14th street and union square preservation plan - Columbia ...

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14th street and union square preservation plan - Columbia ...

14TH STREET AND UNION SQUARE

PRESERVATION PLAN

HISTORIC PRESERVATION PROGRAM

GRADUATE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE, PLANNING AND PRESERVATION

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

NEW YORK CITY, 2006


TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. Statement of Purpose

II. History of 14th Street and Union Square:

A Brief Overview

III. Significant Resources

a. Introduction - Current Context

b. Hudson River to Ninth Avenue

c. Ninth to Seventh Avenue

d. Seventh Avenue to University Place

e. Union Square

f. Fourth to First Avenue

g. First Avenue to the East River

IV. The Plan

a. Proposal for Designating

Significant Resources

b. Balancing Public & Private Interests

c. Encouraging Sensitive Development

d. Managing Institutional Presence

e. Addressing Physical Deterioration

f. Promoting Appropriate Alterations

g. Enhancing Interprestation

of Open Spaces

V. Conclusion

1

2

5

6

7

11

16

19

22

24

25

27

30

31

33

35

38

STUDENTS AND FACULTY

STUDENTS

Peter Anderson

Avigail Appelbaum

Christopher Brazee

Laura Brown

Allison Chambers

Diane De Fazio

Toni Di Maggio

Brett Dorfman

Abbie Hurlbut

Mersedeh Jorjani

Iris Kashman

Olivia Klose

Chian-Ju Ku

Michelle Langlie

Cleary Larkin

Ana Linares

FACULTY

Francoise Bollack

Andrew Dolkart

Dorothy Miner

Jorge Otero-Pailos

Norman Weiss

Katherine Longfield

Marissa Marvelli

Lurita McIntosh

Katie McLaughlin

Lindsay Miller

Benika Morokuma

Lisa Mroszczyk

Caroline Pasion

Justine Posluszny

Megan Rispoli

Lindsey Schweinberg

Pat See-umponroj

Amanda Stauffer

Blaire Walsh

Pepper Watkins

II


STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

As first-year Historic Preservation students, our goal

in producing a Preservation Plan for Union Square

and 14 th Street: River to River, is to present our analysis

of the specific issues affecting the built fabric and the

community on 14 th Street and Union Square, and to

propose solutions for the preservation of historically

significant buildings and sites that respect and complement

the existing economic, political, and social character of

the area.

The Plan is the result of one year of intensive research

and thorough survey of the area’s history and conditions.

However, our investigation was not confined to the

built environment: we engaged in direct dialogue with

representatives from the various communities on

and around 14 th Street and Union Square in order to

better understand the non-physical forces that affect

preservation.

The intended audience for our Preservation Plan includes

the academic community in general, professionals who

have an interest in urban historic preservation, and, most

importantly, the constituents of 14 th Street and Union

Square. In addition to providing a significant depth of

new knowledge about New York City, the Plan seeks

to present a model for activism that addresses specific

preservation issues in a timely, practical, and accessible

way.

We have attempted to synthesize our idealism as historic

preservationists while recognizing the economic,

political, and social limitations of the present time. It is

our hope that future preservation students will reference

our Plan in their learning process; that the City of New

York will take note of the concerns highlighted by our

research and analysis; that our preservation goals will be

implemented by the City and other organizations; and

that the community of 14 th Street and Union Square will

be able to utilize our plan to their benefit.

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

1


HISTORY OF 14TH STREET AND UNION SQUARE: A BRIEF OVERVIEW

During the colonial and early Federal periods, in

the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the area

now traversed by 14 th Street was farmland owned by the

Stuyvesants and the Van Burens, among others (Figure

1). In the early nineteenth century, the farmland of these

early settlers became incorporated into the growing city

grid, and row houses and mansions replaced open land

and antiquated farm structures. The Commissioners’

Plan of 1811 positioned 14 th Street in such a way that

it was the southern most street to run straight from

the East River to the Hudson River. Furthermore, 14 th

Street became the longest among the cross-town streets

laid out in this plan.

On the eastern waterfront edge of this area, small

commercial centers formed around dry docks used for

ship building. On the Hudson River waterfront, coal,

stone and lumber yards existed as early as the 1840s.

The small centers on the two waterfronts were the only

form of commerce in the area at this time, and stood in

contrast to the residential character of the remainder of

14 th street. By the 1830s, a locus of residential activity—

Union Square—had formed in the center of the street

at the junction of two of the north-south arteries:

Bloomingdale Road (later Broadway) and the Bowery

(later Fourth Avenue). This area was easily accessed by

horse-drawn rail cars on Broadway that began operation

in 1832. The residences along the street were joined by

churches and other upper-class residential necessities.

The open area at the junction, which had formerly been

a potter’s field, was transformed into a public park in

1839. In the 1860s the park became so popular that

several well-established businesses located along its

perimeter, converting some of the existing row houses

into commercial spaces, with ground floor storefronts.

Along with the high-end retail stores several theaters

and musicales appeared on Union Square. Theatres

became an important presence on 14 th Street, creating

a major theatre district that existed until 1910. By the

1870s, Union Square and the surrounding area had

become more commercial than residential in character,

and consequently the affluent residents who had lived

in the row houses of what had been a quiet residential

neighborhood moved uptown, presumably to find

quieter, more fashionable residences. The small-scale

retail stores were soon joined by larger department

stores that moved to the area by building their own

architecturally distinct multi-story facilities that dwarfed

the previously low-scale neighborhood (Figure 2).

Following the departure of the affluent residents from

2. UNION SQUARE AS A BUSTLING CENTER IN 1900.

14 th Street, the growth of the street did not plateau, but

rather it continued, taking on a new flavor. The “new”

character of 14 th Street was a reflection of the changing

nature of much of New York at the time that resulted

from the influx of western European immigrants and

later southeastern European immigrants. In the central

section of 14 th Street, the row houses that were vacated

by the affluent were converted into boarding houses for

working class residents. The high-end retail stores of

the mid-nineteenth century left the area, following their

wealthier clientele uptown, and were replaced by lowend

retail stores that better fit the needs of the shoppers

who frequented them. In 1881, an elevated rail line was

constructed to better serve the growing commercial hub

that existed between Sixth Avenue and Union Square,

making the area more accessible to people from all over

the city.

1. UNION SQUARE AS A RURAL ENCLAVE IN 1767.

HISTORY OF 14TH STREET AND UNION SQUARE: A BRIEF OVERVIEW

Industry also found a home in the central section of

14 th Street and took on a specialized form known as

the single-bay loft building. This unusual building type,

identifiable by a single bay of large windows needed for

the admission of light to the workers within, adapted

2


its manufacturing use to the narrow city lot. Industry,

in a larger, more conventional fashion, also blossomed

on the waterfronts. The new immigrant population

flooded the eastern and western extremes of 14 th Street,

providing a work force for the new manufacturing

centers of the two waterfronts. By the 1870s, the

Hudson River waterfront had transformed from an area

of raw goods to an area used for light manufacturing

and the distribution of meat, produce, and liquor. This

area further blossomed in 1870 when the Ninth Avenue

elevated train opened with a stop on 14 th Street. The East

River waterfront, which had been used primarily for dry

docks in the early to mid-nineteenth century, was now

primarily occupied by coal yards, gas tanks, city sanitation

facilities, and manufacturing buildings. Adjacent to both

industrial waterfronts, tenements were built to house the

growing number of German, Irish, Italian, and Spanish

immigrants who flooded the area between 1860 and 1910

(Figure 3). Institutions, including most notably, houses

of worship, accompanied the tenements, matching their

diverse ethnicities. Places for mass entertainment, such

as theaters for vaudeville and movie houses for motion

pictures, also peaked during this period.

14 th Street as a commercial and industrial axis was

productive and successful in many ways in its peak

(1860-1910). However, its success was not without some

disruption. Workers formed unions to more effectively

deal with poor working conditions, and built union

centers to establish their presence on the street. Laborers

dissatisfied with conditions gathered in Union Square to

demonstrate, and the nation’s first Labor Day parade was

held there in 1882. Industry on 14 th Street lasted up until

the 1930s on the East River waterfront, and continues

until today on the Hudson River waterfront. On the East

River waterfront, the laborers and industry moved away,

favoring locations that lay outside of Manhattan that

were made accessible as inter-borough transportation

3. TENEMENTS ALONG EAST 14TH STREET. 4. STUYVESANT TOWN UNDER CONSTRUCTION IN 1946.

HISTORY OF 14TH STREET AND UNION SQUARE: A BRIEF OVERVIEW

3


improved in the 1920s. On the Hudson River waterfront,

industry suffered a decline, despite the addition of an

elevated industrial rail, the High Line, in 1934. However,

unlike the East River waterfront, the Hudson River

waterfront managed to maintain a stronghold of activity

in the Gansevoort meatpacking district.

Development on 14 th Street was relatively stagnant

between 1930 and 1950. Interest in developing the street

came about after World War II, mainly in two forms.

Firstly, as a result of government sponsored urban renewal

effort, the east end of 14 th Street was condemned, razed,

and redeveloped as the large-scale “tower-in-the-park”

housing project: Stuyvesant Town (Figure 4). Secondly,

as a result of the sale of several large land holdings, by

the VanBurens and others in the late 1950s, 14 th Street

became the site of the development of large apartment

buildings for the upper middle class. The low-end retail

stores, movie theatres, and other residential necessities

that had been associated with the late-nineteenth and

early-twentieth century commercial boom of Union

Square remained a defining characteristic on the street

until the mid-1980s when a Business Improvement

District (BID) was formed on 14 th Street. By the mid

1980s, 14 th Street had developed a bad reputation as

an unsafe neighborhood, home to drug addicts and

the homeless. Symbolically, the BID showed the city’s

renewed interest in 14 th Street and revitalized the street

by encouraging economic growth and improving the

physical fabric. In 1974, the Greenmarket, a produce

market, opened on Union Square and similarly gave the

square a facelift in both the mind’s of outsiders and the

lives of 14 th Street residents. In 1984, Union Square Park

also underwent the first of a three-phase improvement,

physically making the park an even more attractive asset

to the street.

Over the past twenty years, 14 th Street has experienced

a revival in interest and activity. The Parks Department

has followed through on the 1984 Union Square Park

plan and is currently completing the third phase of

improvements to the park. The Greenmarket has

5. TODAY, THE ZECKENDORFF TOWERS AND THE CONSOLIDATED GAS COMPANY BUILDING LOOM OVER UNION SQUARE PARK.

continued to flourish as has commerce around the

square. In addition, improvements to the High Line and

the Hudson River Park promise further attention to the

street. Institutions and developers alike have recognized

this renaissance and have effectively capitalized on the

action by building large-scale apartment and dormitory

buildings. The meatpacking district is now part of the

Gansevoort Historic District and several industrial

buildings have been converted to high-end retail and

commercial uses. The eastern end of 14 th Street has

seen the least amount of change despite the upsurge of

activity along the rest of the street in the last twenty years.

The blocks between First Avenue and the river remain

much the way they were following the development of

Stuyvesant Town.

This overview of the history of 14 th Street is in no way

an exhaustive history. Rather, it touches on the defining

moments of the formation and growth of the street.

For further information please refer to the 14 th Street

and Union Square Preservation Plan for an extended

discussion of the history of 14 th Street.

HISTORY OF 14TH STREET AND UNION SQUARE: A BRIEF OVERVIEW

4


SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES

1 4th Street is the longest cross-street in Manhattan, and marks the widest point of

the island. It has traditionally been treated as the boundary line between “uptown,”

with its orderly grid of streets, and “downtown,” with its centuries-old crooked street

pattern. 14 th Street bisects many different neighborhoods and districts, and is often

described as an “in-between” area. In fact, 14 th Street has a remarkable diversity of

urban expression in its buildings, its character, and people. From river to river, the street

changes in feeling and in how people perceive it. These changes have come to define

our understanding of the street and, accordingly, we have divided the street into six

geographic regions for study. They are:

- From the Hudson River to Ninth Avenue

- From Ninth to Seventh Avenues

- From Seventh Avenue to University Place

- Union Square

- From Fourth to First Avenues

- From First Avenue to the East River

While understanding the street’s discreet areas is helpful for the in-depth analysis

necessary in creating a plan, it is also important to understand the characteristics of the

entire street. The components of “character” that we will be looking at are zoning, use,

age, scale, materials, and conditions.

