170 Central Park West (New-York Historical Society)

Address: 170 Central Park West, at 77 Street
Block: 1129
Lot: 29
Landmark status: Yes


Louise Mirrer
New York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
(T) 212-873-3400


Summary of site plans and status

The building was built between 1903 and 1908, and was enlarged in 1937 by Walker and Gillette. The New-York Historical Society (NYHS) appeared before Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) on February 21, 2006 to install flag poles and banners. The application was approved with modification.

In addition, in 2007, the NYHS applied for changes to its facade. With modifications, the LPC approved the facade changes; see below.

As of 2007, LPC has issued a Status Update Letter for the work at 170 Central Park West, but as yet, no permit has been issued because the applicant has not yet submitted the requisite drawings.

Quoting from the May 10, 2007 Status Update Letter from the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission:

This letter is to inform you that at the Public Hearing of April 24, 2007, following the Public Meeting of April 17 2007, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to approve alterations to the Central Park West and West 77th Street facades at the subject premises, including the creation of new door openings and entrance steps, the installation of a new barrier-free access ramp on West 77th Street altering window openings, and the installation of glass kiosks on the sidewalk.

PLEASE NOTE: Approval for this project expires on April 24, 2013; however, no work can begin until a Certificate of Appropriateness is issued. This approval is not effective until the applicant submits two sets of the final signed and sealed drawings to be submitted to the Department of Buildings, showing the approved proposal, at which time a Certificate of Appropriateness will be issued.

The Commission approved the proposal, finding that the replacement of the entry steps on the Central Park West facade of the steps only and will affect only a minimum amount of historic fabric on the building, and will retain the overall relationship of the building to the street; that the granite steps will match the granite base of the building, and their installation will not conceal any significant architectural features of the building; that the proposed steps at both the Central Park West and West 77th Street facades are in keeping with the monumental scale of the building; that the removal of the recently constructed steps and ramp on the West 77th Street facade will not eliminate any significant historic features; that the simple design of the ramp on West 77th Street, and glass and bronze railings will be harmonious with the austere design of the building and will read as separate modern elements; that the proposed ramp will not be attached to the facade, and therefore, will not cause damage to the base of the building and could easily be removed in the future; that the proposed alterations to the window openings on the Central Park West facade to create doors will retain the height and width of the original openings thereby preserving the original proportions of the facade and removing only a minimal amount of masonry from the facade; that the new glass doors will be deeply recessed behind the facade, and therefore, will only be partially visible and will not detract from the monumental scale and materials of the building; that the historic bronze doors will be reused in the Central Park West entrance, maintaining an existing historic feature; that the new bronze doors in the new door openings will match the design and material of the historic door, maintaining a uniform design of the facade; that enlarging the first floor window openings on the West 77th Street facade will not cause the loss of any decorative architectural features; that the size of the enlarged openings and the configuration and materials of the new windows will be consistent with the existing second floor openings, and with other windows on the primary facades; that the deteriorated condition of the glass block in the 2nd floor windows of the Central Park West facade warrants its replacement; that the proposed textured glass will be a contemporary evocation of the glass block which was also an innovative window material in 1937 when the building underwent an architecturally and historically significant expansion and renovation; that relocating the two historic torches to the interior will preserve these significant features; that the location of the proposed glass kiosks on either side of the new stairs will not overwhelm the facade, obstruct portions of the facade, or diminish its architectural character; that the proposed free-standing kiosks will not cause damage to any portion of the building and be easily removed in the future; and that the proposal will not detract from the special architectural and historic character of the Individual Landmark, the Upper West Side/Central Park Historic District, or the Central Park West/West 76th Street Historic District. Based on these findings, the Commission determined the proposed work to be appropriate to the Individual Landmark and the Upper West Side/Central Park West, and the Central Park West/West 76th Street Historic Districts, and voted to approve it.

Please note that this Status Update Letter superseded the Status Update Letter issued on April 24, 2007.

Note that the above IS NOT A PERMIT.

The following is Council Member Gale A. Brewer’s proposal for the alteration of the façade of New York Historical Society, as presented to the Landmarks Preservation Commission on March 20, 2007.

As a public official I have been involved in a number of debates about the development of historic and architecturally important sites. Regarding this project I have reviewed a large volume of correspondence, listened to testimony at forums, and studied the proposal. I testify today that there is broad acknowledgment within the community that the interior of this landmark building does not adequately serve the Society’s current and future program goals, nor its vision of a new public face. But in striving to help the Society achieve its goals, we must ensure the preservation of the historic- indeed, unique- architectural face that the Society and New York turn to the world.


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