Busted Down on 14th Street…

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Despite having had a house in a landmark district for five years, the owner of 470 14th Street in Park Slope couldn’t be bothered to play by the rules when she decided to spruce up the exterior of her 1892 William Hawkins-designed townhouse earlier this year. Now, after the fact, she’s having to go back to LPC to try to get approval for the unauthorized windows and paint job. While they’re at it, they should take a look at that door. It doesn’t exactly scream “original!”
December 18, 2007 Agenda [LPC] GMAP

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  • The house to the left of this one has white replacement windows that don’t look very landmarkish either…hmmm.

    actually, i don’t mind the colors of the paint job or even the green door; but I am always amazed that homeowners choose white windows when brown or black ones look infinitely better – almost without exception.

  • I understand the purpose served by the LPC and generally support it, but its tendency to tie homeowners up in months of positively Byzantine process and paperwork is really unconscionable. I fear for the consequences to this particular homeowner (the LPC doesn’t like cheeky property owners intruding on its little fiefdom), but who, when contemplating a minor window or door replacement, hasn’t secretly thought “F the LPC, this is my property and I’ll do what I want to it!”

  • Yeah, what’s the deal with the white vinyl windows? Are they really that much cheaper that the same product in black?

  • LPC are House Nazi’s. Blow me.

    The What

    Someday this war is gonna end….

  • I used to rent an apartment on this block {before buying my house in PLG]. I remember a number of white windows which pre-date the Historic District and be grandfathered in, but there’s no excuse for doing this now. Ironically, this homeowner MIGHT have escaped LPC notice if he/she had been more discrete and used the dark colors 10:11 had suggested.

  • Whoops–and ARE grandfathered in.

  • I think it looks fine and it has been a historic district for a pretty short time. Is it listed on LPC agenda? I don’t see it.

  • The only way that the LPC (with its tiny staff) would know about this is by a neighbor (or tenant) ratting on the owner.
    The owners will never be able to get any of these changes approved, so they will probbaly just live with the violation until they sell the house perhaps by then the changes will have become historic.

  • I think the house looks very nice. I don’t think dark windows would go well with the light colored brick and the door isn’t too bad even has some stain glass in it. Ridiculous if this owner gets a violation.

  • “I think it looks fine and it has been a historic district for a pretty short time. Is it listed on LPC agenda? I don’t see it.”

    Um, pretty clearly the time is listed for around 3 pm. And this house has been in a historic district since 1973 — nearly 35 years.

  • I live in Clinton Hill and the crappy metal windows in my house were installed in 1971, before landmarking. We were applying for a landmarks grant to do facade work in 1993, when my daughter was tiny and I hadn’t gone back to work yet. Since the grants were income based, I thought it would be a good time because we were broke as hell. At the same time a neighbor decided to replace HIS windows with something as crappy as mine. Some overzealous so and so in the neighborhood – who is well known for this kind of thing but Shall Remain Nameless – reported my neighbor to landmarks, who proceeded to slap violations on every house on the block with crappy windows. It took me 4 years and countless letters from elderly block residents who remembered when Mike L. installed the crappy metal windows back in the seventies to clear the violation. Of course, you couldn’t GET a landmark grant if you had a violation.

    By the time it was cleared, on paper we had enough income that a grant was pointless. It took us another ten years to scrape up the dough to keep rocks from falling on our friends heads when they came to visit.

    So moral of your story? Keep out of your neighbor’s business.

  • The house may look nice, but the Landmarks Commission, contrary to popular belief, is not about aesthetics, it is about historical appropriateness. A light color scheme is inappropriate for this row of houses. The 1870′s through 1890′s were called the “Brown Decades” for a reason.
    The house may look very cute, but it is not going to fly with the commission, I don’t think.
    The white windows would be a terrible fit on almost any historic house.

  • ah, that’s too bad.

    it looks better than most of the “landmarked” pieces of cr*p on that block…

  • I forgot to mention (I am the post at 10:38) that I even had a letter from Georgia Pacific, by then bankrupt over asbestos in sheathing material and reformed as Louisiana Pacific, saying the windows weren’t being manufactured any more by the time Clinton Hill was landmarked and the company was under investigation and in chapter 11 by that date.

    DOH!

