Historic District Committee Park Slope Civic Council P.O. Box 172

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Historic District Committee
Park Slope Civic Council
P.O. Box 172
123 Seventh Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11215
July 30, 2015
Hon. Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chair
NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor
New York, New York 10007
Re: 187-191 Prospect Park West, aka 496 – 498 14th Street, and 192-194 Prospect Park West
Dear Ms. Srinivasan:
I am submitting this letter with regard to the design of the Pavilion Theater and the adjacent new
building at the above-referenced locations.
While the plans advanced by Hidrock Properties will maintain a historical use by retaining the movie
screens in the base of the building, I have serious concerns regarding the design of the new building that
will face Bartel Pritchard Square and of the rooftop addition to the theater building.
When the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Park Slope Historic District Extension in
April 2012, the commission pointedly characterized the west side of the square as an important entry
portal into the neighborhood. For that reason, any new construction on the site of the non-contributing
one-story building, formerly the Circles restaurant, should complement the existing context of the
square. Unfortunately, the Morris Adjmi Architects’ design is not a sensitive addition to the square and
would significantly detract from its role as a formal gateway into the Park Slope Historic District
Extension.
At the Community Board 6’s Landmarks and Land Use Committee hearing on July 23rd, the development
team described the new building as being contextual with other limestone buildings in the Park Slope
Historic District. However, the building site bears no contextual relation to its Bartel Pritchard Square
location, which should be the proper context for the design of the new building.
The existing three residential buildings on Bartel Pritchard Square form a cohesive ensemble, which was
recognized by the LPC in their inclusion in the extension of the historic district. They have a uniform
height, a pronounced cornice at the same elevation, facades with a warm brick color, horizontal accent
courses throughout their façades that tie them together and accentuate the curved street walls, bases
with well defined ground floors, and windows that are “punched” into extensive masonry facades.
By contrast, the proposed new building is taller than these three buildings and its design would be more
appropriate to a Soho setting than to the square. It has no horizontal accent courses and its oversized
windows relegate its masonry façade to thin vertical and horizontal elements. Further, the belt line that
meets the cornice line of the existing buildings is no match to their pronounced cornices and is the only
horizontal feature of the building. The top of the new building is not accentuated in either form or color
to establish a defined cornice.
The ground floor windows on the new building create large voids and do not harmonize well with the
richly textured bases of the existing residential buildings. Its ground floor is more suited to a
contemporary commercial building than to making a visual contribution to the square as a formal entry
to the neighborhood. This objective would be better served by more strongly defining the base and
reducing the size of the ground floor windows.
Finally, the fifth story is out-of-context with the adjacent buildings and should be eliminated altogether.
This change would enable the Pavilion Theater to be more visually prominent rather than being
overshadowed by the new building from the perspective of the square.
I would also urge the Commission to carefully consider two features of the theater building. The
marquee is a signature feature of the building, and as such, should be historically sensitive to the
building’s original marquee. In addition, the penthouse addition to the theater deserves to be properly
studied along with site lines and potential materials in order to create a stronger relationship with the
“cohesive ensemble” of the square and to be more appropriately related to the Pavilion structure
without detracting from either.
I appreciate the opportunity to share my concerns with the Commission to achieve a design that is more
appropriate to the existing buildings on Bartel Pritchard Square in form, height, and materials.
Sincerely,
Peter L. Bray
Chair, Historic District Committee
Park Slope Civic Council
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