Zoning – There are three types of zoning on the street: manufacturing, residential, and

commercial. The manufacturing zones are concentrated on both the western and eastern

waterfronts, while residential and commercial zoning designations are concentrated

in between. Often the combination of residential and commercial is produced by a

commercial zone overlaid with its residential equivalent.

Use – The land use follows the zoning closely, although commercial enterprises are

encroaching on the traditionaly industrial western waterfront. Scattered along the entire

street are government, institutional, and church buildings

Age – The buildings that exist today on 14 th Street and Union Square span almost two

hundred years of development, from 1820 to 2006. The majority of buildings were

built in an eighty-year range, from 1870 to 1950.

Scale – While it is difficult to make broad generalizations concerning scale on the

longest street in Manhattan, buildings on the north side of the street are generally taller

than those on the south side. Also, buildings near the western and eastern extremities

of the street are generally lower than those towards the street’s midpoint at Union

Square. Eighty-one percent of the buildings in the Study Area are six-stories or fewer.

Materials – The majority of buildings in the Study Area are made of brick. Other

prevalent façade materials include stucco, cast iron, glass, terracotta and stone.

The following section will present a brief look at the character of each Geographic

Region. Special attention will be given to the Significant Resources located within the

area.

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES

5


HUDSON RIVER TO NINTH AVENUE

Most of the area is a part of the Gansevoort Market Historic District, bounded

by Chelsea to the north and Greenwich Village to the south. The area is

characterized by the low-scale, brick industrial buildings and tenements built for

neighborhood workers in the mid-nineteenth century. It is experiencing a shift from

the meatpacking industry to commercial high-end retail stores. The area is segregated

from the waterfront by the West Side Highway.

THE HIGH LINE

The High Line is a 13-mile long elevated railway extending from 35 th Street all the way

to St. John’s Park Terminal on Manhattan’s West Side. The High Line was built in 1934

in response to a long and serious history of accidents and deaths associated with cargo

trains running at street level. Its function was to transport goods and materials (including

lumber, bricks, fruit and coal) on a short, one-track route between the Hudson River

piers and the markets and warehouses of Chelsea and Greenwich Village. The High

Line is significant because it represents a technological innovation that had a short-lived

usefulness within the history of New York City’s transportation infrastructure, and

because it was a vital part and distinguishing feature of the wholesale market economy

of the Chelsea/Greenwich Village neighborhood. (Figure 1)

THE HIGH LINE BUILDING

The former Cudahy Cold Storage Facility, at 450 West 14 th Street, was the first of four

buildings designed and built expressly for through-passage of the High Line railway.

The five-story Art Deco brick and cast-stone structure was completed in 1932 by

engineers of the New York Central Railroad Company, as part of New York City’s

West Side Improvement project. The High Line Building is an integral part of the

history of the High Line railway, and is significant as a demonstration of the large-scale

industrial design projects championed by federal and municipal agencies during the

Great Depression in America. (Figure 2)

LIBERTY INN

The Liberty Inn, designed by Richard R. Davis, was built in 1908 for the Conron Brothers,

who were poultry dealers. Originally known as the Strand Hotel, it accommodated

sailors from the nearby piers. When the Titanic survivors were brought to these piers,

the New York Times used the hotel as a headquarters. Other uses have included a

boarding house, speakeasy, night club, and restaurant. Its many alterations reflect the

changes in the Gansevoort area from shipbuilding to meatpacking to night-life hot

spot, and it stands out within the area as one of the few buildings still retaining its

original use, that of a hotel. (Figure 3)

1. THE HIGH LINE. 2. THE HIGH LINE BUILDING. 3. LIBERTY INN.

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: HUDSON RIVER TO NINTH AVENUE

6


NINTH TO SEVENTH AVENUES

Surrounded by Greenwich Village to the south, Chelsea to the north, a commercial

zone to the east, and the historically industrial Meatpacking District to the west,

the section of 14 th Street between Seventh and Ninth Avenues is characterized by a

diverse assortment of small-scale buildings. Residential buildings, including many midnineteenth-century

rowhouses, with ground-level commercial spaces predominate,

while commercial, light-manufacturing and religious buildings dating from the latenineteenth

to the early-twentieth century dot the streetscapes. The rich variety of

building uses, ages, architectural styles and materials, combined with the small scale of

the structures, help to create a distinct sense of neighborhood.

The building occupied by Guadalupe is a mid-nineteenth-century brownstone that

has been masterfully converted from a posh rowhouse to a double-height sanctuary,

complete with a monumental entrance, side chapel, tiny balcony, and clerestory. This

transformation which makes Guadalupe extremely rare, if not unique, in the city

spanned two decades and involved several notable architects one of which was Gustave

Steinback. Steinback, known for his work on religious projects, designed No. 229’s

classically proportioned Spanish Revival façade in 1921. Although the church remained

extremely popular, it was consolidated with nearby St. Bernard’s parish and closed in

2003. Today, Guadalupe is clear architectural trace of Little Spain. (Figure 5)

ST. BERNARD’S PARISH

Historically, St. Bernard’s Parish was considered one of the most important parishes in

the city. In the 1870s, the congregation was primarily composed of Irish immigrants

and descendants of Irish immigrants. Irish-born architect Patrick Charles Keely was

selected to design a new St. Bernard’s and the cornerstone was laid in May of 1873. The

church is built in the Victorian Gothic style with the twin towers, triple-portal entrance,

and rose window inset into a pointed

arch reveal a masterful blending

of French and English influences.

(Figure 4)

242 WEST 14 TH STREET

The building located at 242 West 14 th Street is a great example of a residential to partial

commercial conversion due to its intact, double-height cast iron storefront. (Figure 6)

(FORMER) ROMAN CATHOLIC

CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF

GUADALUPE

Founded at the turn of the twentieth

century by the Augustinians of the

Assumption, Guadalupe was the

first Spanish-speaking Catholic

parish in New York City and for a

time served as the national parish for

Spanish-speaking Catholics. At this

time 14th Street between Seventh

and Eighth Avenues was the heart

of “Little Spain,” and working-class

Spanish immigrants composed

most of the early congregation.

4. ST. BERNARD’S.

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: NINTH TO SEVENTH AVENUES

5. OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE. 6. 242 WEST 14 TH STREET.

7


NEWTON BUILDING

The Newton Building was designed by the architect, James Farnsworth in 1890 as a

speculative office and manufacturing building, which was caused by the development

of nearby Gansevoort Market. The unusual combination of the large manufacturing

building on the West 13 th Street and a narrow office building on the 14 th Street represents

the developer, John Pettit’s intention to make the building more marketable by taking

advantage of the prominence of the West 14 th Street as a commercial district. (Figure 7)

210 WEST 14 TH STREET

It is here that French Dadaist artist Marcel Duchamp lived from 1942 until the

year of his death, 1968, on the top floor. Due to the fact that the building itself, an

1849 brownstone, has been altered since Duchamp resided here, the significance is

compromised. While it is important to acknowledge this connection with the artist’s

later works that have only recently been found and exhibited, the alteration means that

less can be learned from the building than if it were not the case. (Figure 8)

BANKERS’ TRUST COMPANY BUILDING

The former Bankers’ Trust Company building is an excellent example of the setback,

Art Deco-style office tower strongly associated with Manhattan’s pre- Depression

financial and building boom. Commissioned by Vincent Astor for his investment

banking firm, the building was completed in 1929 to serve the meat and poultry

dealers in the market district of Chelsea and Greenwich Village. In striking contrast

to the two fine examples of the low, classically-inspired purpose-built bank standing

on opposite corners, the former Bankers’ Trust building uses expressive Art Deco

ornament and the monumentality of the ziggurat form to establish itself in the

neighborhood. (Figure 9)

INTERIOR

The small office lobby of the

former Bankers’ Trust building is a

sumptuous exposition of high Art

Deco design and materials. The

tight, streamlined composition of

highly-polished marble surfaces,

smoked glass and bronze grillework

articulates the principles of

craftsmanship, elegant detail, and

luxury demonstrated by the finest

examples of Art Deco design.

(Figure 10)

7. NEWTON BUILDING. 8. 210 WEST 14 TH STREET.

9. BANKERS’ TRUST COMPANY BUILDING. 10. INTERIOR, BANKERS’ TRUST

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: NINTH TO SEVENTH AVENUES

8


LITTLE SPAIN

11. JEANNE D’ARC.

200 WEST 14 TH STREET (JEANNE D’ARC)

Also known as the Jeanne d’ Arc, 200 West 14 th Street was designed by architect James

W. Cole and built for owner Henry Meinken between 1888 and 1889. Cole designed

more than fifty buildings in New York City throughout his career, and is perhaps best

know known for his Charles A. Vissani House, a designated New York City landmark

on the Upper West Side. 200 West 14 th Street originally housed eight families above

ground-level commercial spaces, and is listed in the 1889 docket books under “French

flat,” a category then used for buildings that fell between single-family dwellings and

boardinghouses. Cole’s intention to present the building as a middle-class dwelling

remains evident in the sophisticated facades of this corner building. They are composed

of American-bond brick; carved brownstone sills, lintels, stringcourses, and pilasters;

and a projecting pressed-metal cornice. Cole’s rhythmic and lively north elevation

directs a viewer’s eye to a central entrance surrounded by carved figures, and above it,

a stone statue of Joan of Arc. Aside from its architectural merit, 200 West 14 th Street is

significant as the earliest existing French flat along 14th Street, and as a remnant of the

street’s brief period as an upper- and middle-class residential enclave. (Figure 11)

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: NINTH TO SEVENTH AVENUES

At the turn of the century, Spanish immigrants settled in the area around West 14 th

Street. The degree to which this was the center of Spanish life in the city is visible in

the number of services that were offered within the area, and particularly on the block

between Eighth and Seventh Avenues. In the first decades of the twentieth century,

the Casa Maria, a Spanish settlement house protecting the “temporal, social, mental,

moral, and religious welfare of young

women and Spanish speaking people,”

the Spanish Benevolent Society, and St.

Raphael’s Spanish Immigrant Society all

located on this block, while still more,

such as the Spanish American Workers

Alliance, the Hotel Espanyol, and

many other businesses serving Spanish

and Spanish-speaking people located

nearby. In 1902, the Augustinians of the

Assumption established the Our Lady

of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church,

the first Latino church in Manhattan, in

order to “do [their] work for the Spanish

speaking people.” In 1939, the New

York City Guide published by the WPA

acknowledged that, while “the Spanish

Colony has declined,” many remaining

institutions “still preserve[d] the Iberian

flavor.” Continuing waves of Spanishspeaking

immigrants, most noticeably

those from Puerto Rico in the second

half of the twentieth century, have also

12. LITTLE SPAIN.

gathered in this area. Today, the area serves the larger Hispanic community of New

York with the Spanish Benevolent Society, the Asociacion Tepeyac de New York, the

Centro Español La Nacional, Spanish-language bookstores, and the Lady of Guadalupe

Church, albeit relocated and consolidated with nearby St. Bernard’s Parish. While

there have been and continue to be many geographic centers for Spanish and Hispanic

immigrants, 14 th Street’s Little Spain is significant as being the first major gathering

place for generations of Spanish and Hispanic immigrants. (Figure 12)

9


240 WEST 14 TH STREET

240 West 14 th Street, a mid-nineteenth-century rowhouse in the

Italianate style, is architecturally significant for the elaborate

cast-iron window and door surrounds applied to its brownstone

façade. (Figure 15)

STREETSCAPE (ANDREW NORWOOD BLOCK)

13. 244 WEST 14 TH STREET 14. 314 WEST 14 TH 15. 240 WEST 14 TH

STREET.

STREET.

244 WEST 14 TH STREET

The Greek Revival, Italianate, and Second Empire style

rowhouses along the north side of West 14 th Street, between

Seventh and Eight Avenues, were constructed between 1840 and

1860. Surviving in a nearly intact row, these buildings represent

the period when West 14 th Street, from Union Square to Ninth

Avenue, was regarded as a fashionable address for upper- and

upper-middle-class New Yorkers. (Figure 16)

Constructed in 1930, 244 West 14 th Street is a two-story taxpayer in the Art Deco style.

