Quite often people in historic districts are eligible for special tax breaks etc. for home repairs. It's not a burden if you do your research.
Historic district expansion: Preservation or gentrification?
By Gary Buiso
An effort to preserve the history of Carroll Gardens is being criticized for actually hastening the neighborhood’s gentrification, said opponents of a controversial city initiative to widen the area’s historic district.
“They just want to re-gentrify and force out whatever elements from the past are left,” said lifelong area resident and businessman John Esposito, who helped form Citizens Against Landmarks to thwart the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s nascent effort to extend historic protections to a larger segment of the brownstone neighborhood.
Esposito and others don’t feel protected — they feel threatened.
The landmarking agency is only in the earliest phase of studying an extension to the existing district, according to spokeswoman Lisi de Bourbon.
“Later this month, staff will visit the neighborhood to assess what areas may be eligible and will then make a recommendation to the chair,” she said.
But that’s the problem, said resident Mike Cassidy, who said an expanded district will bring an undue burden on homeowners, who would be required to win the approval from Landmarks for every exterior improvement done on their property.
“This viability study worries us,” Cassidy said. “They’ll do the viability study, and then they’ll ram it down our throats.”
Opponents have set up a Web site, carrollgardensresidents.wordpress.com, and hope “to get [Landmarks] to recognize that not everyone is thrilled,” he said.
Currently, the 37-year-old historic district includes 149 buildings in a surprisingly small area bounded by President, Carroll, Smith and Hoyt streets. While the neighborhood was last year rezoned to discourage oversized growth, supporters of the landmarking initiative say it adds a layer of additional protection an area particularly besieged by overdevelopment during the decade’s last building boom.
The agency will examine roughly 50-60 blocks, and insiders expect that about half of that might be deemed viable. The entire process can take years from the viability study to actual creation of the district.
Glenn Kelly, co-chairman of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, favors the expansion.
“There are some who don’t, or can’t see past the negatives — and yes, there are some negatives. It’s a bit more of a hassle when you have to make repairs to the front of your house.”
And Kelly should know — he lives on landmarked Carroll Street.
“Yes, it’s cost me more money, but I want to leave my house better than I found it — and I’m not going to mess it up just to save a few bucks.”
One reason to expand the Carroll Gardens Historic District is that its boundaries do not actually include some of the blocks with wide front gardens that actually give the neighborhood its name, said Bob Furman, founder of the Brooklyn Preservation Council.
“It’s always been a contradiction,” Furman said.
Councilman Brad Lander (D-Park Slope) also supports the landmarking extension.
“I think that landmarks and historic districts can be a good deal for preserving the character of a neighborhood so I’m glad they decided to do a viability study — but one critical element is neighborhood support,” he said.
Lander admitted that historic districts can lead to higher costs, people generally find that it’s not a “significant” burden.
Esposito called Lander’s position “arrogant.”
“His constituents aren’t just the upper class, they’re the people who built this neighborhood,” he said. “They just want to force [us] out.”
Quite often people in historic districts are eligible for special tax breaks etc. for home repairs. It's not a burden if you do your research.
What he said!
Spring Landmarking Fever Sweeps Preservation Commission
March 23, 2010, by Sara
In case the rest of the world doesn't have it circled on their calendars as the date to look forward to between President's Day and opening day, today was the Landmarks Preservation Commission's Spring Designation Day. The LPC considered approximately 847 properties for landmarking or public hearing, but here's the highlight reel.
Four new landmarks were designated:
- Times Square's Brill Building (where some big jazz musicians once leased offices),
- Staten Island's Reformed Church
- Germania Fire Insurance Company Building at 357 Bowery
- Bissell House at 46 West 55th Street
Once finished showering landmarky love on those four buildings, the LPC also voted to extend the UES historic district by 74 buildings on Lexington Avenue between East 63rd and East 76th streets. Sounds like a grand old time, right? But no LPC meeting can really be free of controversy.
