Certificate of Appropriateness Testimony

[email protected] – Testimony for LPC Hearing on February 25, 2020

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

111-16 174th Street – Addisleigh Park Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #2002670

A Tudor Revival style rowhouse designed by A. Allen and built in 1931. Application is to reconstruct the areaway wall, install a fence and replace the walkway.

Architect: Not determined

The original landscaping of this row of homes was devoid of retaining walls or fencing. This, coupled with the stylistic choice of Tudor Revival, once evoked a bucolic condition. While retaining walls appear on each property and have a consistent street wall, not every home has a fence. Setting a precedent for removing fencing would be a step in the right direction and would allow the architectural composition of each of these homes to be more legible. If a fence is not absolutely needed, HDC suggests its removal to move this row toward its historic condition. HDC would also like to hear details about the proposed brickwork and coping, as a rendering was not provided in the materials.

LPC determination: Approved 

Chair Carroll noted that the fences present in this district are grandfathered, and the applicant stated the desire for the fence was because of the small children that reside in the home. It was clarified that the new brick retaining wall will match the neighboring house. The Commission concluded that the proposed work was simple, minimal, and consistent with the changes that have been made in the district over time.


Item 3

Broad and Wall Streets – Street Plan of New Amsterdam and Colonial New York – Individual Landmark

BINDING REPORT, Docket #2006764

A pattern of streets, the only remaining above-ground physical evidence of the Dutch Colonial presence in Manhattan. Application is to install seating and planter platforms along Broad and Wall Streets.

Architect: WXY Architecture + Urban Design

As this is a binding report and not an advisory report, it falls to the LPC to set the design standard in this historic place. How are these neo-Brutalist bulks in keeping with the designated street plan or the several individual landmarks nearby? What about these objects reflects anything about the street plan of New Amsterdam and Colonial New York? This is the one opportunity for Commissioners to publicly comment on this design and it should not be wasted.

HDC has questions about the proposed planter platforms, specifically about their maintenance. What measures are proposed to ensure that these spaces do not become filled with trash or dry out and become dustbowls? To this end, HDC finds them unnecessary. Much like Peck Slip, this area has long been characterized as an urban paved piazza, without trees or plantings. Introducing greenery here is a welcome gesture if there is a plan that ensures the plants will thrive, rather than their failure becoming an aesthetic nuisance.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Despite HDC’s testimony on design, the LPC’s purview in regulating the Street Plan of New Amsterdam and Colonial New York is solely the street grid itself. This means that the Commission does not regulate paving or materials, and factors that are considered are issues like changing curb lines, the width of the streets, or obstructions to the legibility of the grid and the canal.  LPC approved this application with modifications of the street furniture not be permanently attached to roadbed or sidewalks, that it be reversible, that the southern seating area be set back further from the curb, and that the design be further refined to enhance the street bed.


Item 6

26 West 17th Street – Ladies’ Mile Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #2007170

A Beaux-Arts style store and lofts building designed by William C. Frohne and built 1907-08. Application is to install a roll-down security gate and alter the façade.

Architect: Beyer Blinder Belle

HDC believes the proposed storefront intervention is because of security concerns. If so, there are less invasive alternatives such as cameras and lighting that could be installed and concealed in the soffit of the recessed entryway. Introducing a faux transom to house a security gate is an interruption to the proportions of the original entryway’s transoms, resulting in a perceptible loss on the façade. The proposed security gate has largely disappeared from the Ladies’ Mile—why is it needed now?

LPC determination: Approved

Given the large scale of this storefront, the LPC found the introduction of a transom to house a security grille to be appropriate. The applicant explored a scissor gate, but determined that a scissor gate was more visually obtrusive than a grille which is concealed 12 feet above the sidewalk. The need for the grille is because of an eight foot recess, which sleeps up to seven people at night. 


Item 8

132 West 80th Street – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #2002856

A Renaissance Revival style rowhouse designed by Henry Anderson and built in 1893. Application is to construct a rooftop addition.

Architect: Mabbott Seidel Architecture

While the proposed addition is modest, HDC asks that it be set back the customary three feet from the edge of the rear wall to separate it from the existing historic rear façade.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

This rooftop addition could not be approved by staff as it is 12′ high (staff approval is 11′) and it is set back only 1 foot from the rear wall, where the staff can approve a 3 foot set back. The architect explained that because of an interior stair and skylight, it was difficult to line up the addition with the existing circulation. Chair Carroll explained that the Commission in the past has approved additions this close to the edge by angling them away from the rear facade. The application was approved with the modifications of an angle, and lowering the height of the addition.


Item 9

56 West 85th Street – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #1937774

A Queen Anne style rowhouse with neo-Grec style elements designed by Thom & Wilson and built 1886-87. Application is to construct a rear yard addition.

Architect: not determined

This application did not provide sufficient information for HDC to evaluate this intervention in terms of appropriateness of design, materials or details. We do believe, however, that the proposed extension is an intrusion and violation of zoning’s rear yard requirement.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

LPC found this addition to be appropriate because there are several other additions in the donut that project as far if not farther than this proposal. LPC asked the applicant to work with staff on details, as the drawings had many mistakes and were unclear.

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