Certificate of Appropriateness Testimony

HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on August 8, 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.

Research Department Public Hearing

Item 1

86-02 Broadway – Old Saint James Episcopal Church (Old Saint James Parish Hall)


A wood frame church constructed in 1735-36 as a Church of England mission church, and modified in 1883 with Carpenter Gothic details. Borough of Queens, Tax Map Block 1549, Lot 1 in part.

The Historic Districts Council commends the efforts of the Landmarks Preservation Commission to formally recognize St. James Parish Hall as a New York City landmark.

That this building is the oldest surviving Anglican building in New York City is impressive; that it is in Queens is remarkable. The designation of this historic structure will serve as an important step in the LPC’s oft-stated commitment to reaching out to under-represented communities for landmark designation.

HDC would like to extend our appreciation to the New York Landmarks Conservancy, who helped stop a sale of the building in 1998 that would have led to its demolition. Their help funding the restoration of the church, along with the owner and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, proved a vital step in the protection of this important piece of New York City history as has their continued relationship with the church leaders.

This restorative work has revealed a considerable amount of historic fabric dating back to 1883. Since this existing fabric was in situ, the structure was restored to this time period, while, of course, the entire structure itself is 150 years older. Fortunately, LPC has designated many individual landmarks that have been altered in reflections of later styles, such as numerous Federal Style rowhouses altered with additional stories and Greek Revival elements, or more drastically, the Theodore Delano Roosevelt birthplace. Other examples of individual landmarks which have been very altered over time are the Fraunces Tavern Museum, the Pieter Claesen Wyckoff Farm House, and Poe Cottage to name but a few. The 2007 designation of the Gillet-Tyler House on Staten Island, still in use as a private home, is another example of a much-altered building which nevertheless has great historic significance. Buildings of great antiquity change over time, especially in our city, but these historic sites retain their integrity – as does the St. James Parish Hall.

Like the Roosevelt house, St. James Parish Hall also has a highly significant social history in addition to its remarkable, nearly 300 year existence in our great City. We urge the Landmarks Preservation Commission to reconsider this property as an individual New York City landmark, and strongly suggest that the agency revisit its opinion on historic alterations.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Preservation Department Public Hearing 

Item 3

124 Columbia Heights – Brooklyn Heights Historic District


A neo-Federal style building built c. 1930; a Moderne style building built in 1949; and a remnant of a late-19th/early-20th century building. Application is to construct rooftop and rear additions; modify masonry openings; install windows, doors, louvers, a canopy, mechanical equpiment, and rooftop railings; and create a curb cut.

HDC found this proposal to be largely sensitive, including keeping new rooftop bulk within the profile of the top of the building’s existing shape. This will allow the large building’s skyline to appear much the same from a great distance.

At street level, we felt that beautification could be preserved by retaining the historic wood door and arched transom on the 1930 building as opposed to losing these features and materials to glass. Regarding the garage door, HDC strongly suggests removing or finding another location for this amenity other than on Columbia Heights, especially since the examples of other garages in Brooklyn Heights are compelling only in that they appear quite dreary.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 6

120 Stratford Road – Prospect Park South Historic District


A Colonial Revival style house built c. 1910, altered in 1929 and 1952. Application is to alter the façades and roofs, construct a porch, and install solar paneled roof shingles.

HDC applauds this proposal, which our committee finds to be an excellent integration of new technology into a historic building in an unobtrusive way. While the porch is larger than it was originally, it is sensitively designed. This is a perfect example of why altered properties should be included in historic districts, because they can always be brought back to a more historically appropriate design.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 7

271 Church Street – TriBeCa East Historic District


An Art Deco style office building designed by Cross and Cross and built in 1930-1931. Application is to install ground floor infill and signage.

HDC objects to this proposal. The ground floor windows are an important part of the original Cross and Cross design and part of an important public building. To discard a hardier material like bronze and replace it with aluminum is completely inappropriate. If reconfiguration is required for new programmatic reasons, then that should be done carefully using the same material and design.

LPC determination: No action

Item 10

308 West 4th Street – Greenwich Village Historic District


A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in c. 1847. Application is to modify openings at the front and rear facades, replace infill, and excavate the rear yard.

