Wednesday, July 29, 2015

SPOTLIGHT: 267 West 89th Street

This image shows the buildings West exterior.
by Shannon Brown 

The Mulliken and Moeller building was originally commissioned by North Holding Co, and designed by Harry B. Mulliken who, after studying at Columbia University, started his career working with the Chicago architect Daniel H. Burnham before heading east to work with the New York architect Ernest Flagg. Some of his independent works include Spencer Arms Hotel (1904–05) - Mulliken and Moeller as architects, 2020-2026 Broadway, aka 147-149 West 69th Street, (not too far away from Landmark West!), Madison Court Apartments (1900–1901) – Mulliken as architect, and some other NYC sites outside of our district like 1361 Madison Avenue, aka 51 East 95th Street. Carnegie Hill landmark designation and many others.

The building changed hands many times; most recently, it belonged to Thomas J. Berman before transferring to J.P.Morgan Chase and then Citibank, all within this calendar year. 

Along with 343 other sites, this building became a part of the Riverside West End Avenue District Extension II on June 23 2015.  This extension lagged other prior designations of similar structures.  

Highlighted is the site plan of 267 West 89th Street
Typical floor plan
The defined boundaries included 267 W 89th St but were drawn at its eastern edge, omitting its adjacent neighbor. Why you say? Due east of this building, The Admaston (251 West 89th Street) aka 2421-29 Broadway has stood for over a century, created by George and Edward Blum in the Neo- Renaissance, Eclectic Style.  This apartment house lobbied for inclusion in new landmark district, but was left out.  Thus, it has no landmark protections under the law and may be altered or demolished without LPC oversight. 
267 West 89th street neighboring building (east) The Admaston

In August 1951 the city issued an amended Certificate of Occupancy to adhere to the approved plans and updated specification requirements of the building code.  This mainly affected cellar and penthouse levels. 

Some significant architectural features are key stone bases, a two story keyed surround incorporating Tudor arched entrance with molding, foliate spandrels, and triple window mullions with carved lancets.

Over the years many alterations have been made such as cornice frieze replacement, metal balconette replacements and the addition of cameras and surface-mounted conduits.  Any future changes such as these would need to be filed with the LPC (Landmark Preservation Commission) for approval as they affect the building’s exterior appearance.

~ My name is Shannon Brown and I'm an intern at Landmark West! I will be entering my senior year of high school in September 2015. My experience here has been a great one so far but hope to share more research before the summer is out.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sister Buildings?

Left, McKim Mead and White's 1910 Power House for Penn Station,
Right, McKim Mead and White's 1904 Power House for the IRT Subway

With the IRT Powerhouse still waiting for its landmark status since first being heard by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1979, then again in 1990, and once more in 2009 before the LPC's attempted de-calendar in 2014, our readers are well familiar with the building's McKim Mead and White linage and overall significance.  Built in 1904, it was intended to power the IRT line, and once again will have its "day in court" when the LPC hears it amidst a batch of other structures on November 5, 2015. (If you are interested in testifying they ask that you submit content by October 29th).

After critical success with this new typology, the triumvirate were commissioned by the Penn Central Rail Road for their equivalent facility further south.  Still standing on 31st Street, the 1910 pink granite structure, a grand, but pared-down version of is terminal head-house still stands, in use, in the shadow of Charles Luckman's Madison Square Garden.  Profiled in Gothamist today, the public gets a sneak peek behind the long-neglected facade.  

As with the 59th Street Power House, this building had skyline-defining stacks and served a utilitarian function.  And as with the 59th Street Power House, which the New York State Historic Preservation Office deemed eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, this structure is also National Register Eligible, and it isn't yet a NYC Landmark either, meaning it can be altered without public oversight at any time.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

LW! Upper West Side Trivia Night!


Do you think you know the Upper West Side?  All the way from 59th to 110th Street?  Central Park to Riverside Park?  PROVE IT! 

Join Landmark West! and emcee Tom Miller, aka the Daytonian in Manhattan at Prohibition (503 Columbus Avenue) on Monday, July 27th, 5:30-7:30!

Prohibition features $5 Happy Hour Specials of Frozen Drinks, Well Drinks and a range of Draft Beers.

Prizes and specials throughout the night.  This event is FREE but space is limited!  Please RSVP (landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org) to reserve your spot on a team!

See you on the 27th!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Walking tour of Riverside - West End Historic District Extension II

Straus Park, a memorial to Isidor and Ida Straus who died on the Titanic. Unfortunately this park was carved out of the new historic district extension.
After being rained out last week, we had our walking tour yesterday and we couldn't have asked for a more beautiful evening. Professor Andrew Dolkart, author of countless books on New York's historic architecture, led us around the newly designated extension to the Riverside - West End Historic District.

