HDC’s Public Review Committee is the only group that reviews every single Certificate of Appropriateness application submitted to New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).
This is a tremendous task, but it keeps HDC on the pulse of all of New York’s historic districts. Our volunteer committee and professional staff examine each proposal with scrutiny, and create intelligent testimony that is read to the Commission at every public hearing.
The following properties were some of the biggest projects we reviewed this past year. Because of our review efforts, HDC was at the forefront of shaping each of their outcomes.
7 Irvington Place — Fiske Terrace-Midwood Park Historic District — Brooklyn
Belvedere Castle & Paths — Central Park Scenic Landmark — Manhattan
Public Hearing: May 2
The Central Park Conservancy unveiled a plan in May 2017 to bring ADA access to the Belvedere Castle via a substantial elevated pathway. The pathway was affectionately termed by HDC staff as “the Great Wall of Gotkin,” named after the stalwart Central Park advocate Michael Gotkin, who rang the alarm bells about the proposal to neighborhood groups this spring. After carefully reviewing the plans, HDC found the pathway’s height, length, and width’s impacts on the surrounding landscape and the castle itself to be quite detrimental to the landscape of Central Park. In fact, under this plan, the castle would become partially buried as a result of the intrusion. Thus, HDC argued that the experience of the resource was being compromised to bring access to it. While LPC approved portions of the application such as restorative work on the castle, the pathway remains in limbo and has not yet been reviewed or approved by the NYC Public Design Commission. Due to enormous public interest of this scheme, the Central Park Conservancy has not yet proposed a revision of the pathway and HDC is anticipating its return in 2018.
60 Norfolk Street – Beth Hamedrash Hagadol –
Individual Landmark, Manhattan
Public Hearing: July 11
Originally constructed as a Baptist church in 1850, Congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagadol took over the structure in 1885 and converted it into a synagogue at that time. By the late 20th century, the century-old congregation dwindled and the building fell into disrepair. In early spring of 2017, the synagogue mysteriously caught fire and was severely damaged to a point of ruin. By the summer, the owner applied to the LPC for a demolition permit of what remained of the fallen edifice. In testimony, HDC reminded the Landmarks Commission that the same owner had applied for a demolition permit as recent as 2012 to build condos in its place, and at that time, the LPC denied the request. HDC testified that a hardship procedure exists within the Landmarks Law, and that this was the route the applicant should be seeking. HDC vehemently opposed demolition, as did many public speakers. After a long deliberation, Commissioners shared a consensus of retaining fragments of the building that could be stabilized and salvaged, nixing the wholesale demolition that the applicant sought. This application is an important example of the strength of the NYC Landmarks Law, and demonstrates to property owners that demolition of designated structures can be extremely difficult to secure, even in the most dramatic and damaging of cases.
Public Hearing: September 12
292-314 Kent Avenue – Havemeyers & Elder Filter, Pan & Finishing House, Domino Sugar – Individual Landmark, Brooklyn
Public Hearing: October 31
Pier 17– South Street Seaport Historic District — Manhattan
Public Hearing: December 12
For years, HDC has advocated against changes that fall short of honoring the historic character of the South Street Seaport. Some of our toughest battles in this part of the city were concerned with the demolition and rebuilding of Pier 17. While preservation advocates lost the battle to protect Benjamin Thompson’s Pier 17, we continue to monitor proposed changes to the Howard Hughes Corporation’s new mall in hopes of mitigating any further impact on the historic district. In 2015, the developer proposed a rooftop pergola spanning almost the entire length of the building, which the commission did not approve. On December 12, 2017, the developer came back with this proposal for a temporary, seasonal performance venue and retractable roof. HDC testified against it, citing the extra bulk on an already bulky building, the lack of precedent for rooftop performance venues in New York City, and the lack of evidence that the structure would, in fact, be temporary.