September 6, 2011

Item 1
111328- Block 8023, lot 16-
330 Knollwood Avenue – Douglaston Historic District
A Colonial Revival style house built in 1941. Application is to construct a rear addition.








HDC finds the proposed addition to be far too large for this Douglaston home.  Instead of an addition, it feels more like another house stuck on to the back of an existing one.  In order to be an appropriately subservient addition, the new construction needs to give the 1941 home some breathing room.

As proposed, the addition is wider than the current house, stretching all the way across and over most of the rear of the garage.  Although the garage is attached, its present siting and height creates a very unobtrusive addition.  By subsuming the structure on the first floor and extending its roofline up to the second floor, the proposed turns the garage into a part of a much larger mass, rather than just something off to the side.  The addition should be pulled back on the sides to allow for the reading of the original house.

Although the addition is all on the back of the house, in a suburban neighborhood like Douglaston, it will be noticeable from different angles.  As proposed, the rear façade looks like the front façade of another house.  The complicated combination of gables and sloping roofs should be simplified and the rooflines dropped to expose the main home behind it.  The fenestration also feels oversized and unbalanced on the façade.  While some areas feature a blank wall of brick, others have an abundance of glazing.  The second floor windows seem neither to be comfortable in their placement under the gable nor in their relationship to the door and window openings below them.

Finally, while brick is a nice choice for the Douglaston Historic District and the Colonial Revival style, matching the material of the large addition with that on the original home creates the appearance of one massive brick house.  Besides making the new construction smaller and simpler, perhaps use of a different material, at least in part, should be considered to help differentiate the pieces and to create an addition, not a new house.

LPC determination:  no action


Item 10
123234- Block 149, lot 7-
87 Chambers Street – TriBeCa South Historic District
A construction site. Application is to amend C of A 12-1562 for the construction of a new building to include installing a curb cut for a garage and modifying the design of the storefront infill.








HDC first off would like to thank the commission for bringing this proposed ammendment for an existing Certificate of Appropriateness to a Public Hearing.  The addition of a new building into an historic district is a matter that requires special attention, especially in a situation like this where it will replace a recently lost historic structure.  We find that the storefront infill changes on both façades are improvements, creating a better alignment with the upper floors.  A garage door is not an unusual thing for an industrial neighborhood like TriBeCa, but we would prefer to see it with a more traditional, horizontal grid than the vertical one.  With this change, HDC would recommend this application’s approval.

Item 13
121309- Block 194, lot 23-
40 Lispenard Street – TriBeCa East Historic District
A Second Empire style store and loft building built in 1866-68. Application is to install storefront infill.











HDC finds the new storefront infill to generally be a nice improvement, but the proportions seem off and the doors will wind up unusually large.  As we have seen in similar projects in this area and in the examples presented, larger transoms or double transoms are used to handle the very tall bases of store and loft buildings.  A similar approach should be taken here.  Also, the framing around the transom, while handsome in its detail, should be much thinner to allow for more glazing, a feature also illustrated by the examples.

LPC determination:  approved with modifications


Item 16
122120- Block 475, lot 48-
53 Greene Street – SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District
A store and storehouse building designed by Louis Burger and built in 1867. Application is to request the the LPC report to the City Planning Commission relating to an application for a Modification of Use pursuant to Section 74-711 of the Zoning Resolution.










In general, HDC finds the proposed alterations in Item 15 to be appropriate.  We do though have a few comments on the restoration required for the Modification of Use via 74-711.  At only six stories tall, 53 Greene Street is rather short to consider using fiber glass to construct the new cornice.  A sheet metal cornice – which is light weight and can be locally made – would be a far better solution as other recently installed sheet metal cornices in the neighborhood, like at 32 Greene Street, can attest.  HDC is very happy to hear that a sheet metal is proposed for the store cornice as well as cast iron for the column capitals.  We urge the applicant to go a little further and treat the building’s main cornice similarly.

Finally, concern was raised about the acid wash proposed to clean the façade.  Well-meaning attempts to clean limestone and marble with an acid wash have lead to damage elsewhere in the city.  In order to prevent any regrets, a water drip should initially be tried here on 53 Greene Street’s Tuckahoe Marble.

LPC determination:  approved with modifications


Item 21
121562- Block 614, lot 56-
81-85 Greenwich Avenue aka 2-4 Bank Street – Greenwich Village Historic District
An apartment building with classical details and a commercial ground floor designed by Sass and Smallheiser and built in 1902. Application is to install new storefront infill, awnings, lighting, signage, and a barrier-free access ramp.

The storefront infill proposed for this lovely 1902 building on the corner of Greenwich Avenue and Bank Street seems to have nice details although its reconfiguring still needs some work.  HDC also feels that the very minimal ramp is a good addition.

We find though that two other pieces of this proposal would detract from this thoughtful work.  First, the awning with its multi-colored stripes of varying widths is rather busy on a building that already has a number of design details.  Second, the narrow eight-foot long sign that extends out eleven feet over the sidewalk is something more akin to signage found hanging from a canopy in the Gansevoort Market area than a bracket sign that might be on an apartment building with a commercial ground floor in Greenwich Village.  The addition of LED lighting on the large sign would only compound the problem.  This lovely building on a prominent corner location already advertises itself, and HDC asks that the awning and signage be toned down.

LPC determination: no action


Item 23
121304- Block 609, lot 72-
153 West 13th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District
A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1847-48. Application is to enlarge window openings and replace windows at the rear elevation.






153 West 13th Street is in the middle of a line of eight rowhouses built together in 1847-1848, running from 147 to 161.  The history of this group is still visible along the top fenestration of the rear façades.   While the alterations on the lower floors are quite attractive, the top floor fenestration should remain intact as per the typical requirements of this commission.

