HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on October 9, 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 1

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


A neo-Classical style school building designed by Helmle & Corbett and built in c. 1921 and an Early Christian Revival style church building designed by Frank J. Helmle and built in 1915-1916. Application is to construct rooftop and side additions, install a ramp, and alter the primary façade of the school building.

HDC is pleased that the Commission included this school building within the Crown Heights North II Historic District, as opposed to carving it out or relegating it to a “no style.” It is a distinctive building, clearly designed to harmonize with the church, and its inclusion as a landmark allows the public and the Commission to comment and guide its adaptive reuse, which is a wonderful opportunity.

Overall, the proposed enlargement is of the same vocabulary of the host building and the design is successful. HDC is pleased that this project will result in sorely needed restorative work for this century old building as well. The issues are with the bulk, specifically with the height. The top floor of the proposed addition should be eliminated, and efforts should be made to ease the transition of height between the rowhouse scale to the west and the tall new construction which fills in the lot. The rowhouses adjacent to the site are only two stories high, and the stark change in height immediately next to them is uncomfortable, and should be mediated better.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 2

236 Fifth Avenue – Madison Square North Historic District


A Beaux Arts-style loft building designed by Buchman & Fox and built in 1906-1907. Application is to install a painted wall mural.

This is a beautiful composition which pays homage to the Tenderloin District and is art for art’s sake—no advertising. It is clear that the artist researched and thoughtfully incorporated historic references into a contemporary work, and the parasol-adorned woman herself is a nod to Fifth Avenue of yesteryear. HDC is curious about the name on the artwork, however, which reads “Nomad.” Nomad is actually a distinct area north of the Madison Square North Historic District, best known to the Commission as the blocks that advocates have unsuccessfully submitted for landmarking. Coincidentally, Hatfield House, a Beaux-Arts beauty by the same architect as this building, is imminently threatened with demolition in Nomad as we speak. HDC does not wish to critique the artist’s work, only to comment on the technicality of the neighborhood name, which people in New York have been known to be sensitive about.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 4

91 Central Park West – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District


A neo-Renaissance style apartment building with Beaux Arts style elements designed by Schwartz & Gross and built in 1928-29. Application is to amend Certificate of Appropriateness 19-09891 to replace windows.

This application should be denied. The adjustments to the glazing already approved for a Certificate of Appropriateness was an extremely fair compromise that preserved the artwork glazing while also allowing transparency with clear glass. These windows appear original, and were designed to be harmonious with each other and for the space. These windows are historic works of art that are an elegant and masterful termination of the building–they should not be discarded. The most distasteful part of this application is that they are proposed to be removed to help facilitate a future sale of this Central Park West penthouse. HDC is of the mind that it is extremely possible that a future buyer will actually adore these historic features, and choose to live here in part because of them. This proposal takes something extraordinary and relegates it to the banal–and for no one–as this unit is vacant. Divided lights do not obstruct views of the park–ask any of the steel-windowed neighboring buildings of this same era that line the park. Finally, the best view of the park from this apartment is undoubtedly outside, from its wrap-around balcony, which offers a private panoramic experience.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

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The Historic Districts Council (HDC) is the advocate for all of New York City's historic neighborhoods. HDC is the only organization in New York that works directly with people who care about our city's historic neighborhoods and buildings. We represent a constituency of over 500 local community organizations.

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