December 14, 2010

LPC Docket Number: 109622
Manhattan, Block: 210, Lot: 9
326 Canal Street – TriBeCa East Historic District

An Italianate style store and loft building designed by John M. Hoffman and built in 1866-67, and altered by Samuel Edson Gage in 1920-21. Application is to install storefront infill.


HDC Testimony
This proposal is a generally good one that tries to follow the historic tax photo and with a few more adjustments, it will create a fine addition to historic Canal Street.  While it is commendable that a new store cornice is being installed, HDC is concerned abou the use of fiber glass so close to eye level, and we ask that wood or metal be used instead.  We have similar concerns about materials proposed for the infill.  Wooden doors should be installed, and the rest of the infill should be metal or wood, not aluminum.  Although typically we ask for the inclusion of transoms in storefronts, here they might not be the best choice.  They appear oddly thin in the drawings, and, at close inspection, the tax photo seems to show heavier framing here at the top of the window rather than a transom.  Finally, while all this work is going on, why not recreate the three small missing capitals?

LPC Determination: Approved with modifications

LPC Docket Number: 114143
Manhattan, Block: 510, Lot: 45
295 Laffayette Street – The Puck Building, Individual Landmark

A Romanesque Revival style building designed by Albert Wagner and built in 1885-86 with alterations in 1892-93 and 1897-99. Application is to remove a fence, install storefront infill and illuminated signage.


HDC Testimony
While the storefront infill proposed for the Puck Building appears fairly sensitive, the amount of existing historic fabric should be carefully considered.  Twenty-one bays of historic infill is an impressive, rare condition, giving all the more reason to preserve this intact base.

HDC finds the proposed signage to be excessive, stretching across and obscuring ornamented spandrels on over half the building’s base.  The railings to which the letters would be attached are too chunky, and illuminating the letters would only illuminate the insensitivity of this signage.  Metal plaques with halo lighting is further guilding the lilly.  The large storefront windows allow ample room for displays and signs.  The Puck Building is an impressive structure, its own best advertisement.  Let the landmark speak for itself, and your business will be noticed.

LPC Determination: Approved with modifications

LPC Docket Number: 113630
Manhattan, Block: 614, Lot: 3
291 West 4th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

A Federal style house built in 1827-28. Application is to construct a rear yard and roof top additions, alter the rear façade and excavate the basement level.


HDC Testimony
HDC finds that this proposal asks too much of this little 1820’s house, seeking to expand in every possible direction, up, down and out.  Yes, excavations can be done safely, but there is always a risk.  There have been  accidents, an dany accident is one too many.   Most people would advise a friend against undergoing an unecessary, intrusive, risky operation, and we advise the same in this case.

Finally, HDC does not find the wholesale removal of a rear façade that has remained relatively intact for nearly two centuries and its replacement with all glass to be appropriate.  Last week commissioners found that the full redesign of the rear wall at 116 Waverly Place needed more reference to the front of the late-19th century structure.  We ask that similar consideration be paid in this proposal and to this Federal-era house.

LPC Determination: Incomplete

LPC Docket Number: 113542
Manhattan, Block: 856, Lot: 7502
225 Fifth Avenue – Madison Square North Historic District

A Beaux-Arts style store building designed by Francis H. Kimball and Harry E. Donnell and built in 1906-07. Application is to modify storefront openings, install storefront infill, alter the canopy, and install signage.


HDC Testimony
HDC finds this proposal to be a missed oportunity, and a master plan should be considered to move this landmark in the right direction.  The 1907 Gift Building, also known as the Brunswick Building, was one of the first commerical buildings to be constructed in the formerly residential neighborhood surrounding Madison Square.  This was where thousands of buyers would flock several times a year to place holiday orders for ceramics, glass, silver and other gift items.  Appropriately, the storefronts were a significant part of the building’s design.  The proposed storefront infill though is rather lack luster, and the canopy is an unfortunate grandfathered condition that cannot really be improved without scrapping it all together.  While the tax photo is not clear and provides little guidance, more helpful, earlier images are readily availabe in Miriam Berman’s book Madison Square:  The Park and its Celebrated Landmarks and Fifth Avenue, 1911 from Start to Finish edited by Christopher Gray.  We are submitting copies of those photos which show detailed bulkheads and tripartite transoms that echo the window configuration above them.   The photos should also be studied for inspiration for entrance doors and canopies.

LPC Determination: Approved with modifications

LPC Docket Number: 111182
Manhattan, Block: 1407, Lot: 56
1012 Lexington Avenue – Upper East Side Extension Historic District

A neo-Georgian style rowhouse designed by Thom and Wilson and built in 1880-81. Application is to install storefront infill and signage.

lex historic lex

HDC Testimony
This is one of the first applications in the new Upper East Side Extension and the final design will set the tone for the two-story storefronts ubiquitous to Lexington Avenue.  The applicant provided a clear tax photo in the presentation and it should be used as a model for second floor fenestration  that includes a tripartite window division with side pivots and a transom above.  This pattern should also conitinue down to the first floor to create a cohesive storefront.   HDC finds the second floor awning to be overwhelming.  If sunlight is an issue, we would recommend the use of blinds or shades on the interior or creating a more opaque transom, providing an opportunity for signage, as seen in tax photo.  The first floor awning should be installed lower, similar to the neighboring building in the tax photo, creating room for the sign ban.  Finally, while a fixture exists presently for  a stretch banner, we ask that a blade sign, again like what is seen in the tax photo, be considered instead.

LPC Determination: Incomplete

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