105 East 64th Street
W. P. & A. M. Parsons
Upper East Side Historic District
A rowhouse designed by W. P. & A. M. Parsons built in 1881-1882, and later altered c. 1941. Application is to construct a new building.
CB8 Hearing: 06/13/22 (Disapproved)
LPC Hearing: 06/28/22 (Approved)
Other projects: March 26, 2019
FRIENDS notes that this agenda item covers only the design of the new building. Our Preservation Committee does not agree that the demolition of 105 East 64th Street should not be considered by the Commissioners. Recent discussions regarding demolition of “no-style” buildings and the Board of Estimate deal treating such buildings “as if they were vacant lots,” have prompted FRIENDS to undertake a review of official BOE records and the 40+ years of regulatory history of “no-style” buildings. This research project is still in progress, but so far, we have been unable to locate language in the official records of the BOE substantiating the position that demolition of “no-style” buildings can be permitted at staff level. Regulatory history studied thus far also indicates a wide variety of permit types for demolition of “no-style” buildings, with the most recent staff level demolition permitted in 1999, over 20 years ago. More detailed preliminary findings are summarized in the letter sent to the LPC on June 24th.
Going to the proposal itself, FRIENDS Preservation Committee opposes the demolition of this 19th-century townhouse. Originally a row of six, all but one (the 1920s neo-Federal building at the corner of Park Avenue), are considered to have “no-style.” Admittedly, each individual facade of this row may lack ornamentation. However, the designation report states they retain original height and scale of openings. The existing rhythm and cohesiveness of this row, despite the differences in materials and window treatment, are an essential part of the historic district. The neighborhood’s history of alteration of the early 20th century is not an excuse to remove historical material and introduce faux styles. In addition, the rear facade of 105 East 64th Street and its neighbors is still mostly intact, sporting a uniform corbeled cornice, and brick details.
Not long ago, in 2019, the Commission saw a different proposal for this building. At the time, the applicant was proposing to reintroduce some of the original Italianate details, including window enframements and the cornice, and add a rooftop addition. Notwithstanding the excessively tall rooftop addition, the proposed alterations, designed by the same architect, were sensitive to the building, and maintained the harmony within the row. Unfortunately, the design in front of you today does not.
The 13 feet increase of the building’s height, and the substantial visibility of the mansard roof, completely overwhelms the 1920s neo-Federal individual-landmark quality building at the corner of Park Avenue. By rearranging the floor heights and opening sized, the applicant breaks the almost perfect rhythm of this row. As it stands, the windows and their interstitial spaces are congruent and harmonious; the proposed openings, however, appear to be too close to the lot lines, creating odd proportions and heightening the contrast to neighboring buildings.
The demolition of 105 East 64th Street, if approved, will represent a real loss to the Upper East Side, a neighborhood with a distinctive and cohesive architectural character. We kindly ask the Commissioners to recognize that the harmony and cohesiveness that are essential to sense of place of the historic district doesn’t only derive from intricate enframements and band courses, stone balustrades, detailed finials, wrought iron balconies, or decorated friezes. The cohesiveness also comes from uniform rooflines, rhythmic openings, and harmonious streetwalls.
We urge the Commission to deny this application, and the applicant to come back with a proposal that maintains this building, respects the district, and is mindful of this row’s harmony and significance.