  • Brenda from Flatbush

    This is the kind of story that makes some of our area’s homeowners oppose landmark designation. It’s just not that bad…and having put in both expensive “correct” windows and cheap-o vinyl tilt-ins depending on our resources at the time, I can sympathise. (Ironically, the vinyls have also lasted way better than the “correct” wood-sash insulated units bought for $$$$$.) This leaves unanswered where you do draw the line, of course. Oh, and every case like this I’ve heard of involves being ratted out by a spiteful “neighbor”…

  • I gotta say, i find it amusing that brownstone brooklyn thinks that white colored window frames are for the impoverished and tasteless cretins of the globe. Do you know that there are other historical districts in America, where only white windows are allowed, and I am talking about townhouses. I think white framed windows can look pretty great on some properties, particularly a beige house like this one. It really makes the frame pop, which is not necessarily an undesirable quality. On of the problems is that most people associate white windows with cheap vinyl windows. But even vinyl windows are not necessarily bad, they are, in fact one of the most energy efficient material in terms of heat loss.

  • I don’t think LPC will have a problem with the white windows as long as they aren’t vinyl. What they will have a problem with is the style of window. In particular the parlor window with its tilt out style.

    What’s wrong with the door? Do you really expect double doors on a 15 footer?

  • When someone on the block goes through the hoops and gets their permits, they understandibly get annoyed when they see someone else just doing as they please. It is human nature. You will probably be ratted out if you change your historic house without permits. That’s the way it is. No sense bemoaning it. Just file for permits before you change windows. The process is needlessly difficult and at times infuriatingly so for approval of minor things(it is much easier to get approval for a whole new building) but that’s the way it is. Your property values are high in part because the area is protected and beautiful.

  • White windows are a no-no in Brownstone Brooklyn’s historic districts. It doesn’t matter if you personally like them or think they are cute.
    On a 1700′s house, or a 1920′s colonial revival house, cream-colored, off-white, or putty-colored windows are appropriate. Rarely white.
    On Limestone houses, dove-grey, off-white, deep green, or black windows look best.
    White windows are for split levels and McMansions. Sorry.

  • Does LPC regulate colors or materials?

    Most Landmark photos are black and white. How can LPC determine appropriate color via B&W photos?

  • To 10:19: if the LPC’s requirements are too much, then don’t buy in a landmark district. Everyone likes the LPC when it’s preventing larger-scale development in the name of preservation, but not so happy when it means that brownstone owners can’t just slap in the vinyl NuPros some Saturday afternoon.

    Aesthetically, I don’t mind the colors of this house. Whoever did it had the right idea about the low-contrast putty-like earth tones. But the LPC isn’t about aesthetics. The colors probably aren’t appropriate here.

    I write probably. Does anyone know the color of the masonry underneath the paint? The facade’s treatment doesn’t match the houses on either side. Are we looking at light-colored rusticated brick underneath the paint? 1892 would be early for that material, but not too early. Or, perhaps, was the facade rebuilt in the 1920s to remedy some already-decaying brownstone?

    The windows, however, are crap.

  • Nosey neighbors, mind your business.

  • So let me get this right. The aesthetics don’t matter because the house was probably brown a century ago. This is ridiculous, the house looks a lot better than the one on its right. It’s uplifting and done tastefully. The fact that this may not be allowed makes me question my support for LPC.

  • Question: I’ve seen a few homes in prime north Slope where the balusters/brownstone stoop railings are painted green, red, purple, and other nutty colors. Why is that allowed but then this case here is considered a travesty?

  • I think there are a few people in the LPC who need to be bitch slapped. In fact I would enjoy viewing that… I think it would be “cute.”

  • 11:16 – that is precisely my point. If the LPC confined its work to preserving the overall character of neighborhoods from tasteless new developments, then I’d be all for it. Unfortunately, it has already won most of the big battles vs. property developers, so to preserve its existence (and power) it has created an approval process that imposes huge time and financial burdens on individual homeowners for even the most trivial repair work.

  • 11:16 – “then don’t buy in a landmark district”

    What about existing homeonwers who got to the neighborhood before the yuppie stroller-pushers? And people wonder why there is such hostility to the Park Slope crowd – their aesthetic tastes have been forced down the throats of long term residents who now face a choice between 1) letting their property fall apart and 2) doing repair work under the hugely expensive constraints imposed on them by the LPC.

  • “What about existing homeonwers who got to the neighborhood before the yuppie stroller-pushers?”