One of fifteen taxpayers along 14 th Street, this structure is the most notable for its

patterned brickwork and stylized cast-stone ornament. (Figure 13)

314 WEST 14 TH STREET

Built in 1907 by retail druggists Daggett and Ramsdell, the three-story loft building

at 314 West 14 th Street is one of the earliest examples of the wave of commercial/

manufacturing loft development that transformed 14 th Street in the early 20th century.

Additionally, it is one of the few remaining single-bay loft buildings constructed on a

25-foot-wide lot on 14 th Street. (Figure 14)

16. STREETSCAPE (ANDREW NORWOOD BLOCK).

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: NINTH TO SEVENTH AVENUES

10


SEVENTH AVENUE TO UNIVERSITY PLACE

The area contains continuing reminders of 14 th Street’s involvement with the

commerce of the avenues that interest it and is defined mostly by medium scale

commercial architecture from the 1880s-1930s with the exception of several institutions

and large mid-twentieth-century apartment buildings.

THE SALVATION ARMY’S NATIONAL & TERRITORIAL HEADQUARTERS

The Salvation Army’s National and Territorial

Headquarters buildings strove to change the public’s

negative perception of the organization, integrate

social and charitable aspects with its religious past, and

physically reflect the Salvation Army as a progressive

organization. These goals were accomplished with

innovative materials such as cast stone and the selection

of modern architect Ralph Walker to design a new

headquarters influenced by the German Expressionist

style. (Figure 17)

(FORMER) MACY’S SITE

The former Macy’s building, designed by architects Schickel & Ditmars

in 1898, located at 56 West 14 th Street, is the last remnant of Macy’s

presence on 14 th Street where the store got its start and went from a

small dry goods store to full-fledged department store occupying the

ground space of eleven buildings in this area. (Figure 19)

(FORMER) GEORGE C. FLINT CO./LATER COWPERTHWAIT &

CO. FURNITURE STORE

This five-story Renaissance Revival cast iron building was designed by

architects William Field & Son in 1875 for the furniture emporium of

George C. Flint & Co., later becoming Cowperthwait & Co. Furniture

Store in 1894. It was erected at a time when 14 th Street was part of

“Furniture Row”. (Figure 20)

19. MACY’S

SITE.

(FORMER) 14 TH STREET STORE

The (Former) 14 th Street Store, located on the southeast

corner of 14 th Street and Sixth Avenue, was designed

by the architects Cady, Burg, and See for the major

department store developer Henry Siegal. The site was

chosen for its location near the stop of the Elevated

Train, and because it was the site of the Macy’s store.

This building is notable, not only for its connections

with a well-known architecture firm and developer,

but also for its architectural dialogue with Chicago’s

Carson Pirie Scott Building, which was commissioned

at the same time as the 14 th Street Store by the same

developer, but designed by Louis Sullivan. The building

also currently marks the southern-most point of the

Ladies’ Mile on Sixth Avenue and continues to represent

a transitional piece of architecture moving from the

arcaded commercial style of the late nineteenth-century

towards a more modern expression. (Figure 18)

17. SALVATION ARMY HQ.

18. 14TH STREET STORE.

THE DIX BUILDING

Designed by Louis Korn and completed in 1907 for developer Samuel Weil, this building

located at 116 West 14 th Street has become to be known as the Dix Building, for long-term

occupant and progressive employer

Henry A. Dix, dressmaker. While Dix

maintained an “open shop” (which

employs non-unionized workers), his

business practices were progressive

in a time that employers, especially in

the garment-making industry, treated

employees poorly and kept appalling

work conditions. Dix was one of the

first employers to instate the fiveday

work week without reduction

of wages, as well as paid vacation

time. In 1923, at the age of 72, Dix

retired and handed his business over

to his employees, whom all became

shareholders. (Figure 21)

20. COOPERWAITH STORE. 21. DIX BUILDING

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: SEVENTH TO AVENUE TO UNIVERSITY PLACE

11


(FORMER) GREENWICH SAVINGS BANK

The former Greenwich Savings Bank was built in 1952 by prominent New York bank

architects Halsey, McCormack & Helmer. The building’s exterior, with its simple

architectural vocabulary, evokes the stability and staid conservatism of the savings bank

industry. It is a remarkably late example of classicizing Art Deco architectural design.

(Figure 24)

527 SIXTH AVENUE

22. J.G. JOHNSON STORE. 23. LUDWIG BROTHERS STORE.

(FORMER) J.G. JOHNSON DEPARTMENT STORE

This nineteenth century building elevation bears a cast-iron façade, designed by

architect Alfred Hoe in 1879 following the Renaissance Revival Style, very popular in

the 1870’s and 1880’s, for the shopping emporium of J. G. Johnson. Erected at a time

when 14 th Street was a busy commercial thoroughfare, it is a significant remnant of the

time. (Figure 22)

527 Sixth Avenue is a Romanesque Revival commercial building designed by Theo

Thomson and erected in 1896. The brick and granite structure is actually composed of

three separate buildings erected on three contiguous lots clustered on the southwest

corner of 14 th Street and Sixth Avenue. The buildings were designed in response to the

site’s proximity to the Sixth Avenue elevated train, which first opened on 14 th Street

in 1881, and the round, turreted corner tower of building announces its prominence

and commercial prowess. From ground level, pedestrians would see the main entry

surrounded by Corinthian columns, and the heavily ornamented doors and windows

capped by the first-level stringcourse. From the tracks of the El, riders would clearly

see the corner tower with its turret, rising above the second-level stringcourse and

solidly articulated in buff colored brick and heavily rusticated details. This building is

significant for the way its unified architectural program reflects a special relationship

with the Sixth Avenue elevated train. Additionally, the building represents an unusual

application of Romanesque Revival style to the commercial building form. (Figure 25)

(FORMER) LUDWIG BROTHERS DRY GOODS STORE/LATER ROTHENBERG &

CO. DEPARTMENT STORE

This five-story Renaissance Revival cast iron department store building was designed by

prominent architect William Wheeler Smith in 1878 for the Ludwig Brothers’ dry goods

company. It was later altered and expanded when it became Rothenberg & Co. in 1899.

Erected as a grand emporium catering to a middle and upper-middle class clientele,

the Ludwig Brothers Dry Goods Store was one of several grand department stores

constructed along 14 th Street, between Sixth Avenue and Broadway, and is representative

of a time when that area was a fashionable shopping district. (Figure 23)

24. GREENWICH SAVINGS BANK. 25. 527 SIXTH AVENUE.

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: SEVENTH TO AVENUE TO UNIVERSITY PLACE

12


(FORMER) BAUMANN

BROTHERS’ STORE

The Baumann Brothers’

Store is significant both as

an artifact of 14 th Street’s

retail past and as a marker in

the evolution of the oeuvre

of architects D. & J. Jardine.

The building represents the

Jardines’ later work in cast

iron—a period in which they

had broken with mimicry of

Italianate forms in iron and

embraced the possibilities of

the material. Commissioned

for the fashionable Union

Square retail district in 1880

by New York business icon

and 14 th Street resident James

McCreery, the structure was

first occupied by the Bauman

n Brothers’ Furniture and

Carpet store after it moved

uptown from Hudson Street.

Invoking elements of the 26. BAUMANN BROTHERS’ STORE.

Aesthetic movement and the Queen Anne style, the building freely integrated rich

classical motifs with contemporary design elements while employing a playful virtuosity

rarely seen in the city’s other cast iron. The exuberant façade distills a unique moment

in New York architecture—one in which the moribund technology of cast iron was

used with unconventional design inspiration to create a building bound to the past

but also breaking with it. The evolving Jardine aesthetic of cast iron is still visible in

New York’s built fabric, starting with the remaining Thomas Twin (1869), progressing

to B. Altman’s Sixth Avenue Store (1877), and ending with the Baumann Brothers’

Store (1880). McCreery’s building is a powerful reminder of 14 th Street’s former retail

magnetism, of the way that commerce and manufacturing were housed under one roof,

and of how architects were squaring innovation, function, and aesthetics in a moment

of major change. (Figure 26)

154-160 WEST 14 TH STREET

The steel frame twelve-story loft building at

14 th Street and Seventh Avenue was designed in

1912 by Herman Lee Meader and is a spectacular

example of the use of polychrome terra cotta.

The base consists of golden terra cotta tiles with

white floral relief work and green diamonds

with blue surrounds. Blue diamond accents are

used below each window in the central section

of the tripartite design. The top of the building

is emphasized with elaborate laurel wreaths

and floral elements to the upper stories and the

cornice.

Meader’s use of polychrome terra cotta in this

building was one of the boldest of its time. The

organic motifs and geometric building forms,

along with the use of laurel wreaths near the

cornice selected by Meader for this loft building

indicates the influence of Austrian architect Otto

Wagner and his followers on the architecture of

New York City. (Figure 27)

28 EAST 14 TH STREET

27. 154-160 WEST 14 TH STREET.

28 East 14 th Street is notable for its striking cast-iron façade

that features central bay windows. It is possible that this

address represents a last-minute shift in the utilization of

cast iron (from commercial to residential) before its usage

fell out of fashion. (Figure 28)

28. 28 EAST 14 TH STREET.

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: SEVENTH TO AVENUE TO UNIVERSITY PLACE

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45 WEST 14 TH STREET

In 1959, this 1875 rowhouse was purchased by

the Painting Industry Funding Corporation, and

converted into the office building for use by the

International Union of Painters and Allied Traders.

Located within two blocks of Union Square, a historic

center of labor activity, protest and organization,

this site was appropriate to serve the activities of

the Union. Consecutively with the occupation of

their new headquarters, the Union played a major

role in the 1960s fight for legislation regarding labor

and civil rights.

20 EAST 14 TH STREET

Perhaps capitalizing on the prosperity of neighboring Baumann Brothers’ stores, 20

East 14 th Street erected its own cast-iron storefront in 1911. Though spare in detailing,

it remains a good example of cast-iron’s small-scale applications, both on 14 th Street

and in New York City. (Figure 30)

108 WEST 14TH STREET

108 West 14 th Street is a notable example of the typical conversions from residential

rowhouses to commercial entities. The double-height cast iron storefront is simple but

is also a good example of small residential conversions. (Figure 31)

The Union commissioned William Conklin of the

Mayer, Whittlesley, and Glass to adapt the existing

structure in the modern context. The design of the

new façade with the sunshades was inspired by the

arches of the cast iron buildings in its neighborhood.

This acknowledgement of historical influences in

“modern” design was a radical departure from the

historical design theory of the time. Furthermore,

Conklin successfully incorporated the practical

concerns and function requirements, such as the 29. 45 WEST 14 TH STREET.

need to shade large areas of glass and convenient access for cleaning, into its design.

Hence, this building is significant in that it is the remnant of the rowhouse development

in the neighborhood in 1870s, and it represents the relationship with the history of the

labor unions on the 14 th Street and the innovative design idea in early 1960s. (Figure 29)

30. 20 EAST 14 TH STREET. 31. 108 WEST 14 TH STREET.

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: SEVENTH TO AVENUE TO UNIVERSITY PLACE

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FIFTH AVENUE COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS

The speculative commercial buildings on the western corner 14 th Street and Fifth

Avenue provide a strong visible boundary between East and West Fourteenth Street

and illustrate the differing scale of the avenues and the cross street. The building on

the south corner was designed by Buchman and Fox and was completed in 1907, while

the building on the north corner was designed by Robert Maynicke and was completed

in 1902. These buildings exemplify the incorporation of new technology into the

preferred architectural styles of the period. (Figures 35 and 36)

32. THE VICTORIA. 33. WEDGEWOOD HOUSE.

WHITE BRICK APTARTMENT BUILDINGS

14 th Street is home to a number of mid-century white-brick apartment buildings,

notable for their monumental size (a result of the sale of large landholdings), their sleek

modernist design, their use of modern materials (including white brick and aluminum),

and, finally, their pretentious names, like the “The Victoria” and “Wedgewood House”

(Figure 32 and 33)

33 WEST 14TH STREET

The building is significant as part of the taxpayer

properties created by the Van Beuren family on

the northern side of 14 th Street. The family’s

speculation activities on 14 th Street are recorded

in the surviving taxpayers and these buildings

reflect different periods of economic expansion

and contraction on the street. (Figure 34)

35 AND 36. FIFTH AVENUE COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS.

34. 33 WEST 14 TH STREET.

