Certificate of Appropriateness Testimony

HDC@LPC – Testimony for Public Hearing on November 28, 2017

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 1

138-146 West 48th Street – Cort Theater – Individual Landmark


A French neo-Classical style theater exterior and interior designed by Thomas Lamb and built in 1912-13. Application is to construct a new building on a portion of the landmark site, remove a bracket sign, install a new marquee, doors, signs, alley gate, and windows, and to alter the designated interior, including changes to the wall and stairs adjacent to the new building, and to the rear wall of the theater.

HDC applauds the applicant on a very sensitive and welcome restoration of this magnificent theater, especially the reintroduction of the historic marquee. The need for more space at The Cort Theater is a great sign of a thriving and successful theater district in Times Square, and the treatment of this façade shows that these historic theater buildings are a beloved and important part of that success.

LPC determination: Approved

Item 3

7 West 83rd Street – Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District


A neo-Romanesque style synagogue designed by Charles Bradford Meyers and built in 1928- 30. Application is to replace windows.

HDC finds this proposal to be mostly sensitive to this monumental building, but questions the necessity of changing the windows, especially on the front façade, from art glass to clear glass. This special glazing is a feature of the building and should be preserved.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 7

300 Kenmore Road – Douglaston Historic District


An empty lot formerly occupied by a Ranch house built in 1955, with a relocated outbuilding. Application is to demolish the outbuilding and construct a new building.

HDC strongly opposes the demolition of this circa 1920 garage building. The original elements of this graceful Tudor Revival estate – main house, carriage house, garage and garden – are all intact. In fact, in 1999, the grouping was restored with the demolition of a mid-20th century ranch house on the garden lot. At that time, the garage was moved from behind the main house to the garden lot, which made it more visible and, thus, celebrated it as a part of the ensemble. It was renovated to be a focal point of the garden property, with the addition of two sets of French doors, one filling the old garage door opening now facing Kenmore Road and the other opening east onto a small bluestone terrace. Its simple but elegant details, like its clipped gable, match the main house, and were left alone to honor the overall aesthetic of the estate. The designation report cites freestanding garages as a distinctive feature of the Douglaston Historic District, and the Commission has a proven track record of encouraging their preservation. We ask that the Commission exercise its power to protect this building from demolition.

While we would certainly prefer that the garden remain intact, we do wish to comment on the proposed design for its replacement. The applicant would do well to further study the context of this house for design inspiration. Above all, it should relate to number 318 Kenmore Road, Josephine Wright Chapman’s circa 1915 Tudor Revival design and the main house of this property. In the absence of that, it could have drawn inspiration from its other neighbors, including the 1923 Mediterranean Revival directly adjacent at 303 Knollwood Avenue, or the 1923 Tudor Revival directly opposite at the corner of West Drive & Kenmore Road, or the 1910 Arts & Crafts that it faces across East-West Drive at 4 Kenmore Road. If the applicant was set on the Colonial Revival style, they could have studied the 1916 clapboard-sided Colonial Revival style house at 26-18 West Drive directly opposite. Unfortunately, the new house does not take cues from any of these buildings in any way, including height, massing, detailing and style.

Rather, the Colonial Revival style detailing of the proposed house is overly heavy and overly elaborated. While the porch facing west is potentially a nice idea, it is rendered as another main entry, with highly elaborated detailing and a large door, giving the building what looks like two main facades. The shutters are not sized for the windows selected, which throws off the windows’ scale and proportion. The height of the garage wing facing Kenmore Road is extremely tall, with very tall doors, which does not lend itself well to a residential scale, even for the building’s large size. We also discourage the use of “FYPON,” which is essentially plastic and not a quality material that the district deserves.

Finally, in a district known and designated for its “garden suburb” character, this house subsumes the nature of this large lot with both house and paving, leaving little green space. We ask the Commission to check the district Master Plan’s rules for maximum lot coverage and the requirements for setbacks in this area, as this house, its paving, terraces and porches seem to overwhelm the lot and encroach on the sidewalk, which is not characteristic of this district. The Master Plan also outlines the protection of “landscape improvements,” and HDC asks that those considerations be made here.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 8

4637 Grosvenor Avenue – Fieldston Historic District


A Dutch Colonial Revival Style house built in 1920, designed by Edgar & Verna Cook Salomonsky. Application is to add an attic story to an existing one-story wing; and alter an existing opening on the front façade.

While HDC could support an addition to this house, we ask that the addition be more sensitive to the existing massing by contrasting a bit more with what is there. As proposed, the addition would bring the roofline of the side wing up to nearly the same height as that of the main wing of the house, which appears heavy handed and a bit awkward. Perhaps the existing eave line could be maintained with a setback addition. Also, the blank space between the roofline and the window openings on the side wing introduce strange proportions to the façade.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 9

67 Remsen Street – Brooklyn Heights Historic District


An eclectic rowhouse built c. 1861-1879. Application is to construct a rooftop addition.

Due to the visibility from Montague Street, HDC asks that the applicant reconsider bringing the elevator to the roof. With just a stair bulkhead, the area, height and impact of this addition would be minimized.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

Item 10

514 Halsey Street – Bedford Stuyvesant/Expanded Stuyvesant Heights Historic District


A vacant lot. Application is to construct a new building.

HDC opposes this proposed new building in the Bedford Stuyvesant/Expanded Stuyvesant Heights Historic District. It is grossly out of scale with the block both in bulk and height, giving the appearance of a house already besieged by massive, non-compliant additions. The windows on the front façade are extremely chaotic in their size and alternating placement, relating neither to the existing rhythm of openings nor to the prevailing size of windows on this block. The rear – at two stories higher than everything around it – is an affront to the intact rears present on the block and to the block’s uniform height. We implore the Commission to demand a higher standard and to send the applicant back to the drawing board.

LPC determination: NO ACTION

Item 11 

156 Gates Avenue – Clinton Hill Historic District


A transitional Italianate/neo-Grec style rowhouse designed by Lambert and Mason and built in 1877. Application is to legalize alterations to the front façade and installation of fences at the areaway and rear yard without Landmarks Preservation Commission permit(s).

HDC opposes the legalization of this work. Had the applicant worked with the LPC staff, these changes could have been more sympathetic to the existing historic fabric, including a more modest fence and windows that are appropriate to the building.

LPC determination: Approved with modifications

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