Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Riverside Park comfort station fated to novice design

As reported by Cristiana P.

Apparently, park "wins" don't come in pairs.

Less than a week after LW! celebrated the community's triumph in successfully pushing back a proposal by the Dept. of Parks and Recreation (DPR) to install bubbles over existing tennis courts in Central Park, our Certificate of Appropriateness (C of A) design review committee testified at the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) on proposed changes to a historic Robert Moses-era building in Riverside Park.  Though our C of A Committee felt strongly that the application did not rise to the standard of design befitting a historic building in a landmarked park and urged the LPC to deny the application, the LPC did ultimately approve it unanimously. 

At Public Hearing of the LPC yesterday, the DPR presented their design for modifications to
the 102nd Street comfort station, located in Riverside Park, a Scenic Landmark.  This joint project with architecture students from Parsons School of Design proposes (1) metal-and-glass infill and (2) the construction of a barrier free access ramp.  Public testimony was presented by the Historic Districts Council and LANDMARK WEST!, both in opposition to the application as presented.  In their testimonies, both groups outlined numerous elements of the design that raised red flags, and provided various suggestions on how the proposal might be improved through further experimentation and exploration.  Manhattan Community Board 7 approved of the design.

In response to public testimony, the DPR stated that the 1930s terra-cotta jalousies (window tiles) were off the proverbial table, as reproducing or reintroducing them in any way, the DPR felt, would unnecessarily historicize the building.  

Which brings us to the six Commissioners in attendance and their comments.  One Commissioner-architect declared the 1937, Clinton Lloyd-designed comfort station to be "Moses at his best," and as such, the LPC must "get this right" in regards to the proposed design.  In their collective opinion, the DPR/Parsons design did just that.  The Commissioners expressed minor concerns for the proposed metal infill framing system (aluminum), the physical arrangement of the access ramp, and the terra-cotta jalousies.  Yet, unfortunately, all six Commissioners present approved of the design, with the footnote that the metal infill framing would be minimally tweaked at staff-level in response to concern for their role in the overall infill design.

Top: Proposed metal-and-glass infill design.  Bottom: Proposed design when covered by open-weave metal rolldown security gate.  As presented at LPC Public Review on April 30, 2010.

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