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: SEVENTH TO AVENUE TO UNIVERSITY PLACE

15


UNION SQUARE

Since the early nineteenth century, Union Square has been a public, political and

social gathering space for commerce, entertainment, labor, political events and

recreation. Developed as a major transportation hub within the city, Union Square

consists of a two-part whole: the park plus the buildings that surround the park. The

park has historically been a primary location for political, social and cultural expression

contained within the defining walls of the conglomeration of buildings that reflect

diverse use, age, character, scale and architectural style. Their architectural significance

derives from the various design responses they present for the early exploration of the

skyscraper in New York.

UNION SQUARE PARK

As the oldest green space in the Study Area, Union Square Park has changed and

evolved with the street, but is most of all important in the role that it has played as a

historic gathering spot for protests, celebrations and memorials. (Figure 37)

SPINGLER BUILDING

Located on the west side of Union Square,

this Classical-inspired building was built in

1896 by architects William H. Hume & Son,

appointed by the firm of James L. Libby &

Son, who designed it as a commercial building

that housed a variety of uses such as stores,

showrooms, manufacturing enterprises and

industrial lofts. Its structure was built at a

time when Union Square was changing its

character and appearance, no longer the

site of fine residences, luxury hotels and

theatres, but rather a more commercial

and manufacturing area. It represented a

new typology in the distribution of space

required by the flourishing garment industry,

which demanded spaces for showrooms and

manufacturing processes, all in the same

place. The building’s façade, made out of limestone at its base, and

buff brick and terra cotta in the remaining stories, portrayed the

architectural ideas of the time, following the “tripartite scheme” in

a unique way by introducing a transitional level above the base, and

reflecting the style set forth by the World’s Columbian Exhibition

held in Chicago in 1893. It has become an important element of

Union Square’s built fabric, a reflection of its character and an

important vestige of its history. (Figure 38)

38. THE SPINGLER BUILDING.

COMMERCIAL TRADERS BUILDING

A vernacular Beaux Arts building, this single bay loft was designed

by amateur architect William Pigueron for his brother George,

an active developer. The façade adapted the features of a wildly

popular style to a singularly New York building typology, resulting

in a building that, when new, would have been fashionable, quite

tall, and desirable to rent. (Figure 39)

37. UNION SQUARE.

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: UNION SQUARE

39. COMMERCIAL

TRADERS BUILDING.

16


(FORMER) TAMMANY HALL

Tammany Hall is the former

headquarters of the infamous

political machine by the same

name, which occupied the

building from 1928 to 1940. It

also served a second life as the

headquarters for the International

Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.

Their use of this building, and 40. TAMMANY HALL.

particularly Roosevelt Hall,

established the building as a center of labor union activity and contributes to this aspect

of Union Square’s history. Architecturally, the building serves as an imposing example

of Neo-Colonial architecture in its emulation of Pierre L’Enfant’s 1789 Federal Hall in

New York City. The structure, with its grand order, monumental rise, and pedimented

portico, was designed by Charles B. Meyers and Thompson, Holmes and Converse in

1928. The details of Flemish bond Harvard brick, corncob and wheatstalk cartouches,

and images of the “Tammany Brave” and Christopher Columbus present a nostalgic

and patriotic image. Its architectural value, combined with its important role in the

political development of New York City, make Tammany Hall a significant part of the

built fabric of Union Square and New York City as a whole. (Figure 40)

(FORMER) SCHIRMER’S STORE

Gustav Schirmer’s store (D & J Jardine, 1880) is one of the few mostly intact vestiges

of the high end retailers, particularly of music goods, that once occupied Union Square

and served the musical and theatre community that developed there. Schirmer’s was a

prominent business, noted for being the first to publish the

works of Wagner in America. His building contributed to the

architectural eclecticism of its unique block by employing

a stripped, almost abstracted classicism in its facade. The

structure reflected the transitional nature of architecture in

the 1880s as it moved away from facades of cast iron toward

brick here experimenting with the structural expressivity of

the Neo Gréc and the ornament of Queen Anne (sunflowers

bookend the spandrels, and a triangular parapet once

crowned a garlanded cornice). Gustav Schirmer’s store is a

singular survivor that conveys a largely lost piece of Union

Square musical history, and records the transitional work of a

masterful New York architecture firm. (Figure 41)

41. SCHIMER’S STORE.

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: UNION SQUARE

50 EAST 14 TH STREET

Emery Roth’s 20-story office tower

of 1929 is the only Art Deco tower

on Union Square—and stands,

with the Salvation Army and

Bankers’ Trust Company Building,

as one of the few examples of the

style on 14 th Street. From street

level to roofline, Roth’s design is

remarkably free of ornament except

for a cast-iron and glass “screen”

treatment on the third through

fifth floors and a unique castellated

cornice on the uppermost tier. The

architecture of the tower displays a

strong vertical emphasis typical of

art deco designs, as well as setbacks

required by the 1916 zoning

resolution. The original entrance

of the building, which once

included a portal to the subway,

42. 50 EAST 14 TH STREET.

features a handsome mural of

stylized birdflight and foliate motifs. Roth’s plan for the building carefully regulated

the unusual space dictated by the lot lines, arranging stores on the floors behind the

façade screen, and offices and lofts on the upper levels. Filed for the relatively modest

cost of $700,000 in 1927, Roth produced a building of great efficiency and utility, but

also up-to-date style. Emery Roth’s Union Square tower stands as the only Art Deco

building in its eclectic context, and exemplifies the speculative boom of the twenties in

the hands of a master, constrained by budget though he was. (Figure 42)

17


PAVILION—UNION SQUARE

UNION HALL

The Italian Renaissance inspired pavilion in Union Square was designed for the New

York City Parks Department in 1931 by the Department’s architect Charles Schmieder.

Schmieder joined the Parks

Department as a draftsman in

1912 and served as Department

architect from 1922 until his

death in 1950. During this time he

designed many structures in parks

throughout the city, including a

boathouse in Central Park and a

field house in Inwood Hill Park,

in 1931 and 1933 respectively.

The Pavilion was part of greater

park improvements made during

subway construction, and at its inception housed a bandstand and comfort station. The

pavilion has since served as a meeting point, a playground, a restaurant and a “soap

box” for political protesters. (Figure 43)

27-29 Union Square West, the union meeting and offices, represents

the rise of the trade and labor unions in the 1950’s. Its architectural style

is representative of vernacular modern architecture. (Figure 45)

HARTFORD BUILDING

This eleven-story corner building built in a neo-Renaissance style

was designed by Youngs, Bergesen, and Cornell in 1894. Built as a

speculative office and loft building by Charles Wadsworth to meet the

increasing demand of the wholesale and manufacturing establishments

that moved to Union Square since the 1880’s, the Hartford Building

represents the transition of Union Square’s built fabric and character,

going from residential to commercial in the late nineteenth century.

(Figure 46)

43. PAVILION—UNION SQUARE.

46. HARTFORD

ZECKENDORFF TOWERS

BUILDING.

24-30 UNION SQUARE EAST

Once four individual Greek Revival rowhouses, these buildings are an excellent

example of the evolution of New York architecture from residential to commercial.

The re-cladding of the structures in cast iron, designed by architect Henry Fernbach,

characterizes the shift from traditional masonry facades to a progressive style of the

late nineteenth century. (Figure 44)

These large-scale, residential mixeduse

towers on the southwest corner

of Union Square were built by the

prominent real estate developer

Zeckendorff in 1988. Its significance

lies in the fact that it played a large part

in the revitalization of Union Square,

an area which had been in decline since

the 1960’s. (Figure 47)

47. ZECKENDORFF TOWERS.

44. 24-30 UNION SQUARE EAST. 45. UNION HALL.

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: UNION SQUARE

18


FOURTH TO FIRST AVENUES

This neighborhood located between First Avenue and Fourth Avenue is

characterized by surviving immigrant presence manifested in tenements, ethnic

stores and cultural support networks. It is a transitional “valley” between Union Square

and Stuyvesant Town, and still retains vestiges of affluent mid-nineteenth-century

residential development.

ENGINE COMPANY NO. 5

Built in 1880 by architect Napolean LeBrun,

Engine Company No. 5 is the earliest firehouse

built during a wave of New York City firehouse

construction to still be used for its original

purpose and maintains its original appearance.

The austerity and simplicity of this early design,

illustrative of the professionalization of the latenineteenth-century

Fire Department, provides

interesting and valuable contrast to his later, more

ornate firehouses, several of which have already

been designated. Engine Company No. 5, located

on the south side of 14 th Street between First and

Second Avenues, is one of the last functioning

firehouses remaining from the major 1880s

firehouse building campaign. (Figure 48)

48. ENGINE COMPANY NO. 5.

(FORMER) ITALIAN LABOR CENTER

Dating from 1920-21, the (former) Italian Labor

Center building is a significant reminder of the Italian-

American working class community which flourished

in New York City in the early to mid-twentieth century.

One of the few extant examples of a labor unionbased

community service center in New York City,

the (former) Italian Labor Center’s notable façade,

designed by Bronx-based architects John Caggiano,

Matthew Del Gaudio, and Anthony Lombardi is

modeled after well-known Italian architectural ideas.

Originally constructed for the members of the

International Ladies’ Garment Worker Union (I. L.

G. W. U.) Local 48 with a public store on the ground

floor, more recently the Ukrainian Center for Social

Research, and now a six-story apartment building with

a theme-based bar on the first floor, the building has

long been a gathering place for New Yorkers. Further,

it, like the Triangle shirtwaist factory, is a “reminder of

the period at the beginning of the twentieth century

when the garment industry was the largest employer 49. ITALIAN LABOR CENTER.

in New York City.” Notable features include intact

breccia pernice wainscoting detail on the first and second floor interiors and, most

strikingly, two decorative terra-cotta bas reliefs depicting scenes of Italian, family,

and labor-related significance located between the second and third floors. The

eastern panel clearly shows a content working family. The western panel illustrates

the naked Roman goddess Minerva, patroness of craftspeople, in the foreground

before a shirtless laborer. An early work in the career of Matthew Del Gaudio, the

(Former) Italian Labor Center acknowledges the versatility of this architect, who

was later recognized for his work on both the Williamsburg Houses and the Civil

Courthouse of the City of New York (with William Lescaze). (Figure 49)

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: FOURTH TO FIRST AVENUES

19


(FORMER) FIRST GERMAN BAPTIST CHURCH/

NOW TOWN & VILLAGE SYNANGOGUE

The former First German Baptist Church (now the

Town and Village Synagogue), located on the south

side of 14 th Street between First and Second Avenues,

is indicative of the ethnic changes that occurred in this

area of New York City. The building was originally built

with a German architectural influence, later added to

with Ukrainian influenced onion domes, and the removal

of the Christian-themed stained glass when it became a

Synagogue. (Figure 50)

50. TOWN & VILLAGE

SYNOGOGUE.

LABOR TEMPLE

The Labor Temple, located on the southwest corner of Second Avenue and 14 th Street,

was designed by a prominent New York City architect, Emery Roth, as an experimental

reaction of the Presbyterian Church to reach out, for the first time, in a deliberate and

public way to the working class immigrants that inhabited 14 th Street. The building

was designed to spread the beliefs of the Presbyterian Church in a subtle and nonthreatening

manner by incorporating many different activities and uses that were more

community-based rather than religious. (Figure 51)

52. MCCREERY HOUSE. 53. MECHANICS & METALS NATIONAL BANK.

JAMES MCCREERY HOUSE

This largely intact mid-nineteenth century rowhouse, with its Greek Revival doorfront

and its Italianate cornice, was originally the home of James McCreery, a New York

business icon and founder of the James McCreery & Company Dry Goods House.

