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Glassy Addition For Historic Seaport Building Flops At LPC

It can be hard to win over the Landmarks Preservation Commission, but BKSK Architects have been lavished with praise for two recent projects they brought before the commission. So they were probably feeling pretty good about their plans for a glass and steel addition to a 200-year-old building at 40 Peck Slip, but yesterday, the commission swiftly brought the firm back to reality, calling the plans showy and "over-designed." The Superior Officers Council owns the vacant, four-story rowhouse at 40 Peck Slip in the Seaport District, and they want to turn the structure into their offices. At a public hearing Tuesday, Louis Turco of the law enforcement union and architect Harry Kendall of BKSK presented their plans to refurbish the ground floor retail unit, spruce up the front façade, and add a 21-foot extension for an additional floor and an elevator bulkhead. The presentation represented the third version of the proposal; the local community board previous nixed the original plans for a two-story addition. "We went from two floors down to one floor to work with landmarks," said Turco. "We want to be here for the next 200 years."

Kendall went to lengths to expound upon the area's shipping history and the role of rooftop additions in the neighborhood, probably confident after his firm's recent successful historic district proposals at 529 Broadway and 25 Great Jones Street. Undeterred by the revised project's unanimous disapproval from Community Board 1 in November, Kendall told the Commission, "We all know there are winds of change afoot, to mix a metaphor." He later added that the glassy extensions to the brick building would act as "a punctuation point in an area of old and new."

But the responses from commissioners brought the soaring rhetoric down to Earth. Commissioner Roberta Washington questioned whether the new floor would overpower the others in design and size, and other commissioners echoed the community board's concerns about the use of modern materials on top of a brick building. They expressed admiration for the new storefront and façade, but they held up the project for modifications and another public viewing at a later date. "In my mind, it's a bit over-designed and calling too much attention to itself," said Commissioner Elizabeth Ryan. "A more utilitarian approach would be appropriate."
—Tobias Salinger
· Seaport Residents Oppose Addition to 200-Year-Old Building [Curbed]