HDC@LPC – Testimony for Public Hearing on December 12, 2017

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.

At tomorrow’s hearing, the LPC will vote to put four (4) potential Individual Landmarks, one (1) Interior Landmark and one (1) Historic District on its calendar for designation consideration. These are listed below.

  • 22 East 29th Street – Hotel Seville (now the James New York) – Individual Landmark
  • 95 Madison Avenue – The Emmet Building – Individual Landmark
  • 215 East 71st Street – National Society of Colonial Dames in New York State Headquarters – Individual and Interior Landmark
  • 163 East 111th Street – 1st Spanish United Methodist Church (aka People’s Church) – Individual Landmark
  • Central Harlem West 130-132nd Street Historic District – Historic District

Item 4

257 Washington Street – Clinton Hill Historic District


A neo-Gothic style church building designed by J.W. Walter and built in 1894, with an attached Gothic and Romanesque style Parish House and School building built in 1924. Application is to replace windows and doors, alter the facades and roofs, construct rooftop and rear yard additions, and perform excavation.

Application architect: ROART

While HDC appreciates the adaptive reuse of this church, we do have a few reservations about the proposed approach. The insertion of skylights in the roof is a reasonable solution for getting daylight into the building, but the reconfigured windows on the north and south sides of the building, especially those located directly adjacent to the existing arched windows, would be a visual affront to both the façades and the existing, beautiful stained-glass windows. A revised plan that resolves this clumsy window issue and retains more of the historic stained glass throughout would be a more respectful approach for a building that has served an important role in this community for over a century.


Item 6

89 South Street – South Street Seaport Historic District


A modern pier and retail structure approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2014 and revised in 2015. Application is to establish a master plan governing the future installation of seasonal structures.

Applicant: Howard Hughes Corp.

At the 2012 hearing to decide the fate of Benjamin Thompson’s Pier 17 building, many of the LPC Commissioners expressed discomfort with approving the building’s demolition, but repeatedly referenced “the trade off” of allowing demolition in exchange for additional public space and views of the Brooklyn Bridge. In fact, the proposed building was not approved at its first hearing in part because the Commissioners wanted to see more public access and view corridors. In 2015, the developers came back with a proposed rooftop pergola spanning almost the entire length of the building, and the Commission again discussed the concept of preserving view corridors, deciding that it was not within their mandate to do so. This is frustrating considering that the view corridors were very much a part of the discussion that led to the demolition of the former Pier 17. Regardless, the developer was turned back due to the pergola’s overwhelming height, and here we are today with a new proposal for a different rooftop scheme, this time with a bit more information: the rooftop structure is meant to provide shelter for a rooftop performance venue.

HDC has several issues with this proposal. First, while its design is more interesting than the 2015 iteration, the proposed rooftop structure is still very bulky for what is already a very bulky building jutting into the East River. Given that it is still open on the sides and, thus, does not actually provide shelter to an audience, we question the need for it at all. Second, as presented, the structure looks as if it will obscure the views that people will be on the roof to enjoy. The applicant has provided ample pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge in their presentation. Will rooftop revelers even be able to see the bridge through this mutated honeycomb? Third, while there is a precedent for rooftop gardens in the city, a rooftop performance venue is a stretch, especially in the context of the historic South Street Seaport. A massive stage would look alien here. Finally, our committee also has little faith that this very large structure will in fact be seasonal and temporary. Our suspicions seem to be confirmed by the fact that the application does not include plans showing how the structure would be removed. We urge the Commission to consider this proposal as a permanent change to the building and yet another incursion into the historic South Street Seaport Historic District.


Item 7

349 West 22nd Street – Chelsea Historic District


A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1841. Application is to construct a rear yard addition and to paint windows, and install a door.

Our committee questions the proposed approach of uniformly painting the windows, lintels and sills black. First, efforts should be made to differentiate the lintels and sills from the windows themselves. Perhaps the applicant could investigate matching these features to the door surround instead of to the windows themselves. Second, the choice of black for the windows would represent a departure from the traditional color scheme found on Greek Revival style townhouses. We encourage the applicant to work with the LPC staff to find a more appropriate, lighter color scheme, such as cream or white, for the windows.

Application architect:Jon David Libasci/Kopels Studio


Item 9

100 West 72nd Street – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District


A Renaissance Revival style store building designed by McKim, Mead & White and built in 1892-1893. Application is to legalize the replacement of windows installed without Landmarks Preservation Commission permits.

This handsome McKim, Mead & White building would be well-served by a master plan governing the installation of new windows. Our committee objects to the proposed sliding windows, especially considering the sufficient historic documentation that exists showing their original double-hung configuration. We hope the applicant will work with the LPC staff to create a master plan that prevents unfortunate, incremental installations and encourages the return of the double-hung windows, a beautiful piece of this building’s overall architectural ensemble.

Application architect: Kit Middleton Architect P.C.


Item 10

214 Riverside Drive – Riverside – West End Historic District


A Beaux-Arts style apartment building designed by Stein, Cohen & Roth and built in 1900-1902. Application is to replace windows.

Although at the time of designation the original one-over-one and two-over-two wood sash had been replaced by one-over-one aluminum sash, the applicant has an opportunity here to return this building’s windows to their original historic condition. We encourage the applicant to develop a master plan for the gradual replacement of windows that are historically accurate and appropriate.

Application architect: McAlpine Architecture PC


Item 11

828-850 Madison Avenue – Upper East Side Historic District


A neo-Renaissance style hotel building designed by George B. Pelham and built in 1925-26. Application is to modify the façade and install new storefronts.

HDC objects to the proposed enlarged window openings on the second floor, which would result in the unnecessary removal of historic limestone from this building’s base. The proposed windows disrupt the rhythm of the building and have no relationship to its original use as a hotel, as historically a residential floor like this would not have had windows this large.

Application architect: Beyer Blinder Belle

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