Statement Opposing the proposed NY Methodist Hospital Development in Park Slope

February 4, 2014

 

Hon. Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chair

NYC Board of Standards & Appeals

250 Broadway, 29th Floor

New York, NY 10007

 

Regarding 505-525 6th Street (Block 1084; Lots 25, 26, 28, 39-44, 46, 50-59, 164, 1001 & 1002)

BSA Calendar No.289-13-BZ

 

Dear Chair Srinivasan,

 

The Historic Districts Council is the citywide advocate for New York’s historic neighborhoods. HDC has long been concerned about protecting the historic character of the Park Slope neighborhood. We were early and active advocates for the designation and subsequent expansions of the Park Slope Historic District and participated in the contextual rezoning of the neighborhood more a decade ago. At that time, we were disturbed by the exclusion of NY Methodist Hospital’s property from the rezoning as we felt this was not sensible planning. When the Landmarks Preservation Commission finally moved on the first phase of the long-awaited historic district expansion, the hospital’s properties were again excluded, not on the basis of architectural merit or existing urban fabric but because NY Methodist preferred to make its plans with a minimum of regulatory oversight. In a neighborhood as distinctive as Park Slope, with such a long history of community-motivated regulatory protections, the situation as it has come to pass has the potential for disaster.

 

The question of neighborhood context is paramount in this development. Park Slope has large historic developments, such as the Ansonia Clock Factory complex as well as remarkable religious institutions (such as Garfield Temple and the Melkite Church of the Virgin Mary). These and other historic developments reflect and complement the neighborhood’s character through the use of style, scale and materials. Even the notably monumental 14th Regiment Armory (an individual NYC landmark) works in conjunction with the surrounding rowhouse streets through its use of similarly colored brick and Romanesque architectural details.

 

The proposed design of the new NYMH development, by contrast, looks like a corporate office park. The massing of the new building is ungainly and over-scaled in comparison to the surrounding blocks. The use of glass as a primary building material for the rooftop and on the façade is unheard of in the neighborhood and the awkward street entrances introduce a discordant note in a community known for its street life. Eighth Avenue in Park Slope is primarily residential in character albeit with larger-scale dwellings than the side streets. These small apartment buildings maintain the low-scale of the rowhouse side streets at the pedestrian level using modest entranceways with set-backs, areaways and small stoops separating them from the street – elements which the proposed design is lacking. This seemingly small detail changes the relationship which the building has with the pedestrians on the sidewalk. Finally, the façade is devoid of articulation and detail other than the voids created by the massive windows. Façade decoration is a key component of the Park Slope visual environment and one which helps create the attractive, distinctive streetscapes which are so cherished by residents and desired by visitors. Even the simple window surrounds, incised masonry keystones and standardized cornices of the more prosaic blocks create an inviting visual rhythm on Park Slope’s streets. Frankly, a more severe façade than the one proposed for the NYMH development would be hard to find in the surrounding neighborhood, unless one looks at their other properties.

 

The Historic Districts Council urges the Board of Standards & Appeals to deny this application and send the NYMH and their design team back to the drawing board to develop a plan which truly fits in visually and contextually with the character of this preserved historic neighborhood. We are confident that, with proper guidance and community input, a satisfactory solution can be arrived at which fulfills NYMH’s needs while retaining the distinctive character of Park Slope.

 

Sincerely,

 

Simeon Bankoff

Executive Director

 

cc:                    CM Brad Lander

Brooklyn CB 6

 

Posted Under: Brooklyn, Park Slope, testimony, The Politics of Preservation

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