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Landmarks moves to clear backlog with sweeping approvals

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Bergdorf Goodman and the Jackie Robinson YMCA Youth Center are among NYC’s newest landmarks

St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church is a rare Baroque Revival style church in NYC.

On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission finished the daunting task of clearing out its abundant backlog by voting on 13 sites that have been calendared for landmark consideration since at least 2010.

The commissioners largely followed the recommendations of the Landmarks Preservation Commission research staff, designating 10 sites throughout four boroughs and taking no action on two items. Those two items, the Edgar J. Kaufmann Conference Rooms of 809 United Nations Plaza and The Bronx’s Immaculate Conception Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, will be removed from the calendar for now, but can be added back later without it affecting the commissioners decision. Manhattan’s IRT Powerhouse will remain on the calendar.

New York City’s newest landmarks include:

  • 183-185 Broadway in Williamsburg, an Italianate building catty corner from Peter Luger and across the street from the Williamsburgh Savings Bank.
  • Saint Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church at 138 Bleecker Street in Bushwick, a Spanish Baroque Revival style building characterized by the LPC as “one of the most unusual and distinctive ecclesiastical buildings in New York City.” It’s designed by the same architect behind the Prospect Park boathouse and dates to 1910.
  • Protestant Reformed Dutch Church, now the Bowne Street Community Church, of Flushing, Queens. The Romanesque Revival style church was built in the early 1890s and sports stained glass windows by the Tiffany Glass Co. of New York.
Bergdorf Goodman was one of the original tenants in its building.
Photo by ingfbruno via Wikipedia.
  • The Lakeman-Cortelyou-Taylor House at 2286 Richmond Road in Staten Island. The Dutch Colonial house with an 18th-century addition dates to about 1683 to 1714.
  • The Brougham Cottage at 4176 Amboy Road in Staten Island, a Vernacular style house that dates to the early 18th century.
  • The Excelsior Steam Power Company Building, a Romanesque Revival building at 33-43 Gold Street dating to the mid- to late-1800s that provided lighting and power to local factories and office buildings. It’s since been renovated for residential use.
  • Bergdorf Goodman at 754 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The Modern Classicist building was designed by Buckman & Kahn and built from 1927-28. While its landmarking was previously backed by Borough President Gale Brewer, it was opposed by the building’s owners.
  • The vernacular wood-frame house at 412 East 85th Street on the Upper East Side, built before 1861. It’s one of only six pre-Civil War wood-frame houses that remain in the neighborhood.
The former Loew’s Wonder Theater “exemplifies the American movie palace at its most monumental and spectacular.”
Property Shark
  • Harlem’s YMCA at 181 West 135th Street, also known as the Jackie Robinson YMCA Youth Center. The LPC lauded the location for its “significant role in shaping the civic and artistic culture of Harlem.”
  • The former Loew's Wonder Theater at 4140 Broadway and 175th Street. Now the United Palace, the Hindu-Islamic style theater was designed by Thomas W. Lamb and built in 1929-30. The commission noted that the building “exemplifies the American movie palace at its most monumental and spectacular.”

The commission, however, stumbled on three significant items proposed for designation. Alvar and Alissa Aalto’s Edgar J. Kaufmann Conference Rooms, Lecture Hall, and Elevator Lobby at 809 United Nations Plaza, up for interior landmark designation, was tabled by the commission who were unsure if the rooms satisfy the Landmarks Law requirement of accessibility as they’re tucked away on the building’s 12th floor, owned by the International Institute of Education.

The LPC also notes that both Qatar and Saudi Arabia own floors within the building, creating tight security conditions and limited access to the buildings. The commission felt that, with IIE’s commitment to maintaining the rooms, they were not in imminent danger. The commission took no action and removed the items from the calendar, but they can be added back at a later date.

The commissioners also voted to remove the Immaculate Conception Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in The Bronx from the calendar, noting that the building is not a priority at this time.

IRT Powerhouse classic building
The IRT Powerhouse designed by McKim, Mead & White will remain on the LPC’s calendar.

The commission also voted to keep Manhattan’s Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) Powerhouse at 850 Twelfth Avenue on its calendar. The Beaux Arts building was designed by Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White and is a rare industrial structure by the vaunted firm. But it’s still a functioning powerhouse at that—now under ConEd—and the LPC and power company are working on a regulatory framework that would allow the flexibility needed for the landmark to still function. ConEd asked the LPC to keep the building calendared, and bring it back next year. LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan noted that the LPC would continue to monitor changes “as they’ve done over the past 37 years.”

Tuesday’s hearing concluded the LPC’s Backlog Initiative. “I am thrilled that through this ambitious and unprecedented effort, we have granted full landmark protection to 27 outstanding properties, and cut through a 50-year backlog in a matter of 18 months,” Srinivasan said in a statement. “We are very proud that the designated properties are from all five boroughs and represent a diverse array of building typologies including early residences, institutional buildings, churches, and a theater—even an iconic sign. This is a great day for preservation in New York City.”

Immaculate Conception Church

389 E 150th St, Bronx, NY 10455 (718) 292-6970

Williamsburgh Savings Bank

175 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211