LPC determination:  denied


Item 24
111957- Block 626, lot 55-
53 Jane Street – Greenwich Village Historic District
A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1846. Application is to construct rooftop and rear yard additions.

HDC finds that the proposed rooftop addition, which is quite noticeable from the corner of Hudson and Jane Streets, would not be an appropriate one for this 1846 rowhouse.  The shape and side fenestration are not typical of traditional rooftop accretions, and the light stucco seems to only make it stand out more.

In regards to the rear yard addition, we are curious about the configuration of the top floor fenestration of the sister house at 55 Jane Street.  While the rest of the block has seen the construction of larger buildings over the decades, the continued survival of these two small, Greek Revival style rowhouses together makes their relationship all the more important.  If 55 Jane Street retains its top floor fenestration, so should 53.  While it appears that the original wall might be retained behind the glass of the addition, it will be obscured.  Additionally, turning the exterior wall into an interior wall could possibly effect regulation of the historic fabric.

LPC determination:  no action


Item 26
121546- Block 527, lot 3-
6 Bedford Street – Greenwich Village Extension II Historic District
A Federal style building built in 1828-29, altered to a Renaissance Revival style in 1870. Application is reconstruct the brick façade and install new windows.

Beyond the usual issues that are raised when the reconstruction of a façade is proposed, 6 Bedford Street poses complicated questions regarding historic alterations, what should be kept and what is disposable.  Appreciation for early 20th-century alterations in townhouses constructed in the later 19th century has grown in recent years. 6 Bedford and its neighbors are even earlier examples of the trend of bringing older buildings, in this case Federal style houses built 1828-29, up to a current style, here current meaning 1870.

The first item to consider is, does the façade need to be reconstructed?  Is it only because removing the existing stucco would reveal damaged brick that then needs to be replaced?  It is likely that the stucco is part of this 1870’s renovation and it should be retained as an important piece of this redesign that included the raising of the original peaked roof as well as adding a rusticated ground floor and a cornice.  Certainly, it could use some cleaning up and paint analysis could determine the original color, but elimination of this feature should not be the first choice.  As the designation report points out, such changes were typical in the conversion of the area’s single family homes into multiple dwellings for the influx of working class and immigrant families moving into the neighborhood.  It is an important piece of South Village history, and very careful thought should go into the debate of its retention or removal.

If the basic idea of this project is to go forward, HDC has a few more points to be considered.  Flemish bond, which likely lies under the stucco of the second and third floors as part of the original Federal style house, should be used on these middle floors.  The cornice, a mere four floors above the street, should be made of sheet metal, a light weight material easily found produced in this city.  Finally, it seems the one feature proposed to stay put is the door.  While all this other work is going on, why not install a more appropriate one?

LPC determination:  approved with modifications

Item 29
123101- Block 1304, lot 9001-
301 Park Avenue – The Waldorf-Astoria, Individual Landmark
An Art Deco style skyscraper designed by Schultze & Weaver and built in 1931. Application is to install a marquee and alter the motor court.

In general, HDC is pleased with this proposal for the Waldorf-Astoria.  The new marquee over the Park Avenue entrance with its divisions in thirds that highlight the entry bays is a great improvement over the existing.  It does feel a little too generic though for such a stylish landmark.  The canopy over the ballroom entrance nicely picks up the Art Deco detailing of the skyscraper, not in an overwhelming manner, but in one that creates continuity between the canopy and other pieces of the building. We hope that the main marquee can do something similar.

LPC determination:  approved

Item 30
123291- Block 1275, lot 25-
768-770 Fifth Avenue – Plaza Hotel, Individual Landmark and Interior Landmark
The Oak Bar, a Tudor Revival/Jacobethan revival style room, altered and redecorated in 1944-45, within a French Renaissance style hotel designed by Henry J. Hardenberg and constructed in 1905-07, with an addition designed by Warren and Wetmore and constructed in 1921. Application is to create an opening and install a door.

HDC is opposed to the creation of a door in the Plaza Hotel’s Oak Bar, an interior landmark.  No matter how discreet the hinges might be, necessary additions such as a handle and signage, as well as its use, will make the  alteration noticeable.  Whether the existing paneling is original or a replacement, cutting into it changes the function of the wall and the experience of the room.  We always talk about the importance of the special sense of place in an historic district.  There are similar issues with landmarked interiors, but on a smaller and more intimate scale which makes little details even more important.   Much like switching the operation of a window on the front façade of a landmarked building, the change in operation of a wall is a considerable change, and, in this case, it is one that is not necessary.

Many interiors in New York City require a little extra walking to get to the restrooms.  The King Cole Bar at the St. Regis, Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle, Grand Central’s Oyster Bar, and the Old Town Bar (at least for ladies) spring to mind.  Rather than being a hassle, the trip can mean seeing more of the historic interior, which is likely what drew the customer to the location to begin with.

LPC determination:  approved

Item 31
122286- Block 1123, lot 52-
42 West 71st Street – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District
A Renaissance Revival style rowhouse designed by Thom & Wilson and built in 1889. Application is to alter the rear window openings and façade.











HDC finds most of the new window openings to be appropriate as they do not disrupt the original fenestration rhythm of this rear façade and its neighbors.  The window divisions are a little odd though, and the openings in the L extension, particularly on the side wall, are too much.  As with other projects, it is also important that the top floor fenestration of this rowhouse be retained.  Along the same line, a rail should be installed rather than raising the parapet in order to keep the consistency of the roofline.

LPC determination:  no action


Designation Reports:
Neighborhood Preservation Center:
Landmarks Preservation Commission:

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