The house was built in 1851 by McCreery, who lived there with his wife and seven

children until 1869. He owned the property until his death in 1903. James McCreery

was born in Ireland in 1826. Twenty years later, he came to the United States and

settled in Baltimore, where he worked for the dry goods house of Hamilton Easter &

Company. In 1851, he moved with his family to New York, and in 1867, he founded

the firm of James McCreery & Company, a dry goods house that would later become

one of the biggest businesses in the city. Besides being a successful business man and

merchant, he was also a developer, one of his projects being the Baumann Brothers

Store building. Until his death on February 26, 1903, he was known as “The Grand Old

Man of Business.” (Figure 52)

(FORMER) MECHANICS & METALS NATIONAL BANK BUILDING

The former Mechanics & Metals Bank, located on the northwest corner of 14 th Street

and Second Avenue, was designed by the prolific bank architects, the Hoggson Brothers,

during the 1920s when New York became a world leader in banking, indicating the

importance of the business district surrounding Stuyvesant Square. (Figure 53)

51. LABOR TEMPLE

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: FOURTH TO FIRST AVENUES

20


THE CONSOLIDATED GAS COMPANY BUILDING

The impressive expansion of the Consolidated Gas Company Building mirrors the

explosive growth of the utility industry in the first quarter of the 20 th century. Henry

J. Hardenberg’s original tall office building was designed with wonderful Beaux-Arts

ornament that was created to highlight the building’s architecture especially at night,

when it was illuminated with the emerging technology of the electric lamp. Warren &

Wetmore later added their mark on the building by erecting a skyscraping tower that

still rises far above the low-rise neighborhoods of Greenwich Village and Gramercy

Park. (Figure 54)

FIRST FEDERAL SAVINGS AND LOAN

COMPANY BUILDING

The First Federal Savings & Loan building, located

on the southwest corner of 14th Street and First

Avenue, is a physical testimony to the perceived

importance of Stuyvesant Town; its main entrance

on the corner directly facing the “new” housing

project. (Figure 55)

HISTORIC STREETSCAPE

The tenements found in this area on 14th Street, 55. FIRST FEDERAL S&L.

between First and Third Avenues specifically, are

architecturally significant because they create the desirable “neighborhood valley”

connecting the busy commercial area of Union Square to the large housing complex

of Stuyvesant Town. (Figure 56)

56. HISTORIC STREETSCAPE.

54. CONSOLIDATED GAS COMPANY BUILDING.

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: FOURTH TO FIRST AVENUES

21


FIRST AVENUE TO THE EAST RIVER

1 4th Street from the East River to First Avenue serves as a border between the Lower

East Side to the south and Stuyvesant Town to the north. The north side of the street

is characterized by large-scale, post-war urban renewal masonry development, while

the south side features low-scale, mid-twentieth-century commercial developments

(taxpayers) interspersed with tenements dating from the 1860s to the 1910s. The area

terminates at the Consolidated Edison Company’s historical heavy industrial facility.

628-640 EAST 14 TH STREET

Designed in 1890 by George F. Pelham, one of New York City’s most prolific housing

developers of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, the series of nine

connected “dumbbell” tenements at 628-640 East 14 th Street are significant as one

of the earliest experiments in large-scale, immigrant housing development. While the

façade of the Pelham row (still largely intact) exhibits attention to detail in the use of

popular architectural styles and durable materials, the interior layout of each tenement

reflects the minimum quality of light, ventilation and sanitary facilities required under

the 1879 Tenements Law. (Figure 57)

EAST RIVER GENERATING STATION

The Consolidated Edison Company’s East

River Generating Station dominates the

eastern section of 14 th Street. It was erected

primarily in two phases, the first campaign

completed in 1926 and the second in the

1950s. The station is a powerful presence

on the East River, not only hearkening back

to the industrial nature of this waterfront

throughout history but, more specifically,

Consolidated Edison’s prominence and

importance in the city’s viability. The strong

architecture of the the phases is indicative

of New York Edison’s transformation

from a young, civic-minded company

into a government-regulated corporation.

To sustain these buildings as a symbol

of historic significance and an iconic

New York corporation will appropriately

maintain this strong presence on 14 th

Street at the East River. (Figure 58)

58. EAST RIVER GENERATING STATION.

STUYVESANT TOWN

Stuyvesant Town is New York City’s largest moderate-income housing project, begun

in 1943 and completed in 1947 as a joint

venture of the city and the Metropolitan

Life Insurance Company. Architecturally,

Stuyvesant Town is significant as an

embodiment of the revolutionary “tower in

the park” planning ideals of the first half of

the 20 th century. However, it also possesses

transcendent historical importance as the

site of an early Civil Rights struggle to

win equal housing opportunity for African

American citizens. (Figure 59)

59. STUYVESANT TOWN.

57. 628-640 EAST 14 TH STREET.

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: FIRST AVENUE TO THE EAST RIVER

22


602 EAST 14 TH STREET

As a “taxpayer” building, meant to

generate the taxes on an expensive piece

of land, 602 East 14 th Street is by definition

a transient structure. However at some

point select long-lived taxpayers such as

this one become an establishment within

the neighborhood. 602 East 14 th Street

stands as a counterbalance to towering

Stuyvesant Town and its presence is

essential to the local neighborhood 60. 602 EAST 14 TH STREET.

character. Since this site and many others

like it are highly under built, the numerous taxpayers on East 14 th Street will play a vital

role in its future redevelopment. (Figure 60)

EAST SIDE TENEMENTS

Historically, these blocks were part of a larger immigrants’ neighborhood that was

formed when the Lower East Side, the traditional residential location for this group,

began pushing north. Many of the former industrial sites were replaced with tenements

as early as the 1850s. About twenty tenements and flats still remain on the south side

standing in contrast to Stuyvesant Town to the north. (Figure 62)

UNITED STATES POST OFFICE—STUYVESANT BRANCH

The Stuyvesant Branch of the United States Post Office was designed by architects

Wechsler & Schimenti in 1949. Along with several banks and retail stores, this building

is a wholly intact remnant of the residential boom following World War II and the

opening of Stuyvesant Town in 1947. (Figure 61)

61. UNITED STATES POST OFFICE—STUYVESANT BRANCH.

62. EAST SIDE TENEMENTS.

SIGNIFICANT RESOURCES: FIRST AVENUE TO THE EAST RIVER

23


THE PLAN

After highlighting the character, significant resources,

and issues—both positive and negative—of each

geographic region, we compiled a group of “street-wide

issues,” including:

- Unprotected Historic Resources

- Public-Private Interface

- Institutional Presence

- Development

- Open Spaces

- Physical Deterioration

- Alterations to the Built Environment

Out of these “street-wide” issues, we developed general

initiatives that would address each issue in a broad way

(i.e. “Balance Public and Private Interests”).

While we felt that this approach was helpful in identifying

our goals generally, we also realized the importance of

singling out instances and examples in order to create

an executable plan. For each of these specific examples,

we have suggested certain tools that address the specific

needs of that situation. The examples that we have

identified are in no way an exhaustive list of the instances

where certain issues play out on the street, however they

are the most illustrative.

We have also written this plan with the assumption that

the most important tool to be applied in order to protect

our primary and secondary resources would be landmark

designation. Designation would be achieved through

education and advocacy that would also concurrently aid

in other preservation goals.

should be taken towards landmark designation: making

our research available to the public, both on the internet

for academic and professional use, and for promotion

through themed events and walking tours; signaling

the significant resources to advocacy groups such as

the Historic Districts Council or the Municipal Art

Society; and preparing landmark nomination forms for

submission to local, state, and national registers; and

organizing letter writing campaigns in defense of the

significant resources.

Engaging the building owner in the process is also

instrumental to the success of any designation campaign.

Without owner consent, the designation process can

become marred by legal difficulties or even halted

altogether by an owner’s insensitive efforts to prevent

designation through defacing or demolishing their

building.

Example: 154-160 West 14 th Street

One historic resource that would benefit from public

and owner education is 154-160 West 14 th Street, a

polychrome terra cotta loft building located on the

southeast corner of Seventh Avenue. Not only is the

building currently deteriorating, there is the likelihood

that the owner will strip the ornament from the entire

façade in order to prevent violation of Local Law 11

in the most economical way possible. By educating the

building owner about the building’s importance and the

benefits deriving from landmark status (such as grants

and tax incentives for historic rehabilitation), he or she

would hopefully become more inclined to support a

designation campaign as well as maintain the building.

PROPOSAL FOR DESIGNATING SIGNIFICANT

RESOURCES

Having identified the significant resources worthy of

landmark status in the Study Area, the following steps

THE PLAN

24


BALANCING PUBLIC & PRIVATE INTERESTES

For purposes of definition, “public” interests are issues

raised by, concerning, or affecting the community.

“Public” community groups may be grass-roots

organizations, civic organizations, or government-funded

institutions. “Private” interests spring from entities not

available for public use, control, or participation, such as

commercial enterprises.

1. MORRIS LAPIDUS BUILDING BEFORE DEMOLITION.

Balancing public and private interests is another guiding

goal of the plan. The Study Area has a history of publicprivate

conflict over the fate of buildings, from the

Zeckendorff Towers that rose to obscure a view of the

beloved Consolidated Edison clock tower, to the recent

“demolition-over-night” of Morris Lapidus’ Patterson

Silks building, which had been awaiting its hearing before

New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission

(Figures 1 and 2).

The fact that 14 th Street divides many different Community

Boards presents a serious barrier to communication

among different interest groups; this dynamic has

been acknowledged as a problem by representatives of

many of the Community Boards. Improving both the

communication between Community Boards that border

each other and between Community Boards and the

City—about not only demolition and new construction

but also about alterations to historic buildings—would

ameliorate this problem. Further, giving Community

Boards the power to call for such things as a “Delay of

Demolition” would better balance their interests with

the private forces that shape the public environment.

Our Study Area provides many examples of the

complexities involved in balancing public and private

interests. Two recent and highly publicized examples

particularly illustrate how the desires of the general

public have not been successfully incorporated into citydirected

private initiatives.

The plan was conceived by a grass-roots organization

called Friends of the High Line, but, as it gained citywide

popularity, it was adopted as a cause by celebrities and

the wealthy residents and merchants of Chelsea and the

Meatpacking District (Figure 3). The winning design for

the park transforms the High Line into a sleek, glassy,

statement of design that is elegant but ultimately fails to

reflect the industrial history of the area (Figures 4 and 5).

The Department of City Planning has considered the

risk that the public will view this as the City catering to

private developers and the area’s wealthy constituents.

City Planning has addressed this by ensuring equal

public and private access at all entry points, and creating

the High Line Transfer Corridor, which is a zoning

mechanism to prevent new tall buildings from crowding

the High Line.

Our hope is that the original meaning of the Highline

is not lost in the city’s willingness to “package” public

places as consumer-and-leisure oriented “experiences”

of urban New York.

We have not chosen to focus on the Highline for new

design proposals; however, we recognize it as a distinct

2. MORRIS LAPIDUS BUILDING DURING DEMOLITION.

Example: The High Line Park

The High Line project is a city-funded plan currently

underway for the creation of a landscaped public

park on the High Line elevated railway. The Highline

represents a unique public-private interface in that the

proposed design for the Highline would create a public

park that runs through privately owned buildings, as

well as the development of private spaces on top of and

underneath the park.

3. STAR-STUDDED GROUND BREAKING CEREMONY OF THE

HIGH LINE PARK

THE PLAN: BALANCING PUBLIC & PRIVATE INTERESTS

25


4. PRELIMINARY PLAN FOR THE HIGH LINE PARK

5. PRELIMINARY PLAN FOR THE HIGH LINE PARK

public/private interface and through advocacy would

like to insure that its industrial meaning is preserved.

Example: The Pavilion in Union Square Park

One element of the Department of Parks and Recreation’s

proposal for Union Square Park is the establishment

of a permanent seasonal restaurant to occupy the

park’s Pavilion building, which is in need of substantial

conservation work. Since 1992, a “temporary” seasonal

restaurant, called Luna Park, has existed right next to

the Pavilion, using the Pavilion’s facilities and providing

outdoor seating for paying customers (Figure 6).