The committee held a public hearing on the former Olivet Memorial Church, now the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection, where congregants trotted out the now familiar argument that a landmarks designation would cause financial hardship. Owners in the East Village's Gramercy House said the same. Will these spring showers bring preservation-scented flowers? Unclear, but the LPC folks tell us the proposal to landmark Coney Island's Shore Theater met with a much cheerier reception.
The Groundhog Sees Four More Landmarks [LPC; warning: PDF]
April 13, 2010, 3:28 pm
Tower on 40th St. Is Named a Landmark
By ALISON BOWEN
Courtesy Landmarks Preservation Commission
That is one skinny tower, designed by Harrison & Abramowitz.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission on Tuesday bestowed landmark status on the Springs Mills Building, a tower clad in green glass at 104 West 40th Street, just west of Avenue of the Americas, which was built in 1963 and named for a pillowcase maker.
The building is the eighth mid-century Modernist building given the status in the last seven years, said Elisabeth de Bourbon, spokeswoman for the commission.
The 21-story building, former headquarters of the Springs Cotton Mills, was designed by Harrison & Abramowitz. Its two facades span two eras of zoning. The south entrance on West 39th Street, designed shortly before the city’s 1919 zoning rules were revised, fills the width of the lot. The more distinctive north facade, with its impressively skinny hexagonal tower, anticipates new zoning rules that encouraged a more slender silhouette. It can be seen from Bryant Park.
The building is now owned by two investment firms and occupied by lawyers, software makers, textile companies and the Morocco National Tourist Office.
Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company
Workaday Buildings That Aren’t
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY
At the southwest corner of 32nd Street, the Gothic-style No. 148
was designed in 1915 by Wallis & Goodwillie
In designing the Remsen, shown in 1953, the architects had the idea of beginning a four-story-high quiltlike
swath of patterned terra cotta at the ground floor, the dark flecks within a light-gray matrix of mock granite.
On the southeast corner of 34th Street is the spectacular Madison-Belmont Building
The Cheney company's sumptuous entry doors on Madison Avenue
Designed by the French metalworker Edgar Brandt
THE Historic Districts Council, a preservation advocacy group, has surveyed the blocks from Madison Square to 34th Street for potential landmark designations.
Covering a 22-block area, the council has come up with much that is commonplace, but also a series of distinctive structures along Madison Avenue. These are not clubs or churches or old mansions, but straightforward business buildings, rarely making the radar of the passer-by.
The Madison Avenue section of the survey, mostly done by the preservationist Marissa Marvelli, runs from 27th to 34th Street, and a thoughtful quarter-mile stroll shows how different this strip is from the usual lineup of plain pipe-rack loft buildings.
At the northeast corner of 27th Street, at No. 79, is Buchman & Kahn’s admirable Art Deco building, designed in 1925 for the iron contractor Harris Uris. Although not a knockout, this one is a couple of grades above the typical loft/showroom structure, set apart by the simple but inventive zigzag detailing at the third-floor level.
Two blocks north, at No. 95, the massive Emmet Building of 1912 is a 16-story fortress of delicate Loire Valley detailing, enough doodads for a block’s worth of Vanderbilt town houses. Thomas Addis Emmet, a gynecologist, art collector and inventor, had lived on the site for decades, and sold out to a developer on the condition that he get an apartment on the top floor, which he did, with a conservatory, a fountain, a solarium and a library measuring 18 by 36 feet.
At 29th Street, No. 99 Madison Avenue was built in 1916 by the developer George Backer, who was active in loft construction. His architects, Sommerfeld & Steckler, were well known for tenements but here worked with the assurance of the architectural elite. The second and third floors are joined by a two-story-high Ionic colonnade in limestone. The carving on the capitals is brilliantly precise, and the columns have stop-fluting, wherein the grooves are filled part way up.
No. 105, a 20-story loft building, was built in 1913 for Charles Kaye, a developer. Of neo-Gothic terra cotta, it is a gigantic but still skillful work designed by Buchman & Fox. Somehow the scale of the Kaye Building works to its advantage, although that kind of height is better reserved for a wider street.
