March 2, 2010

LPC Docket Number: 104962
Brooklyn, Block: 6600, Lot: 119
820 East 16th Street –  Avenue H Station House, Individual Landmark
A cottage style office building with Colonial Revival and Queen Anne style elements built in the 20th Century. Application is to install a sculpture.

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HDC Testimony
HDC is incredibly pleased that this project is before the Landmarks Commission, since it is a firm indication of the MTA’s commitment to restore and rehabilitate a unique station house that not long ago seemed slated for demolition. We were strongly in support of the designation of this building and feel, perhaps, that this was the neighborhood’s personal Penn Station, a rallying point that tipped the scales towards preservation and galvanized the community to push for the 2008 designation of the Midwood Park/Fiske Terrace Historic District. In addition, by and large HDC is inclined to be favorable towards public art, at least in concept. We feel it is a noble urban impulse and can be an enlivener of street life. The Arts for Transit program has sponsored some very remarkable and eye-catching pieces over the past two decades. As we travel the subways, we have subjectively found that the most successful pieces are ones that work in context with the materials of the individual stations, playing with tile and mosaics at the Fifth Avenue station on the Sea Beach line or utilizing steel and other metals at 14th Street station on the IND. Even the over-sized chair at the 116th Street IRT stop uses a material which is would not be out of place in the station. This is not so in this application.

The principal material of the station is wood.  The designation report states plainly that this building “is the city’s only shingled wooden cottage turned transit station house”.  Although details about the design of the building are not exact, the report refers drawings of the  structure, dated June 23, 1905, that specify “peeled-log posts, rough log slices as siding, a fieldstone chimney with a pair of ceramic flues, and 6/1 sash.  Inside were to be three offices and a reception room, the latter warmed by a brick fireplace with a stone mantel trimmed in colored-tile insets and stone corbels. Doors were to have “Barn door hinges & hardware…the walls should be finished in ‘Rough cast plaster’ ”. The report concludes that “well-crafted rusticity was clearly the desired impression.”  Bronze does not belong in such a setting.  It is neither suited to the style, nor as shockingly disjunctive as to be making some kind of point; it is merely out of place.

Furthermore, the choice of chairs on the porch hearkens to some kind of imagined pastoral life which is at odds with the reality of the historic landmark.  This building was built as a sales office and quickly became a station house for a commuter railroad.  It was not a sleepy New England post station where the village elders gathered to while away the day and await news from the “city”.  Frankly, that probably happened on their own porches across the street and down the block.  This building was and is used as part of one of the oldest, most complicated and extensive mass transit systems in the world.  This was true when it was built, and it remains true today.  While the building is picturesque and the surrounding neighborhood quintessentially suburban, the addition of a whimsical set of sculptures that evoke a mythic rural past is both inappropriate and silly. There must be far better ways to artistically respond to the site while not ignoring the actual history of the landmark building and neighborhood.

LPC Determination: Approved

LPC Docket Number: 103598
Manhattan, Block: 195, Lot: 4
390 Broadway – TriBeCa East Historic District
An Italianate style store and loft building built in 1859-60 and reconstructed in 1900 by Jardine, Kent, & Jardine. Application is to install new storefront infill.

HDC Testimony
This project is moving the appearance of 390 Broadway in the right direction, and we are particularly glad to see the original cast iron will be revealed.  However, before approval of the application, more information is needed.  In particular, what is the material of the muntin framing and how will the details be executed.

LPC Determination: Incomplete

LPC Docket Number: 104832
Manhattan, Block: 22, Lot: 22
501 Broadway – SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District
A contemporary building designed by Robert Traboscia and Catherina Roiatti, TRA studio and built in 2003. Aplication is to construct a rooftop addition and pergola.

HDC Testimony
HDC does not approve of this proposed rooftop addition as it is more than minimally visible and does not blend in with the typically utilitarian rooftop accretions one sees in the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District.  In particular, we find the use of bluestone, something typically found underfoot not overhead, to be inappropriate.  The existing building is a fully realized design that fits in rather nicely with its older neighbors.  The same attention that would be paid to how a proposed addition would affect those structures should also be paid to this building so that it may continue to fit into the context of the historic district.

LPC Determination: Approved with modifications

LPC Docket Number: 100810
Manhattan, Block: 625, Lot: 26
56 Jane Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

Four houses built in 1852 and converted to an apartment house in the mid-twentieth century. Application is to replace windows.