From its beginning, many members of the Union Square

community have voiced their opposition to a private

restaurant operating within a public park. Jack Taylor,

long-time resident of the area and vociferous member

of the Union Square Community Coalition, said, when

asked why he found the restaurant offensive, “You are

escorted to a table by a maitre d’ in the most proletariat

square in NYC.”

Taking into consideration these sentiments, but also

recognizing that the public has come to accept the

presence of a restaurant (and indeed enjoys its services),

we feel that an appropriate solution would be to locate

an entirely non-profit, self-service restaurant within the

Pavilion. Currently, the restaurant operators pay the city

$130,000 of rent annually, all of which goes to the city’s

General Fund and does not benefit Union Square in any

way. Our proposal would call for a portion of all restaurant

proceeds to be invested directly into maintenance and

restoration of the Park and the Pavilion, modeled on the

organization of the New Leaf Café at Fort Tryon Park.

Greenmarket produce would be a featured ingredient in

the food offered by the restaurant, and customers would

serve themselves, eliminating the need for a wait staff.

The Parks Department’s preliminary design called for

the raising of the seating to the Pavilion level, and the

connection and extension of the playground. This plan

would still be used, but the seating would be available

for use by the general public. No maitre d’ would be

needed, ridding the Pavilion of the air of exclusivity it

currently has.

The justification for continuing a private use within the

Pavilion is that any use is better than no use at all, with

respect to the long-term maintenance and preservation

of a building. Our proposal provides for limited private

use, while broadening the public sphere associated with

this use.

6. LUNA PARK RESTAURANT IN UNION SQUARE.

THE PLAN: BALANCING PUBLIC & PRIVATE INTERESTS

26


ENCOURAGING SENSITIVE DEVELOPMENT

The real estate economy is a major factor defining the

growth of New York City, especially with respect to the

physical and functional “recycling” of the built fabric.

Looking broadly at the Study Area, we identified different

economic trends prevailing on West 14 th Street, Union

Square, and East 14 th Street, respectively. West 14 th Street

supports the widest range of economic activity, from

discount stores to haute-couture fashion houses. Diversity

in the area’s historic fabric attracts people and provides

rich opportunities for entrepreneurs. Union Square, on

the other hand, has traditionally accommodated larger

businesses because of its central location, its role as a

major transit hub for the city, and the large scale of the

existing building stock. 14 th Street east of Union Square

fosters economic activity on a much more local level

because of the smaller scale of building stock and the

prevalence of residential use.

7. DESIGN FOR THE NEW DIANE VON FURSTENBERG STORE IN

THE MEATPACKING DISTRICT

THE PLAN: ENCOURAGING SENSITIVE DEVELOPMENT

Example: Merchants’ Association

The Meatpacking District is a model of successful

adaptive reuse of industrial buildings for high-end retail

use, and our plan seeks to encourage this trend through

the formation of a Merchants’ Association (Figure 7).

A Merchant’s Association would strengthen a sense of

investment in the special identity of the area, and serve

as a magnet for similar high-end businesses by setting

the example of how incorporating innovative store

design into existing historic fabric can be an effective

marketing tool. Development of the High Line Park

and the opening of the “Italian Craft Village” on Pier

57 could lead to a major increase in density for the area,

and the presence of a Merchants’ Association would

help the local economy sustain the impacts of increased

daytime and nighttime population.

Example: Business Improvement District

The Union Square Partnership (a Business Improvement

District) has guided the redevelopment of Union Square

over the past twenty years, achieving remarkable success

in improving the physical appearance of the streetscape

and Union Square Park and also in attracting major retail

chains to occupy buildings with large square footage.

One model of their success is Barnes & Noble’s use of

federal tax credit money to restore the landmark Century

Building on the north side of Union Square. Upon

its inception, the primary goals of the Union Square

Partnership were street maintenance and security, but

it has evolved to become a major player in real estate

and economic development for the area. Although

some citizens feel that the Partnership has overstepped

its founding mission, its increasing financial leverage

has allowed it to expand its focus to include community

services like educational programming.

While Union Square is a natural location for high

commercial volume sustained by national and regional

chains, the blocks east of Union Square are home to

small-scale commerce. The economic health of the area

has improved in recent years, but capacity for further

development exists in the form of underbuilt nonhistoric

buildings, vacant lots, and generally cheaper

real estate. Our proposal is to lay the groundwork for

economic revitalization of the blocks east of Union

Square –specifically, the blocks east of First Avenue—

by establishing a Business Improvement District (BID).

The primary mission of the Business Improvement

District would be street maintenance and security, based

on the principle that an attractive streetscape contributes

to lively street life, which in turn contributes to retail and

residential stability.

The BID would evolve towards more proactive

methods for retail stabilization, like facilitating façade

improvements and “brokering” the purchase of retail

space by merchants. The BID would also actively recruit

businesses to fill vacant storefronts; targeted businesses

could range from individual merchants (to complement

the quirky array of existing small businesses) to

“chainlets” and franchises, such as a stationary store (to

serve the increasing student population) or sports club.

The importance of attracting small businesses to an area

like East 14 th Street is simply the fact that local merchants

are more inclined to care about their street and their

storefront than employees of a chain or franchise. Small

businesses, in order to survive, must recognize and take

advantage of the particular assets and markets existing

within the local community; they are able to adapt to the

existing character and in so doing often extend the life of

old buildings without compromising the “sense of place.”

Finally, the goal of the BID could evolve to incorporate

advocacy for affordable housing development funded

in part by the city’s Housing Preservation Department.

Increased residential population would help to sustain

increased economic activity.

27


Example: Sensitive Design

Design is another way to affect sensitive development,

especially with respect to new construction. The goal

of sensitive design is not to homogenize the built fabric

of the street, nor to mimic the past in contemporary

designs, but to respect the existing significant resources

and enhance their presence towards enriching the identity

and public perception of the street. The following is an

explanation of how design can be used to both develop

sites and help sustain historic resources, based on

principles incorporated into design proposals produced

during an intense three-day charrette undertaken by the

Studio.

The development of infill buildings in an area with

a specific and defined architectural character or

streetscape is relevant to various soft sites and empty

lots along the street. A condition that occurs more

than once within the Study Area is the presence of a

series of intact rowhouses, creating a distinct character.

The design of new buildings along these blocks must

be particularly sensitive to issues such as scale, height,

materials, rhythm, and streetwall. One of the two

proposals addressing such a situation allows for a freer

use of more modern materials while maintaining the

basic façade composition, rhythm, entrance location,

street wall, and scale of the surrounding rowhouses on

the block. In effect, this continuity in several aspects

creates a harmonious feeling within the block while the

use of different materials does not try to feign historic

relevance (Figure 8).

Another charrette proposal is located on a block that

contains both rowhouses and tenements, but maintains

the scale of four to five stories and twenty-five-foot

8. SPRING 2006 HISTORIC PRESERVATION STUDIO CHARRETTE PROPOSAL FOR EMPTY LOT AT 214 EAST 14TH STREET.

THE PLAN: ENCOURAGING SENSITIVE DEVELOPMENT

28


wide lots. Through its modern interpretation of the

architectural elements and materials around it, such

as bay windows, cornices, and brick, the new design

is complimentary to but not indistinguishable from

its surrounding historic resources. The building takes

advantage of a through-lot to spread the institutional

program over a wider area, thus maintaining the current

rhythm of the twenty-five foot façade module on the

street.

Potential development within a defined streetscape is

relevant to other scenarios as well, such as the site on

Union Square addressed by another proposal (Figure 9).

This design addresses the dynamic and varying skyline

of the block, emphasizing the piston-like composition

of the adjacent buildings. The massing of the design

embodies the dynamic skyline in its own form, as well as

filling voids created by underbuilt surrounding buildings.

The façade design itself is a study in fenestration patterns

and rhythm in the historic context. The final outcome is

one in which the new design helps unify the different

buildings of the block.

In the instances where new buildings are developed in

proximity to buildings of monumental character, the

hierarchy in which these historic and contemporary

designs are placed is important. An example for this is

a proposed design for a site that is on the corner of

an intersection dominated by three monumental banks

(Figure 10). The proposal chooses not to detract from

the monumental buildings, but instead compliments

them with a building that relates proportionally to two

of the buildings and fills the void that currently exists

on the corner. The materials are modern, and do not

subvert the high quality of ornament and construction

of the three monumental banks with mimicry.

9. SPRING 2006 HISTORIC PRESERVATION STUDIO CHARRETTE

PROPOSAL FOR UNDERBUILT SITE IN UNION SQUARE.

10. SPRING 2006 HISTORIC PRESERVATION STUDIO CHARRETTE PROPOSAL FOR A SITE ON THE SOUTHEAST CORNER OF 14TH

STREET AND EIGHTH AVENUE.

THE PLAN: ENCOURAGING SENSITIVE DEVELOPMENT

29


MANAGING INSTITUTIONAL PRESENCE

Large institutions have a notable presence on 14 th Street. By building, adapting, or

abandoning their often monumental structures they exert a great deal of influence

over the physical fabric of the street. One subcategory of institutions is religious

organizations, of which there are several in the Study Area. While many funding sources

are available for the maintenance and preservation of these structures, implementation

of preservation initiaves remains difficult and the fate of religious buildings is one of

the most difficult challenges facing preservationists.

In addition to religious institutions, 14 th Street is affected by the presence of medical,

community, and educational establishments. The zoning categorization of these

as “community facilities” furthers their influence by often allowing them to exceed

the massing and scale of their surroundings. Additionally, the constituents of these

institutions, most noticeably the huge numbers of students from NYU, Pratt, and the

New School, introduce a new demographic to the area, affecting everything from traffic

congestion to the types of commerce drawn to the area. Recognizing that these forces

have the potential to either help or hinder the street and its resources, we propose

managing these forces through zoning, facilitating community input, and providing

institutions with models of successful adaptive reuse.

Example: Regulatory Management

The former Baumann Brothers’ Store, which is currently owned by The New School,

furnishes examples of how the above mentioned strategies can be used to manage

institutional expansion (Figure 11). The Landmarks Preservation Commission has heard

the proposed designation for the building, but the process stalled over disagreement

concerning the size of a rooftop addition that the LPC would allow if it chose to

designate. The building is built to a Floor Area Ration (FAR) of 5.0 in a zone where

6.0 is the maximum allowed, which is equivalent to eighty three percent of bulk). As a

community facility, the New School is entitled to a FAR bonus of 2.0, allowing a total

of 7.0. This would translate to an addition of roughly two stories. Even as a landmark,

there are several options that would allow the New School to exploit the building’s

unused FAR either for financial or spatial gain, thus achieving the institution’s goal of

creating more space, and ours of designating it as a landmark.

One option is to transfer the unused bulk from the Baumann Store to an adjacent

underbuilt property through a zoning lot merger. The New School’s building occupies

a lot that goes through to 13th Street, where its neighbor is a small two-story structure

built to an FAR of 0.5. If the two zoning lots were merged, the aggregate unused FAR

could be used to concentrate the bulk of new construction on the site of the underbuilt

11. FORMER BAUMANN BROTHERS’ STORE.

THE PLAN: MANAGING INSTITUTIONAL PRESENCE

30


structure. This would not require the purchase or sale of

either plot of land, but it would allow the New School to

transfer unused development rights for its own financial

gain. However, the bulk of the receiving property could

easily undermine the historic scale of 13th and 14th

Streets—a scale this Studio has identified as valuable.

If the Baumann Store were designated a landmark,

section 74-711 of the zoning resolution could be used

to arrange this bulk in a fashion more sympathetic to the

height profile of both streets.

Because the New School has demonstrated a desire for

increased space, a more realistic option would be the

purchase by the school of the neighboring underbuilt

property. In that case, the Baumann Store’s unused

development rights could be transferred to the adjacent

site, but the square footage enabled by the shift would

belong to the New School. As in the previous case, if

the building were designated a landmark, section 74-711

would be a good tool for mitigating the distribution of

new bulk.

As a landmark, the Baumann Store’s eligibility for a

transfer of development rights, pursuant to section

74-79 of the Zoning Resolution, would allow the New

School to earn money by transferring its air rights to

the underbuilt parcels on the north side of 13th Street.

