Certificate of Appropriateness Testimony

HDC@LPC September 10, 2013

Item 3
126740- Block 8045, lot 17-
102 Park Lane – Douglaston Historic District
A vernacular Colonial revival style house designed by Eugene McMurray and built in 1936. Application is to construct an addition and alter the facades.
blog douglaston
While the proposed addition is not inappropriate in its size, HDC does have concerns about the alterations to the façade.  A few here or there could be appropriate, but their combined total is a significant change to a relatively simple, but very handsome and charming house.  Granted, the alterations are inspired by other Spanish Colonial style houses, but the presentation boards do not say where these structures are located (they do not appear to be from Douglaston) or what year they were built (the style has a long history that is still found in current construction).  If changes must be made, HDC asks that Douglaston examples of the period be studied to create a more fitting project.

We also question the need to change so many windows – a mixture of multipane sash and casements – which are listed as notable building features in the Douglaston Historic District designation report.

Finally, HDC asks that staff work with the applicant to find the correct roof tile profile.

LPC determination:  no action


Item 34
138779- Block 573, lot 67-
45 West 9th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District
An Anglo-Italianate style rowhouse built in 1854. Application is to legalize façade work done in non-compliance with Certificate of No Effect 11-9815.

While we feel for the applicant, this is a mistake that the contractor should fix.  HDC requests that the commission not legalize this façade work and the precedent it could set.   Thorocoat is rarely a good idea, and LPC’s typical opposition to the material is a testament to that.  We also feel that marbleizing is not the best finish for this rowhouse.

LPC determination:  denied


Item 18
144263- Block 30, lot 204-
177 Water Street – DUMBO Historic District
An American Round Arch style factory building designed by George L. Morse, and built in 1880. Application is to alter the ground floor and install storefront infill.

HDC appreciates the use of steel in the proposed infill, but details are needed to ensure an appropriate profile.  We also ask that the amount of glazing, particularly on the residential door, be restudied to strike the right balance between a traditional, industrial look and the building’s present and future use.

LPC determination:  no action


Item 9
144952- Block 190, lot 27-
438 Pacific Street – Boerum Hill Historic District
An Italianate style rowhouse built in 1851-53. Application is to construct a rear yard addition.
blog boerum hill
The designation report for the Boerum Hill Historic District notes that, “As one walks down the street of Boerum Hill, the unity and coherence achieved within each block is a striking feature.”  It is interesting that on this block, which is one of only three full blocks in the district, the sense of unity and coherence continues at the rear, in the nearly pristine garden core.  Of the block’s 59 buildings, only 11 have rear yard additions which extend into the central open space.

While the proposed rear yard addition may seem modest when compared with other projects seen by the commission, in the context of this block it is quite large and risks setting a precedent.  As the neighbor’s mock up shows, the proposed would be quite an incursion.  HDC asks the commission to preserve this space, an increasingly rare one in this city, and its contribution to the special sense of place of the Boerum Hill Historic District.

LPC determination:  approved


Item 4
146207- Block 5917, lot 1-
Fort Totten Building 422 – Fort Totten Historic District
A Colonial revival style Commanding Officer’s Quarters designed by the Office of the Quartermaster General and built in 1909, with an enclosed porch constructed post 1926. Application is to alter the porch to accommodate a barrier-free access lift and install handrails.
blog fort
HDC applauds this proposal to accommodate a barrier-free access lift.  The applicant has obviously taken the time to study the building and find a creative way to deal with the issue of access.  We ask that the Commission approve this application.

LPC determination:  approved


Item 13
146262- Block 235, lot 4-
35 Pierrepont Street – Brooklyn Heights Historic District
A neo-Medieval style apartment building built in the 1920s. Application is to remove a masonry chimney and install metal flues.
blog chimney
The Commission has frequently worked hard to find solutions to ensure that metal flues are not visible from the public way, or at the very least, as inconspicuous as possible.  35 Pierrepont Street already has a solution.  Knowing that this side facade would be very visible next to its smaller neighbors, the architect used the same bricks as are on the front facade and a handsome masonry chimney which blends nicely with the neo-Medieval style of the apartment building was constructed.  HDC asks that the brick chimney, a much more appropriate solution than exposed metal flues, be reinstalled.

Item 33
146342- Block 615, lot 4-
307 West 4th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District
A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1835. Application is to alter window openings and modify a bulkhead.

HDC asks that this application to alter window openings and modify a bulkhead not be approved.  The prior approvals are more in keeping with what the Commission regularly looks for in the Greenwich Village Historic District – retain the top floor fenestration and make roof top accretions as nonvisible as possible.  If the top floor fenestration is not original, neighboring rowhouses should be looked to for models.  While changes to the material of the bulkhead may be appropriate, boxing out its roofline and making it visible from the public way, when it does not have to be,  is not.

LPC determination: no action


Item 37
147025- Block 853, lot 7501-
5 Madison Avenue – Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (tower) – Individual Landmark
A Venetian style office tower designed by Pierre L. LeBrun and built in 1907-09 and altered in 1960-64. Application is to replace entrance and storefront infill, and install canopies.

HDC asks that more of the Morgan and Meroni’s 1960-1964 alterations to the base of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company tower, which sought to bring it in harmony with the adjacent home office building, be retained in this project.  We find the new entrance on Madison Avenue a significant alteration to this Individual Landmark.  If an entrance is necessary on the Madison Avenue façade for egress reasons, we ask that it be made less conspicuous and the canopy not be installed.   On the 24th Street façade the transom of the entrance door should retain the tripartite arrangement that relates to the trio of windows above.

LPC determination:  no action

Item 17
147471- Block 7777, lot 777-
 Pearl Street and adjacent streets – DUMBO Historic District
A street grid laid out c. 1830. Application is to install paving, pedestrian plazas, fencing, seating, and lighting.
blog dumbo plaza
DUMBO is renowned for its industrial architecture and history and its gritty nature that combine into a very specific, special sense of place.  HDC finds that this project’s efforts to clean up this iconic spot and surrounding streets threatens the integrity and authenticity of the historic district.  Instead, a “less is more” approach should be taken – less design, less permanent interventions, less green.  An area so close to a brand-new public park does not need greenwalls, large planters, and permanent seating, especially when such features specifically work against the essence of the historic district.  It was noted that there is no precedent to model these items off of, and that fact gives a hint as to just how appropriate they are.  While we certainly appreciate the need for some changes to meet ADA code compliance, it does not require an entire redo of the streets.

LPC determination:  approved with modifications


Item 19
147637- Block 31, lot 7502-
50 Bridge Street – DUMBO Historic District
An American Round Arch style factory building designed by William Tubby and built in 1894-95. Application is to re-coat the masonry facades.

HDC finds that this proposal would take a brick building designed by William Tubby and, using an inappropriate, possibly harmful material, create something that more resembles a concrete building.  From the photos provided of patch tests where the existing paint and coating has been removed, the brick looks to be in fairly good condition.  HDC asks that more investigation of the existing brick be done.  If a new coating is necessary, one that preserves the physical well-being and the character of this historic building needs to be found.

LPC:  no action

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