The third time was the charm for one Queens mixed-use development. On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a plan to add four stories of residential space to the single-story commercial building at 35-64 85th Street. That’s in the Jackson Heights Historic District.
Also known as 84-11 37th Avenue, the existing Moderne-style building was designed by Boris Dorfman and built between 1945 and 1946. It fell under the LPC’s jurisdiction when the historic district was designated in 1993.
Now, the plan is for four stories of residential space above a health care facility and additional commercial space, plus parking. Dubbed Kelly’s Manor, the developer was listed as Kelly’s Properties when plans were filed with the Department of Buildings in 2012. The design comes from Maspeth-based Angelo Ng and Anthony Ng’s Architects Studio P.C.
The expansion plan first went before the LPC on August 11, 2015. A deliberate decision was made to set back the addition from the original building. The setbacks, however, were not uniform on both facades. So, the design was reworked, with uniform setbacks among other tweaks, and presented to the commissioners on August 2, 2016. Still, it didn’t meet with their approval. The chief problem was that it looked to commercial. One commissioner described it as “too cold.”
That lead to today, and round three for the team. The presentation was made by Architects Studio’s Charles Knight. The horizontality of the addition has now been broken up by sunken balconies per floor and the corner now has windows that are three bays wide instead of four. There is also a raised section of parapet at the top center of each façade of the addition, and the first floor trim has been darkened.
Commissioner Diana Chapin, who represents Queens on the commission, said a big concern was not creating a precedent, though she conceded the existing building is an “unusual” one. “A lot of progress” had been made on the design, she said, leading to a more residential and less commercial look. She also liked the proposed landscaping and the uniform setbacks. She did suggest using more brick detailing instead of banding to better break up the horizontality of the addition, and said she’d like more definition of the residential entrance.
Commissioner Frederick Bland said the balconies create a necessary verticality, though the corner windows now seem “stranded” in the spandrel. Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron actually suggested making the corner windows look more like balconies. Commissioner Jeanne Lutfy said the “project has come a long way” and “looks pretty good. LPC Chair Meeenakshi Srinivasan was also pretty happy with the progress that had been made, and said the balconies are “fairly innocuous.”
New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm submitted written remarks on the updated proposal. He said the balconies were inappropriate, there should be a step up on the first floor parapet’s 85th Street side (like on the 37th Avenue side), the windows should be double-hung, the first floor windows are too tall, and the greenery atop the first floor should be removed.
In the end the commissioners approved the proposal, unanimously, with three modifications. The applicant will work with LPC staff to ensure the balconies don’t read as projections, increase the articulation of the residential entrance, and refine and articulate the design of the corner.