Certificate of Appropriateness Testimony

HDC@LPC – Testimony for LPC Hearing on January 22, 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 3

87 Lafayette Street – Fire House, Engine Company 31 – Individual Landmark


A French Renaissance Eclectic style fire house designed by Napoleon Le Brun & Sons and built in 1895. Application is to modify a window opening, and install storefront infill and a marquee with illuminated signage

This former firehouse is magnificent and intact example of 19th century civic architecture and the work of Napoleon Le Brun & Sons, and it is important that its character remain intact while DCTV pursues its mission and programming. HDC understand the community media center’ desire for a presence on the street, and believe with some modifications, both preservation goals and the center’s objectives can be obtained. The building’s red doors are an arresting signature element of this individual landmark, and hark back to its life as a firehouse, and we recommend that in expanding the opening to create new entry, the applicants replicate these historic entries, or at least bring the design  closer in line with the firehouse’s solid doors. We note that the applicants incorporate the silhouette of the firehouse into their logo, and rendered in the same shade of red as the former engine company’s openings.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 7

550 West 27th Street, 260 11th Avenue, 549 West 26th Street – West Chelsea Historic District


An Italian Renaissance Revival style office and factory building designed by Clinton & Russell and built in 1911-1912, an American Round Arch style factory building designed by Charles H. Caldwell and built in 1900-1901, and an empty lot. Application is to construct a new building and rooftop additions, and alter the facades.

HDC finds that this proposal fails to respect the industrial past of this neighborhood and the character of this historically and architecturally important assemblage of early 20th century industrial buildings. We are perplexed by the rationale for facing the building in glass where precedent for materials at the site is so clearly established.

As proposed, the sprawling aggregation of glass which spills over onto 26th Street will have a deleterious effect on the district. The proposed cantilever over the former John Williams Foundry Bronze and Iron Works, another prestigious industrial firm of the period, will unfairly compete and distract from the strong industrial character of both the building below and the streetscape. Cantilevers often relegate the historic, protected building to a rank of “in the way” as opposed to a status of celebration. The visual consequence is that the historic building appears boxed in and no longer reads as an independent, designed building, but rather a trapped amalgamation of cluttered construction from different eras.

We also find that the visible portion of the addition from the vantage of Eleventh Avenue and 27th Street distracts from the former elevator company headquarter’s monumental pressed-copper cornice. The brightly colored ductwork, apparently inspired by the Pompidou Center is also entirely unsympathetic to the subdued character and materials of the existing buildings at the site. There are many other avenues to build something contemporary here, and we ask that they be explored.


LPC determination: No Action


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