Certificate of Appropriateness Testimony

HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on February 5, 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 2

615 Eastern Parkway – Crown Heights North Historic District


A Chateauesque style rowhouse designed by Frederick L. Hine and built c. 1899. Application is to amend a prior Commission approval (LPC 19-1050), including replacing the cornice, installing roof railings, louvers, areaway walls and ironwork, modifying the porch, entrance door and driveway, and excavating the side yard for a below-grade addition.

HDC understands that the design and massing was approved at a public meeting under a previous administration, but would be remiss to not echo the Crown Heights North Association and Brooklyn Community Board 8 in the collective opinion that the extension should be of a much smaller scale and that the applicant has not been fully committed to participating in the public process. With regard to the amendments currently proposed, HDC objects to the proposed height of the front perimeter fencing, finding it out of context within the historic district and inappropriate to the historic streetscape. Additionally, we strongly recommend that the rooftop deck and railing be moved away from the front façade as to be entirely invisible from the public way. This kind of roof usage is a modern innovation and one not to be encouraged in historic rowhouse neighborhoods. People in Brooklyn live on stoops, not roofs.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 5

29-31 Leonard Street – TriBeCa West Historic District


Two Utilitarian style store and loft buildings designed by J. Morgan Slade and built in 1880-1881 and a commercial building designed by Emil Guterman and built in 1932. Application is to alter the facades and loading platform, replace windows and storefront infill, remove fire escape baskets, install a canopy and construct rooftop bulkheads.

At first glance, this facade appears to be one, large building. Closer examination and deliberate design details reveal the architect’s intention to have these buildings read as two. These design choices include two I-beam lintels instead of one which separate the storefronts, and a wider width of masonry down the center of the building. The fire baskets’ extension across the two facades unifies the buildings in a subtle way, and should be retained for this reason. Conversely, the proposed canopy introduces an element which heavily unifies the bifurcated intent of these buildings, and perhaps should feature a break between the two facades. The choice of stainless steel for the canopy appears foreign on a building with cast-iron piers and I-beams, so a painted steel canopy would harmonize better.

The proposed facade design for Varick Street is not quite resolved. This strip of glazing feels like overcompensation, when this building’s Tribeca address alone holds enough confidence to attract the target tenants it desires. This former manufacturing district is characterized by the load-bearing construction methods of its era, and is surrounded by plenty of options of construction methods of our era, many of which are rising and within eyeshot of this public hearing room. That being said, this building doesn’t need glass to woo, and the execution of this intervention seems forced, especially at the turning of the corner. Retain more masonry within this box, and there will be a better result.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 9

102 Greenwich Avenue – Greenwich Village Historic District


A late Federal style house built in 1829. Application is to legalize the construction of a rooftop bulkhead without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

The Greenwich Village Historic District is nearing its 50th anniversary. It is with tremendous puzzlement when violations occur in this district, as “Greenwich Village” and “historic district” are essentially synonymous in 2019. Further puzzling is the fact that 102 Greenwich Avenue continues to receive landmark violations spanning years. The illegal bulkhead is not only highly visible, it erodes the distinctly Federal roofline that is a prominent feature of Greenwich Avenue. Finally, this is the third bulkhead to sprout out of the top of this poor building, and its construction materials are almost as good a choice as it was to install an interior door on the outside.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 11

29 Downing Street – Greenwich Village Extension II Historic District


A rowhouse built c. 1829 and later altered in 1870, 1920 and 1924 as a multiple dwelling, garage and studio with vernacular features. Application is to alter the façade and replace infill.

The proposed scheme is attractive and a smart resolution to a historic condition and a present day desire, and the first story bears no conflict. As we consider and curate the built environment of the past, there is always a discussion of layers of history. The artwork of the storefront lintel and the designed second story should be retained to memorialize an era when artists still lived in Greenwich Village, and in this case, left behind a physical mark. This design reflects the residence of sculptor John Bennett, and its presence nods to a more creative era of which this neighborhood is globally known for.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 12

17 West 20th Street – Ladies’ Mile Historic District


An early 20th century commercial style converted dwelling, built in 1852, and altered by Gronenberg & Leuchtag in 1920 with other later alterations. Application is to modify the storefront entrance.

It doesn’t bode well when a proposed design draws inspiration from a corporate client like Verizon. More study is needed for this design, particularly one that tries to appear that it is in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District, which is known for its exuberant storefronts. While storefronts in New York City are essentially ephemeral, cycles of change permit building elements to evolve into a form more appropriate to its historic setting. The next intervention here should serve as a model to move this entire ground floor in the correct direction, not to merely settle.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 13

315 Central Park West – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District


A neo-Renaissance style apartment building designed by Schwartz & Gross and built in 1911- 12. Application is to modify mechanical bulkheads at the roof.

HDC understands the purview of LPC and therefore we consider the effects of these bulkheads from Central Park West and the Park itself. Three large outcroppings that are visible from both of these locations seems excessive, much like the desire to bring three elevators to the roof. If one elevator arrived at the roof, the visual consequence is resolved.

LPC determination: No Action

Item 14

150 East End Avenue – Henderson Place Historic District


A Queen Anne style rowhouse, designed by Lamb & Rice and built in 1882. Application is to replace windows.

The proposed windows are of a high quality, but the choice to remove the original three lighted transoms above the six-over-six windows is folly. While the neighbors feature alterations, it is not an example to follow. Perhaps if this original condition is retained, future neighbors will follow this example, and the result will be a more beautiful Henderson Place Historic District.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 15

4 East 79th Street – Metropolitan Museum Historic District


A townhouse originally built in 1899-1900, designed by C.P.H. Gilbert, and altered in 1916 by Herbert Lucas in the neo-Italian Renaissance style. Application is to install a fence.

HDC thanks the applicant for visiting our committee and having a robust conversation about the intervention before us today. As we had discussed with the applicant, HDC is of the mind that the fence should be more aggressive, take cues, and be in plane with the existing fence architecture of this fine, and exceptionally designed residence. The freestanding, faux, and temporary essence of the gate is at odds with the permanence of the edifice it seeks to serve, so it should simply be a part of it.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications


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