However, this would not solve the school’s space

problems.

A more aggressive approach to reducing the development

potential of the former Baumann Store would involve

eliminating the FAR bonus offered to community

facilities. While this is not a viable option citywide, it

is feasible to advocate for the change within the Store’s

zoning district.

In the event that the New School went ahead with a

rooftop addition without being designated a landmark,

the local community board or the proposed interinstitutional

student committee could encourage a work

executed with materials, massing, setbacks and sightlines

to minimize its own obtrusiveness to (or maximize

engagement with) the original structure.

Example: Community Involvement

Another way to manage institutional forces is through

communication between the community at large,

the institution’s representatives, and the institution’s

constituents. Issues such as the desire for institutions to

integrate with their surroundings and “give back” to the

community could be addressed by a cross-community

board review. Preservation and land use subcommittees

of community boards bordering 14 th Street could meet

together to discuss the proliferation of institutional

facilities in their areas. Further, they could present

a unified view of their desires to institutions in an

educational packet including information on façade

easements and grants, TDRs, design guidelines, building

maintenance, and the history and character of the

area. Such a packet could also include examples of the

successful adaptive reuse of historic buildings, such as

the Eye and Ear Infirmary’s use of the former Mechanics

and Metals Bank Building.

This communication could also stem from the

institutions themselves through the development of

an inter-institutional student government committee.

Involving the students of the many institutions in the

Study Area, the committee would serve as a mediator

between the community and the institutions, encouraging

accountability on the part of the institutions for their

impact on the surrounding neighborhoods.

HABUS ETOR HALI SES MERVIUS INATU ESSILIN HOS RENA RESSIL UNUM CONSILINIMIS MO NONFIT; IAM TEMORTUM

31


ADDRESSING PHYSICAL DETERIORATION

Physical deterioration of the built fabric is a pervasive

problem along 14 th Street, but with the help of

conservation-related tools, this problem can be

correctly addressed. After analyzing the composition

and behavior of building materials in the Study Area

and assessing the forces acting upon them, a set of

recommendations and treatments that can be used to

prevent or ameliorate adverse material conditions has

been formulated.

When considering recent and past conservation efforts

on 14 th Street, it becomes apparent that conservation

thus far has not been orchestrated in any coherent or

street-wide manner. In order to create a uniform system

of assessment, building conditions in the Study Area

were categorized in a range from 1-5, with “1” being the

poorest condition and “5” the best.

The survey showed that eighty percent of the buildings

in the study area rank as threes, fours, or fives, suggesting

that the majority of the built fabric along the street is safe

and in reasonably good condition (Figure 12). However,

subsiding land on the eastern extremity of 14 th Street, an

area which was reclaimed from the East River, may be

affecting the tenements at 628-640 East 14 th Street and

possibly other buildings; however, further appraisal from

a structural engineer would be needed to confirm this.

While an in-depth survey of the conditions on 14 th Street

and Union Square is an integral part of a preservation

plan, the size of this study area was prohibitively

large for carrying out a fully comprehensive survey.

Therefore, two blocks were selected because of the

range of materials and conditions present, and were

used as a representative cross-section of the street-wide

data as well as a solid methodological foundation for

the study. Both sides of 14 th Street between Sixth and

Eighth Avenues were examined, covering a total of 74

buildings, including a sizable proportion of tenements,

THE PLAN: ADDRESSING PHYSCIAL DETERIORATION

12. CONDITIONS OF BUILDINGS IN STUDY AREA.

commercial structures and row houses.. Observations

were made from the sidewalk, using the naked eye

aided by binoculars, as needed. Building interiors were

not examined or considered in this survey. The range

of problems affecting the facades spanned from simple

soiling (which is pervasive) to the more extreme (and

dangerous) bowing of facades and failure of parapet

walls.

Aside from general soiling, the most prevalent

conservation issues found were: cracking, mortar loss,

and cornice deterioration, with surface erosion and

water staining as close followers (Figure 13). The survey

concluded that, while some level of general soiling and

deterioration resulting from the urban environment is

inevitable, owner neglect has exacerbated the rates and

levels of deterioration and decay along 14 th Street.

32


Materials Assessment and Proposals for

Treatment

Selected case studies were chosen to provide a more

in-depth assessment of these conditions and others.

The specific problems affecting the built fabric were

analyzed in greater detail through the façade mapping

of the tenements at 628-640 East 14 th Street and the

photographic case study of 240 West 14 th Street. A

comprehensive glossary, which explains and identifies

various instances of material failure, also includes

suggested methods of treatment.

Just as conservation on 14th Street has not been

undertaken in any street-wide, coherent manner, it would

be very difficult to enforce or implement a street-wide

plan for conservation; the decision of how to maintain

a building is, by and large, left to each individual owner.

However, for the conservation-minded building owner,

there are indeed resources available to provide practical,

instructive, and financial assistance.

Certain organizations offer emergency loans to property

owners for critical situations, such as serious structural

problems. One of these available locally is through the

New York Landmarks Conservancy; their Emergency

Loan Program is available for those structures that are

either designated to the National Register or eligible for

designation.

Financial assistance for rehabilitation projects is largely

available to non-profit groups and to buildings already

listed on the National Register of Historic Places (or

within a National Register Historic District). As of now,

there are few buildings in the study area that are listed on

the National Register; however, for those that are or may

be in the future, the Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit

program is a powerful tool.

On the national level, funding for the rehabilitation

of private residences is scarce; however, opportunities

do exist at the local level. The New York Landmarks

THE PLAN: ADDRESSING PHYSCIAL DETERIORATION

13. CONDITIONS REVEALED ON BUILDING FACADES BETWEEN SIXTH AND EIGHTH AVENUES.

Conservancy maintains a Historic Properties Fund. The

Fund offers low-interest loans and project management

assistance to owners of historic residential properties, as

well as non-profit, religious, and commercial structures

throughout New York City. Such structures must be

designated as a New York City Landmark, as a building

within a Historic District, or as eligible for inclusion on

the State and/or National Register of Historic Places.

Other underutilized resources for conservation in the

city are the local Business Improvement Districts. In

the past, many BIDs have held workshops and created

groups for the removal of garbage and graffiti, as well as

other general maintenance and upkeep issues. One option

for advocacy and education for conservation would be

to hold BID-sponsored workshops and lectures. Since

the 14 th Street BID is already involved in the screening

of potential contractors, it would be simple to develop

a database of those companies specializing in the

conservation and restoration of historic properties and

make this database available to the tenants and property

owners of the street. The proposed BID on the eastern

end of 14 th Street could advise building owners about

building maintenance as well.

There are currently workshops in New York that offer

basic instruction and technical assistance on a variety of

building materials and structural systems. One of these

is RESTORE, which offers introductory level classes on

subjects ranging from masonry to building ventilation

systems.

33


PROMOTING APPROPRIATE ALTERATIONS

The next factor affecting the historic resources of 14 th

Street and Union Square is the most concrete: alterations

to the built fabric as a result of use conversions or

periodic aesthetic “upgrades.” Façade alterations are

the most common architectural characteristic in the

Study Area, and affect our ability to “read” history in

the streetscape. At its best, the haphazard juxtapositions

of style, materials, signage and building type (reflecting

different uses) creates a richly layered atmosphere

attractive to economic and social diversity; at its worst,

this parti-colored streetscape threatens to obscure 14 th

Street’s oldest and rarest substrates of built fabric.

The historical and architectural variety of buildings in the

Study Area, discussed in depth in this document, is largely

obscured on the current streetscape. Large awnings,

unifying cornices and signs dominate the ground floor

and represent the street’s current commercial character

with mostly middle and low-end retail. Since many of

the buildings are old and some were not built with retail

in mind, most of the storefronts on the street are later

additions. Flashy signage has been a characteristic of 14 th

Street since the early 1900s and the Plan proposes to

maintain this diversity.

However, it seems that today one encounters two separate

streets: a non-descript and monotonous ground floor,

and upper levels displaying rich architectural styles. The

goal is to propose storefront designs for the previously

identified historic resources as a way of showing how

sensitive design can respond to the existing architecture

of the building and the modern needs of commerce

without compromising the nature of the street as a

bustling shopping area. Ultimately, these storefront

designs will also enhance the hsitorical “legibility” of the

buildings.

Since 14th Street is not considered an economically

disadvantageous area and therefore not eligible for many

THE PLAN: PROMOTING APPROPRIATE ALTERATIONS

14. TAX PHOTO OF THE BASE OF THE DIX BUILDING, 1939.

economic incentives, finding appropriate economic

tools to help with this issue has been a difficult process.

For non-designated buildings, the Plan proposes the

implementation of a Retail Assistance Program to be

administrated by the street’s BID or other non-profit

community organization.

This program will promote the removal of illegal

awnings and canopies, as well as give recommendations

for appropriate façade alterations. It can organize

storefronts workshops and coordinate efforts to

improve the streetscape through adding plantings and

street furniture. This program should provide technical

assistance, apply for and administer grants obtained from

various city agencies. If the Plan’s recommendations

for landmark designation should come to pass, the

Landmark Preservation Commission will publicly review

new designs in order to induce appropriate alterations.

The in-depth study of one building that would be wellserved

by more sensitive storefront design is given

below.

34


Example: The Dix Building

The considerations for the design of the new storefront

for the Dix Building at 116-118 West 14 th Street involved

a thorough analysis of the façade, a study of historic

photos, and a working knowledge of the historic

significance of the building (Figure 14). The current

storefront and signage combination is not appropriate

for this building because the long horizontal sign cuts the

building off in a way in which the building appears to be

“floating” above the sign and the insensitive storefront

below. The current storefront does not respond to the

entire building in any way. It does not follow the existing

rhythm of the fenestration or the massive feeling that the

building portrays through the use of massive material.

The storefront is also unbalanced and confusing to the

observer (Figure 15).

The proposed new design of this building’s storefront

would therefore continue the rhythm and pattern of the

fenestration and the materials of the building down to

the street level. The sign would also be broken up into

two wire mesh sign holders on each end of the building

above the first story. While two vertical blade signs would

project from the pilasters on the center of the facade

beginning at the top of the third story and ending at the

top of the first story (Figure 16). In this way the vertical

signs accentuate the verticality of the center, while the

wire-mesh signs do not detract from the distinguishing

qualities of the building. This scheme opens the center

of the building to create a grand two-story entranceway

that is much more inviting to the customer and more

responsive to the entire building.

15. CURRENT STOREFRONTS. 16. DESIGN PROPOSAL FOR STOREFRONTS OF THE DIX BUILDING.

THE PLAN: PROMOTING APPROPRIATE ALTERATIONS

35


ENHANCING INTERPRETATION OF OPEN SPACES

The open spaces along 14 th Street and Union Square are

a distinctive characteristic of the Study Area, and they

act as a positive draw in terms of cultural identity and

potential for economic development. Because of its

strategic location as the dividing line between “uptown”

and “downtown,” 14 th Street, and especially Union

Square Park, served as the city’s spiritual gathering place

in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade

Center; this is just one example of the latent cultural

meaning of 14 th Street’s open spaces.

Spaces like the Hudson River Park, Piers 56 and 57, and

the eastern terminus of 14 th Street once had industrial

uses. However, as these uses gave way to commercial

and residential use, and availability of open space

decreased, these spaces found new uses as recreational

parks; some were owned by the city and some belonged

to private planned communities. Conversely, Union

Square Park has functioned as an open space as long

as residents have inhabited its perimeters, though it too

has changed greatly in appearance. Regardless of their

history as long-standing open spaces or adapted open

spaces, these parks tell the history of the street, function

as place markers, and create a sense of place for visitors

and residents alike.

Previous plans for the design of many of these spaces

have tended to respond more to land use issues and

traffic concerns, and have neglected their story-telling

ability. These spaces, despite general success as urban

attractions, have failed to address the unique histories

that enhance their meaning. Two such examples are

Pier 56 and Union Square Park. In both cases, design

techniques can be used as a tool to improve accessibility

and enhance historical interpretation.

