This summer I was tasked with two separate projects.  The first being to create a set of documents about appropriate paint colors for many of the historic free standing houses throughout the five boroughs of New York City for both home owners and staff.  The goal is to educate homeowners about their house and why certain colors are historic to the extent that they will be able to move through the process of getting paint colors approved by the LPC much more efficiently.  A secondary document with extended information will be provided to the staff so that they can better answer any questions that might come up regarding paint colors.  The second project is looking in ADA accessibility alterations to historic buildings to attempt to come up with a consensus of what is good, what is bad, and to help to better clarify the code requirements to staff.  With this project I am tasked with much of the ground work, hopefully creating a foundation for a much more in depth project in the future.

I began working at the LPC on June 3rd, 2013.  The first few days were spent getting introduced to everyone in the office and learning a little bit about what they do.  I had never truly realized just how far the scope of the LPC’s work extended.  On Tuesday I sat in on many of the public hearings.  I had been to several as part of classes at Columbia but gained a new insight now that I was familiar with the staff presenting the various projects to the Board.

My first task was a daunting one; I had to sort through permits from the past 2.5 decades dealing with ADA regulation/additions.  There were over 2000 permits that came up on a general search query for keywords such as “ADA Accessible,” “ramp,” “push plate” etc. and it was my job to sort through them all to see which ones were actually viable examples for our project.  It was not glamorous but I saw many buildings I had never seen before, so I suppose you could say I was exploring the city in an unconventional way!

As the focus began to shift towards the paint project, I began to pull various permit files for applications involving paint in many of the historic districts with free standing houses, making notes throughout of what represented a good application.  The goal was to break the application information for homeowners down by style instead of just year.  The current color chart in the Permit Application Guide is often confusing and vague to homeowners, causing them to rely heavily on staff.  By putting all of the relevant information into one space it is our hope to streamline the process of repainting a home in a historic district.

After finding several good examples of permit applications that were thorough, had the historically correct paint colors approved and involving a home that was representative of a style, I began to work on the graphics portion of the document.  It is my thought that by having both visual and verbal explanation of the process for choosing a paint color, homeowners, regardless of existing knowledge of architecture and color theory, will be able to understand why, for example, certain colors are not appropriate for their home.   Using a variety of existing free standing homes in the historic districts of New York City I began creating the elevations. 

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Queen Anne Style
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Craftsman Style
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Colonial Revival Style
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Italianate Style
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Tudor Revival Style
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Mediterranean Style

 

               Another great part of the internship was all the site visits!  As Charlotte previously described in an entry about tagging along with me while hunting for ADA ramps and push plates in Greenwich Village, the bulk of my site visits involved traveling to practically every historic district in Manhattan in search of the elusive ADA alteration on historic buildings.  I also traveled frequently outside of Manhattan to the outer boroughs to visit freestanding historic houses.  Of all of the historic districts in the outer boroughs I visited, Prospect Park South was my favorite, if you haven’t been, GO! I also have great things to say about St. George and St. Paul’s Historic Districts in Staten Island.  The houses are gorgeous if you’re willing to make the walk and the ferry ride over isn’t bad either!

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St Paul’s – Stepleton Heights Historic District (Staten Island)
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Prospect Park South Historic District (Brooklyn)

 

               Throughout all these long walks and subway rides hunting down cool buildings I continued my work in the office creating the paint document.  Several meetings later with various higher ups to check on my process and ideas I had a concrete plan and format and went into production mode.  The biggest task was creating the elevations.  Instead of creating an elevation of the quintessential “style” from a random place we decided to take actual buildings from New York City.  I ended up with six different styles, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Dutch Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Italianate, and Mediterranean.  As an extension to the document that would be available to the public I also created the “Staff Version” which had a list of good permits and dockets to look up for precedence for each specific style to help them work through the process better with the public

               Another great part of the internship was all the site visits!  As Charlotte previously described in an entry about tagging along with me while hunting for ADA ramps and push plates in Greenwich Village, the bulk of my site visits involved traveling to practically every historic district in Manhattan in search of the elusive ADA alteration on historic buildings.  I also traveled frequently outside of Manhattan to the outer boroughs to visit freestanding historic houses.  Of all of the historic districts in the outer boroughs I visited, Prospect Park South was my favorite, if you haven’t been, GO! I also have great things to say about St. George and St. Paul’s Historic Districts in Staten Island.  The houses are gorgeous if you’re willing to make the walk and the ferry ride over isn’t bad either!

               Throughout all these long walks and subway rides hunting down cool buildings I continued my work in the office creating the paint document.  Several meetings later with various higher ups to check on my process and ideas I had a concrete plan and format and went into production mode.  The biggest task was creating the elevations.  Instead of creating an elevation of the quintessential “style” from a random place we decided to take actual buildings from New York City.  I ended up with six different styles, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Dutch Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Italianate, and Mediterranean.  As an extension to the document that would be available to the public I also created the “Staff Version” which had a list of good permits and dockets to look up for precedence for each specific style to help them work through the process better with the public

                  One of the greatest parts about working for the City of New York in the summer is the programming they provide. I got to partake in the NYC Intern Day of Service at Rockaway Beach.  I traveled out to Rockaway Beach with about 3 buses full of eager interns to help paint murals on the road barriers that had been placed for pedestrians since the boardwalk was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.  Our task was to paint the base colors so the artist who designed the mural could then come in and paint the details.  Essentially we spent the morning painting “blue blobs,” since I was one of the few who had painting experience I was tasked with following behind my fellow teammates and cleaning up their edges to make them nice and smooth.  After painting they fed us, had a speaker, and allowed us to network by playing beach volleyball and Frisbee.  It was great fun.

The summer flew by way too quickly and I was sad to leave the LPC.  All in all it was a wonderful summer and an invaluable experience working for the Landmarks Preservation Commission.  I learned a lot more about the inner workings of the LPC and just how much work it takes to maintain and regulate so many structures that are composed of so many different elements and problems.  I also got the opportunity to explore the city I have called home for a little over a year, walking countless miles and discovering new favorite buildings and areas I would love to be able to one day live in.  I am proud to say that my paint project is actually going to be used in the Permit Application Guide, and that hopefully I have made the process a bit easier for homeowners and LPC staff alike.  The foundation has been set thanks to the database I have compiled of completed ADA alterations, leading hopefully soon to a similar document to the Paint document.  Everyone I worked with is incredibly nice and have offered their continuing help in the future should I have any questions as I continue my education and start my career.  

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