The Greenwich Village Historic District designation report lists 308 West 4th Street as a Greek Revival house that “still retains the proper proportions and corniced lintels at the windows and doorway.” The applicant’s proposed design, if approved by the Commission, will disrupt those proportions. Upon examining the historic photographs, as well as the masonry on the façade, there is no evidence that windows on the parlor floor were ever configured the way they are proposed. This is a very nice, simple Greek Revival house and the owners should treat is with the respect that a very nice, simple Greek Revival house deserves. Additionally, for all the excavation and work proposed in this application, our committee would appreciate the replacement of this building’s cornice.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 13

32 2nd Avenue – East Village/Lower East Side Historic District


A Renaissance Revival style courthouse designed by Alfred Hopkins and built in 1917-19. Application is to construct rooftop and side yard additions, and install signage.

HDC’s Public Review Committee has a few concerns with this proposal. On a building with such a bold cornice, the proposed rooftop addition confuses the existing termination. The carefully designed scale and proportions of this one hundred-year-old courthouse building are lost in the proposed design, overwhelmed by this massive addition. The detailing is not unattractive, but the entire addition must be significantly set back if maintaining the building’s historic integrity is desired. As it is currently proposed, the entire volume of this addition is pushed out to the lot line. In an ideal configuration, the building’s original volume would remain clearly perceptible. If the volume of the original massing was respected, the banded approach the applicants are proposing here would be acceptable. Additionally, we feel the signage is a bit flashy for a business that bills itself as an archive. The proposed signage seems more appropriate for an Anthology Multiplex.

With regard to the side addition, the façade details are not in keeping with surrounding masonry buildings. This seems like an updating of the currently-existing industrial roll-down gate, and that should not be a jumping-off point.  Furthermore, this paneled addition visually blocks both three large special windows which mirror the windows on the front façade as well as obscuring the interesting change in brick on the secondary façade, While a point could be made that hiding the brick on the secondary façade is historically purposeful in that the material was not meant to be seen, we believe that it is an interesting and historically-significant element which helps inform the modern viewer of the designer’s intentions and adds character and depth to an already significant building.

This is a classic courthouse building. We suggest the applicant explore the numerous examples of other historic courthouse buildings in New York and throughout the country that have added more sensitive rooftop additions.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 14

104 East 10th Street – St. Mark’s Historic District Extension


A neo-Grec style rowhouse built in 1879. Application is to construct a rooftop addition.

The Historic Districts Council strongly opposes this application. East 10th Street is a beautiful, intact block with a unique architectural style and scale. The proposed rooftop addition is an egregious affront to this historic district, especially considering the careful and formal nature of this block, which is one of the things that makes this such a remarkable district. The designation report for the St. Marks Historic District Extension describes the careful thought and planning that went into East 10th Street. It reads, “Development of East 10th Street was guided by a conscious effort to create an architecturally-integrated community. Each building was designed in sympathy with its neighbors, all of them ultimately relating back to their precursors at Nos. 102 and 104.” The report mentions Rutherford Stuyvesant’s concern with “architectural harmony” between 104 and its neighbors. This architectural harmony is referenced throughout the report. “The integration it achieved with its pre-existing neighbors is noteworthy. Rather than emphasizing its individuality, No. 104 continued the brick facades, raised basements, steep stoops and uniform fenestration patterns of the buildings between which it was sandwiched. It creates an effective bridge between the small vernacular structure on its right and the taller, more recent Italianate buildings on its left, essentially repeating the proportions of No. 102.”

What the applicants are proposing here is not a harmonious bridge bringing neighboring buildings together, but an obtrusive roadblock, far more visible from street level than the application purports. If approved, the considered design that made 104 East 10th Street appear sympathetic with its neighbors will now be updated in a most unsympathetic way. The restorative work being proposed by the applicant does not justify the destruction of this historic block’s scale. If the commission allows such an addition on one of the most important buildings on this block, it is our fear that more insensitive additions on neighboring buildings will follow, until this is no longer recognizable as the charming block written about in the designation report.

The importance of 104 East 10th Street is emphasized several times in the designation report. “As the first properties on East 10th Street to be developed, the buildings at Nos. 102 and 104 helped to determine the architectural character of the block. … In style, scale and materials and especially in shared history, the two brick houses are an intrinsic part of the St. Mark’s Historic District. They enrich the neighborhood historically, while their position at the western end of the block insures [sic] its residential cohesiveness. Nos. 102 and 104 form a noteworthy addition to the St. Mark’s Historic District.” HDC hopes the Commission will respect this enriching, noteworthy building and deny the applicant’s request to alter it in any significant way.

LPC determination: No action

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