At the southwest corner of 32nd Street, the Gothic-style No. 148 was designed in 1915 by Wallis & Goodwillie for Charles Remsen, an obstetrician. The architects had the idea of beginning a four-story-high quiltlike swath of patterned terra cotta at the ground floor, the dark flecks within a light-gray matrix of mock granite.
The same architects worked with a particularly nimble hand diagonally across the intersection at No. 159, designing the Manice Building in 1911. It still has a magnificent sweep of low-relief carving at the second floor, with swags, ribbons and fruit. The rounded corner, the intricate paneling on the underside of the cornice and the columns unifying the top two floors mark a work that, like the Remsen Building, hits the absolute high end for what is normally considered a lowly loft structure.
But sitting on the southeast corner of 34th Street is the summit of this architectural pilgrimage, the spectacular Madison-Belmont Building. Built in 1925, it was designed by Warren & Wetmore with the same panache they used on the New York Yacht Club and Grand Central Terminal. The red-painted window sash intensifies the careful calibration of the warm, roughened, orangish brick, along with the lush terra-cotta work, subtle to the point of invisibility.
A silk manufacturer, Cheney Brothers, had the lower floors from the start, and the sumptuous entry doors on Madison are fresh from the new Art Deco movement of Paris. Designed by the French metalworker Edgar Brandt, they were described by the magazine International Studio in 1925 as “carried to the nth power of perfection.”
The Madison-Belmont was the project of Robert M. Catts, a financier, big-game hunter and developer. He was also a connoisseur: step around the corner to marvel at the lobby, an intact sweep of marble, bronze, etched glass and relief plaster that puts other Midtown lobbies to shame. On the walls, you can see how the figured marble panels are book-matched: a single piece of marble sliced so that the flanking pieces match from side to side. But in this case they are double book-matched — the four pieces also mirror one another top to bottom.
Mr. Catt’s exquisite patronage was not rewarded, however. In 1927 he went into bankruptcy, with $5,000 in assets against $1 million in liabilities.
As a group these buildings far outshine those on Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue South, and it is not clear why. The Madison-Belmont housed high-end showrooms and did not allow manufacturing, but buildings for commercial use were rarely so ambitious. Some of them are on the level of a top-end retailer of the 1920s.
The silk industry did play a major role in several structures here, but silk manufacturers were also prominent tenants on Park Avenue South, a less interesting thoroughfare.
Whatever the owners and architects built on this little stretch, and for whatever reasons, it is a particularly rich and rewarding passage.
Landmarkapalooza Spreads to the Bronx, and Elsewhere
June 22, 2010, by Joey
THE BRONX, EVERYWHERE—In addition to Greenwich Village, the Landmarks Preservation Commission had the Bronx on its mind today—and a whole bunch of other 'hoods, for that matter. The LPC landmarked Melrose's Haffen Building, a century-old, seven-story, Beaux-Arts style building at 2804 Third Avenue, as well as the Noonan Plaza Apartments at 105-149 West 168th Street, an Art Deco rental complex built in 1931 that's now Section 8 housing. But the LPC was just getting warmed up.
The guardians also calendared six Manhattan buildings for public hearings on their way to landmark designation: The Hotel Wolcott at 4 West 31st St. (c. 1904), the Mills Hotel #3 at 485 Seventh Avenue (1907), the Madison Belmont Building at 181 Madison Avenue (1926), 500 Fifth Avenue (1931), the Engineers' Club at 32 West 40th Street (1907) and the Grand Street Playhouse at 466 Grand Street (1915). But that's not all!
The LPC then held hearings on one potential historic district and 11 potential landmarks. The historic district, as mentioned yesterday (see below), is the Bronx's Grand Concourse. You can read about all this stuff and the 11 soon-to-be landmarks (including the Loew's Canal Theater, which the owner wants preserved), in the LPC's press release, but here's a bonus: An old photo of the garden court that once existed at the Noonan Plaza Apartments. What, wild swans don't roam the Bronx anymore? [CurbedWire Inbox]
Pride of The Bronx
Historic push for Grand Concourse
By TOM TOPOUSIS
June 21, 2010
Fifth Avenue it's not, but fans of the Grand Concourse will be swelling with pride over the beloved boulevard tomorrow when it's considered as the city's next historic district.