Mansions and apartment buildings line Riverside Drive

The tour began at Straus Park, at 106th and Broadway, and we worked our way through Riverside Park and West End Avenue down to 100th Street. We looked at many beautiful old rowhouses and apartment buildings along the way, all of which now have landmark protection (we focused on what is now protected, rather than the buildings along Broadway that were notoriously excluded from the district).

Andrew Dolkart explains the terra-cotta ornamentation on an apartment house by architects George & Edward Blum
Thank you to everyone to who joined us, and we look forward to more walking tours in the future!




30th Anniversary! Help LW! pass on the torch in 2015!





June 2015

We're known for being obstinate.   
And we're known for being fighters.
This is no time to lose that reputation.

Dear Friends of LANDMARK WEST!:

…And now is no time to let your LW! membership lapse!  We need you more than ever.  If you’ve recently renewed or activated your 2015 membership (please call or email us to confirm), then you probably already understand why your involvement and support are so important.  If you haven’t renewed or become a member yet, please take two minutes and keep reading.

The quote above comes from Upper West Sider Roberta Brandes Gratz (journalist, urban critic, author,* and early LW! board member), who spoke out at a community meeting in 1983, when developers “rediscovered” the neighborhoods from 59th to 110th Street, between Central Park and Riverside Park.  Towers of unprecedented (for then) scale were planned for sites throughout the area.  “Mom & Pop” stores were pushed out.  Century-old buildings were demolished to make way for luxury housing.

Fortunately for the Upper West Side, there were Upper West Siders.  LW! was founded in 1985 and, true to our West-Sider reputation, we stood our ground… we organized… we advocated… and we succeeded in expanding such smart planning policies as zoning with contextual height limits and landmark and historic district protection that recognize the value of preserving existing neighborhood character and scale.

Thirty years ago, under the LW! banner, Upper West Siders reset the balance between preservation and development, public good and private interests, rich past and sustainable future.  Thirty years later, LW! continues to hold the line – day by day, building by building, block by block.

We won the landmark protection of over 3,000 sites, up from only 337 in 1985, securing the character and quality of our neighborhood.  We’ve set up award-winning partnerships with small businesses (our Retail Assistance Program) and schools (Keeping the Past for the Future children’s education program, which since 1999 has reached over 10,000 students and their teachers).  Through our email alerts and social media, we keep West Siders informed about issues and events that affect our lives (visit www.landmarkwest.org to get connected).  We act as the West Side’s “watchdog,” ever ready to spring from vigilance to activism (and often do so).

Those pressures from the 1980s never went away.  Developers have found ways around the laws.  Mayors and city agencies have been complicit.  The Upper West Side has changed, not always for the better. 

Now it’s 2015.  And we’re facing our biggest challenge yet.  HELP!

Just in the past six months:
  • The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC, the mayoral agency charged with identifying and protecting our landmark buildings, interiors, and parks) announced that nearly 100 sites heard by the LPC for landmark designation would be removed from consideration.  Also, after delaying its vote on the proposed Riverside-West End Avenue Historic District Extension II for nearly four years, the LPC drastically reduced the district’s boundaries, eliminating protection for much of the west side of Broadway above 89th Street.  Why?  Ask Mayor de Blasio and his appointed Landmarks Commissioners.
  • City Council members (lobbied by the Real Estate Board of New York) introduced legislation that would severely curtail the LPC’s ability to designate landmarks in the future.
  •  Mayor de Blasio announced sweeping citywide changes to zoning that would increase height limits on new buildings, with no study of how those changes would affect individual neighborhoods (like ours) that have worked for decades to try and protect character and scale.
Potential 80-story development, W. 66th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue
  • Thirteen(!) new “mega-towers” (exceeding 1,000 feet, the equivalent of 100 stories) are underway or in the planning stages – including one on West 66th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue – threatening to blight our skyline and cast shadows that will stretch across Central Park, New York’s great democratic open space, designated a Scenic Landmark in 1974.  Make sure to watch Bill Moyers’ powerful PBS program, “The Long, Dark Shadows of Plutocracy.
  • New breeds of development have emerged that manipulate existing outdated, or unenforced, regulations – for example, a planned building on West 96th Street that will replace low-scale rowhouses and rise head-and-shoulders above its neighbors.
These issues and more are on LW’s Preservation Watch List, proof that there is still much work to be done to save the Upper West Side…by Upper West Siders and for Upper West Siders.

