April 6, 2010

LPC Docket Number: 106293
Queens, Block: 148, Lot: 777
West of 48th Street, East of 47th Street – Sunnyside Gardens Historic District

A court, divided into eight rows comprised of 74 houses, covering most of the block bounded by 39th Avenue (north), 48th Street (east), Skillman Avenue (south), and 47th Street (west), designed by Clarence Stein, Henry Wright, and frederick Ackerman, and built in 1927. Application is to establish a master plan governing the installation of sidewalk planters.

HDC Testimony
While this application is well intentioned, the Historic Districts Council finds it to be a bit misdirected.  Raised planters like these are for areas where there is no soil and where greenery has to be brought in.  This is hardly the case of Sunnyside Gardens.  Traditionally, the strip between the sidewalk and the street are places of planting pride – there were even competitions for the greenest strip.  Rather than adding bulky planters, if the court association would like, it could again promote such plantings in the ground or in raised beds just a few inches high rather than a foot and a half.

The proposed planters are based on a previous program from the 1980s that did not fare well.   Over the years those planters have fallen out of use and into decay, and sad looking remnants of them can still be found around the neighborhood.  As the LPC does not regulate plantings, it is not unlikely that the proposed planters would meet the same fate.  It would be unfortunate to add another layer of uneccessary acreations to the block or others.

Also, it is our understanding that this proposal would require Department of Transportation approval and so the Community Board did not vote on the application.  We recommend that the Commission not take any action on this item until DoT and the Community Board have both weighed in.

LPC Determination: Approved

LPC Docket Number: 106223
Queens, Block: 1475, Lot: 51
37–51 87th Street – Jackson Heights Historic District

An Anglo-American Garden home style house designed by C.F. McAvoy and built in 1924. Application is to legalize alterations to the areaway without LPC permits.

HDC Testimony
This block has been seen at LPC hearings a number of times for applications to legalize areaway work, and this application is an especially unfortunate example.  The use of concrete in particular is inappropriate in its color and material, and paving the entire areaway creates a setting that is not longer fitting to the Garden home in the description.  The owners obviously care about their home and its appearance or they would not have undertaken this work, but the alterations have taken the building in the opposite direction of the special sense of place for which Jackson Heights was designated.  HDC urges the Commission to deny the proposed legalization so that this house can again be guided back to its original character and to disuade others from doing illegal, inappropriate work.

LPC Determination: Denied

LPC Docket Number: 105208
Brooklyn, Block: 2090, Lot: 27
215 Carlton Avenue – Fort Greene Historic District

An early Italianate brick house built c. 1856. Application is to legalize the installation of windows at the parlor floor without LPC permits.

HDC Testimony
While it is nice to see that the parlor floors of 215 Carlton Avenue have been elongated and returned to their original size, two pieces make the restoration incomplete.  Aluminum is not a proper material for such prominent windows, and the sills look too plain without their brackets.  HDC asks that rather than legalizing this work, these adjustments be made.

LPC Determination: Approved

LPC Docket Number: 106270
Brooklyn, Block: 1945, Lot: 8
357 Waverly Avenue – Clinton Hill Historic District

A vernacular 19th century carriage house and residence. Application is to legalize the installation of security grilles without LPC permits.

clinton hill

HDC Testimony
The Commission is again being asked to legalize security grilles installed without LPC permits. Commissioners would have been hard pressed to approve this had it come forward as a proposal for new work.  As in the past, HDC asks that other measures – security cameras, lighting, interior gates, and riot glass, to name a few – be considered.  In 2006 at a carriage house at 365 Waverly Avenue, commissioners allowed for legalization of security grilles if the doors were painted dark so that gates would blend in.  If such a compromise was put in place here, it would at least solve the problem of  the varnished wooden doors.  In general though HDC feels such metalwork sends an unfortunate message about the neighborhood, one that will only spread a sense of insecurity and spur yet more gates and grilles.

