Wednesday, August 27, 2008

'Historic District' is closed to the public

By Candice M. Giove

Riverdale Review, 08/28/2008

The Landmarks Preservation Commission will present a new draft of the Fieldston Master Plan to the public.

Community Board #8's Land Use Committee will view the plan at a meeting on Thursday, September 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Riverdale Jewish Center, 3700 Independence Avenue. The Commission will also present the plan to the public on September 23 at 9:30 a.m. at the Municipal Building at 1 Center Street. Comments can be mailed to the LPC.

The Commission presented its first draft to the Board in June 2007, though many felt that the document needed tweaking. A copy of the new draft is available on the agency's website.

The agency developed the Master Plan while gaining insight from applicants who have gone through the approval process. The rules are a supplement to the commission's existing rules, which were created at a time when most city landmarks were brownstones or row houses.

According to the Commission, these rules directly apply to the freestanding homes in the district, where buildings styled in colonial revival, craftsman, medieval revival, Tudor revival, Mediterranean revival and mid-20th-century-modern, sit along winding roads with varying topography. Of the 257 homes in the district, the 13 percent that are noncontributing buildings, or "no-style" homes, as they are widely called, will have a little more wiggle room.

The Master Plan is meant to streamline applications, allowing residents performing minor work to do so without a full hearing.

The drafted rules address particulars for building alterations, window alterations, heating, ventilation and air conditioning installation, shutter and door replacements and landscape improvements. If an applicant fits into the parameters set forth in those rules, approval can be given at the staff level.

At the June 2007 presentation, attendees took issue with some of the regulations, like one rule that governed deck material and one that governed fence height.

Residents expressed concerns about dealing with the Commission and the Department of City Planning, because their homes are both historic and in a special natural area.

Board members pointed out in 2007 that the Fieldston Master Plan rejects curved driveways, while the Department of City Planning, which created the Special Natural Area District regulations, prefers them.

Also at the 2007 meeting Marc Odrich, president of the Fieldston Property Owners' Association, took issue with some of the language used in the plan. Instead of calling the roads private streets, the agency referred to them as "public thorough-fares."

The new draft now refers to Fieldston streets as "commonly accessible thoroughfares."

Fieldston has private streets and each year puts its right to close them off on show. This past Friday evening through Saturday evening the entrances and egresses were shut off to the public. Temporary metal fences were placed around the private community.

At the majority of the gates there was no supervision, which could present a danger in the event of an emergency. At one of the two entrances found guarded by the Riverdale Review—the northern Fieldston Road entrance—a guard attempted to bar photography.