May 18, 2010

LPC Docket Number: 103866
Brooklyn, Block: 301, Lot: 29
274 Clinton Street – Cobble Hill Historic District

An Italianate style row house constructed in 1864-67. Application is to construct a rear deck, modify window openings and alter the areaway.

HDC Testimony
While we approve of alterations to the areaway, HDC finds the proposed deck to be lacking in details and, overall, a missed opportunity. The existing rear of 274 Clinton Street is not notable, but it would not be improved by this proposal.  This would not be too much of an issue if not for the fact that this façade is visible from the public way (or at least we assume so, based on the map and the fact that the application is not being handled at staff level; there were no site lines or photos presented.) Further details are needed on the deck to ensure that this does not just become clutter.

LPC Determination: Approved

LPC Docket Number: 105701
Brooklyn, Block: 1206, Lot: 50
1185 Dean Street – Crown Heights North Historic District

A Renaissance Revival style rowhouse designed by Jeremiah D. McAuliffe, and built c. 1892. Application is to legalize façade work, areaway alterations, and window replacement completed without LPC permits.

HDC Testimony
As this is only the second application for a Certificate of Appropriateness in the Crown Heights North Historic District and the first legalization, its outcome will set the tone for future applications here and in further phases of the district not yet landmarked.

While pieces of this application may be found appropriate with some tweaking, there are a number of seemingly small alterations that when taken together have caused a major change to this rowhouse.  Overall, there is a sense of gilding the lilly – quite literally when considering painting details gold, something the Commission rejected this past November when it was proposed for a town house in the Chelsea Historic District.   Similarly, the large gold ornament on the front gate is not a harmonious addition to the rowhouse or the block.  Adding wood infill panels to the windows and doors has changed the proportions of these elements, and we understand from neighbors that important details such as stained glass windows may have been lost.

This is an unfortunate example of why applicants should call the LPC first before beginning alterations.  Working with staff could have saved much time, money and headaches.  Now is the time to belatedly work with staff to correct these problems.

LPC Determination: Denied

LPC Docket Number: 107889
Brooklyn, Block: 1117, Lot: 1
Maintenance Yard, Prospect Park West & 8th Street – Prospect Park, Scenic Landmark

A maintenance yard within a naturalistic park designed in 1865 by Frederick L. Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Application is to construct two one-story maintenance buildings.


HDC Testimony
Seeing as these are purely utilitarian structures whose material and design do not begin to be compatible with other features of Prospect Park, HDC asks that more consideration go into the treatment of the fence.  Rather than rely only on a chainlink fence with a fabric screen, which as the photo of an existing example shows can become tattered and faded, HDC recommends planting ivy or other evergreens in front to ensure year-round camouflage.

LPC Determination: Approved with modifications

LPC Docket Number: 107515
Manhattan, Block: 483, Lot: 1
488-490 Broadway – Houghwout Building, Individual Landmark, SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District

An Anglo-Italianate style store and loft building, designed by J.P. Gaynor and built in 1857. Application is to install signage.


HDC Testimony
While HDC appreciates the idea of drawing attention to the name of this individual landmark and important piece of the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District, there does not seem to be any historic precedent for such a sign in this spot.  Traditionally, signage does not stand on the ballustrade of mid-19th century buildings, but rather, as the historic photos show, on the facia.

Installation of the sign letters would require fastening or afixing them to the cast iron, and this brings up issues of upkeep of the historic material.  Back lighting is not appropriate for signage on this structure, and the introduction of shiny satin brass to a painted cast-iron façade feels incongrous.

As the commission does not regulate content of signage, consider for a moment that this was signage for the shop.  In its material and setting, it seems a rather modern intrusion that, if necessary, should be placed somewhere else.  The E.V. Houghwout Building would be better served by allowing its ballustrade and second floor to be free of excess signage and instead, if one is not already there, let a plaque recall the building’s name and its signifcant history to all who passes by.

LPC Determination: Approved with modifications

LPC Docket Number: 107188
Manhattan, Block: 875, Lot: 58
23 Gramercy Park South – Gramercy Park Historic District

A late Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1847. Application is to excavate the cellar and rear yard, construct a rear yard addition, alter the front façade and to install a chimney flue.

HDC Testimony

HDC finds most of the alterations to the front façade to be sympathetic, but we urge that the existing double doors be retained.

We also approve of the rear yard addition as it as not as long as others on the block and does not extend too deep into the garden.  The design, with its nice balance of brick to glazing and traditional design details, is harmonious with this Greek Revival style rowhouse.

Our main concern, as in similar cases, is the ammount of excavation proposed for this 1847 structure.  Nearly eight feet is to be excavated beneath the existing basement.  With all the other room in this building, it seems like an unecessary risk, and we ask that it not be taken.

LPC Determination: Approved

LPC Docket Number: 107623
Manhattan, Block: 1021, Lot: 19
1619 Broadway – Brill Building, Individual Landmark

An Art Deco style office building designed by Victor A. Bark, Jr., and built in 1930-31. Application is to install signage.


HDC Testimony
While HDC understands the history and nature of the Times Square area, adding such extensive signage that would obliterate much of the second and third floors of this exquisite Art Deco landmark, not to mention the intrusions created by the necessary framing and support system, feels like nothing short of vandalism.

We could see the appropriateness of installing larger billboards atop the structure, and it is perfectly reasonable to want to illuminate this important, recently desginated, building on Broadway.   HDC advises though to look into ways of doing so that will highlight, not obstruct, the details for which the Brill Building was landmarked.  Otherwise, there was little reason for designation.

LPC Determination: Incomplete

LPC Docket Number: 107276
Manhattan, Block: 1302, Lot: 64
12 East 78th Street – Metropolitan Museum Historic District

A neo-Italian Renaissance style rowhouse built in 1886-87. Application is to construct a rooftop addition and a rear yeard addition.

HDC Testimony

HDC feels a recollection of the basic form of this 1880’s rowhouse should be retained.  To do so, the rearyard addition should not stretch full height, and the rooftop addition should be set back from edge of the rear façade, both common modifications the commission regularly asks for.

LPC Determination: Approved

LPC Docket Number: 105379
Manhattan, Block: 1141, Lot: 44
130-132 West 70th Street – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District

Two neo-Grec/Queen Anne style rowhouses designed by Charles H. Lindsley and built in 1881-83. Application is to construct a rooftop and rear yard additions, reconstruct a stoop and alter the front areaways.

HDC Testimony

HDC supports the proposed alterations for the front areaways and the reconstruction of the stoop at 132 West 70th Street, but we do have concerns about other pieces of this application.

Rather than stretching across the two rowhouses in a continuous manner, the rooftop addition should be designed to recall the separate nature of the two structures.

We are also concerned about the massive interventions into fragile historic fabric needed to basically insert a new building within an 1880s rowhouse.  While interiors are not necessarily LPC’s purview, the safety and well-being of a landmarked building as well as its neighbors in an historic district are.  In this case, as in similar ones, HDC recommends forgoing any uneccessary alterations.

LPC Determination: Incomplete

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