That’s where you come in.  It is only because of individual donors LIKE YOU that LW! is able to continue holding the line.  For thirty years, our work has produced a better neighborhood – a better city – but all of that could be erased in short order.  We need you to keep us strong.  Please renew your LW! (tax-deductible) membership today for as little as $25 (a mid-year special!). 

Thank you, as always, for your generosity and activism.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,


Arlene Simon                                              Kate Wood
Founder & President (1985-2015)                 President
Chair


P.S.      Membership has its benefits, such as discounts on walking tours, lectures and workshops.  Please make sure we have your email address to notify you about upcoming events!

*Roberta Brandes Gratz is the award-winning author of many books, including The Battle For Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs and most recently WE'RE STILL HERE YA BASTARDS: How the People of New Orleans Rebuilt Their City.



Monday, June 29, 2015

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty...and landmarks preservation too!

Bruce Willis once said "You can't undo the past...but you can certainly not repeat it"  

At LANDMARK WEST! we strive to protect the built environment and sometimes that means incorporating intel from the ground.  

Back in 2008, a neighbor spotted a suspiciously inappropriate rooftop addition to 12-14 West 68th Street (in the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District, immediately north of the Hotel des Artistes at 1 West 67th Street and adjacent to the First Church of Christ, Scientist, CPW at 68th Street).  

LANDMARK WEST! sprang into action, reported the structure to the Landmarks Preservation commission (LPC) and they in turn, confirmed a full fifth floor addition had been constructed without LPC approval!  A long saga ensued (see timeline below) involving court dates, changes of ownership, and lots of neighbor's letters, hearings and testimony at the LPC.  

But for LW's vigilance, and our community's active support (thank you!) this illegal addition to our Historic District might have slipped through the cracks.  And if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.  


12-14 West 68th Street with illegal rooftop addition
FINALLY, GOOD NEWS! The illegal rooftop addition is coming down and begin replaced with a smaller, more appropriate structure.  
RED denotes former massing bulk at #12 W. 68th Street.  Sloped roof below shows maximum build out of replacement rooftop addition, compliant with LPC guidelines.


TIMELINE


1925 Studio Building at 12 W. 68th Street is built behind 14 W. 68th Street (1895, Architect Louis Thouvard) 

1990 LPC designates Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District with over 2,000 buildings, encompassing 12-14 W. 68th Street, along with the Hotel des Artists and First Church of Christ, Scientist. See our MAP

2007 Architect Lester E. Tour files application with Department of Buildings to construct rooftop addition at 12 W. 68th Street, but fails to apply to LPC as required. 
2008  Department of Buildings approves permits for "illegal" rooftop addition.  LW! reports illegal construction to LPC. 

2009  12 W. 68th Street owners ask LPC to "legalize" the rooftop addition; LPC declines.  Owners spend next two years trying to circumvent the law. 

2012  LPC requires removal of illegal rooftop addition and approves new design. 

2015  Illegal 2008 addition is finally removed.  Construction begins on LPC approved plan (see axon above)

Demolition of illegal tower begins, 2015

NYT Features District Exclusions

The Broadway Fashion Building, long a Landmark West! Wishlist Candidate
was designated in the last expansion of the district and is now protected. 
Today's online and tomorrow's print edition of the New York Times features a piece which examines the actions taken by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) last Tuesday morning.  Their designation of the Riverside-West End Historic District omitted 33 buildings from the original boundary, 21 of them on Broadway alone.  Journalist Matt Chaban examines the rationale behind this decision after five years of study, and suggests that this is an omen of "how the de Blasio administration views its responsibility for the city's historic buildings".

Historically, the LPC votes on 94% of the Historic Districts which come before them within two years (and 80% of the individual landmarks that come before them within one year).  With more than double the time allotted to this Historic District study, the quantity and quality of the "carve outs" is unprecedented.  Buildings which have long been on the Landmark West! Wish List that fell within the original boundary but were carved out, include the Cornwall.  A building "on the north side of that corner [Broadway and 90th St], is a quintessential prewar building, a 12-story layer cake of luscious red bricks and terra cotta icing with two bays of apartments, filigreed corners and balconies.  At its base are a diner, a liquor store, a dry cleaner and a locksmith, all diminutive and neon-lit"...and none are protected.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Candle Bar Now Closed!


Candle Bar - the Upper West Side’s oldest gay bar - closed permanently earlier this week. According to a West Side Rag article, it had been in its location on Amsterdam Avenue between 74th and 75th streets since 1958.
  
The building that Candle Bar occupied was originally part of an eclectic row of speculative houses that turned the 74th street corner, built with stoops and American basements. The architects were Lamb & Rich, who designed many Upper West Side rowhouses, but perhaps their most notable commission was the Barnard College campus in Morningside Heights, the first buildings of which were completed in 1897. 

