On Tuesday, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, heard a proposal to build a four-story residential building in Cobble Hill, but did not give it the go-ahead. The concept for 112 Atlantic Avenue (at the corner of Henry Street) has eight residential units, plus commercial space and a nine-car automated parking garage entrance on the ground floor (with the actual parking spaces being located on the cellar level). The commercial space would require a variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals.
The BKSK-designed building would replace an existing on-site gas station, which has been there since about 1960. The proposed building was mostly red brick with aluminum windows that mimic steel. The intention is for signage to match the size of the that down Atlantic Avenue, only with possible backlighting, but the presentation did not reflect that. There would be a two foot, six inch cornice and roof space for the penthouse units. The entrance to the garage would be on Henry Street and feature frosted glass. The storefront would also wrap around on to Henry Street, resulting in an essentially double-height first floor there.
All of the commissioners felt that the site deserved redevelopment and none of them seemed to object to the idea of a four-story building with commercial space on the first floor. Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said the “form is very contextual.” Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron said it was “appropriate-ish.” Commissioner Michael Devonshire said it was “aesthetically pleasing.” Commissioner Diana Chapin applauded the use of materials and called it “reasonable.” Commissioner Frederick Bland said it was within the “realm of appropriateness” and liked that it had its “own character.” Commissioner Michael Goldblum said it fit in quite nicely.
Despite all of that, they weren’t ready to approve it. Chapin felt there was not enough weight on the bottom of the building and that it seemed to “float.” She wasn’t the only one. Baron wanted a more solid base and more brick overall. So too did Bland. Devonshire said they can’t be slaves to context, but that the building still needed more work. Goldblum said that the punched windows, lacking here, are what tie the streetscape together.
One big point of contention was the large elevator bulkhead. The design team admitted that there is no need for handicapped access to the roof and it was decided that it could be reduced in size if the elevator just stopped at the top floor.
Barbara Zay of the Historic Districts Council said there was “much to be admired in the proposed design, particularly the applicant’s use of masonry and quoins on the building’s piers, and is glad to see a building proposed for this underutilized site.” But, she added, “the proposed building calls much attention to itself with its use of large, industrial-looking windows that might be more appropriate in Red Hook.”
Robert Levine, who heads Community Board 6’s landmarks committee, was happy to see a proposal for the site, but could not support the design as proposed. Christabel Gough of the Society for the Architecture of the City also objected to the design, as did the Cobble Hill Association and all but one other speaker.
In the end, Srinivasan asked that the applicant come back with changes including a reduced elevator bulkhead and a scaled down design for Henry Street. A date has not yet been set for that presentation.
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