The Grand Concourse, built in 1909 to resemble the Champs-Elysées in Paris, is home to the largest collection of art deco residential buildings in the world, said one of the boulevard's biggest fans, Bronx historian Lloyd Ultan.
"When it comes to art deco, they like to talk about South Beach in Miami. But nothing compares to the Grand Concourse," said Ultan.
A section of the Grand Concourse between 153rd and 167th streets, along with side streets and some neighboring blocks, are part of the proposed historic district under consideration by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The commission holds a public hearing on the proposal tomorrow, the last step before voting on the designation.
Long associated with Jewish New York's upward climb out of the Lower East Side, the Grand Concourse became a coveted address beginning in the 1920s, with new spacious apartments that went up in a building frenzy lasting till the mid-1930s.
"The rooms in these apartments were huge for their times. Think of Fred Astaire andGinger Rogers dancing in a Hollywood living room that's larger than anything you could have imagined," said Ultan.
"If you lived on the Grand Concourse, it was a sign that you had made it," Ultan said
Designed by Louis Aloys Risse, an Alsatian immigrant, the 180-foot-wide boulevard was a gateway from uptown Manhattan to a string of parks stretching across the northern Bronx. It pioneered the use of overpasses to clear busy intersections.
By the mid-1960s, suburban flight meant a changing of the guard along the Grand Concourse. Mostly Jewish, middle- and upper-class families were replaced by African-American and Puerto Rican families in a search for affordable housing.
Ultan said landlords along the Grand Concourse cut back on maintenance at the once-glamorous buildings until the late 1980s, when the first conversions to co-ops helped generate new revenues needed to upgrade the properties.
Feelings Get Hurt as Greenwich Village Made Even More Historic
June 22, 2010, by Joey
The city's biggest historic district just got a little bigger, drawing the ire of local preservationists. Say wha? No, we're not in Seinfeld's bizarro world, just Greenwich Village. Today a very busy Landmarks Preservation Commission (more on all the board's actions coming up later) extended the Greenwich Village Historic District for the second time since the boundaries were first set in 1969. The 235-building expansion includes parts—and there's the key word—of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation's much desired South Village Historic District. The GVSHP has already issued a breathless press release expressing happiness over the extension, but frustration that two-thirds of its South Village proposal is still vulnerable: "Ongoing building demolitions, slow pace of designation and lack of commitment by city to consider remaining two-thirds of neighborhood concerns advocates," the group writes. Did we mention that's just part of the press release's headline?
The LPC can still consider the parts of the South Village left unprotected for designation, but the GVSHP is worried about what else will be lost in the meantime:Losses already include demolition of the Circle in the Square Theater (New York’s first non-profit theater), the Sullivan Street Playhouse (one-time home of the longest running play in modern history, the Fantasticks), the Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments (considered the birthplace of modern American theater, as well as the home of several of the early 20th century’s most important cultural institutions), the Tunnel Garage (a unique monument to the dawn of the automobile age and possibly the first Art Deco building in New York City), 178 Bleecker Street (an 1861 house located in the middle of a row of similar houses in the heart of the South Village) and the alteration of 7 Cornelia Street, a late 19th century tenement which was the former home of poet W.H. Auden.Wow, we're surprised there's anything left! The LPC's press release (warning: PDF) covers the new parts of the historic district and some of the architectural highlights, including the Our Lady of Pompeii church (seen up above) at Carmine and Bleecker. Lucky gal!
South Village Historic District coverage [Curbed]
Protecting the South Village [GVSHP]
Upper East Siders Push to Landmark the Marx Brothers' Childhood Home
By Gabriela Resto-Montero
UPPER EAST SIDE — Shortly before his death in 1977, Groucho Marx surprised the family living in his childhood home at 179 East 93rd St. with a visit.
Back in the early 1900s, Groucho and brothers Chico, Harpo, Zeppo and Gummo lived on the fourth floor of the four-story walk-up with five other relatives. As the story goes, after the aging star looked around his former home, he left without saying a word.