HDC Testimony
HDC is happy to see 6-over-6 windows returning to this otherwise stripped-down row of mid-19th century houses.  Our main suggestion is that a greater effort should be made to replicate a period appropriate brick mold at the window openings.  The closure piece shown in the details is a square piece of perimeter capping.

LPC Determination: Approved with modifications

LPC Docket Number: 104801
Manhattan, Block: 821, Lot: 14
39 West 19th Street – Ladies’ Mile Historic District

A neo-Renaissance style and loft building, built by Maynicke & Franke and built in 1910. Application is to install storefront infill.

HDC Testimony
HDC is opposed to this application as it would cause the loss of historic symmetrical design of this largely intact ground floor.  The Ladies’ Mile is unique for its having been a shopping district since its conception.  While there are many wonderful details to be found on all the stories of its various store and loft buildings, the ground floors and their storefronts are the most readily visible and speak the clearest to the district’s history.  Every attempt should be made to preserve the historic fabric and design of these special storefronts.

LPC Determination: Approved

LPC Docket Number: 105854
Manhattan, Block: 1111, Lot: 1
Central Park, Mineral Spring Comfort – Central Park, Scenic Landmark

A concession building built in 1959, within an English Romantic style public park designed by Olmsted and Vaux in 1856. Application is to alter and create masonry openings, infill, signage, fencing, and planters.

HDC Testimony
HDC is opposed to the use of halo lit signage in this application.  It is particularly inappropriate here in Central Park, where no other concession has illuminated signage.  The bright signage along with the fussy wall planters would call too much attention to this structure, a stark service building constructed in 1959 amidst Olmsted and Vaux’s world-famous, Romantic design. The installation of such a sign would start an uncomfortable precedent of brightly branding Central Park with corporate logos.  Doing so stands in stark contrast to the idea of a public park created so that citizens could retreat from the glare and bustle of daily life and into the beauty and serenity of nature.

LPC Determination: Approved with modifications
LPC Docket Number: 095612
Manhattan, Block: 1874, Lot: 52
2689-2693 Broadway (aka 230 West 103rd Street) –  Hotel Marseilles, Individual Landmark
A Beaux-Arts style apartment hotel designed by Harry Allen Jacobs and built in 1902-05. Application is to replace windows.

HDC Testimony
This proposal would do much to bring this individual landmark closer to its historic appearance.  HDC’s only suggestion is that a lighter shade, as seen in historic photos, be used.

LPC Determination: Approved with modifications

LPC Docket Number: 104264
Brooklyn, Block: 1074, Lot: 42
190 8th Avenue – Park Slope Historic District
A French Renaissance Revival  style rowhouse designed by William J. Dilthey and built in 1897-98. Application is to alter the entrance door surround and areaway.

HDC Testimony
HDC is happy to see what we hope is the start of a restoration from the bottom up of this rowhouse.  Our only concern is that appears as if stucco is proposed for the door surround.  We are afraid that such a material would not be able to replicate the crisp egg and dart detailing and recommend cast stone be considered instead.

LPC Determination: Approved

LPC Docket Number: 104714
Manhattan, Block: 590, Lot: 69
186-192 West 4th – Greenwich Village Historic District
A store and loft building designed by Charles Rentz and built in 1897 and enlarged several times between 1897 and 1911 by John P. Voelker. Application is to replace a storefront show window.

HDC Testimony
Rarely does HDC ask for a large display window, but in this case we feel it  would be more fitting than the proposed.  This large, eight-story store and loft building could handle and should have an uninterupted store window, rather than a residential looking divided one.

LPC Determination: Approved

LPC Docket Number: 104160
Manhattan, Block: 1382, Lot: 16
23 East 67th Street – Upper East Side Historic District

A rowhouse designed by Robert Robertson and built in 1882-1883 and redesigned in the neo-Federal style by Sterner and Wolfe in 1919. Application is to legalize façade alterations completed in non-compliance with COFA 07-7043 and to install bracket sign.

HDC Testimony
Although this area has become more commercialized, HDC believes it is important to keep the residential feel of the side streets, especially those adjacent to the very commercial Madison Avenue.  And so we do not approve of the bracket sign or the change of an entry door into another display window.  The more traditional arrangement of two entrances – one for the residences above and one for the store – flanking the display window is more appropriate and just as practical.

We were not aware of the various issues with the cornice when we reviewed the project, but it sounds as if removing the recently added brick parapet may be the best solution.

LPC Determination: Mixed

Posted Under: HDC@LPC