Happy New Year! Here at the Historic Districts Council, we are taking a moment to look back on an eventful year in preservation. Below, we’ve shared some of the moments that have meant the most to us, from longtime preservation campaigns to swift advocacy action.
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And now, on to the recap:
Victory at the Landmarks Preservation Commission
In early 2018, The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) introduced amendments to their rules that would have been detrimental to the public process and allowed a lower quality of materials to be used on landmark buildings. HDC worked with our preservation colleagues to review these changes, and we testified about our concerns. After an extended and open dialogue with the LPC, the agency tremendously modified its proposal and eliminated the most injurious aspects of the new rules. The resulting changes, adopted in December, keep the public involved in the process, encourage the retention of historic vault lights and discourage plastic materials on our historic buildings, all while making the regulatory process more transparent for applicants.
Kelly Carroll honored for her advocacy
HDC’s Director of Advocacy and Community Outreach was honored this December by the Mount Morris Park Community Improvement Association for “her vision, her boundless energy and enthusiasm, her unwavering conviction and commitment to the preservation and landmarking of Harlem.” Kelly has been working with community groups at HDC since 2014, and has exhibited this dedication over the course of many preservation battles. We are sure that many other neighborhood groups feel the same!
Richmond Hill placed on the New York State Register of Historic Places
After a campaign of more than ten years, Richmond Hill finally received its New York State Register Historic District this December. HDC has been working with neighborhood activists and the Richmond Hill Historical Society for the past decade and named this Queens neighborhood as one of our Six to Celebrate in 2016. With generous funding from Councilmember Eric Ulrich, HDC was able to commission a study of the neighborhood, conduct outreach programming, canvas the neighborhood, and more. We are thrilled to see the results come to fruition.
A New Day for Cultural Landmarks
When HDC named Cultural Landmarks as one of our Six to Celebrate in January, we sought to bring more attention to this important preservation issue. In October, we hosted our Cultural Landmarks Symposium at Riverside Church, and will be releasing a report on its findings in the new year. In the meantime, you can watch our video tour of five culturally significant sites in New York City on Youtube.
A New Frick
In 2014, the Frick Collection faced a massive outcry from preservationists (including HDC), citizens and elected officials, when it proposed a 60,000-square-foot addition that would have destroyed the Russell Page viewing garden and fundamentally changed the character of the museum. That plan was withdrawn thanks to preservationists’ advocacy, and this spring, a new, much more sensitive plan was presented and approved after refinements. The amount of additional square footage was significantly reduced, and though we lamented the loss of the Music Room, HDC commended the museum for reimagining their expansion plans to minimize visual impact and better protect the landmark’s domestic character.
Hans K. Christian Memorial Kindergarten saved
One year ago, 236 President Street was under contract to be purchased by a developer who had imminent plans to demolish the small kindergarten building and build a massive structure that would have irrevocably marred the character of this Carroll Gardens block. Neighbors reached out to HDC, and we provided them with expert assistance in their efforts to save this beloved building and the handsome 1853 Italianate building next door. The group conducted extensive research and submitted an impressive Request for Evaluation (RFE). Thanks to a swift designation by the LPC, these buildings will continue to add to Carroll Gardens’ historic character for years to come.
We can have nice things! Nitehawk Theater in Park Slope
This month, the neglected Pavilion Theater in Park Slope was reborn, along with some long-hidden historic interior features that were discovered and restored. HDC campaigned fiercely to include this site in the 2012 Park Slope Historic District Extension, being fully aware that it was very desirable for development. A 2015 proposal that HDC opposed would have stripped the theater of its defining details and dwarfed it with monstrous additions, but a new owner emerged and changed the plans. This year, the LPC approved the finishing touches of this landmark at a public hearing. This proposal, which HDC lauded, preserves this iconic corner of Brooklyn and the entrance to Prospect Park, and we are thrilled that this building will continue to function in its original use. We thank Nitehawk for proving that occupying a landmark building doesn’t mean that the building must be significantly altered and expanded to be viable.
Working to protect the Louis J. Lefkowitz State Office Building
In August, Mayor de Blasio unveiled a plan to dissolve Rikers Island Correctional Facility by building four borough-based jails. In Manhattan, the plan called for the Louis J. Lefkowitz State Office Building at 80 Centre Street to be demolished, and a new 40-story tower built in its place. HDC quickly sent in a Request For Evaluation (RFE) to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark the building. The building was originally designed to house an enormous number of government uses, which it continues to do, and the city recently concluded that it would be too difficult to relocate building tenants – including the Marriage Bureau – and abandoned the plan. While the building is no longer imminently threatened, HDC has not abandoned the pursuit of landmarking this important Civic Center building, and we continue to lead a campaign to officially designate the edifice.
HDC’s Paving Study awarded
“Toward Accessible Historic Streetscapes,” HDC’s landmark paving study, was given the American Society of Landscape Architects New York Chapter’s 2018 Design Award. HDC shared the award with the DUMBO Neighborhood Association and Being Here Design Consultants, who wrote the report. You can read the full study online here.
Setting the record straight at The Strand
826 Broadway is one of seven proposed individual landmarks on Broadway near Union Square. The building is notable as the home of the Strand, an iconic independent bookstore founded in 1927 and housed at 826 Broadway since 1957. Immediately prior to the designation hearing of this handsome Renaissance Revival skyscraper, the store’s owners launched a caustic and ill-informed public relations campaign against landmarking, pitting 826 Broadway is one of seven proposed individual landmarks on Broadway near Union Square. The building is notable as the home of the Strand, an iconic independent bookstore founded in 1927 and housed at 826 Broadway since 1957. Immediately prior to the designation hearing of this handsome Renaissance Revival skyscraper, the store’s owners launched a caustic and ill-informed public relations campaign against landmarking, pitting book lovers and preservationists against one another. HDC’s testimony at the public hearing was the only one to address the owners’ concerns about landmarking head-on, clarifying between facts and fear on the public record. To read the full testimony addressing many common misconceptions about landmarking, please see Item 2 here. We very much look forward to seeing this building designated as an official NYC landmark in 2019.