Certificate of Appropriateness Testimony

HDC@LPC – Testimony for Hearing on March 7, 2017

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

18-33 41st Street (Steinway House) Individual Landmark


An Italianate style country villa built in the 1850s. Application is to replace windows.

Project: The L Group

As part of the legacy of the Steinway family, 18-33 41st Street, also known as the Steinway House, holds an important role in New York City history. It is also one of the stand-out landmarks in the community and one of the most famous landmarks in the borough. As such, HDC believes this building must be treated with respect. We are aware of the recent history of the structure and note with some alarm the reports in the media of its neglect as well as the incongruous development on the surrounding property, which is unfortunately outside the boundaries of the landmark site. Therefore, we strongly recommend that necessary replacement windows be real wood windows, perhaps with custom brick moulds to achieve a historic appearance, to replace the existing ones. We also recommend that the applicant take a closer look at the details of the sills. These efforts would start the long road toward properly preserving the structure, although its long-term survival depends on finding a compatible and sustainable use for this historic house.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 2

39-13 48th Street – Sunnyside Gardens Historic District


A rowhouse with Colonial Revival style details designed by Clarence Stein, Henry Wright and Frederick Ackerman and built in 1927. Application is to enlarge an existing rear yard extension.

Project architect: Creo Design Collaborative & Keith F. Buckley, Architect

One of the great features of the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District that largely remains from the original design is the uniformity of massing in its individual structures. This consistency contributes to the neighborhood’s hallmark: its sense of community. The proposed rear yard extension spoils this unique feature and detracts from the historic character of the district. The rhythm of extensions in these backyards is so strong that departing from it would be a step backward, and exactly what the historic district designation was meant to prevent. Furthermore, the precedents shown in the application were completed before designation, and thus should not serve as examples of good preservation practice. As the Landmarks Commission is well aware, Sunnyside Gardens had a long history of clear regulatory oversight which unfortunately lapsed for a decade. Please don’t push the district into that dark, lawless time. HDC looks forward to seeing a revised plan that is more respectful of the original, and mostly extant, historic design of the community.

LPC determination: Denied


Item 3

141 Bergen Street – Boerum Hill Historic District


A modified Italianate style rowhouse built in 1871-1873. Application is to construct a rearyard addition.

Project architect: Andrew Reyniak

HDC has a number of concerns with this application. The prevailing character of Boerum Hill’s rowhouses are their simplicity of design, especially in comparison to the more stylized rowhouses of the neighboring Cobble Hill Historic District. With that in mind, HDC finds that fancifying this house’s simple rear façade with elaborate brickwork would be an inappropriate gesture. In keeping with the Commission’s practice of preserving the configuration of the top floor, our Committee finds that the third level of the addition obscures that top floor too much. In addition to finding no precedent in the district for cantilevered balconies, we also wish to alert the Commission to a potential zoning issue, as the proposed setbacks might represent a non-compliant inner court. Finally, we feel that some of the key features of the rear façade should be retained, namely the corbelled brick cornice, which it shares with its neighbors, and the brick relieving arches. With the introduction of so much texture and varied brick in the proposal, it seems like an oversight to throw away these historic brick features. Brooklyn’s protected historic buildings deserve more sensitivity than what is being proposed.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 10

138-140 West 11th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District


A pair of Italianate style houses built in 1855 and altered c. 1920. Application is to alter the front façade and areaway, alter the existing rooftop addition, replace cornices, and relocate the historic porch at the rear façade.

Project architect: (not listed)

Given the intent to convert two buildings into one very large house, HDC urges the applicant to consider the current streetscape in their design. While hardware was found as evidence that shutters existed at some point, our committee is concerned with their application here. The proposed use of shutters on these Italianate style houses sets them apart from their context in the row, where shutters are no longer found. We caution against using shutters, as such a heavy-handed intervention would only serve to draw attention to the fact that these two houses are now one oversized mansion. This is a commendable project in many respects, but the overall effect seems to erase the specificity of the two historic buildings and replace them with a pastiche of the kind of mammoth townhouse which just never existed in this community. This seems to be a case of losing the forest for the sake of the trees and could be avoided with certain design decisions. In the rear, we object to the unifying cornice, another gesture designed to erase the site’s history as two distinct houses.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


Item 12

151 Central Park West – Central Park West – West 76th Street Historic District


A French Beaux-Arts style apartment building designed by Townsend, Steinle & Haskell and built in 1906-08. Application is to replace a window.

Manufacturer: Panorama Windows, Ltd.

The original window the applicant proposes to replace is a special leaded glass window that should be preserved. If it is found to be too deteriorated, it should be replicated in kind, not thrown away. If safety is a concern, we would recommend incorporating safety glazing.

LPC determination: Approved


Item 13

36 West 94th Street – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District


A Queen Anne rowhouse with Romanesque Revival and neo-Grec elements designed by Increase M. Grenell and built in 1888. Application is to install a glass canopy.

Project architect: IBI Group – Gruzen Samton

HDC finds the location and position of this canopy to be quite awkward, especially since it obscures the brownstone around the entrance. We would suggest a solution executed in decorative stone or to make use of the stuccoed area above the door instead.

LPC determination: Approved


Item 14

269 West 138th Street – St. Nicholas Historic District


A Georgian style rowhouse designed by Bruce Price and Clarence C. Luce, and built in 1891. Application is to remove a garage constructed without Landmarks Preservation Commission permits, to construct a new garage, and to expand an existing rear yard extension.

Project architect: Archetype Design Studio

In the proposal, the applicant shows a number of other garages that have been approved by the LPC, yet all of these share a red brick material palette, as opposed to yellow brick, and lower parapet heights than the one proposed here. We suggest that the applicant take its cues from these approved examples found in the row.

LPC determination: Approved


Item 15

2516 Grand Concourse – Dollar Savings Bank – Individual Landmark


A classicizing Art Deco style bank building designed by Halsey, McCormack & Helmer and built in 1932-33 and expanded in 1937-38 by the same firm. Application is to modify a window opening to create new entrance.

Project architect: Cogen Architects, P.C.

HDC finds the proposed plate glass used in the modified window opening to be too stark. Our committee suggests that the oval detail applied above the door be extended to the ground level to add dimension to the glass doors.

LPC determination: Approved

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