LESPI's Letter re New Building Proposal for 119-121 Second Ave

June 18, 2018

Alysha Lewis-Coleman
Board Chair
Manhattan Community Board 3
59 East 4th Street
New York, NY I 0003

Re: 119 and 121 Second Avenue Certificate of Appropriateness Application

Dear Ms. Lewis-Coleman,

The Lower East Side Preservation Initiative's (LESPI's) Architectural Design Review Committee has reviewed the proposed design for the site at 119 and 121 Second Avenue and finds that it respectfully acknowledges the buildings that were lost on that site and interacts well with the adjacent historic neighboring buildings while still presenting itself as a clearly contemporary structure. The brick corbeling, the reinterpreted cornice, the ground-floor retail space, and the strongly-defined street wall all reinforce key elements of the Lower East Side's characteristic architecture and streetscapes, even while the proposed design does not merely mimic a 19th-century structure.

One other key element of the Lower East Side's characteristic architecture, emphasized on nearly every page of the Lower East Side / East Village Historic District Designation Report, is the variety and exuberance of the facade detailing of the Lower East Side's buildings. To quote from the Designation Report 's introduction: "Facades [of 19th-century Lower East Side tenements] typically featured richly molded terra cotta detailing, textured brickwork, densely layered beltcourses, projecting piers, and boldly massed cornices." The specific descriptions of the original buildings at 119 and 121 also list exuberant facade elements like engaged pilasters, inset panels, masonry bands integrated with the window lintels, brackets, and other small details. All this is to say that the proposed design, as respectful as it is, is also more restrained than necessary. Although the proposed design goes some way towards capturing this spirit, LESPI's Architectural Design Review Committee suggests that further emphasizing the playful exuberance and eye-catching detail characteristic of Lower East Side architecture would make this an even more successful design, especially for such a prominent comer location on Second Avenue.


Britton Baine
Chair, Architectural Design Review Committee

cc: Richard Moses, Lower East Side Preservation Initiative.


LESPI's Letter re Proposed Rooftop Addition at 104 E 10th St

April 7, 2017

Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chair
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10007

re: Proposed Rooftop Addition at 104 East 10th Street

Dear Chair Srinivasan:

The Lower East Side Preservation Initiative is writing to oppose the proposed rooftop addition to 104 East 10th Street. This addition to the mostly-unaltered mid-19th-century Italianate house at 104 East 10th Street would be in the form of a three-level rooftop penthouse and mechanical equipment platform which would increase the height of the house by over 30% and would increase the above-ground bulk by fully one quarter.

The 1984 designation report for the St. Marks Historic District Extension, which is made up of just two buildings – No. 104 and its neighbor and oldest house on the block, No. 102 – emphasizes again and again that the buildings’ low heights are a defining feature of their historic significance. The report makes the specific point that the low height of No. 104 “creates an effective bridge between the small vernacular structure on its right and the taller, more recent Italianate buildings on its left,” and that “while distinct from their taller neighbors, [Nos. 104 and 102] offer a happy contrast.”

When Nos. 104 and 102 were designated in 1984, they were the last two houses at that end of the row, and thus created a well-defined “bookend” to the original St. Mark’s Historic District. Two years later, the very large Postmodern building at 31 Third Avenue went up, cheek-by-jowl with No. 102. Though the contemporary building is a structure of completely different architectural character and scale, No. 104 and its neighbor still mark an admirably-defined starting point to the St. Mark’s District by their resolutely different scale and architectural style: three stories compared with a high-rise, rectangular multi-paned windows compared with punched squares, and intricately-detailed ornament compared with pared-down Postmodernism.

The proposed addition seems to take a chunk of 31 Third Avenue and plop it right atop the roof of No. 104. With this gesture, the clearly-defined beginning to the historic district is permanently blurred, and the coherence of the St. Mark’s Extension – a district of just two buildings – becomes lost. “These buildings...set, and in subsequent modifications followed, the architectural and aesthetic standards for East 10th Street,” in the words of the 1984 designation report. “A harmonious uniformity was achieved in building types, materials, [and] scale....the relation of these buildings to each other and to the streetscape furthers the architectural coherence of St. Mark’s Historic District and adds to its significance.” If No. 104 begins to relate to buildings outside the district, the coherence born of scale which was found to be so important in the original designation will be lost. And with precedent set, the question is when, not whether, the rest of the houses along this street with its “compelling sense of unity” will acquire rooftop additions, and the scale and distinctive character of this district will be diluted and chipped away.

In light of the above, the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative respectfully urges the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to disapprove this out-of-scale addition which will significantly detract from the characteristics which give No. 104, and the St. Mark’s Historic District, their distinctive character and historic significance.


Britton A. Baine
Chair, Architectural Design Review Committee


LESPI's Letter re Jarmulowsky CofA application

May 23, 2014

Robert B. Tierney, Chair
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
Municipal Building
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor, North
New York, NY 10007

Re: Jarmulowsky Bank Building Certificate of Appropriateness Application

Dear Mr. Tierney:

I would like to convey Lower East Side Preservation Initiative’s enthusiastic support for the proposed reconstruction of the corner cupola at the Jarmulowsky Bank Building at 54 Canal Street in Manhattan.

The cupola, with its temple-like colonnaded perimeter and ornate dome, was one of the most important original architectural features of the building. The cupola's placement at the corner of the building overlooking Canal and Allen Streets made the building a highly-visible and distinguished landmark and gave it an unmistakable presence which the cupola's removal greatly reduced, to the detriment of the building itself and to the important Lower East Side streetscape of which the building is a part.

We also ask the LPC to work with the applicant to relocate / reduce the size of rooftop additions as much as practicable to ensure that they do not detract from the building’s architecture.


Britton A. Baine
Chair, Architectural Design Review Committee

cc: Richard Moses, Lower East Side Preservation Initiative


The Lower East Side Preservation Initiative is dedicated to preserving the historic streetscapes and buildings of the Lower East Side, including the East Village, Lower East Side below Houston Street, Bowery, Chinatown and Little Italy