LPC Determination: Denied

LPC Docket Number: 104479
Manhattan, Block: 1390, Lot: 163
12 East 76th Street – Upper East Side Historic District

A building constructed in 1881-82 and altered in 1946 by James Casale. Application is to redesign the façade.

HDC Testimony

When designing an entirely new façade, the devil is in the details.  HDC finds that some of the details have not been fully developed or explained.  No materials boards were supplied at Public Review on Friday.  Simply saying something is sandstone is not enough when working in an historic district – samples are needed.  We find the windows in particular to be awkward.  To begin with, they should be painted black, not white.  Transom windows are needed in the upper floor windows to balance out the proposed casement windows.  And detailing of the ashlar around the windows, how it will interface with the sandstone wall, needs a more completely study or explanation.

LPC Determination: Incomplete

LPC Docket Number: 106601
Brooklyn, Block: 297, Lot: 6
219 Clinton Street – Cobble Hill Historic District

A house originally  built in 1845 and altered in the neo-Flemish style with rugged Romanesque features by D’Oench & Simon in 1890-1891. Application is to modify a bay window.
Cobble hill

HDC Testimony
The proposed design is certainly nicer than what is here now at 219 Clinton Street, but HDC finds the proportions are bit off, leaving the bay window appearing rather horizontal and squat.  Installing sets of three windows rather than pairs of two might help give the bay a more vertical feel.

LPC Determination: Approved

LPC Docket Number: 105646
Brooklyn, Block: 443, Lot: 8
329 Smith Street – Carroll Gardens Historic District

An Italianate style rowhouse built in 1872-1873. Application is to install storefront infill, lighting, and signage.


HDC Testimony
This row of 10 Italainate style rowhouses were built with commercial space on the ground floor, and HDC is happy to see an owner wishing to improve this street front.  We applaud the removal of the rolldown gate, but have some issues with other areas of the proposal.  The proposed storefront has what we normally look for in a traditional storefront including a transom and bulkhead, but it feels too bulky.  Similarly, the wood sign feels very boxy.  If at all possible, something akin to the neighbor to the left with a cornice and a simple awning would be more in keeping with the historic row.  While we understand the desire for different flow to the commercial space created by moving the door to the side, the neighboring sotrefronts’ more traditional configuration with a center entrance would be preferable.

Finally, an historic photo would have been helpful in assessing the project and possibly even building the applicant’s case, but none was presented at Public Review on Friday.

LPC Determination: Approved with modifications

LPC Docket Number: 105801
Manhattan, Block: 743, Lot: 70
336 West 20th Street – Chelsea Historic District

A Victorian Gothic style parish hall built in 1871. Application is to excavate the basement, alter the stoop, install barrier free access ramps and demolish a section of the rear wall and install signage.

HDC Testimony
The proposed barrier free access ramp looks sensitive, and the stoop alteration also seems appropriate.  HDC would only ask that, if possible, the existing bronwstone steps be reused.

As for the basement excavation, we can only advise caution.  Although the structure is in good shape now, one wrong move could compromise decades of care.  Yes, excavations are frequently done without trouble, but on those rare occassions when they go wrong, the consequences are often dire.  Each time is one time too many.

The proposal’s most troubling piece is one that is not very apparent in the boards, the demolition of most of the rear wall.  This would involve the removal of a considerable portion of historic fabric including the trio of gothic-arched windows, large amounts of brick and the coping details on the side.  HDC finds this loss too extensive and opposes this piece of the application.

LPC Determination: Approved

LPC Docket Number: 099352
Manhattan, Block: 2064, Lot: 39
408-414 West 150th Street – Hamilton Heights/Sugar Hill Historic District

A Renaissance Revival style apartment building designed by Moore & Landsiedel and built in 1900-1901. Application is to legalize the installation of window and alterations to the entrance in noncompliance with Binding Staff Report 03-4942.