Example: Pier 56

Pier 56 was once a pier used for the Cunard White Star

THE PLAN: ENHANCING INTERPRETATION OF OPEN SPACES

17. SPRING 2006 HISTORIC PRESERVATION STUDIO CHARRETTE PROPOSAL FOR PIER 56.

Lines and was the dock for ocean liners of such stature

as the Titanic. As steamship travel became less popular

in the early twentieth century, Pier 56 fell into disuse,

as did many other Cunard White Star Line piers. Its

neglect was compounded by the construction of the

Miller Elevated Highway in 1931, which effectively cut

off the unused pier area from the remainder of 14 th

Street. The reconstruction of the West Side Highway

at grade (which resulted from its collapse in 1973), and

the addition of the Hudson River Park brought new

attention and activity to the pier. The pier can now be

viewed by anyone traveling down the foot path in the

Hudson River Park. However, the pier is still partially

inaccessible as a result of the fast moving traffic along

36


the West Side Highway that divides the Hudson River

Park and 14 th Street.

We propose to use design as a way to physically bridge

the Pier 56 area with the High Line. The addition of

a footbridge from the pier to the High Line would

encourage and increase pedestrian traffic and thus

increase the acknowledgement of this important historic

resource. Secondly, the pier’s history should be recognized

and interpreted in the redevelopment of the site. We

have created a design that interprets the pier as both

the unused place of the twentieth century by keeping it

as an archaeological ruin, and as the important thriving

pier of the late nineteenth century by the installation of

historic plaques (Figure 17). Our proposal intervenes in

a minimal way with the physical remains of the pier by

adding a pedestrian ramp on which informational panels

are located. The walk along the ramp in between the

panels reveals images and facts pertaining to the history

of the pier.

Increasing recognition of the intrinsic design value of

industrial sites, and the rich history they possess, has led

cities around the country, and even around the world, to

reclaim abandoned industrial sites for public parks. New

York City has demonstrated its willingness to reinvest in

its own industrial past with the High Line Park project,

and Pier 56 presents a natural extension of this effort.

Example: Union Square Park

Union Square is the most important and most highly used

open space on 14 th Street. Its long history, connected

with the development of the area, further emphasizes its

importance to the study area. However, its history—both

in the evolution of the park’s design and in the square’s

relationship to the labor movement and surrounding

buildings—has not been clearly expressed to the public.

Though the park’s plans have changed many times

throughout its 150 year history, the use has remained

generally the same within the park; it is the activity

THE PLAN: ENHANCING INTERPRETATION OF OPEN SPACES

and circulation patterns on the park’s perimeter that

have seen the most change. Historically, the northern

end of the park was used for public gatherings and

demonstrations; however since the renovation of the

south end in the 1980’s, and with the Greenmarket in

the north end, the stepped plaza has become the popular

spot for gatherings today.

After analysis of the current design, it was decided that

the design proposals would focus on four objectives:

first, that Union Square should be a place primarily

for people, not for cars; second, that the evolution of

the park’s designs need to be expressed to the public;

third, that the park connect to its building context and

concurrent labor history; and fourth, that the park have

a means of conveying its use as a political gathering

space, in the past, and for current and future use.

Objective 1: Circulation

In order to ease the circulation conflicts throughout

Union Square, the focus of the design should be the

movement of people throughout the square, not the

movement of automobile traffic on the street. Expanding

the park’s boundaries to the north and the east solves

many of the problems Union Square currently faces.

The expansion creates one-way streets at Union Square

East and 17 th Street, turning the streets around Union

Square into a traffic circle and allowing easier and safer

pedestrian crossings. The expansion allows more room

for people to move around the perimeter of the park

and also provides more space for the Greenmarket on

three sides of the park. If, historically, the park was the

only densely landscaped space in Union Square, new

proposals should maintain Olmsted’s intention that the

park be a place of repose and isolation in the middle of

the square.

Objective 2: Evolution of park designs

The formal plan of the design has evolved over the

park’s 150-year history but there is no evidence left of

18. PROPOSED MASTER PLAN FOR UNION SQUARE PARK.

its origins. To further public understanding of the park’s

history, it is important to illustrate the most significant

aspects of the previous designs while not disturbing the

current function of the park.

The proposal layers the 1872 network of paths that

radiate from the historic location of the fountain and

connects the 1872 paths to the current ones. Materials

for the 1872 paths will be similar to what might have

historically been used; grass cellular paving planted

throughout will visually distinguish the old from the new,

while maintaining the current use of the grassy areas for

sitting. The center will be re-established with a flat circle

of water, representative of the fountain installed for the

1842 Croton water celebration (Figure 18).

37


Objective 3: Connection between park and labor history

in adjacent buildings

Historic Lot Lines—one of the goals for interpretation

of labor history is that the information must have a

physical connection with the building context; it must

connect the park with its surroundings. Using the 1890’s

Sanborn maps as a reference, the mapping of historic lot

lines of adjacent buildings starts to denote the historic

presence of labor at Union Square and will work in

conjunction with the history markers.

History Markers—Union Square’s current interpretive

plaques are embedded into the southern perimeter of

the park. They depict a timeline of events, arts, culture

and historical development connected with Union

Square. However, the plaques have no consistent theme,

and they are not highly visible due to their placement on

the ground. The materials have little contrast with the

pavement and the engraving is not easily read.

The proposed history markers will present the relationship

of labor history and the surrounding context; only

buildings that have a history of involvement with labor

will have a history marker. Each four-foot tall marker

will start with the Cor-Ten lot line “peeling up” off the

ground and ending with a small informative panel (Figure

19). Each panel will have a photograph of the building’s

former appearance at its height in labor history, as well

as written text that states the building information.

The history markers peel at various distances from

the building so as to provide the best vantage point

appropriate in regards to the historic paragraph, but they

will also be placed so as to avoid interrupting circulation

and activities around the perimeter of the square. The

verticality of the markers succeeds in drawing the eye

and grabbing the attention of passerby.

Objective 4: Promote character of demonstration

Union Square Colonnade—the northern end of

Union Square was the site of many historic labor

demonstrations and public gatherings, but today the

smaller southern end is typically used. The purpose of

our design solution is to highlight the history of this area

of the Square, while facilitating future demonstrations

and gatherings in the historic space. Through an analysis

of the current circulation patterns of the Square it was

determined that the southern end is frequented by small

groups of demonstrators, while the northern end is still

used for larger gatherings. By studying the historical

section of the park at this end, it is apparent that the

large gatherings were facilitated by the lack of barriers

between the park and the building faces of 17 th Street.

Today, as well as in the proposal currently planned for

the park’s future, there is some type of obstruction

present, cutting the circulation space in two.

The proposal narrows the road to one lane, alleviating

some of the traffic at the north end and making it

more attractive to large gatherings, and eliminating

the obstruction between the open space in front of

the Pavilion and the street and sidewalk adjacent. We

propose building a colonnade in front of the Union

Square Pavilion (on the north side) for the display of

interpretive panels, cultural advertisements, and protest

banners (Figure 20). Calvert Vaux’s redesign for Union

Square in 1872 included a lighted colonnade in the same

location as the proposed colonnade. The new colonnade

is a modern interpretation of Vaux’s original idea

proposed for a new era, referencing the past without

mimicking, and creating an amenity that will make use

of the space for large gatherings more attractive and

pointed.

19. PERSPECTIVE OF PROPOSED HISTORY MARKERS.

20. PROPOSED COLONNADE.

THE PLAN: ENHANCING INTERPRETATION OF OPEN SPACES

38


CONCLUSION

What we hope will be instructive from our study

and the conclusions we have made are the

implications they offer, not just for the development of

14th Street and Union Square but also for the insight it

may offer in the creation of preservation plans for other

places in other neighborhoods, in other cities. That said,

it is this essence of 14th Street’s character that our study

attempts to define.

The following is a list of buildings that capture the

essence of Union Square and 14th Street, and whose

precarious existence demonstrates the need for historic

preservation. The buildings on this list are “at-risk”

buildings, meaning that if all potential tools have been

exhausted, or if no effective tools present themselves,

and landmark designation is not achieved, the building is

at risk of being demolished or seriously defaced.

1. The church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, located

on West 14th Street, is at risk because it currently

sits vacant, having lost its congregation after a recent

merger of two congregations. The building is owned

by the Roman Catholic Church, which has a checkered

history of stewardship to historic buildings. Finally,

the Archdiocese of New York has been engaged in

institutional restructuring that results in the closing of

church facilities, like schools.

2. The former Schirmer’s Store, located on Union Square

West, is at risk because it is significantly underbuilt and

is flanked on the right side by another vastly underbuilt

lot occupied by a one-story “taxpayer.” The rising real

estate values on Union Square could make these two lots

attractive to a developer seeking to merge two 25-foot

lots for demolition and redevelopment.

3. The former Greenwich Savings Bank, located on the

northwest corner of 14th Street and Sixth Avenue, is

at risk because it is a one-story building located on a

prominent commercial corner near Union Square.

4. The polychrome terra cotta loft on the southeast

corner of 14th Street and Seventh Avenue is currently

suffering from lack of maintenance, and runs the risk

of having its terra cotta detailing stripped because of

Local Law 11.

5. The row of tenements at628-640 East 14th Street

are currently suffering from lack of maintenance and

structural failure, and could be demolished in the future

for redevelopment. The fact that several different parties

own groupings of tenements in the row increases the

likelihood of partial demolition.

6. 527 Sixth Avenue currently suffers from lack of

maintenance, and is also an underbuilt building located

on a prominent commercial lot.

7. The still-functioning firehouse on East 14th Street

is at risk of closure, which would lead to deterioration

and possible condemnation. In light of the New

York City Fire Department’s acknowledged policy of

abandoning nineteenth-century fire houses in favor of

modern facilities, it is a matter of particular urgency to

raise public awareness about the value of the Engine

Company Number 5.

We realize that we as preservationists cannot save every

building, nor do we think this is constructive in an

evolving city. Our Plan seeks to address the best possible

way of balancing the integrity of the historic built fabric

with the need for change.

CONCLUSION

39


CONCLUSION: IMPLEMENTATION CHART

Group

Action

Make Study

Area

research

available to

the public

Prepare

landmark

designation

forms

Integrate

public

interest,

design, and

education of

history in

the High

Line Park

Designate

identified

resources as

landmarks

Establish

not-forprofit

café

in Union

Square

Pavilion

Enact

Community

Facility

Zoning

reform

Enhance

Historical

Interpretation

of

Open

Spaces (Pier

56 and

Union Sq.

Park)

Organize

walking tour

of Study

Area

Start a

letterwriting

campaign

Educate

building

owner about

designation

issues and

benefits

East Side

Economic

Revitalization:

trash

collection,

security,

merchant

assistance

Manage

economic

development

of

Meatpacking

District

Encourage

appropriate

adaptive

reuse of

Meatpacking

District

buildings

Promote

sensitive

alterations

to buildings

through

education of

building

owners

Advocate

for

Community

Facility

Zoning

reform

Review and

guide

institutional

activity

throughout

the area

Educate

institutions

about

appropriate

adaptive

reuse of

historic

buildings

Facilitate

communicat

ion between

institutions

and the

community

Provide

building

owners with

workshops,

resources

and a

glossary for

conservation

(RESTORE)

Help

businesses

with façade

improvements,

and

building

maintenance

(RAP)

GSAPP at Columbia University

Historic Districts Council

X X X X X X

X X X

Municipal Art Society/ City

Lore/Place Matters

New York City Landmarks

Preservation Commission

New York State Historic

Preservation Office

National Resister of Historic

Places

Department of City Planning

X X X

X

X

X

X X X

X

Department of Parks and

Recreation

Department of Small Business

Services

Friends of the Highline

X

X

X

X

Friends of Terra Cotta

X X X

Friends of Cast Iron

X X X

Union Square Community

Coalition

Stuyvesant Town Tenants

Association

Union Square Partnership

X X X X X

X X X

X

X

Cipriani Group

X

East 14 th Street BID

Meatpacking District

Merchants’ Association

Cross-community board

agencies

Inter-institutional student

committee

X X X X

X X X X X X

X X X X

X X X

One-time events

Ongoing actions

Existing organization

Proposed organizations

CONCLUSION: IMPLEMENTATION CHART

40

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