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16 East 16th Street, application for interior alteration, window replacement, storefront restoration, and rooftop addition

At the regularly scheduled monthly Community Board Five meeting on Thursday, December 12, 2019, the following resolution passed with a vote of 35 in favor; 1 opposed; 1 abstaining:

WHEREAS, The Margaret Louisa Home of the YWCA, located at 16 E.16th Street, is a six story Romanesque Revival style building built in 1889-1891 as a residence for women that operated until 1946 and was converted in 1951 into the Sidney Hillman Health Center; and

WHEREAS, In 1951, the ground floor was removed and rebuilt in a modern nondescript style; and

WHEREAS, The building was constructed as a residence and dining hall to supplement the headquarters and expansion of existing facilities at 7-11 East 15th St which sits on a parallel lot linked by an internal corridor; and

WHEREAS, Originally intended as a temporary residence for up to 104 women seeking employment, the home was designed by R.H. Robertson, commissioned by Margaret Louisa Vanderbilt Shepard, daughter of William H Vanderbilt; and

WHEREAS, The facade is a tripartite vertical composition with a two-story base, a three story side section and a one story top; and

WHEREAS, The facade is clad in Newark brownstone and two shades of red rusticated brick and while the applicant reports that the original wood frame, double hung windows (one over one) have been replaced, the designation report states that they are intact above the ground floor level; and

WHEREAS, Top story windows are painted red and the upper satin of the top story is traceried; and

WHEREAS, The first story of the original two-story base has been completely modernized with a veneer of polished red granite and bronze framed windows and doors; and

WHEREAS, The second story windows are rectangular except for their narrowed tops created by corbeled lintels, the mezzanine is terminated in a five denticulated string course supported on either end by decorative panels; and

WHEREAS, The midsection is a three story, five bay rusticated stone arcade with red brick spandrels and rust colored brick piers and recessed balustraded floor spandrels; and

WHEREAS, The voussoirs of the round arches are outlined in a projecting molding that terminates in carved blocks with foliate designs and, together with the top above it, the midsection is framed by vertical molding punctuated by small foliate designs and the shaft is terminated in a string course with two rows of dentils ending in carved lion masks; and

WHEREAS, The top contains a single wide rectangular opening with alternating single and double Romanesque columns as this section is terminated by a simple cornice with block modillions, the whole supported by decorative panels at the ends and the facade is capped by a single arcaded parapet between higher and piers with carved panels; and

WHEREAS, The applicant is proposing to remove the modern non-contextual ground façade and to recreate the original historic ground level façade using original materials; and

WHEREAS, The applicant is proposing a new 7th and 8th rooftop addition in the form of a gabled roof reminiscent of the never-built proposed design of R. H. Robertson using a stamped metal screen draped over a framed glass addition; and

WHEREAS, The proposed screen would step back from the parapet, which remains in place, and would continue the screen on both ends; and

WHEREAS, The perforated metal screen would be internally lit and would glow at night; and

WHEREAS, The proposed gabled rooftop is extremely visible from the street; and

WHEREAS, The applicant is proposing to demolish the existing building beyond the façade to proceed with a bulk expansion; and

WHEREAS, The applicant is proposing to fill the core of the lot with a nine-story building that would be extremely visible from 16th street as well as 15th street; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five appreciates the quality of the proposed materials, thoughtfulness of the design, and restoration of the ground floor while also remaining ADA compliant; and

WHEREAS, The height, bulk, and the size of the rooftop addition and building expansion is substantially visible from 15th and 16th street which is a distraction and is not appropriate for the Ladies Mile Historic District; and

WHEREAS, The punctured sheet metal and transparent glass behind sheet will distribute excessive light from the roof which will create a site that is not appropriate for the historic district; and

WHEREAS, Although the re-imagined gable design is judicious, the metal sheet design is not harmonious with the historical fabric of the existing masonry building nor the character of the district; and

WHEREAS, If such addition is permitted to be built, the streetscape appearance of the Ladies Mile Historic District would be changed to the detriment of the entire District and the historical integrity and value it holds; and

WHEREAS, Residents and members of the public attended the CB5 Landmarks Committee hearing and expressed concerns about the proposed building, its height, its massing, its bulk as well as its impact on neighboring properties; therefore be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends denial of the application for a Certificate of Appropriateness for proposed alterations at 16 East 16th Street.

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