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