Certificate of Appropriateness Testimony

HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on April 9, 2019

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

1 Water Street – Fulton Ferry HD

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1936079

A small outbuilding associated with the Marine Fire Boat Station built in 1926. Application is to construct an attached restaurant pavilion.

This is a peculiar proposal in that it brings up some existential issues more than design concerns. To begin with, the Historic Districts Council does not object to the design of this proposed restaurant pavilion in and of itself. However, we do greatly object to where it is proposed to be placed. The current siting proposes to introduce a new permanent structure that would further reduce view corridors of the Brooklyn Bridge, and add to the further accretion of commercial enterprises within this public space.

The 1977 Fulton Ferry Historic District designation report foresaw adaptive reuse as means of preserving these manifestations of the city’s maritime heritage, and time has proven the practice to be an effective means of doing so. Though the outbuilding has been reconstructed, it still effectively evokes the 1929 hose shed and its simple utilitarian character, which would be compromised by the proposed restaurant pavilion. The designation report also specifically identifies the Brooklyn Bridge’s historic and continuing hold on the imagination of writers, artists, urbanists and the public at large. New solidifying construction impeding vistas of the bridge, an iconic landmark the world over, would contradict any preservation purpose. Remember that this is right next to the site where the Landmarks Preservation Commission permitted the demolition of the handsome WPA-era Department of Purchase building in order to free up views of the Bridge itself and facilitate pedestrian traffic flow within the greater park. Why should the LPC now decide that more permanent masses obstructing an even smaller chokepoint in the park be appropriate? We ask that this proposal be reconsidered and re-sited.


Item 3

84-88 Wooster Street – SoHo Cast-Iron Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1935753

A Beaux-Arts style Mercantile Exchange building designed by J.B. Snook and built in 1876. Application is to alter storefronts.
The Historic Districts Council finds this proposal generally appropriate. However, it would be even more desirable to replicate the sill in the far-right bay in cast-iron, the durable signature material of this historic district, rather than recreating it in wood as proposed.

Item 4

159 West 72nd Street – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic DIstrict

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1926058

A Modern style commercial building built in 1972-73. Application is to install signage.

The Historic Districts Council commends the applicants for proposing signage that will reveal more of the façade’s masonry, and allow the building’s architecture to be better read. However, we cannot support internally illuminated signs, and would like to see the blade signs limited to one, without internal lighting, as the building displayed at the time of designation.


Item 5

4 St. Mark’s Place – Hamilton-Holly House – Individual Landmark

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1935844

A Federal style town house built in 1831. Application is to request that the Landmarks Preservation Commission issue a report to the City Planning Commission relating to an application for a Modification of Bulk pursuant to Section 74-79 of the Zoning Resolution.

The Historic Districts Council objects to this transfer of over 8,000 square feet of air rights to a prominent corner site at the entrance to St. Mark’s Place and the East Village. The Hamilton Holly House has already been undergoing substantial restoration work under a 2016 permit issued by this body, and we do not find the limited additional work and maintenance plan to justify the transfer of bulk across the street. While this site is not in a designated historic district, it is nonetheless an extraordinarily-prominent street within a historic neighborhood.

More to the point, both the receiving sites are in the immediate visual environment of not only the Hamilton Holly House (its transferring site) but the individually designated Cooper Union Foundation building and the German-American Shooting Society. Rounding the corners of the proposed building and fussing with its setbacks does not ameliorate the damage being done to the scale of the block. To the extent that Landmarks oversees the design of a new building in a 74-79 application, the new building should respect the predominant four-story cornice line of St. Mark’s Place.

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