June 5, 2023
Sarah Carroll, Chair
NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10007
San Miguel el Alto Re: CofA Application for St. Augustine Chapel, 290 Henry Street (LPC-23-03684 and 23-06783)
Dear Chair Carroll,
The Lower East Side Preservation Initiative – LESPI – has reviewed the LPC Certificate of Appropriateness application materials for restoration of the 1828 Georgian/Federal Style St. Augustine’s Chapel and the erection of a 21-story building behind the church. We completely support the restoration work, as outlined, as it repairs current problems and reconstitutes historic features. This church is a treasured landmark of the Lower East Side, and was so recognized when in 1966 it was among the earliest designated landmarks in New York City.
In general we are not opposed to the planned 21-story tower behind the church. Below is a quote from the LPC’s Designation Report:
“[landmark designation] is not intended to freeze the structure in its present state or to prevent future appropriate alterations needed to meet changed requirements of use for religious and directly related charitable purposes….In this connection the Commission wishes to state at this time that it recognizes that Trinity Parish may want to erect new buildings in the future on its grounds at St. Augustine’s Chapel.”
We find the overall design of the new building to be appropriate in that it is set back away from the primary facades, will not damage any of the church’s original features, and has a design for the base that harmonizes with the historic church. However, we have misgivings about the height, as a shorter building would be more sympathetic with the church and with the neighboring 6-story Vladeck Houses. Nonetheless, we realize that as a practicality the current project may require the 21 story height.
We believe, though, that more can be done to lessen the impact of the tower on the church and the neighborhood. Currently the tower is shown with an off-white color cladding that attracts undue attention to itself as a backdrop to the church. The tower’s color palette should defer more to that of the church and/or its surroundings in this Lower East Side neighborhood.
Finally, it is important that current plans include a reasonable level of funding for long term maintenance of the church, as part of the provisions for the 74-711 application. Thank you for your consideration.