The house remained in remarkable shape over the years since Groucho lived there — except for the floor. Shortly after his visit, crews arrived at the home to replace the worn-out floor with brand new Italian tile. Although he never took credit for the floor, the so-called "Groucho Tiles" remain today.
Now, proponents of preserving the Marx Brothers' childhood home are pushing to include the block on East 93rd Street between Lexington and Third avenues, which they call "Marx Brothers Place," in the Carnegie Hill Historical District.
The effort has the support of Harpo's son, Bill Marx.
"Marx Brothers Place shall at last become the historical site of monumental proportions it so justly deserves, and then nobody ever again will have to request that it should be anything but just that, and finally the good folks of both Manhattan and Freedonia can then get some sleep," Marx said.
The East 93rd Street Beautification Association began working on landmarking the block in 2008 after developers tore down several brownstones to make room for condos on the street, said Susan Kathryn Hefti, co-chair of the association.
"It's remarkable," Hefti said of the building's preservation preservation.
"If Groucho walked through the door today the house would look the same except for the cornices [they were removed decades ago]," Hefti said.
Before Groucho's reported tile intervention on the fourth floor, Marx brother Harpo wrote about the role of the home in his 1961 autobiography, "Harpo Speaks!"
In his memoir, Harpo said he learned to tell time time from the tower clock then in place at the Ehret Brewery on East 93rd Street.
By 1910, the talented family had moved to Chicago and was already on the road to super stardom, the New York Times reported.
Eventually, the vaudevillian family made 14 films together as the Marx Brothers including the classics, "A Night at the Opera," "Duck Soup" and "A Day at the Races."
The neighborhood association will speak before the Landmarks Committee at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, July 19 at the Hunter College School of Social Work.
Preserving Historic Preservation in New York City
by Vin Cipolla
New York City became a world leader in historic preservation following the demolition of the original Penn Station in 1963 and the threatened destruction of Grand Central Terminal shortly thereafter. Now nearly 50 years later, a public debate has emerged around whether the city is taking landmarks preservation too far.
Certainly much has been accomplished in the intervening years. With leadership from the Municipal Art Society and other civic organizations, a Landmarks Preservation Commission was created in 1965; its powers were expanded in 1973, and the constitutionality of the city's Landmarks Law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978, thereby preserving Grand Central. Historic preservation has become a core value of the city, and many of the city's greatest architectural treasures have been protected.
Yet even as eminent an architectural authority as Paul Goldberger recently warned that increasing numbers of landmarked buildings risk turning the city into "some grotesque version of Colonial Williamsburg on the Hudson." And New York City-bred Harvard urban economist Edward Glaeser recently published a blog posting titled "Reservations About Landmark Preservation." The criticisms focus on stifling the development of new buildings - with the hope that those new buildings will add contemporary architectural vitality (and perhaps future landmarks) and greater housing stock (and lower housing costs) - all admirable goals.
But the criticisms ignore a number of facts about historic preservation that should be kept in mind:
Historic Districts Make up Only a Tiny Percentage of the City: In New York City, there are 115 historic districts and 1,265 individual landmarks, totaling approximately 27,000 buildings - out of a total of about 975,000 buildings. The protected buildings thus make up less than three percent of the city's building stock.
Development Can and Does Take Place in Historic Districts: New residential buildings that the Landmarks Preservation Commission has recently approved include the 11-story 1 Jackson Square in the Greenwich Village Historic District, a 23-story building at 39-41 West 23rd Street, and a 17-story building at 4 West 21st Street, both in the Ladies' Mile Historic District. Despite the common misconception, the Commission sometimes approves very tall buildings, too. Just look at the 46-story Hearst Tower addition.
Zoning, Not Historic Districts, Drives or Limits Development: Zoning, which is under the domain of the City Planning Commission, determines the size and use of buildings. The Landmarks Preservation Commission regulates the appearance of buildings and how any new development relates to the surrounding district but does not set limits on a building's size. The real driver of development is the amount of unused zoning capacity in a neighborhood or on a particular lot. That said, zoning alone does not create housing, especially affordable housing. Subsidies, tax incentives, and government policy have as much, if not more, impact on the development of new housing.
