Certificate of Appropriateness Testimony

HDC@LPC Testimony for January 9, 2024


Central Park – West 85th Street Playground – Scenic Landmark


A playground originally constructed in the 1930s, and pathways, within an English Romantic style public park designed in 1857-1858 by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Application is to modify the playground footprint and pathways, and replace fencing.

Architect: Central Park Conservancy

HDC realizes that this playground is in need of renovation, and we thank the Central Park Conservancy for taking the time to share this presentation with us. 

We commend the Conservancy for altering the playground’s geometry away from its strict oval shape. We feel that the park’s new undulating form is an improvement for two reasons: First, it allows for the known foundation of a Seneca Village structure which is currently covered by the playground to be located outside the new playground boundaries so that the site and the historic foundation may be further excavated, made public, or otherwise interpreted and commemorated. Second, we believe that the new undulating boundaries of the playground relate better to Olmsted and Vaux’s historic landscape.

That said, we are troubled by the fact that this proposal enlarges the overall footprint of the playground by 17%, which we feel is an inappropriate imposition on the park’s green space and historic design.  We believe that the overall footprint of the playground should remain the same, and that accessible picnic tables should be included within that area.  

Action: Unanimous positive report that recommends a single picket fence around the perimeter of the park and that the Conservancy works closely with LPC archeological department to continue to work on Seneca Village foundations.

4 Grove Street – Greenwich Village Historic District


A Federal style row house designed by James N. Wells and built in 1833-34. Application is to clad existing dormers, alter the roofline and add a dormer, and excavate the rear yard.

Architect: Neil Logan Architect

HDC finds this proposal to be a sensitive approach to a Federal style house. We find the proposed dormer to be an example of how to achieve more headroom without compromising the Federal envelope. 

That said, we feel that existing shutters on the front facade should be maintained, and that standing seam is an inappropriate cladding for the side walls of the dormers, which should be wood clapboard, or perhaps a cementitious facsimile.

Action: Unanimously approved with modification that the siding on the dormers be wood or look like wood, and that the excavation have enhanced review.

608 Fifth Avenue – Goelet Building Individual Landmark

A transitional Art Deco/International style office building designed by Victor L. S. Hafner and Edward Hall Faile, built in 1930-1932, and expanded in 1936. Application is to install signage and alter storefronts.

Architect: Acheson Doyle Partners

This building is an individual landmark which offers a restoration opportunity that should be pursued more rigorously. In its Designation Report, the LPC notes that 608 5th Avenue is “a transitional monument between the Art Deco style and the International Style.” 

We believe the building’s status as a stylistic bridge can be better articulated if the applicant restores the stone bulkhead at the foot of the building, which originally anchored the building’s show windows to the street, and also restores the masonry corner of the ground floor. 

Further, we believe the arched doorway which once existed on Fifth Avenue should be restored so that it matches the one which is still extant on 49th Street. Doorways are the primary way that the public experiences buildings from the street, so this is a particularly meaningful feature.

Finally, we feel the proposed signage is overscale and unnecessarily repetitive. The name “Aritzia” needn’t be emblazoned on both the first and second floor of the Fifth Avenue facade, in addition to being inscribed on two flags over the Fifth Avenue entrance.

Action: Unanimously approved with modification to reduce signage at the second floor.

418 Columbus Avenue (aka 101 West 80th Street) – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District

A Beaux-Arts style apartment building designed by Henry F. Cook and built in 1898.
Application is to replace storefront infill, replace a window, and install a louver.

Architect: Parkbench Architects

HDC finds this proposal to be almost appropriate. Unfortunately, this is a particularly bad rendering that does the applicant no favors, because it’s hard to understand what they are actually proposing. 

That said, we believe that this might be a relatively modest and interesting proposal, but we feel the proposed signage needs to be dropped below the buildings lovely stone frieze, and more meaningfully recessed within the facades openings.

Further, the infill, which strikes us as interesting, also needs to be recessed from the storefront so that the classical language of the building reads as dominant.

Action: Unanimously approved with the modification that they recess the stone brick lattice and they work with staff on the final color for the security gate and housing

313 Jefferson Avenue – Bedford Historic District

A neo-Grec style rowhouse designed by George H. Stone and built c. 1884. Application is to replace the rear façade and construct a rooftop addition.

Architect: James Carse

HDC finds the height, massing and visibility of the rooftop and the rear yard additions to be appropriate as proposed, but we share Brooklyn Community Board 3’s concern about the material palette proposed for the rear. 

If the rear facade can be restored, it should be restored in kind. If it must be rebuilt, it should be rebuilt in brick and block with articulated sills, lintels and crenelated brick cornice. Stucco is not appropriate. Brooklyn Community Board 3 points out that the undivided casement windows proposed for the rear are inappropriate.

Action: Unanimously approved with modification that the rear wall be reconstructed in brick with stone or cast stone windows and sills (with possibility to paint it to achieve more contemporary look), and look at bulkhead with staff to minimize its height and slight lines.

17 Fillmore Place – Fillmore Place Historic District

An Italianate style rowhouse built c. 1853. Application is to construct a rear yard addition.

Architect: Sarah Jefferys

HDC finds this project to be completely inappropriate. This 1853 Italianate-style rowhouse was originally built as a multi-family dwelling for working-class tenants. Expanding the rear so dramatically overwhelms the building and changes the entire composition of the structure, while forcing a wholesale loss of historic fabric at the rear.

The top two stories of the original building should be left intact so that the structure’s historic envelope is legible. Because this proposal envisions such dramatic changes to the building, we will add that Filmore Place is the only historic district that Williamsburg has, and thereby this is the only stretch of the neighborhood that is – in theory – protected from the misguided logic that sees our shared built environment as belonging only to its current owners and thereby expendable according to their whims. 

Action: Approve with modification to lower addition 1 floor and maintain masonry openings at the top floor.

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