HH 1 HH 2

HDC Testimony
It was unclear from the presentation at public review on Friday what windows were originally approved.  What was installed though were rather featureless aluminum windows lacking any historic trim or molding, and they should not be legalized.  The entrance has lost its symmetry, an important element in the Renaissance Revival style, the transom is awkwardly stretched out, and the addition of a prominently placed, bulky intercom is not something the commission would have approved.  HDC urges that a more symmetrical plan for the gates be thought out to allow for accessibility and a less conspicuous intercom design and/or location be explored.

LPC Determination: Approved with modifications

LPC Docket Number: 104746
Brooklyn, Block: 2111, Lot: 1
1 Hanson Street – Williamsburgh Savings Bank, Interior Landmark Historic Distric
A neo-Romanesque style bank and office building designed by Halsey, McCormick & Helmer and built in 1927-1929 Application is to legalize alterations in the lobby, install HVAC vents and a railing an move tables in the banking hall.

HDC Testimony
This proposal is made up of a number of pieces, including new alterations and legalizing already performed work.  Most of it is fairly sympathetic, but HDC does have a few comments

Starting with the entrance floor, a logical start, HDC feels that larger marble blocks like those that feature prominently elsewhere in the landmarked interior and what was originally here should be used rather than tiles.  We understand the need to slope the vestibule floor, but we ask that some other way be found – this is an entrance to a grand lanmarked banking space, not your average apartment building.  Continuing on the floor, the HVAC vent in the floor of the fireplace is fine, but the more noticable vents on the wall should replicate the existing historic ones.

As for the doors, there are historic doors that should serve as models for the new ones  keeping  the proportions and details closely in mind.  For example, a single panel with an exit bar would work just as well as and be closer to original designs than a double paneled door.  The proposed door on board 8 is also a bit awkward.  The attempt to replicate the historic door is appreciated, but on this thinner space the proportions need to be adjusted.

On the subject of furniture and signage, as long as the banking tables remain within the landmarked space, HDC does not object to moving them.  We do question removing “1 Hanson Place” from the directory sign.  These reminders of the bank’s function and history are part of the unique charm of this individual and interior landmark and should remain as unaltered as possible.

LPC Determination: Approved with modifications

LPC Docket Number: 103499
Manhattan, Block: 875, Lot: 34
139 19th Street – Gramercy Park Historic District

A house originally built in 1842-43, and redesigned in the Mediterranean Revival style in 1909 by Federick Sterner. Application is to construct a rooftop bulkhead.

HDC Testimony
HDC finds that this rooftop bulkhead is too visible over the distinctive tile roof of 139 East 19th Street, Frederick Sterner’s famous 1909 redesign and birthplace of the “Block Beautiful.”  A considerable amount has already been added to the top of this relatively small house and whatever can be done to reduce the height and bulk of the bulkhead must be done.

LPC Determination: Incomplete

LPC Docket Number: 105615
Manhattan, Block: 566, Lot: 1
11 Fifth Avenue – Greenwich Village Historic District

An apartment building built in 1956. Application is to enclose a portion of a terrace.

HDC Testimony
Last fall HDC opposed and the Commission spoke against a Master Plan for terrace enclosures at 11 Fifth Avenue.   The open terraces and set backs of the Breevort are important pieces of Boak and Raad’s very simple, but elegant design concept.  Very few, if any, terraces on this façade of the building have been enclosed as the picture taken from a neighboring building shows.  We ask the Commission to protect this mid-century design and reject this application.  If a Master Plan for terrace enclosures is not appropriate, adding enclosures here and there is certainly not appropriate either.

LPC Determination: Approved

LPC Docket Number: 100498
Manhattan, Block: 588, Lot: 66
316 Bleecker Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

An Italianate style building built in 1854. Application is to replace windows.

HDC Testimony
HDC does not approve of this application as the windows proposed copy those of another building, not those of 316 Bleecker itself.  The existing French windows on the second floor are historic, clearly seen in the tax photo and called out in the Greenwich Village Historic District Designation Report.  If they need to be replaced, the new windows should replicate these existing historic windows that belong to this building.

LPC Determination: Approved

Posted Under: HDC@LPC