September 27, 2011

Item 3
117865 – Block 20, lot 6-
25 Jay Street – DUMBO Historic District
A Renaissance Revival style factory building designed by Flemer & Koehler and built in 1892. Application is to construct a rooftop additions and replace windows.









In general, appropriate rooftop additions to landmarked structures are as minimally visible as possible, do not change the overall massing of a building, and are balanced in their design between relating to the existing structure and not looking like an original piece.  HDC finds that this application breaks all those rules with a brand new, faux-historic sixth floor as well as a 2-story rooftop addition of corrugated metal placed prominently right at the building’s corner.

While the context boards make certain to compare 25 Jay Street to the large building across John Street, 25 fits comfortably within the small scale of its block.  No floor has been removed in the past, so there is none to rebuild.  The only thing this Renaissance Revival style factory building is missing is its cornice, and reinstalling one here could make constructing a one-story rooftop addition more palatable.  As the proposal stands now, though, with three additional floors, it is not appropriate.  Other applicants have worked with neighborhood advocates in this historic district to create additions that allow for adaptive reuse while maintaining the history of the building.  HDC asks that the same be done here.

LPC determination:  closed, no action


Item 11
118691- Block 136, lot 7-
46 Warren Street – TriBeCa South Historic District Extension
An Italianate style store and loft building designed by Samuel Warner and built in c.1854. Application is to construct an elevator bulkhead.









While elevator bulkheads and similar rooftop accretions are part of the roofscapes of the TriBeCa historic districts, one that is as front and center over the primary façade as the proposed is not appropriate.  An elevator shaft exists now in the front left bay, presumably for a hydraulic elevator.  At only five stories, 46 Warren Street does not require a particularly fast elevator and could continue to use a model that would fit in the existing space without a bulkhead or at least a lower one.  Another option would be to relocate the elevator to the rear of the building where a bulkhead would not be so overwhelmingly visible.  HDC asks that these options be explored instead.

LPC determination:  closed, approved


Item 16
122157- Block 572, lot 3-
406 6th Avenue – Greenwich Village Historic District
A building originally built as a rowhouse in 1839, and altered in 1896 and 1902 with the addition of a sheetmetal façade with Classical Revival style details. Application is to install signage.








HDC finds the proposed signage to be unnecessary and inappropriate for this location.  The Bigelow pharmacy sign, an historic sign on a different building and a different block, should not be considered as a relevant example or precedent.  The 7-foot-9-inch high signage proposed is too large and would obscure Classical Revival detailing on this very intact sheetmetal façade.  Combined with 2-foot tall horizontal signage stretching 13 feet across the façade as well as window graphics, it is all too much.  The proposed lighting which includes six gooseneck lamps and internally illuminating the vertical sign is also excessive on an already well-lit block.  HDC feels the signage, lighting and over all corporate tone must be toned down before this application could be considered appropriate.

LPC determination:  closed, no action


Item 18
123760- Block 1287, lot 69-
2-4 East 52nd Street – The Morton and Nellie Plant House, Individual Landmark
An Italianate style townhouse designed by Robert W. Gibson and built in 1905. Application is to modify storefront infill and construct a rooftop addition.

Historic alterations are increasingly respected and protected in our city’s landmarks.   Probably one of the most notable, although not blatantly noticeable, alterations from residential to commercial is here at 52nd Street and Fifth Avenue.  In 1917 Nellie Plant sold the townhouse built for her and her husband a dozen years earlier to Cartier, legend has it for a double strand of matched, graduated Oriental pearls said to be worth more than $1,000,000.  At that time, the firm changed the base to create a storefront that included four bays on the Fifth Avenue façade and a bracketed store cornice which supported a balcony above.  In the almost hundred years since, while awnings have come and gone (and we are happy to see the glass and steel canopy on 52nd Street go) and doors have swapped locations with windows, the basic layout and design of this commercial base has not changed.  The 1970 designation report points out that, “The wedding of architectural dignity with merchandising elegance was meritoriously achieved in stylistically good taste and character.”

The intrusion of a new door at the center of the Fifth Avenue façade seems like an uninvited guest at this wedding of dignity and elegance, and its inclusion in the base like a last minute squeeze of that guest into a well-planned, well-established seating arrangement.  The door removes the central pier, creating a large opening (with an overly long awning) where two once stood.  This in turn creates a disjuncture between the the storefront bays and the rhythm of the flat arches and console brackets.  The removal of historic fabric and the very noticeable change in an historic design that has served well for nearly a century purely for the changing whims of an interior space seems rather drastic.  While the door has been moved in the past, it has always remained in the 1917 openings.  What will happen to this empty spot when the door is moved again in the future?  In his statement favoring the designation of the building, then President of Cartier Michael Thomas proudly called the building “a subtle reminder in this era of glass and bronze, of the heritage of luxurious mansions, often overlooked on Fifth Avenue today . . . the Cartier store has been and will continue to be a unique example of dignified modern commercial use, without significant exterior alteration…”  HDC asks that the proposed exterior alteration not be permitted.

