Certificate of Appropriateness Testimony

[email protected] – Testimony for LPC Hearing on November 12, 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

1 West 29th Street – Individual Landmark


A Romanesque Revival style church with Gothic Revival style details, designed by Samuel A. Warner and built in 1854 with a two-story addition built in 1919 and a portico built in 1959. Application is to install signage.

Architect: Higgins Quasebarth & Partners

HDC has concerns regarding internally illuminated digital signs calling too much attention to themselves and subsequently detracting from the historic environments that they are installed in. The proposed signage would not be completely objectionable so long as the graphics are austere and the illumination is conservative. However, we feel that this proposal reflects a broader issue regarding the appropriateness of digital screens in designated historic districts that requires further thoughtful study by the Commission.

LPC determination: Approved

Images will be static, there won’t be video, and the brightness of the screen will be dimmed in the evenings. The church has an extensive roster of programming and the old sign–according to the parish–is insufficient in communicating the array of activities offered. LPC was supportive and approved the proposal as submitted.

Item 10

771 West End Avenue – Riverside – West End Extension II Historic District


A Renaissance Revival style apartment building designed by Schwartz & Gross and built in 1914-15. Application is to establish a Master Plan governing the future installation of windows.

Architect: Azar Associates, Inc.

HDC finds that the original configuration of the windows at 771 West End Avenue should be maintained. Preserving the historic multi-pane over one configuration would be more appropriate for this historic building.

LPC determination: No Action

Chair Carroll explained that window master plans are determined on a case-by-case basis, with the Commission deciding on whether one-over-one replacement windows are appropriate on buildings of this size based on the ornament or style of the building itself. For instance, a robustly ornamented building’s character is derived from its decoration and therefore one-over-ones may work, but a restrained Art Deco building derives more of its character from its windows. In this case, the Commission was not convinced that a master plan for one-over-one windows was an adequate long-term solution. Many Commissioners commented that the point of a master plan is to move in the historic direction, even if it takes decades to achieve the configuration. There was also discussion of the dark color proposed, with some Commissioners preferring the historic color of a light  sandstone/limestone appearance. No Action was taken and this property will come back to a Public Meeting.

Item 11

132 East 62nd Street – Upper East Side Historic District


An Italianate style rowhouse designed by John Sexton and built in 1871. Application is to legalize the installation of an areaway fence and gate, without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

Architect: N/A

The fence and gate that have been installed without LPC approval are irregular and inconsistent with the historic character of the district. As there is no historic precedent for such a design in the area, HDC has reason to believe that this proposal would not have been approved by the Commission had the applicant adhered to the proper application guidelines before completing the work.

LPC determination: Denied

When the Commission asked the architect, “how did this happen?” the architect clarified that he was not retained by the ownership at that time and that the owners would not share how this occurred. Commissioners found the height and the design inappropriate on the basis of had this come before them as a COA, it would not have been approved. This application was denied and this fence will be removed.

Item 4 (Read into the record on 10/29/19)

46 East 65th Street – Upper East Side Historic District


A rowhouse originally built in 1876-1877, and altered in the neo-Federal style by Ogden Codman in 1906-1907. Application is to install a balcony at the front façade, alter masonry openings and install balconies at the rear façade, and construct a rooftop addition.

Architect: West Chin Architects (WCA)

HDC asks that the top story windows’ punched openings be preserved, in continuity of LPC practice on rear façade alterations. This is a large intervention to two rear facades and HDC wonders if there is precedent in the Upper East Side Historic District for enlarging openings to this extent to allow balconies. Finally, the rooftop addition and bulkhead is extremely large and requires further study.

LPC determination: Approved

The Commission was largely in support of approving this proposal, due in part to the fact that the applicant presented archival materials showcasing the original architects design which featured a large single balcony at the primary facade. It was questioned whether or not the bulkhead could be made smaller, but the applicant stated that that the bulkhead height is the minimum needed to support elevator usage. 

Item 5 (Read into the record on 10/29/19)

184 Columbia Heights – Brooklyn Heights Historic District


A Beaux-Arts style apartment house built c. 1920. Application is to establish a master plan governing the future installation of windows.

Architect: JM2 Architecture

As HDC testified on August 6, 2019 about this master plan: this is a highly visible secondary façade on the Brooklyn Heights promenade. Given the nature of this building’s situation on a public walking path, HDC evaluated the proposed window master plan as if it was a primary façade. The introduction of transoms as opposed to the previously proposed picture windows is an improvement, but we found the neighboring building’s divided light transoms quite attractive and this design could work well on this façade. Breaking up more of the large glass openings is a more appropriate treatment for a Beaux-Arts building in our city’s first historic district.

LPC determination: Approved

The Commission approved the proposal with no debate, stating that the applicant was responsive to their comments made after the item’s initial presentation at a previous public hearing. 

Item 6 (Read into the record on 10/29/19)

316 Carlton Avenue – Fort Greene Historic District


An Italianate style house built c. 1857. Application isto legalize the demolition and construction of a rear yard addition without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

Architect: David Oxley, R.A. (The Design Development Group)

It is disappointing for construction of this scale to occur in the Fort Greene Historic District, which has been a designated historic district for over forty years. HDC is concerned about the level of awareness of historic district status of residents and owners in this district, who did not notice that this substantial amount work was happening without LPC permits. While the applicant clearly took cues from the neighboring property in terms of design, HDC does not find the finished product at no. 316 to be an acceptable addition to the historic district. Siding and stucco finishings are not appropriate for an 1857 house, and the amount of glass and absence of masonry amounts to an alien composition. HDC asks that the design be resubmitted with the aid of LPC staff.


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