HDC Testimony for LPC Hearing on June 13, 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.

Item 1

577 Vanderbilt Avenue – Prospect Heights Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #198868

A neo-Grec style flats building designed by Thomas F. Houghton and built c. 1877. Application is to legalize the installation of windows and alterations to the areaway without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

HDC’s Public Review Committee has reviewed this application and we are unclear about what the applicant is proposing here. Whatever changes the applicant has already made to the areaway are not described in the application and the presentation is unclear on what exactly they are applying for. As far as the windows are concerned, it appears they are poor retrofit aluminum windows with bent metal capping, which would have been unacceptable if they had been originally applied for. Comparing the pictures provided from the time of designation to the most recently photographed version of the house, it appears the whole façade has been redone, albeit with only some historic details in mind. To undergo such extensive changes and not go back to a more historic window configuration is a missed opportunity. We look forward to seeing a revised application that is clearer and aims for a more historically sensitive restoration of this beautiful 1877 house. 


Item 4

41 King Street – Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #198252

A Federal style rowhouse built in 1827-28. Application is to construct rooftop and rear yard additions, excavate the rear yard, and legalize the removal of ironwork without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

As HDC often testifies, Federal townhouses are rare and treasured examples of Manhattan’s early dwellings that should be respected, not mutilated. Writing about the few remaining Federal houses in New York City, Ada Louise Huxtable in her book “Classic New York,” wrote “The best, of course, are in the Village, and the richest area is Charlton, King and Vandam Streets.” This King Street house is one of those excellent Federal houses Ms. Huxtable was referencing. For that reason alone, HDC would find this proposal objectionable. Our committee would have no problem with a small bulkhead and elevator for roof access. The proposed rooftop addition, however, pokes through the roofline of one of the last surviving row of Federal houses in New York City. We look forward to seeing a revised application that respects the historic integrity of this important townhouse.


Item 5

769 Greenwich Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #198012

A Greek Revival style residence built in 1839. Application is to construct rooftop additions.

HDC does not support this application. Our committee finds the proposed full glass enclosure bizarre and totally out of context with this neighborhood. The house’s current addition already provides some sort of consistent street wall height. This enclosure would destroy that consistency with its cacophony of glass and steel completely at odds with the historic street. As proposed,  it is highly visible from Greenwich Street, and when the sun hits it, it will become even more glaringly apparent.  


Item 6

230 West 103rd Street (former Hotel Marseilles)- Individual Landmark

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #180680

A Beaux-Arts style apartment hotel designed by Harry Allen Jacobs and built in 1902-05. Application is to legalize the installation of certain windows in noncompliance with Certificate of Appropriateness 11-4194, and to replace other windows.

For such an important building, HDC wishes to see a proposal that has explored all options to bring the windows back as close as possible to their original appearance, or at least the approved version thereof. We suggest the applicant go back to square one to come up with a master plan for the windows that makes sense. A proper master plan would require that the applicants provide floor plans so that the utmost effort could be made to keep air conditioners off of these primary facade elevations. This plan would explore all options to provide the function that this building needs while doing the least damage to its historic fabric. 

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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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