    Your argument is so tired already. The only reason your property values have shot up, and why you are now house-rich, is because of these “yuppie stroller pushers.”

  • I have a hard time feeling sympathetic for anyone who has made a $1 million plus on appreciation of their house. If it is that horrible they should sell the house and buy a block away where it is not landmarked and will be significantly cheaper.

  • Most people in historic districts accept landmark regulations and try to avoid violations. That is not to say that the permit process at the Commission is all that it should be. The staff there is always changing, and they are inconsitent.
    One of the worst things is to fall in the hands of a newly-minted preservation analyst who thinks the free world hinges on your… hinges.
    Toture pure and simple, but at least I do not think they are corrupt. just slow.
    I think some reforms would be welcome. Why don’t the various community organizations get together and put pressure on the commission to be more user-friendly?
    There is strength in numbers.

  • As a long term resident of a landmarked block, I am indeed very happy with the current value of my home. Against this happy development I have to put (among other things):
    1) higher property taxes,
    2) the joys of working with the LPC every time I need to replace a window pane,
    3) the disappearance of a number of my favorite neighborhood businesses and their replacement by far more expensive bars/restaurants/shops that cater to people in income brakets far higher then mine.

    However, the only way I can realize any benefit from this increase in the value of my home is to a) sell and move or b) borrow. But I have no intention of leaving the home I’ve lived in my entire adult life and in which I raised my children, or in going further into debt.

    Now, overall I think gentrification is a good thing. My neighborhood wasn’t so nice when I first moved here. But there is only one word for people who move to a neighborhood and feel entitled to tell a long term resident what he can do with his property – ASSHOLE.

  • I know that block. Nice block.

    My guess is that the light color for the masonry is in fact original, and that townhouse is infill, perhaps built a touch later than its neighbors. Its paint scheme may well be appropriate, especially if the masonry has been painted for while.

    Designation of this area has been in effect since 1973, so I’m guessing most owners have a sense that some obligation to the city is in place for their facades. And 1973 is long before the term “yuppie” was coined, so we should look elsewhere for that blame. Jane Jacobs, maybe? Jackie Onassis?

    As for the question of original paint color for windows or doors, this can be tricky — not because tax lot photos are B&W and therefore mostly unhelpful, but because original paint colors were likely covered by another color (black, usually) in the early twentieth century. Usually a little careful scraping of some original trim can reveal a few layers of paint, sometimes the original one is underneath.

    ***

    Now, as for the old timers versus yuppie scum debate: at base, people can do anything they want to their house — LPC certainly isn’t going to have a vigil in front of your house. But if you put in historically-inappropriate materials on a historic-district house, you may receive a violation, which certainly doesn’t prevent e.g. the sale of your house (unless the buyers make it an issue). However, it can make getting a legal permit to do other work down the line problematic.

    So the choice is essentially deal with it now or let the next owners or your next-of-kin deal with later. An if one doesn’t care for the LPC, it’s good to remember its power derives from a law like any other, which can be overturned with enough reason or groundswell.

  • “But I have no intention of leaving the home I’ve lived in my entire adult life and in which I raised my children”

    I think you’re commenting to the wrong people. This is the “if you can’t afford it, then MOVE” crowd.

    sg.

  • 12:32
    I agree, this blog is all about upward mobility. Not staying in your parents’ house until they die (the European model).

  • LPC is all bark and no bite. They can fine you as much as they want. But when was the last time someone lost their house due to landmark violations.

    Furthermore, title companies don’t even look for LPC violations, so they’re not a hindrance to securing a mortgage.

    In short, F the LPC.

  • This topic/discussion gets to the very essence of why brownstone brooklyn is so unappealing. It’s socially engineered utopianism (for bourgeois aesthetic ideologues) at its worst. You should create a kangaroo court where the enforcement squad can prosecute these trumped up charges and the ‘guilty’ can then be banished to a life sentence in a condo in williamsburg. Stalin is dead. Long live Stalin.

  • Some in my neighborhood have started the process to begin consideration for landmarking. I know that a certain percentage of the community has to favor the designation and I don’t know yet if I am in favor or not. What if you are not in favor or landmarking? What are your options. As for those who purchased in an already landmarked area, they should just follow the rules.

