November 9, 2010

LPC Docket Number: 108132
Queens, Block: 1475, Lot: 59
37-37 87th Street – Jackson Heights Historic District

An Anglo-American Garden Home style attached house, designed by C.F. McAvoy and built in 1924. Application is to legalize alterations to the areaway fence and wall without LPC permits.

HDC Testimony
The commission has seen applications for legalizing work on this block a number of times in recent years.  HDC asks that you remain consistent with those other rulings and not approve the overly tall fence and wall and instead guide the Garden Home style house back to its origins with a low retaining wall, hedges and greenery.

LPC Determination: Approved with modifications

LPC Docket Number: 112264
Brooklyn, Block: 38, Lot: 1
55 Washington Street – DUMBO Historic District

An Industrial neo-Classical style factory building designed by William Higginson and built in 1908. Application is to install storefront infill.


HDC Testimony
Often when storefront infill is proposed, it is in an existing opening and usually where there has been a storefront of some sort.  On this piece of 55 Washington Street though, no such openings exist and the proposal calls for the removal of a significant amount of historic fabric leaving this important corner of the building without much of a base. The glass should not extend all the way to the ground – these bays were not loading or garage bays.  In addition, the “typical storefronts” used as examples are recent additions put in just before designation.  HDC asks that a design that retains more of the historic fabric and with details that reference the building’s historic conditions, such as the three over three divisions of the windows seen in the tax photo, be explored.

LPC Determination: Approved with modifications

LPC Docket Number: 110551
Manhattan, Block: 485, Lot: 16
120 Spring Street – SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District

A dwelling built in 1825 and altered in the 1920’s. Application is to legalize the installation of signage and alterations to the façade without LPC permits.

HDC Testimony
HDC urges the commission not to approve the legalization of this signband and gooseneck lighting installed without LPC permits as they cover over important detailing that was part of the 1920’s alteration.   Signage in the window, in addition to the lively window displays of Evolution, and possibly a bracket sign rather than the banner would create appropriate and adequate signage.

LPC Determination: Approved with modifications

LPC Docket Number: 112987
Manhattan, Block: 583, Lot: 6
430 Hudson Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

A vernacular Greek Revival style house built in 1847. Application is to alter the storefront, construct rooftop and rear yard additions, and perform excavation.

430 Hudson.jpeg

HDC Testimony
In general, HDC finds that the proposed work on the storefront is appropiate, and we would only ask that the brackets, a feature called out in the designation report, be returned.  The design of the rear addition, which maintains a very reasonable proportion of glazing to masonry, is also acceptable, but we find that its size is far too much.  To remain in keeping with the commission’s usual approvals, the addition should not extend full height and the top floor of this 1847 rowhouse should remain intact.  Similarly, the rooftop addition should be pulled back from the original wall and not hang over it like a claw.  The historic character of 430 Hudson Street is being retained on the front façade, and HDC asks that reminders of its historic massing be retained at the back.

LPC Determination: Incomplete

LPC Docket Number: 111001
Manhattan, Block: 590, Lot: 42
23 Cornelia Street – Greenwich Village Extension II Historic District

A utilitarian style stable building built in 1912. Application is to construct a rooftop addition and reconstruct the rear façade.


HDC Testimony
HDC sees little point in this proposal for a rooftop addition, but finds that the resulting hanging garden would be a rather grandiose addition to this small stable building.  This is not similar to the pergolas on top of large apartment buildings that are often applied for and approved by this commission.  In addition to their usually simple, fairly reversible, and proportionatley small scale, those pergolas were often historically found on similar apartment buildings.  In this case a very large, heavy addition is proposed on a small stable building, a building which would have never known a pergola.

We also find that the peaked roof-like shapes bear no realtion to the structure or its history.  They are rather reminiscent of the 1976 “Ghost Structure” Robert Venturi designed at the former site of Benjamin Franklin’s house in Philadelphia.  In that case, not knowing any details beyond the original building’s size and not wishing to create a false sense of history, Venturi created a steel outline of a house around the archaeological site.  This proposal seems to do quite the opposite, adding new, significant details that hint at some sort of history that never was.

LPC Determination: Incomplete

LPC Docket Number: 113143
Manhattan, Block: 645, Lot: 25
837-843 Washington Street – Gansevoort Market Historic District

A Moderne style market building designed by David M. Oltarch and built in 1938. Application is to alter the facades and construct a seven-story addition.


HDC Testimony
Although small, this building has a history that distinctly reflects its time and place in the history of the Gansevoort Market.  As described in the designation report, the “largely intact” building was built during the “last major phase of development in the district, when new low-scale buildings were constructed…for meat-related businesses.”  The low scale redevelopment of the 1930’s was brought on by the construction of the elevated Miller Highway, elevated freight lines of the New York Central Rail Road, and the Holland Tunnel, all of which allowed for easier access between the area and the metropolitan region that it served.  The designation report goes on to point out that such buildings are rare, late examples of the older market building typology constructed at a time when automobiles and super markets were quickly changing the look of grocery shopping throughout the nation.  There are very specific reasons, related to the distinct history of this district, for why this building is low scale.  The proposed alterations would change this landmarked building, its place in history and its relationship to other structures in the district.

The storefronts are certainly better than the proposal the commission saw in 2008, but we still feel more could be done to enhance the historic qualities of the 1938 structure.  The meat hooks and their conveyor belt could remain (this the Meat Market, after all), and some more solidity should be retained to preserve the sense of what was once a refridgerated building.  Also, the windows on the second floor could easily be replaced with a hopper configuration that was on this building into the 1990s.

Much like the 2008 proposal that the commission did not find appropriate, the proposed addition of seven stories is completely wrong for this building thanks to the sheer size and a design that recalls the Standard Hotel but nothing in the historic district.  The existing landmarked building is once again merely playing base to a grandiose, out of context structure, and that is not the role of a contributing building in an historic district.

LPC Determination: Incomplete

LPC Docket Number: 113303
Manhattan, Block: 1257, Lot: 1
476 Fifth Avenue – The New York Public Library, Individual Landmark and Interior Landmark

A Beaux-Arts style library building designed by Carrere & Hastings and built in 1898-1911. Application is to install banners.

HDC Testimony
HDC finds that the two proposed banners on the blank piers are an improvement over the existing trio of banners which close off the impressive arches of the library’s entry.  We ask though that steps be taken to ensure that in the future there are not five banners.  Please write into the Certificate of Appropriateness that the two new banners are allowed only with the removal of the existing fixtures for those in the arches.

Finally, over the last two years LPC has seen applications for the carving of five signs into structure and a major lighting plan in addition to these banners.  HDC is curious to know if anything more is being planned in the near future.  These small accretions add up and should be viewed as a whole project so that their sum total can be fully considered.

LPC Determination: Approved

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