Certificate of Appropriateness Testimony

HDC@LPC – Testimony for Hearing on November 14, 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 2

1370 Dean Street – Crown Heights North Historic District


A Queen Anne style semi-attached house designed by G.A. Schellenger and built c. 1885. Application is to construct a rear addition.

As this house is semi-attached, its two visible facades were attractively designed with the intent to be seen. It is inappropriate to demolish an historically finished façade where details described in the designation report are as follows: three-sided wood bay window with recessed spandrel panels, one-over-one, double-hung wood windows, and molded wood cornice; projecting molded cornice wrapping around to engage the cornice on the Dean Street façade; pitched roof with slate shingles; three gabled wall dormers with denticulated pediments; foliate ornament within the two northernmost dormer pediments and tall brick chimneys. Removal of this section is, without question, significant removal of historic fabric and should not be permitted.

An alarming amount of speculative projects are invading the historic districts of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights North. A new trend emerging is for developers to sell properties “with plans,” meaning, with LPC-approvals in place, but not built. With that in mind, is it appropriate to destroy a large portion of this house for people who do not even live here yet?

Further, if this was bought to be occupied as a single family, would this much bulk be permitted as a rear yard addition? It’s doubtful. Just because this house is being proposed as a multi-family, it should not be given greater bulk latitude, because the building’s use shouldn’t affect evaluating its appropriateness. This bulk strips the building’s appearance as a rowhouse and rather it rather appears as a small flats building. If approved, this will certainly set a precedent for a huge amount of permissible volume in the rears of these houses which dominate the district.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 9

184 Waverly Place – Greenwich Village Historic District


A Federal style building built before 1828. Application is to install areaway enclosures, garbage enclosures, and through-wall HVAC louvers, construct rooftop bulkheads, and install rooftop mechanical equipment, flue extensions and railings.

The rooftop accretions of bulkheads, mechanicals, railings and extended flues are far too much clutter on this low-scale, ancient corner building. The applicants honestly rendered the visibility and the cumulative result is far too impactful at this Village intersection on a small building. Some or most of what is proposed for the roof should be explored to be relocated to a basement, or the bulkheads should be eliminated or reduced in size. The proposed street-level fence alongside the trash enclosure clutters the sidewalk as well, and the fence seems unnecessary to an entrance of a building that isn’t a rowhouse stoop.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 10

156 West 10th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District


An Italianate style rowhouse designed by James P. Ringgold and built in 1855. Application is to alter the rear façade, excavate the rear yard, construct rooftop bulkheads, and install rooftop mechanical equipment, flue extensions, a trellis, and railings.

Like its neighbor at 184 Waverly, HDC found the rooftop bulk to be too visible and it should be reduced. Given that the current yards are non-compliant, HDC wonders if an excavation is even allowable in this location.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 11

34 King Street – Charlton-King-Vandam Historic District


A Greek Revival style house built in 1840. Application is to legalize a bulkhead built in noncompliance with Certificate of Appropriateness 15-0478.

Prior to this construction, this side of King Street had maintained a crisp roofline for over 175 years. The roofline might still appear this way if the applicant had constructed the bulkhead in the version LPC issued permits for. Instead, the bulkhead as built was a willful violation of what was approved and should not be excused or rewarded. Had the builder followed instructions, this unsightly mass would not be hovering nearly two feet above the Greek Revival cornice. Further, adding a cap to this fine cornice to obscure the illegal construction will further degrade and clutter the termination of this building. HDC implores the Commission to require this applicant to lower the roof height to its initial approval to preserve the pristine nature of this very small and quite old collection of buildings. 

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

 Item 12

125 East 11th Street – Individual Landmark Historic District


A 19th century assembly hall built in 1886-87 with an Annex built in 1892. Application is to modify and create masonry openings, install infill, relocate terra-cotta panels, and modify the areaway.

Given this building’s history of multiple fires and alterations, creating another alteration to an individual landmark is a step in the wrong direction. There are currently five different ways in and out of this building, all from the front façade. Two of the five are the main or formal entries, which the architecture and design of the façade clearly establishes as the primary entrances to the building. With the extensive renovation underway, HDC believes that there must be a better solution to dealing with egress, ADA, or both as opposed to poking yet another hole into this façade for a large entry way.

The proposed entry is unceremonious unlike the building’s other two established entries, and the terra cotta’s location will not make sense from a design standpoint once it is moved. All of this can be avoided if this entry is eliminated and the applicant proposed interior and possibly exterior modifications to allow the other entrances to function for this building. Alterations have not been kind to this building, but it remains a celebrated individual landmark. To that end, the long-term direction of how interventions should impact this building should move toward restoration, not further degradation.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 15

884 West End Avenue – Riverside – West End Extension II Historic District


A Renaissance Revival style apartment building designed by Gaetan Ajello and built in 1919- 1920. Application is to install a barrier-free access ramp.

While HDC did not find the ramp itself innappropriate, the decision to apply granite 12 by 12 tiles to the ramp and planter was puzzling. While the historic steps are granite, this is an entirely brick and terra cotta building. If granite is desired, it should evoke a monolithic appearance, not a tiled one which is completely out of character with the building itself and the historic district.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 16

464 Amsterdam Avenue – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District


A Renaissance Revival style tenement building with ground floor storefronts, designed by Gilbert A. Schellenger and built in 1894. Application is to replace storefront infill.

While the historic storefront was replaced long ago, the committee found the opaque wooden door an odd choice. The current door, which incorporates a glass transom, is more historically appropriate for this old commercial thoroughfare.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 18

22 East 80th Street – Metropolitan Museum Historic District


A neo-Renaissance style rowhouse designed by Charles Graham & Sons and built in 1889, altered by Isaac Newton Phelps-Stokes in 1922. Application is to replace windows and install a guardrail.

HDC was puzzled as to why a handrail is necessary for this balcony, as it is accessed by windows, not a door. If safety is a concern, standard child safety guards can be installed in the windows which is a far less invasive intervention than installing a railing into a stone parapet.

LPC determination: LAID OVER

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