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MAS Testimony to the Landmarks Preservation Commission regarding the Certificate of Appropriateness for 21 West 17th Street and 16 West 18th Street

MAS Testimony to the Landmarks Preservation Commission regarding the Certificate of Appropriateness for 21 West 17th Street and 16 West 18th Street, Block 819, Lot 26/5, Zoned C6-4A, Community District 5, Manhattan. June 21, 2016 Founded in 1893, The Municipal Art Society of New York (MAS) promotes intelligent urban planning, design, and preservation through education, dialogue, and advocacy. The MAS is acutely aware that demolition of any building in a historic district is a serious undertaking, not to be taken lightly. In the course of reviewing this project, the MAS Preservation Committee returned to questions posed during a previous application for 16 West 18th Street:
  1. Does this building contribute to the character and history of the district?
  2. Does this building have enough integrity to relay its own history?
As before, we came to the conclusion that the buildings in debate are highly altered and no longer convey their own story nor that of the Ladies’ Mile Historic District. As outlined clearly in the presentation, several small-scale buildings with a higher level of integrity remain in the district, and thus better represent its early history. While we regret the loss of light and air that their low stature has provided to date, the proposed construction is appropriate for the neighborhood in scale, design, and materials. The new building is subtle and thoughtful, taking cues from the historic loft architecture of the surrounding district and fitting snugly within the street wall. We greatly appreciate the façade restoration of the adjacent building, especially the upper transoms of the storefront that have been hidden for decades. The only disappointment is the HVAC grilles which prominently, albeit symmetrically, intrude into the restored storefront. We hope the project team has investigated alternatives and that this is an unfortunate last resort. While MAS supports this application, we caution that one must not be cavalier about the approval of demolition. This is a unique condition in which two buildings that lack true authenticity will make way for a new design that is both deferential and additive to the Ladies’ Mile Historic District. Download testimony (PDF) »»