June 15, 2010

LPC Docket Number: 104900
Brooklyn, Block: 8502, Lot: 20
1940 East 36th Street – Hendrick I. Lott House, Individual Landmark

A Dutch Colonial style wood-frame house built in 1800, incorporating a structure built in 1720. Application is to install fencing, alter circulation paths, construct outbuildings and a barrier-free access ramp.

Lott house

HDC Testimony
HDC is thrilled to see this 18th-century farm house brought back to life and preparations under way to open it to the public.  We find most of the proposed work appropriate and welcomed, but ask that some rethinking go into the barrier-free access ramp.  Of course, it is not easy to outfit a small building of another century for the needs of numerous, modern-day visitors, but the proposed ramp interrupts about two-thirds of the north elevation.  Alternatives that would cover up less of the façade and take up less room on the porch, such as tucking a lift to the right of the porch or a switch back ramp on that side, should be considered.  Also, we think the sliding door shutter is an interesting way to retain this building detail, but would like to see the track hidden better with wood shingles.

LPC Determination: Approved

LPC Docket Number: 097832
Manhattan, Block: 21, Lot: 6
71 Broadway – Empire Building, Individual Landmark

A neo-Classical style office building designed by Kimball & Thompson and built in 1897-98. Application is to replace windows.

HDC Testimony

While the percentage of glazing does not differ much between existing and proposed, there is more to a window than just its glass, and there are some details in this application for the individually landmarked Empire Building that could be improved.  The sill height is noticeably taller in the proposed, while the munton has been moved up from the spring line of the arch.  Both details should be adjusted to match the original.  The extrusion should also follow the height and depth of the existing framing much closer, and a detailed photo of the existing condition is needed to gauge the how well the proposed framing meets the stone.

LPC Determination: Approved

LPC Docket Number: 108384
Manhattan, Block: 572, Lot: 11
62 West 9th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1839, with a ground floor storefront. Application is to legalize the installation of lighting and a related housing, and artificial ivy secured to the façade without LPC permits.

HDC Testimony
This application goes beyond the usual  attempts of hiding mistakes and problems with greenery by installing artificial greenery and hoping that real ivy will soon hide it.  The Commission stresses the need for real materials of quality, particularly in areas so close to the public view, and obviously this fake ivy does not make the cut.  HDC asks that this proposal for legalization be rejected and that whatever damage has been done by installation of the material be corrected.

LPC Determination: Denied

LPC Docket Number: 108714
Manhattan, Block: 506, Lot: 53
27 Vandam Street – Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District

A Federal style rowhouse built in 1823. Application is to remove lintel covers, construct rooftop and rear yard additions, and excavate the rear yard.

HDC Testimony
HDC is happy to hear that this proposal has been scaled down, but we are concerned about the excavation that extends all the way out to the back lot line.  27 Vandam is one of a row of four rowhouses built in 1823 called out in the slim designation report as remaining “in close-to-original state.”  Such Federal style rowhouse typically stand on only fragile rubble foundations and, in this neighborhood, on rather sandy soil.  The less work done, the better.  The excavation is much like a too-large rooftop or rear yard addition that is tries to make a small house something more than it is, and HDC asks that this part of the proposal be greatly reduced or denied.

LPC Determination: Approved

LPC Docket Number: 108922
Manhattan, Block: 1257, Lot: 1
476 Fifth Avenue – New York Public Library, Individual Landmark and Interior Landmark

A Beaux-Arts style library designed by Carrere & Hastings and built in 1898-1911. Application is to install lighting.


HDC Testimony
HDC is opposed to this project as it does something that is not necessary, brightly illuminating the New York Public Library.  I have never walked by this grand structure and thought to myself, or even heard anyone else utter, “That needs more lighting.”  Rather, at night, I have been struck by its quiet elegance, the glow of the magnificent interiors against the darkened exterior walls and surroundings.  It is almost as if the library already has its own lighting plan that expresses and celebrates its very being.  We notice the incredible Carrere & Hastings structure during the day, while at night we have a different view that reminds us of the light of knowledge held within those Beaux-Arts walls.  While studies have been done for this project that claim the lit interiors will still be noticeable, it is hard to imagine that they will not be diminished and something special lost.

Flood lights and spotlights from all directions are not needed at this location to appreciate a building that is nothing if not already impressive.  The proposed is a case of electrically gilding the lily.

LPC Determination: Incomplete

LPC Docket Number: 108871
Manhattan, Block: 1144, Lot: 7501
105 West 72nd Street – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District

A neo-Renaissance style apartment building with Churrigueresque style elements designed by George and Edward Blum and built in 1913. Application is to recreate a balcony that was removed without LPC permits

HDC Testimony

While the illegal removal of a balcony on this distinctive apartment building should certainly be rectified, HDC feels it should not be done in fiberglass but rather in the original materials, terra cotta and brick.  If weight is an issue, lighter castings can now be produced than were nearly a century ago, and if the projection is being reduced in depth, the weight will similarly decrease. Using any other material would set a bad precedent for the other details here.  At the very least, material and color samples need to be presented before a final decision is made.

LPC Determination: Approved

Posted Under: HDC@LPC