  • So now I’m totally confused about Landmarks. If they issue a violation, what does that mean? Posters here make it sound like you can just ignore it, more or less. But it took 10:38 FOUR YEARS?? to clear the violation. What a nightmare. What’s the right thing to do, especially if the changes that earned the violation were done decades before you owned the place?

  • Honestly, I think landmarks is often more than needed. The positive side of landmarks designation could be gained with a far less restrictive method in which a block is protected from major changes and any development must go through additional scrutiny, but homeowners avoid major scrutiny for renovations like the one here.

    A fedders building is a lot worse than white windows.

  • think it was dumb for these people to make the changes in violation of landmarks, however, it does look pretty good to me, and not out of place, so too bad I guess.

  • I am still on the fence as far as landmarking is concerned. I am not in a landmarked district but most people in my neighborhood do take care to preserve the historic exteriors of their homes. We do have people on every block that insist on making their Victorian style home into a Bensonhurst mortar monstrocities complete with cement ballustrades and lions heads on end posts. There has to be a way to preserve a neighborhoods integrity without the restrictive convenants of the LPC. Perhaps it is time to make the LPC rules more lenient. This way unless someone decides to do something way out of character for their area, the average homeowner won’t be tied up in red tape to make simple changes, like a change in windows.

  • For every person that says Landmarks should be more lenient there are two or three who say it is too lenient and is compromising our heritage.
    If you are new to this you should know that there are no thank-yous in landmarks land. Everything is fraught, everything is an issue. Nonetheless neighborhoods are clamoring to be designated so it must say something positive for the net effect of landmarking.

  • This is a bit off topic, but not really. There is a house in Park Slope between 7th and 8th, I think it’s on Carroll (maybe President) and it is painted hot pink/purple. It’s awful but also kind of makes me smile. I mean, I’m assuming it’s a landmarked block and the only thing I can imagine is that the owners hated their yuppy neighbors and decided to piss them off. No one could actually pick that color based on their own taste. I would love to know the story and how they are getting away with it. Does anyone know anything about that house?

  • The pink house is a famous case. The little old man who lives there loves the color because his now deceased wife picked it out many years before landmarking. The Commission let him repaint because it is a grandfathered color. Of course this set all the neighbors up in arms because they claim it was not the same color it was brighter -duh, it was freshly applied- Funny how the commission is never strict enough with other people. Anyway, the old guy did not receive a violation and the neighbors made themselves look like jerks.

  • Now that pink house is fugly.

  • I hate to make it a case of old timers versus newcomers but that is basically how the lines are drawn when it comes to those in favor of landmarking and those opposed. Neighborhoods where the old timers still outnumber the newcomers will probably not get the signatures necessary to even start the process until the rest of the old timers sell or die. As previous posters have stated there are middle of the road compromises that can be made if LPC laws are changed. If the regulations were not so restrictive it, would make it easier for those who are “clamoring” for the designation to get the support from a broader cross section of their community. I also have a feeling that more people in favor show up at meetings affecting whether the neighbor is ultimately landmarked than those against.

  • “While they’re at it, they should take a look at that door. It doesn’t exactly scream “original!”"

    the tone here is pretty irritating.

    seriously, where do “normal” people buy a new door when they need one? people who can’t afford to spend $5000 on an original looking wooden door?

  • “I also have a feeling that more people in favor show up at meetings affecting whether the neighbor is ultimately landmarked than those against. ”

    that’s because the people who actually have lives don’t care enough about what other people do with their private property.

  • TACKY!!
    was that originally a brownstone or a brick? Either way it’s a terrible renovation.

    when you buy a house in a landmarked area, you don’t own your house, landmarks does!! You don’t tell them what you want to do with the facade, they tell you what to do with it.

  • 3:27, that’s not exactly true in the case of the new Crown Heights North landmarked district, where 90% of the homeowners could be classified at “oldtimers”. As a community, we decided that the benefits of landmarking vastly outweigh the negatives. Granted, there are those who disagree, but not as many as there are those who want the neighborhood to maintain its historic and architectural charm. Not all of the oldtimers are clueless to the intrinsic value of the community.

    I will agree there is a fine line between this case and someone who decides to brickface and stucco their limestone, and add a pair of lions to the staircase. And the correct windows are horribly expensive. I’m not looking forward to the day I replace mine.

