The latest news on New York architecture.

  • The chair of the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission could soon be filled

    Andrew J. Hawkins reports for Crain's: De Blasio zeroes in on landmarks appointment. Mayor Bill de Blasio is close to filling another hole in his administration: chair of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. Several names are on the short list, two of whom are Ward Dennis, a partner at Higgins Quasebarth and Partners, LLC, a historic preservation consultant firm; and Kate Daly, the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s current executive director. Neither could be reached for comment. Other names that have been floating around since at least January include Ronda Wist, vice president for preservation and government relations at the Municipal Art Society; Carol Clark, an adjunct professor at Columbia University who previously served at the Brooklyn Historical Society and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development; and Chris Collins, formerly counsel for the City Council’s Land Use Committee. Ms. Wist declined to comment; the rest could not be reached. Multiple sources say the appointment is imminent. A spokesman for the mayor did not return a request for comment. The appointment will come at a tense time for the commission. The commission has come under fire from developers, landlords and the construction industry, who complain that it has been too aggressive in its push to landmark large swaths of the city. The Real Estate Board of New York released a report last year that revealed over a quarter of Manhattan was landmarked. “We hope that the next commission chairman will look carefully at historic districting and consult with the City Planning Commission much more than it’s done previously,” said Richard Anderson, president of the New York City Building Congress. The commission’s current chairman, Robert Tierney, was grilled by the City Council at a recent hearing about how preservation activity may conflict with the mayor’s goal of building and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing. Mr. Tierney, a Bloomberg administration holdover, disputed the notion put forward by critics that landmarking was used to control development in certain neighborhoods, arguing that its only intention is to preserve neighborhoods with cultural and historical significance. If Mr. de Blasio appoints Ms. Daly, who as executive director oversees the agency’s budget and personnel, it would send the signal that he is content with the current direction of the agency. However, if he chooses Mr. Dennis, who is the favored pick of developers, he may be interested in shaking up the commission’s senior staff. According to a source inside the commission, Mr. de Blasio's delay in replacing Mr. Tierney has frustrated existing commissioners. At least two commissioners plan to resign but have not done so yet because their absence would make it impossible for the commission to reach a quorum on new business, and they would unlikely be replaced until after a new chair is named. Once those commissioners do step down, they would create new vacancies to be filled by the mayor, presumably with the input of the new chair.

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  • Mixed-use building design for Greenwich Village seen as "disproportionate"

    Zoe Rosenberg reports for Curbed: 130 Seventh Ave. South's Revised 'Glacier' Fails To Woo LPC

    With their prior success in creating historically sensitive designs, BKSK Architects thought they might have done so again yesterday when presenting their renderings for a mixed-use project at 130 Seventh Avenue South to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Since the project's initial design, courtesy of Peter Sampton, was panned by the LPC in September, BKSK has stepped in.

    "We believe a façade that clearly speaks of its time is an effective way to heal this scar" caused by the "ruthless cut of Seventh Avenue South at one point in time," said BKSK's Harry Kendall and George Schieferdecker, with Schieferdecker adding that the triangular site "offers us a great opportunity to be in the Flatiron mode". But yesterday afternoon, the LPC and a room full of neighborhood preservationists proved them wrong, citing the design as "monolithic" and like a "glacier". No one in the room was reluctant to acknowledge that the current site occupant, a one-story restaurant, is an "eyesore". However, few believed the new design was appropriate for the neighborhood.

    [This is the old, panned design from September.]

    What BKSK proposed was a 14,000-square-foot residential, 2,000-square-foot commercial building with five full-floor units and a two-story penthouse. The building would stand 75 feet to the top of the bulkhead, and 85 feet at the building's highest point. In their revision of prior "slice of glass" plans, the architects most notably attempted to reflect the surrounding neighborhood in their design by including vertical brick beams amongst the curtain wall façade at the points where the site's original party walls stood. But this contemporary tactic was what really seemed to irk neighbors and commissioners.

    The commissioners' comments echoed ones uttered about the Peter Sampton-designed building for the same site at the LPC back in September, with Commissioner Diana Chapin noting, "the verticality is not appropriate" given the scale of the neighborhood. Commissioner Michael Goldblum took a different stance on the scale of buildings in Greenwich Village, declaring, "It ain't Park Slope". One speaker who represented several downtown City Council members declared that the building "will dramatically alter the sense of place at the site that lies in the heart of the historic district." Another speaker argued that masses of the city's visitors flock to Greenwich Village specifically because of its scale and charm, in contrast to Midtown's. Would this "disproportionate" lodging for just a few deplete the neighborhood of that charm? So it's back to the drawing board for developers Continental Ventures and the Keystone Group. See you at the next hearing.  

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