Certificate of Appropriateness Testimony

[email protected] – Testimony for LPC Zoom Hearing on October 27, 2020

The Historic Districts Council (HDC) reviews every public proposal affecting New York City’s landmarks and historic districts and provides testimony to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) whenever it is needed.

Please continue reading for our testimony regarding the latest items under consideration by the Commission. We invite you to visit the [email protected] blog for an archive containing all of our past testimony.

PLEASE NOTE: In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is adjusting its processes and procedures to ensure the agency continues to provide services to the city while protecting the health of its employees and the general public. The agency is currently holding public hearings and meetings through Zoom, and live-streaming them through its YouTube channel. This enables applicants to present their projects to the Commission and the public to watch the presentations live on YouTube. Interested members of the public will also be able to provide live testimony by joining in through the Zoom app or by calling from any telephoneFor information regarding online public participation, visit the LPC’s website here.

Item 1

25-10 Court Square – New York State Supreme Court House – Individual Landmark

ADVISORY REPORT, Docket #2102469

A neo-English Renaissance style courthouse designed by Peter M. Coco and built in 1904-05. Application is to re-design the plaza.

Architect: NYC Parks

The historic site plan of Court Square was compromised by the closure of Thomson Avenue in the 1990s, and the subsequent realignment of a formal square was created. At that time, HDC understands that a historic fountain was not present, but that a fountain resembling a historic condition was incorporated into the site, which is what currently exists today.

The present fountain is adorned in a classical vocabulary reflective of the courthouse, and it also has an axial relationship to the landmark. In examining historic photographs, this site had a similar fountain throughout most of its history, including a presence in front of the 1874 building. To this end, HDC asks that this historicized fountain remain on the site and in alignment with the formal axis with the landmark. Dry fountains evoke neglect and blight, so we ask that it be retained in a working order. The proposed spray fountain will require similar maintenance, so we don’t view the reincarnation of the existing fountain as a heavy lift. Removing this fountain is an aesthetic severance between the park and landmark, as they share a stylistic dialog—please keep it here.

In the existing park plan, there is a desire path that was paved over because of how heavily the east side of the park is traversed. Thomson Avenue originally ran diagonally through this section of the park, essentially on the same path. This is why it still makes sense for pedestrians to cut the corner in this location and reach Jackson Avenue more efficiently. HDC is unconvinced that the proposed park plan will do anything to fix this problem of the lost street, and we fear that its failure will result in more maintenance issues. Finally, HDC is concerned about the proposed lawn area’s maintenance, and we wish to ensure it will be and will remain real grass, not plastic.

LPC Determination: Favorable Report

The major moves of this application were supported by Commissioners, and it was clarified that the existing fountain is not historic fabric. Commissioner Bland summed: “I think this scheme is quite wonderful. I see no reason why someone would need to pass by a fake version of an earlier fountain or mark that symmetry [to the courthouse]. It does its own centering. I applaud the design as given.” Commissioner Gustafsson agreed about the lack of impact on the individually landmarked courthouse, stating that “the view corridor to the individual landmark in this carnation, [remains an] imposing structure. If you go around the boros, the courthouses are all situated to give that imposing view. It doesn’t detract from landmark and enhances it.”


Item 4

109 Bank Street – Greenwich Village Historic District

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #2101411

A Greek Revival style rowhouse built in 1846. Application is to construct rooftop and rear yard additions.

Architect: CWB Architects

HDC discloses that the architect of this proposal, Brendan Coburn, is a member of our Board of Directors. Mr. Coburn did not participate, nor was he present during our Public Review Committee’s discussion of 109 Bank Street. The committee found the application to be appropriate, except for the second story fenestration pattern. HDC asks that the punched openings be retained, as this is a unifying element in the rear of these Greek Revival row houses.

LPC Determination: Approved with modifications

This application was approved with the modification to reduce or eliminate the visibility of the planters on the roof of the front façade.


Item 6

163 East 67th Street – Park East Synagogue – Individual Landmark

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS, Docket #2008115

A Moorish Revival style synagogue building designed by Schneider and Herter and built in 1889-1890. Application is to install LED signage.

While HDC does not object to the upgraded signage, this intervention is an opportunity to move the signs off the building itself. The current signs interrupt the massive piers in reaching the steps, and conceal the brick course and carved brownstone. The proposal duplicates this condition but with the addition of electrical conduits, which will further clutter the building’s façade. HDC suggests exploring a new location off of the building’s facade for these signs altogether, perhaps as a free-standing element at the sidewalk level. This placement would facilitate a better pedestrian awareness of events within the synagogue.

LPC Determination: Approved

Some Commissioners wanted the sign moved off the building, as HDC asked, but the applicant stated that this was explored and that the congregation wants the signs to remain where they’ve always been. Overall, the Commission didn’t find this application problematic and it was approved as is.

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