Certificate of Appropriateness Testimony

HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on June 25, 2019

HDC regularly reviews every public proposal affecting Individual Landmarks and buildings within Historic Districts in New York City, and when needed, we comment on them. Our testimony for the latest items to be presented at the Landmarks Preservation Commission is below.

Item 1

1 Hanson Place – Williamsburg Savings Bank – Individual Landmark and Interior Landmark


A neo-Romanesque style commercial skyscraper, with designated interior basement and ground-floor banking floors, designed by Halsey, McCormack & Helmer and built in 1927- 1929. Application is to alter built-in features within the designated interior spaces.

HDC understands the applicant’s reasoning for proposing to alter and reposition the built-in tables. Rather than having steel discs as solid bases for the tables, a more linear frame or transparent support system, much like the proposed support system of the rectangular table, is recommended here. The proposed disc bases are obtrusive and have the potential to obscure substantial portions of the detailed flooring. As this object transitions from a piece of architecture to a piece of furniture, its treatment should reflect the lightness of the tables as opposed to the heaviness of a solid disc base.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 3

190 Bowery – (Former) Germania Savings Bank Building – Individual Landmark


A Beaux-Arts style bank building designed by Robert Maynicke and built in 1898-99. Application is to establish a Master Plan governing the installation of murals at the rooftop water tank.

When 190 Bowery came before the LPC in 2015 for its restoration, the applicant at the time stated that the building would not be cleaned. This included retaining the graffiti, as this location was a renowned site for graffiti artists and their art was a crucial part of the history of the building. The LPC supported this approach at that time. That promise was not kept, however, and most of the art was removed in the months after the public hearing. HDC laments the loss of the building’s authentic art and replacement with a curated mural from a star artist.

A few weeks ago the Commission had a robust discussion about another street artist’s mural on a landmark building in Greenwich Village, and whether or not it should be characterized as art or as advertising. We ask the Commission to analyze the proposed series of murals through the same lens, as the celebrity artist, Shepard Fairey, has a current campaign of monetization of his murals along the Bowery. Whether the Commission decides if this is a mural or this is a billboard, this highly visible work should be evaluated within the context of the landmark and whether or not eye-catching rooftop art and/or advertising is appropriate in this context.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications 

Item 7

83 Wooster Street – SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District


A neo-Grec style store and loft building designed by J.B. Snook and built in 1876. Application is to establish a Master Plan governing the installation of painted wall signs.

The compositional relationship of the proposed painted wall sign to the existing ghost of a previous painted wall sign is unsympathetic to the space. HDC prefers the size of the existing sign and we understand that size this is not permitted under the Department of Buildings. We ask that the size and positioning of the proposed smaller sign fit more appropriately within the frame of the ghosted image, following the cues and placement of the existing, larger sign.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 8

334 West 84th Street – Riverside – West End Extension I Historic District


A Romanesque Revival style rowhouse designed by Joseph H. Taft and built in 1888-89. Application is to construct a bulkhead and pergola, extend a chimney flue, and install an HVAC unit.

Given the height of the new chimneys, HDC asks that the chimney extensions be brick as opposed to stucco.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 9

West 79th Street Rotunda Complex and Bridge – Scenic Landmark


An English Romantic style park and parkway designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and built in 1873-1902, with significant alterations and enlargements in 1937 by Gilmore Clarke and Clifton Lloyd. Application is to alter the landscape and paving for barrier-free access, and install infill, railings, ventilation shafts and light fixtures.

Like all great compositions, details are crucial. HDC is concerned about the level of detail of some of the treatments of historic elements in this proposal. The first issue is the paving, which is a character defining element of the Rotunda. The attention given to “interior” paving in the original design was so paramount that Clarke and Lloyd chose four different types of materials within this space: granite, bluestone, quarry pavers, and hexagonal fieldstone. As the 1936 drawings exist for all of these pavers, HDC would like to see a paving study for each of these materials conducted: what needs to be repaired, replaced, or replicated? This is especially crucial for the bluestone, as there was a distinct paving pattern illustrated in the drawings for how the stone should be laid. The bluestone’s wholesale replacement gives us pause, and we ask the Commission to ensure the replacement material follow the original design pattern. Also, during repair work on the Guastavino tiles, there will likely be material droppage. HDC would like to know what strategies will be employed to ensure that the quarry tiles beneath the arches will not be damaged or compromised.

This structure is very much of its era, from its curvilinear nature to the spare design of the light fixtures, and HDC appreciates the replication of these fixtures which will bring a level of lost detail back to the Rotunda. However, the proposed Type F Luminaire lampposts proposed are completely at odds with the 1937 design. While they may be appropriate and associate with the period of significance of Riverside Park, they are completely inappropriate here. The packet provides clear documentation of what these posts looked like and where they were sited. They are the crowning elements of the entire Rotunda and their omission via a substitution should not be permitted.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 10

8 East 93rd Street – Carnegie Hill Historic District


A Romanesque Revival style house designed by A. B. Ogden & Son and built in 1888-89. Application is to modify masonry openings and the areaway.

HDC supports this proposal to restore the masonry openings at the windows to their original state. As stated in the Carnegie Hill Historic District designation report, “No. 8 [East 93rd Street] is the only house which preserves some of the original Romanesque Revival character of the group of three houses designed by A.B. Ogden & Son in 1888-89.” As such, HDC recommends that the rest of the façade receive the same restorative maintenance.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 11

20 East 74th Street – Upper East Side Historic District


A Modern style apartment building designed by Sylvan Bien and built 1945-1947. Application is to remove a window.

The removal of the original window would undoubtedly detract from the symmetrical nature of the building’s façade and does not seem wholly necessary. Less surgical options exist to block out a window from the interior that would also allow for the historic window to remain intact in its original place. HDC recommends the applicant explore these methods to ensure that both the window and the symmetry of the façade are left undisturbed.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

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