The City is Dynamic and Growing: New York City has continued to grow while the Landmarks Preservation Commission has designated more buildings and historic districts. Data collected by the Municipal Art Society shows that from 2003 to 2008 the gross square footage of the city's building stock increased by nearly 300 million square feet, roughly equivalent to the construction of 250 Chrysler Buildings in just a five-year period.
"New Ideas Require Old Buildings": This quote from the renowned urban activist and author Jane Jacobs says it best. New York's older and existing buildings provide the most affordable places to start a business or live. Galleries in old warehouses in Long Island City, small manufacturers in the Brooklyn Navy Yard's longstanding buildings, and restaurants opened by up-and-coming chefs in Fort Greene, are just some of the present-day examples of the creative ideas that are the backbone of New York's identity being born and realized in old buildings.
Preservationists Need to be Part of the Planning for the City's Growth: Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030 makes clear the need to plan for an increase to accommodate an expected population growth of one million people. It is critical that we ensure that the benefits and burdens of that expansion are fairly distributed. Historic neighborhoods tend to be located near transit centers, and many have amenities that make them attractive places to live and site affordable housing. With comprehensive planning that allows for community participation, neighborhood character can be retained while creating higher-density affordable housing in an equitable manner.
There are many ways in which preservation promotes a more sustainable city, and there is no reason why we have to choose between protecting our historic resources and developing New York City. With comprehensive planning, we can balance the city's growth while preserving the places that give New York City its identity and soul.
Great points all ^ It's been bookmarked for easy reference.
I'm glad the Look Building is now landmarked.
Midtown's New Landmarks
July 27, 2010, by Joey
MIDTOWN—The Landmarks Preservation Commission blessed two Midtown buildings today with landmark status, and talk about an odd couple! First up is the Look Building at 488 Madison Avenue (named for the magazine that once lived there), a Modernist 21-story office building designed by Emery Roth & Sons. The Burrill House at 36 East 38th Street is a bit more old school, a five-story Beaux Arts brownstone built in 1903 for a prominent attorney by Hoppin & Koen, the same architecture firm that did the amazing old police building down on Centre Street. [LPC]
Look Building Is Named a Landmark
By ISOLDE RAFTERY
It was in the Look Building, the cakelike office tower in Midtown Manhattan, that a very young Bob Dylan recorded “The Times They Are a-Changin’.”
Change though they may, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted on Tuesday to preserve an era and award landmark status to the Look Building, on Madison Avenue and 51st Street.
The building, noted for its Modernist style and tightly rounded corners, was built by the firm of Emery Roth & Sons, which also had a hand in building the World Trade Center. The building was completed in 1950.
It was named for one of its first tenants — Look magazine, which folded in 1971. Other tenants have included Esquire magazine and Pocket Books.
The commission also awarded landmark status to the Middleton S. and Emilie Neilson Burrill House, a Beaux Arts-style mansion on 38th Street between Madison and Park Avenues. Robert B. Tierney, the chairman of the commission, said the house recalled a time when Murray Hill was “an exclusive enclave for the upper class.”
I love that building on Madison. The curved corners add a lot to it.
LPC Renovates Owner Manual!
The Landmarks Preservation Commission has updated and revamped its Rowhouse Manual, a handbook that assists owners of the buildings that lie within New York City’s 116 historic districts and extensions maintain their special properties. It also offers step-by-step instructions on how to work successfully and efficiently with the Commission throughout the permit process.
New York City’s character stems not only from its towering, 20th-and -21st-century skyline, but also from the 19th-century low-scale brownstone, limestone, brick and wood clapboard rowhouses that line many of its streets and avenues. Preserving and protecting their character is truly a partnership between the Commission and property owners, and the latest version of the manual is designed to reflect our commitment to this collaboration.
Please click on this LINK for a PDF of the manual (40 + pages)