  • White windowframes reflects sunlight into the house – as opposed to absorbing sunlight like dark facades and dark windowframes do. Everyone complains about how dark brownstones are, then rejects any ideas that help bring more light into an interior. Dark windowframes are just too goth for us. We have white windowframes on our limestone house. We didn’t choose them, the seller did, but we like them, our rooms are absolutely brightly sunfilled, so that’s that on the issues as far as we’re concerned. I would not want brown or black windowframes in my interior. We had them in our brownstone coop and they were gross. Hard to do a modern interior with them.

  • Think of the landmarks commission as a strict fifth grade teacher who has heard every excuse in the book a thousand times.
    You don’t have to like her, but YOU MUST OBEY.

  • Not enough Slope Bashing on this thread. Disappointing.

  • how come its okay for the building next door to have white frames? the windows look very similar.

    as for the landmarks comment by slick at 1:58, all i can say is: ????????

    what scrutiny do you propose? landmarks does not care if you are ‘helping the neighborhood,’ or if your house is ‘super pretty.’ they care that the details and proportions of repairs and developments are architecturally appropriate to the ‘landmarked condition.’

    if you are proposing a subjective scrutiny only for owners/developers who bought recently, that sounds illegal. its not really grandfathering building conditions: its grandfathering PEOPLE. (weird weird weird). and what criteria other than historical appropriateness would you propose? i really don’t think any one person can say that a new development is definitively attractive or non-attractive.

    well, maybe they can in russia in 1958.

  • LPC does serve a purpose, irrespective of what class the people now moving into landmarked neighborhoods are. At the time LPC started designating these areas, NYC was in bad shape, and many areas were not stable, and no I’m not referring to wealthy as stable, simply stating a fact that one who was here in the early 70′s will recall.

    That said, LPC doesn’t always get it right, and can be troublesome. Several houses on my block, including mine, were flagged for having bronze aluminum replacement windows, after having had them for almost twenty years. They were all put in by people who didn’t know any better, well before LPC policy well known to many people in the areas designated.

    In any case, they insisted that a couple of houses on the block had a certain color cornice, and insisted that if the owners were planning to paint the cornice that they use that color. In actual fact, both owners had grown up in the houses and their families had been there since the 1930′s, and they insisted that the color LPC had in mind was never on the cornice. They were too intimidated to put up much of a fight, and used the proscribed color. On one of my trips to the Municipal Archive to research my own house, I looked up the two houses in question, and while the 1939 tax pictures that are used by LPC for reference were of course black and white, the cornices of the two houses was clearly the middle grey the owners remembered, and not the pale creamy yellow LPC instructed them to use.

    In our case, LPC initially said that when we removed the aluminum capping around the windows and repainted the wood brick mould that it would have to be a light color, based on their research of nearby blocks. However, the 1939 photo clearly showed that the window moldings were black, and the various people living on the street back to the late 1920′s remembered them as being black. We negotiated the issue based on the facts, and agreed on a dark bronze color that comes close to the original effect.

    Despite the time and cost of the restoration, overall I would say that it certainly hasn’t hurt the look and feel of the house and the block. There is no perfect right answer, and everything about city living is a negotiation….

  • 1:38 Condolences. My neighborhood Landmarking is really a trojan horse for down zoning. There are Fedders buildings all over the place, nearly all home depot replacement windows, little of the working class housing architectural that was here 30 years ago. The neighbors, old and young, want to freeze time at an idealized historical period no one really wants to name.

  • I think that people who live on landmarked blocks should not be allowed to wear tighty whiteys, only darker shades.

  • 4:43, “We have white windowframes on our limestone house. We didn’t choose them, the seller did, but we like them, our rooms are absolutely brightly sunfilled, so that’s that on the issues as far as we’re concerned. I would not want brown or black windowframes in my interior.”

    Nobody is disputing white window frames on a limestone – light stone, light frames. On a brownstone though, white windows are tacky.

    One last thing, brown exterior frames doesn’t mean brown interior ones. I replaced my windows two years ago on my brownstone. They are dark brown on the outside and white on the inside.

  • I link the pink house. We need more of them. Many, many more. Breaks up the monotony.

  • I used to live in the building next to the pink house, and while I didn’t hate it, I would never do that to a brownstone.

    When they repainted, they definitely used a completely different color – it isn’t just the old color in a not-yet-faded version. It is much more offensive than the old pink color, and now it really is an eyesore.