As the surrounding neighborhood shifted to more commercial purposes, the row at 74th and Amsterdam had stoops and embellishments removed, basement light wells filled in, and storefronts installed. But the whole row, which is nonetheless still largely intact, achieved landmark status in 1990 as part of the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District.
 
The row at the northeast corner of Amsterdam and 74th Street, as originally designed by Lamb & Rich
Whoever the new tenants are, we at LandmarkWest! hope their new storefront will be respectful of the Lamb & Rich design, and even restore some of the building’s original features. The sketch we found of the row in its original state may be an aid to restoration work.

The Closing of Candle Bar is a sad way to kick off New York’s Pride Week, but in brighter news, the Landmarks Preservation Commission just yesterday designated Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village as an individual landmark. It is the first building to achieve such designation solely for its relevance to LGBT history, and we owe a debt of gratitude to Andrew Dolkart for writing the designation report and to the many others who helped advance the process. 

Riverside-West End Historic District Map Available!

While the City Council has 120 days to amend or disprove the Historic District Extension, the LPC has made the map of the revised boundaries available.  See above. Landmark West! will keep you posted with any news!

To see other Media coverage, read West Side Rag and DNAinfo

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Can you see the differences in these two images?

Left: District Map from 2010, Right: District Map post-de Blasio Diet on June 23, 2015
Image by Landmark West!
This morning, the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public meeting to consider designation of the third, and as they emphasize, "final" segment of the Riverside-West End Avenue Historic District.  Originally calendared on November 16, 2010, the District extension under review today showed the slimming effects of The de Blasio Diet- weighing in at an original 377 buildings in 2011, today this "study area" was reduced to a trim 344 (a number even Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels would be astonished at).  

LPC staff Lisa Kersavage and MaryAnne Percival present the
the slimmed-down RSD-WEA EXT II Historic District today. 
What exactly was excised? Predominantly, the Broadway border- in its entirety, and various carve outs for playgrounds, tenements and row houses-- block "fragments" which "did not sufficiently contribute to the sense of place".  A scant few images displayed examples of the cut outs but by no means represented all of the 33 missing sites- sites Commissioner Michael Devonshire unsuccessfully lobbied for the Commission to visit prior to voting.  In a concession, formerly omitted P.S. 75 was drawn back into the map as of this morning, but one branded as a "no-style" building which is a debased designation.  Everyone cheats on a diet a little, right? 


In addition to Broadway, the revised boundaries were nipped and tucked both north and south.  The new district was cut from 89th Street, to begin all the way up at 92nd Street and similarly, it was shaved down a block to 108th Street as its modified northern most border. 

Members of the public, unable to testify held up maps of the
original district boundaries to protest "Government in the Dark"
The LPC defended their all inboard-of-Broadway diet restrictions by deferring to legal counsel who cited previously designated Historic Districts (Gansevoort, Ridgewood, East Village etc.) that had cut-outs identified at time of designation.  What makes this unique is not only how a commission adamant about not adhering to precedent is suddenly leaning on precedent when convenient (now) but the unprecedented scale of reduction.  This District is in fact, the Biggest Loser to date! 

Dissent among the commissioners logically questioned why buildings by established pedigrees (Neville and Bagge; George and Edward Blum), recognized elsewhere within the Community District were forsaken here.   The response was that Broadway would not contribute to the cohesion of the district.  Commissioner Fred Bland lamented that it took 43 years to vote on this District which was clearly deserving and he hoped "the notion of Broadway" would not take as long to evaluate.  Commissioners Adi Shamir Baron, and John Gustafson also echoed the need to put attention towards better understanding Broadway's identity, and to recognize its cultural landscape. 

Commissioner John Gustafson spoke the voice of reason, questioning why significant buildings by noted architects were being ignored.  As the staff responded in defense of the cohesion of the historic district, Commissioner Gustafson also questioned the cohesion of the blocks within this district and how they will be affected if these significant structures are altered. 
The reality is, with the buildings omitted, Broadway becomes the excess skin for the developers to re-shape, and even the work of the best plastic surgeon looks familiar but out of place. 

The Commissioners in conversation with their legal and research staff
That these decisions were made behind closed doors is unsettling- that the final map was not made available to those experts voting on it until the flash of a slide in a power-point is unconscionable. After a self congratulatory victory lap, pronouncing the process and resultant district as respectful, thoughtful, rigorous, fair and mindful of initial requests, Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan called for a vote of designation.  With the only alternative of denying designation, the modified district passed unanimously, becoming the twelfth Historic District within the Community Board.  Up next, lucky 13...