1143 Fifth Avenue
Carnegie Hill Historic District
A Neo-Federal style apartment building designed by J.E.R. Carpenter and built in 1922-23. Application is to construct a multi-story rooftop addition, alter secondary facades and install a new sidewalk entry canopy and garden.
CB8 Hearing: 10/19/15 (Disapproved)
LPC Hearing: 11/10/15 (No Action)
LPC Meeting: 03/08/16 (No Action); 04/12/16 (No Action); 05/10/16 (Approved with Modifications)
The design team has produced a thoughtful composition for the vertical expansion of this building, but the proposal assumes that the comparatively low scale of this building is an anomaly that should be corrected, rather than preserved. Carnegie Hill is defined by its mix of smaller distinguished buildings, whether mansions or the rare surviving tenement or row house, and larger luxury apartment houses. The interplay of structures at differing scales contributes to its unique character. Raising 1143 to the height of its neighbors diminishes this diversity.
While the applicants present an argument as to why other buildings along Fifth Avenue constructed during this unusual moment in zoning history would not be candidates for expansion, they fail to consider the more expansive consequences of this application. 1143 Fifth Avenue is an excellent example of work by a prominent architect in the Neo-Federal style that is prevalent across the Upper East Side. If this proposal is approved, then what is next? Allowing this expansion undermines contributing buildings in historic districts across the Upper East Side.
The Preservation Committee at FRIENDS finds the addition of six stories onto this seven story building to be wholly inappropriate, and so we unanimously oppose this proposal and respectfully ask the Commission to do the same.
The Preservation Committee at FRIENDS believes that the proposed rooftop addition, although significantly downsized since the previous proposal, is still too large and aggressive for this refined J.E.R. Carpenter work. The two story addition, plus the partial third floor elevator bulkhead, is very visible from the street and Central Park. In addition, the landscape of the park is at a higher elevation across the street, therefore making it even easier to see the roof of this building. Currently, the only portion of the existing penthouse that can be seen from the street is the solid stone cornice, which is inconspicuous and defers to the rest of the building. The proposed raised terrace floor would bring the penthouse above the top of the parapet, thus making the new large windows visible and the addition much more prominent overall. The combination of the raised terrace floor and the proposed glass railings emphasize the addition’s height, as it will not be obscured by a parapet or traditional building materials.
While the neighboring buildings along Fifth Avenue also have multi-level penthouse additions, this three story addition is proportionally much more impactful due to the building’s smaller stature. The boxy shape weighs down the building, and the dark bronze window mullions and spandrels are a jarring juxtaposition against the light-colored synthetic stucco. This proposal creates new aesthetic that has little relationship to the building below.
Although we appreciate the restoration work that will be done on the front façade, the Committee cannot support the rooftop addition as proposed. The Committee was not opposed to the rear façade alterations, as the penthouse addition is of primary concern. In addition, the Committee would need more information on the proposed sidewalk planter in order to provide comments. We suggest the Commission work with the applicant to design a more contextual addition.
The latest iteration of the proposed rooftop addition at 1143 Fifth Avenue is still too large and visible atop this elegant Neo-Federal building. FRIENDS appreciates the proposed brick facade and slightly smaller window openings that are painted in an off-white color to match the existing windows. Yet, these changes do not compensate for the overwhelming size of this addition. Because this building stands at only seven stories tall, the addition of a two story penthouse and large bulkhead will take up almost a third of the building’s overall height. Additionally, we question the necessity of elevator access to the roof; its removal would allow for a significant reduction in height. As it is proposed, the bulkhead is boxy and unattractive, and its gray metal cladding is jarring against the classical materials of the building. The unsightly bulkhead, which is highly visible from Central Park, will detract from the appearance of this building and will replace a classic water tower – an iconic element of New York architecture.
The small stature of this building, nestled between larger apartment buildings, is what makes this J.E.R. Carpenter work special to the neighborhood. As FRIENDS has testified twice in the past, the Carnegie Hill neighborhood is defined by a mix of building heights and the interplay of structures at different scales. The proposed rooftop addition at 1143 Fifth Avenue will alter this relationship along the block, and its unnecessarily large size will diminish the building’s already well-proportioned facade. FRIENDS urges the Commission to deny this inappropriate proposal.
Yet again, the proposed rooftop addition at 1143 Fifth Avenue is still too large, too visible, and offers little improvement over the last proposal. The size of the penthouse and elevator bulkhead has not changed, thus we must restate our past testimonies – this addition is overwhelming and disproportionate to the building’s modest height. At the last public meeting, the Commissioners urged the architect to look for precedent at other post-designation Fifth Avenue additions, as well as additions to other J.E.R Carpenter buildings. This latest proposal does nothing but simply change the color of the brick and the windows. A more creative and contextual solution must be found.
While the windows are smaller than in the previous proposal, the single panes and large central window on the first floor leads to excessive glazing and draws attention to this penthouse from the street. In addition, the dark metal Juliet balconies are distracting, unnecessary, and do not relate to the rest of the facade. At the top bulkhead level, again we question the need to have the elevator reach this top terrace level. The size and boxy shape of the bulkhead does nothing to try and be discreet or defer to the rest of the building. Rather, it is an unsightly, hulking mass that disturbs the relationship between this building and its neighbors.
We continue to urge the Commission to deny this application as proposed. By allowing for such a large, out-of-context addition to be approved could set a precedent to build other overwhelming additions to smaller buildings on the Upper East Side – a problem which is ongoing and depletes the rich character and architectural diversity of the area.