Preservation Issues

Landmarks Commission Makes Final Designations from Backlog Buildings


-183-195 Broadway Building, Brooklyn


-St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church, 138 Bleecker Street, Brooklyn


-Bowne Street Community Church, 38-01 Bowne Street, Queens


-Brougham Cottage, 4746 Amboy Road, Staten Island


-Lakeman House, 2286 Richmond Road, Staten Island


-Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan


-412 East 85th Street House, Manhattan


-Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Building, Harlem Branch (now Jackie Robinson YMCA Youth Center), 181 West 135th Street, Manhattan


-Loew’s 175th Street Theater, 4140 Broadway, Manhattan


-Excelsior Power Company Building, 33-43 Gold Street


-IRT Powerhouse , 850 12th Avenue, designed by Stanford White, is still on the calendar, as the Commission works with the owner, Con Ed.

December, 2016

The end of 2016 brings the end of the Landmarks Commission’s “backlog” initiative, the plan to address a group of 95 buildings and sites that the Commission had placed on its calendar as early as 1966, but never designated. The Commissioners voted unanimously for 10 more designations on December 13, bringing the total to 27 new landmarks across the five boroughs.

The Conservancy played an integral role in this effort. We opposed the LPC’s original plan, which would have removed all 95 from the calendar without a public hearing. We worked with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and our preservation colleagues to develop a proposal that would allow an orderly review of the backlog sites, without straining LPC resources. At public hearings in fall 2015, we testified on all 95 sites, supporting most, and recognizing that LPC designation was not the appropriate recommendation for a handful that were severely altered or were protected by other means.

Besides the 27 landmarks, the Commission removed nearly all of the remaining buildings from the calendar without commenting on the merits, and allowing that they could be brought back for evaluation and consideration in the future. Most were removed for lack of support from owners and local elected officials. The Landmarks Law does not require this support, and we hope that the Commission has not set its own dangerous precedent with this rationale.

One building, the IRT Powerhouse, is still on the calendar, as the Commission works with the owner, Con Ed, “to develop an appropriate regulatory framework to ensure both preservation of the landmark as well as efficient delivery of energy services to New York City residents.” The Powerhouse, which is a Beaux-Arts masterpiece designed by Stanford White in 1903, is also an active power plant.

At the December 13 hearing, the Commission designated the following landmarks:

183-195 Broadway Building, Brooklyn
Designed by local architect William B. Ditmars, 183-195 Broadway is typical of the commercial palace style fashionable in the second half of the 19th century in Manhattan. This building is exceptional, however, as one of Brooklyn’s few cast iron facades. In a rapidly changing neighborhood, this building strongly deserved designation.

St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church, 138 Bleecker Street, Brooklyn
Brooklyn churches on the backlog showed the depth of the borough’s religious and civic architecture at the turn of the 20th century. Renowned architects Helmle & Huberty designed St. Barbara’s (1907), a lavishly decorated Spanish Baroque structure.

Bowne Street Community Church, 38-01 Bowne Street, Queens
The Romanesque Revival Church features a series of stunning Tiffany stained-glass windows designed by Agnes Northrop, a life-long member of the congregation, and artist at Tiffany Studios. The facade is distinguished by decorative brickwork and unglazed terra cotta trim, and its corner tower is a neighborhood landmark.

Brougham Cottage, 4746 Amboy Road, Staten Island
This farmhouse is reported to be the oldest continuously lived-in house on Staten Island; it was built circa 1730, with a two-story addition circa 1800, and a lean-to from the late 19th or early 20th century. The last private owner arranged the transfer of the Cottage to the Parks Department, where it was incorporated into the adjacent Blue Heron Park.

Lakeman House, 2286 Richmond Road, Staten Island
There are few houses on Staten Island and across the city older than the Lakeman House. The former farmhouse is composed of two sections: the main wing, conjectured from 1683 to 1714; and an 18th century addition. Original fieldstone walls are still visible at the first story, while the end walls are clad in wood where they meet the picturesque gambrel roof. Once shrouded under an inappropriate addition, the Lakeman House shows some alterations, but has been largely restored to its historic appearance.

Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan
Bergdorf Goodman has a prominent presence on Fifth Avenue, taking up a full block front. Built in 1928, the store was designed to appear like seven matching buildings. A 1980’s store entrance is constructed of dressed limestone, and is in keeping stylistically with the historic structure. Bergdorf’s is a Fifth Avenue shopping landmark.

412 East 85th Street House, Manhattan
While there are pockets of wood frame houses in several historic districts, notably in Brooklyn, they are truly a rarity in Manhattan, which has only 38 in total. 412 East 85th Street is one of the very few that had not been designated as an individual landmark or as part of a district, despite being calendared in 1966.

Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Building, Harlem Branch (now Jackie Robinson YMCA Youth Center), 181 West 135th Street, Manhattan
The Harlem branch of the YMCA was built in 1918. For this site, architect John F. Jackson, who was responsible for over 70 YMCA projects, designed a neo-Renaissance palazzo-style building clad in buff brick with austere details and a dramatic bracketed cornice. The YMCA was a focal point of political and literary activity for the African-American community.

Loew’s 175th Street Theater, 4140 Broadway, Manhattan
Built in 1932, the former Loew’s 175th Street Theatre is the finest remaining work of renowned theater architect Thomas W. Lamb, with ornament inspired by Moorish Spain, Hindu India, and Buddhist Thailand. The United Christian Evangelistic Association has been a good steward since purchasing the building in 1969, preserving it generally intact, with the minor addition of a corner cupola.

Excelsior Power Company Building, 33-43 Gold Street
The Commission called this building “one of only two commercial electrical stations in Manhattan known to date from the 1880s, the pioneering decade for electric light and power in New York City and the United States.”