is to install signage.

If these discreet little signs are the future of designer flagship advertising, it is a terrific direction to move in. These sleek signs allow the flourished cast-iron to sing, and the studies regarding historic precedents for signage on columns was particularly interesting and well done.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 5

12-14 Minetta Street – South Village Historic District


A Greek Revival style townhouse with alterations built c. 1847-8. Application is to legalize replacement of windows without permit(s), and to install a window security grille and stoop gates.

HDC understands the emergency of a broken window in a City like New York. However, the Landmarks Commission has provisions for temporary solutions under these circumstances until the problem is addressed. The illegal window appears to be custom-manufactured for this opening, which is a lot of effort for work without permits. Had the applicant contacted LPC at the beginning of the issue, time and money could have been saved. All of that being said, the extruded aluminum window’s muntins are much too thick. This large window is a prominent feature of the building and the security grille proposed on top of it further clutters the facade. The security grille and gate should be eliminated from the proposal, and the window would fare much better if its profiles were correct and it was made of rolled steel.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 8

483 Broadway – SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District


A Classical style store and loft building designed by Robert Mook and built in 1869-70. Application is to modify the storefront entrance and install signage.

HDC applauds the choice to remove the transom, which re-exposes the Corinthian cast-iron columns back to the surface of the façade. The corporate branding, however, is a bit overkill. The TJ-Maxx logo appears six times within the storefront, and efforts should be made to minimize this signage. Additionally, we question the color choice on the new storefront doors; the proposed dark color is at ungainly odds with the light palette of the restored storefront.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 13

485-487 Tompkins Avenue – Bedford Stuyvesant/Expanded Stuyvesant Heights Historic District


A two-story utilitarian commercial building built in 1949-1950. Application is to demolish the existing building and construct a new building.

The proposed new building attempts to evoke the two 1888 buildings that were combined and altered to create the existing utilitarian structure, but falls short. The bifurcated façade we find to be dishonest, and believe it should read clearly as a single unified façade. Its halfhearted historicism is undercut by the lack of an entrance, or anything recalling an entrance, on the northernmost “façade.” HDC also finds the two-story penthouse excessive and out of scale.

Though the secondary façade may be concealed at some point by new construction on the adjacent lot, it will be highly visible in the immediate future, and we would like to see a considered design and better materials applied to it.

Though the existing building is identified as utilitarian, it has been part of the community for over half a century as an active storefront. It is a solid building whose honest, austere design could be incorporated into something new.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 14

949 St. John’s Place – Crown Heights North Historic District


A Renaissance Revival style rowhouse designed by Federick Hine and built c. 1909. Application is to demolish a bay window and construct a rear yard addition.

Though the presentation material demonstrates the deteriorated condition of the bay, it is made of wood and sheet metal and can be fairly easily restored.

We note that in the aerial photographs provided by the applicant, there are five undisturbed rear bays and five undisturbed rear els, and this project would mar this intact pattern on the block’s interior.

HDC recommends that if the bay cannot be retained and an extension is approved for construction at this site, that the bay window be reconstructed and retained within the new façade.

LPC determination: Approved



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