LPC determination:  closed, approved

Item 21
116843- Block 1196, lot 35-
227 Central Park West – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District
A Renaissance Revival style flats building with neo-Grec and Queen Anne style elements designed by Thom & Wilson and built in 1888-89. Application is to legalize telecom antennas installed in non-compliance with Miscellaneous Amendment 04-2838 and install additions antennas.

The existing telecom antennas do certainly stand out on the prominent cornice of this corner Renaissance Revival style flats building.  The addition of more would only exacerbate the problem.  Seeing as such equipment is becoming more common (in fact, there are two other similar proposals at today’s Public Hearing), it is important to understand how they work and how they can be modified to cause as little intrusion as possible.  The main issue seems to be placement, and HDC is interested to know whether these fixtures must be placed so prominently, so close to the edge of the roof.  It is rather difficult as there are two different ideas about lines of sight here – for the applicant, it is a good thing, while for the LPC, it is something to be avoided.  It sounds  as if this building has its fill of these antennas, and another site for the others should be explored.

LPC determination:  closed, denied


Item 22
122790- Block 1227, lot 36-
416 Amsterdam Avenue – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District
A Renaissance Revival style tenement building designed by Charles See, and built in 1895. Application is to install new storefront infill and signage.







HDC finds this application for new storefront infill and signage another case of a proposal that is not terribly inappropriate, but certainly not historic.  While the tax photo is not particularly clear on the corner storefront, the storefronts to the left do provide some details such as transoms and bulkheads and a consistent signband is also visible, all elements that should be considered.  It also looks as if the corner may be open as it is now, a feature that would be nice retain as it gives the base of this building a little more character.

410-416 Amsterdam Avenue were designed by Charles See and constructed together in 1895 as a set.  They look very much like one building with their continuing cornice, and, depending on ownership issues, a storefront master plan that would help unify the base would be ideal.  If a master plan is not possible, this storefront should be thought as of a guide for future storefronts on this group, and it should reflect historic conditions.

LPC determination:  closed, no action


Item 24
114731- Block 1505, lot 33-
75 East 93rd Street – (former) George F. Baker House, Individual Landmark, Carnegie Hill Historic District
A modified Federal style residence designed by Delano & Aldrich and built in 1917-18. Application is to install telecom antennas.








While the equipment is much smaller than what we just saw at 227 Central Park West, the placement is more readily visible here on the second floor of the Park Avenue and East 93rd Street façades.  Again, placement is an issue.  Can these antennas be moved to the roof, perhaps behind or on the balustrade, or directly atop the water table so that the projecting stone can partially conceal it?  As such equipment becomes more prevalent, it is incumbent on corporations to find creative solutions to placement in historic districts and on individual landmarks., and not on the LPC to lower the bar for appropriateness.

LPC determination:  closed, denied


Item 26
114803- Block 1831, lot 33-
1912 7th Avenue – First Corinthian Baptist Church/former Regent Theater, Individual Landmark
A Renaissance Revival style theater building designed by Thomas W. Lamb and built in 1912-1913. Application is to install telecom antennas.

The Historic Districts Council is the advocate for New York City’s designated historic districts and neighborhoods meriting preservation. Its Public Review Committee monitors proposed changes within historic districts and changes to individual landmarks and has reviewed the application now before the Commission.

Of the three proposals for telecom antennas we have seen today, HDC finds this last one to be the most sensitive.  The antennas painted dark to blend in with the bulkhead behind them are a good idea.  Again, if they can be placed further back on this large, relatively empty roof, that would be ideal.  Placing other antennas within the cross is an admirable attempt to conceal equipment, but the fattened proportions do not totally work and we dare to suggest that maybe the cross should be made a bit taller on the top to balance it out.

LPC determination:  closed,denied


Public Meeting Item 1
115039- Block 42, lot 11-
231 Front Street – Vinegar Hill Historic District
An Early 20th century Commercial style factory building designed by William B. Tubby, and built in 1908. Application is to alter the façade, rebuild entrance stairs, and install a canopy.








William B. Tubby, an Iowa native who graduated from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, designed numerous landmarked institutional buildings such as the DeKalb Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, the 83rd Precinct Police Station and Stable, and Pratt Institute, as well as impressive homes in historic districts like Clinton Hill, Cobble Hill, and Park Slope.  It is a pleasant surprise to see this architect’s hand in a factory building here at 231 Front Street.

HDC objects to the alterations proposed for the former Benjamin Moore & Company building as they are based on nothing having to do with historic appropriateness.

The historic steel sash windows match the windows above and create a continuity between the base and the upper floors.  The proposed alterations would call for their removal as well as over a dozen courses of brick below them, a loss of too much historic fabric that would harm the overall design of the landmarked structure.  The proposed brick facing on the stairs has more of a residential feel than an industrial one, and it appears from the tax photo that the stairs were open on the side.  We also question the appropriateness of a canopy.  The proposed would stretch across nearly the entire façade and require ten attachments, further dividing the base from the rest of the building.  If there are no historic images or physical evidence that indicate such a canopy was once here, a better option would be individual, small canopies over each entrance or none at all.

LPC determination:  closed, no action



Designation Reports:
Neighborhood Preservation Center:
Landmarks Preservation Commission:

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