HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on July 25, 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.

Preservation Department Public Hearing Agenda

Item 3

126 East 73rd Street – Upper East Side Historic District


An Italianate style row house built in 1873, and altered in the neo-Elizabethan style by Benjamin H. Webber in 1912. Application is to legalize the installation of an areaway gate, fence, and planter boxes without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

On a building in a historic district such as this, a railing with no curb is awkward and out of place. As demonstrated by the applicant in their own presentation, a typical setting for a railing is a curb. Our committee would like to see such a curb installed so that the fence meets the ground plane properly. 

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Preservation Department Public Meeting Agenda

Item 1

113 Congress Street – Cobble Hill Historic District


An Italianate style row house built in 1862. Application is to construct rooftop and rear yard additions, replace windows and install Juliet balconies and an areaway railing.

HDC has reviewed this application and our committee has no objection to the proposed front façade work. The proposed rear yard addition, however, is unacceptable for the pristine block it would impose itself on. This entire block of Congress Street features a completely intact set of rear yard two-story tea porches. The addition the applicant is proposing would break that line and disrupt this rare stretch of undisturbed porches in the Cobble Hill Historic District. Additionally, the proposed rooftop addition is clunky and requires further study. Its awkward design and amateurish window configuration presents a language that is inconsistent with this district. Finally, the materiality of the addition is inappropriate. Copper or lead-coated copper or zinc are all materials which are approved in this district on a regular basis. Stucco is not. There is ample precedent in this district for how to build a sensitive rooftop addition. We encourage the applicant to explore these options. 

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 3

540 and 544 Hudson Street – Greenwich Village Historic District


A utilitarian style gasoline filling station and open lot and a garage building extensively remodeled in 1934-36. Application

At the risk of sounding facetious, the Historic Districts Council would like to briefly address the creeping disappearance of gasoline fueling stations throughout our historic districts. As an unloved but necessary part of the urban fabric, they are neglected but critical portions of the historic record of our city. As Robert Moses reshaped the city for our car, the car has reshaped our historic environment and there is historic reasoning behind preserving these reminders of the horseless carriages which transformed human life.

If demolition is favored, however, we feel the applicant can do better than the current proposed design, which our committee finds to be too big, too bulky, and overall, seemingly swollen. Along this block of Hudson Street, there is a strong horizontal line at street level creating an effect of storefronts that are quite readable. The plinth upon which the building sits should be much stronger so that this line can be maintained in a more overt and strong way. The brick piers coming down to grade level do no favors for this situation. Instead they make the building look like it is sitting on stilts. A more glaring problem is the sheer bulk of the proposed design, which makes the building appear over-scaled and incongruous with its surrounding neighbors. A favorable solution would involve reducing the overall building height by one floor. Perhaps the applicant can explore dividing the façade so that it doesn’t read as one giant mass and instead relates to the smaller buildings next to it and on the rest of the block. Ultimately, this proposal looks like a compelling idea on paper, but will be overwhelming and over-scaled when built. With a few changes this could be a much more appropriate addition to the Greenwich Village Historic District. 

LPC determination: No action

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