As reported by Max Y.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) reviewed not one but two proposals for modifications to buildings within the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District yesterday.

The La Rochelle, 329 Columbus Avenue.
The first item was an application from the Make Meaning store to install signage in their storefront at the La Rochelle, a Renaissance Revival-style apartment building designed by Lamb & Rich and built in 1895-98, at 329 Columbus Avenue.  Throughout the public review process, the Make Meaning company was very receptive to LW’s suggestions to improve their initial signage concept, remarking at the public hearing that “LANDMARK WEST! had some fantastic ideas.”  Why, thank you, Make Meaning!

The proposed signage–individual pin-mounted letters on a bar which bows or angles out, away from the facade–would be less conspicuous than the existing signage.  Further, the overall design would not detract from the La Rochelle’s monumental aesthetics.  A straight band behind the back of the sign would protect the window’s mullions and support the signage as it bows out (this to address concerns of the store’s curbside visibility) … all without damaging the building’s facade.  Community Board 7 approved of the design, adding that the colossal banded columns should be a as visually present as possible.

As the commissioners moved to discussion of this proposal, one noted that, in the past, the LPC has approved individual letters mounted to a bar as long as the bar didn’t damage the facade.  However, the Commission has rarely approved illuminated letters.  The sign’s plastic material does not live up to the historic fabric of the area, the commissioner continued, and an appropriate material should be selected instead.  Several other commissioners chimed in deeming the sign as a whole to be: “too busy,” “too big,” “too plastic,” and having “too many pegs” or “attachments.”  In addition to expressing their thoughts on the individual sign, virtually all the commissioners felt a master plan for all the advertisements on the La Rochelle would make for a more consistent and aesthetically pleasing facade.

The Commission took no action on the proposal, directing the Make Meaning team to continue working with staff to address the concerns brought forth.  All in all, the project is “going in the right direction.”  Right on!  To read LW’s statement on this project, click here.

51 West 90th Street, as it appeared at
the time of designation (1990).

The second topic for debate was an application to alter the rear facade of 51 West 90th Street, a Renaissance Revival-style row house designed by Henry Andersen and built in 1893-94.  LANDMARK WEST! stated that rear facades of row houses are historically composed of mostly masonry walls, crisply punctured by windows.  Masonry, not glass and metal, should be the dominant feature on this row house’s rear face.

In support of the design scheme, the applicant cited numerous examples of row houses whose windows had already been enlarged or extended within the same rear yard “doughnut“.  It was argued that since the windows do not face the street–and, by extension, the public–the new facade would not detract from the neighborhood’s character.  
In a quick and near unanimous decision, the commissioners agreed and approved the application, stating that as long as the enlarged windows were not visible to the public, it would not detract from the historic district.  What does this imply, LANDMARK WEST! is left to wonder, about the ways in which we value our historic architectural resources?  Are they merely stagesets to be preserved, front side-only?  Or, rather, aren’t the row houses, apartment buildings, and other landmark structures that comprise our neighborhoods 360-degree structures to appreciated in full?  Tell us what you think!

You win some, you lose some!  LANDMARK WEST! continues to press on, through ups and downs.  Stay tuned!
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