Helpern Architects

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Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer has re-appointed David Helpern to continue his work on Manhattan’s Community Board 8, which serves the Upper East Side [pictured above, with Gracie Mansion, the Mayor’s residence, in the park to the east/bottom right].

This is David’s Fifth term, once again sponsored by NYC Councilman Ben Kallos. There were more than twice as many applications this round as there were seats.

David co-chairs the CB8 Landmarks Committee and is by fiat on the full community board. He explains that “community boards are the first step on the way to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission’s approval or denial of a proposed change to a building that either is a designated Landmark or falls within a Historic District.” [Next steps are the Landmarks Preservation Commission and, in case of an appeal, the Board of Standards & Appeals.]

Projects that come before David’s committee range from windows and awnings to major façade alterations and building enlargements. “The Upper East Side has a fair share of the city’s significant landmarked buildings,” David explains. “For instance, we have reviewed proposals to expand The Frick Collection [A: Maybe], vertically add to the Parke-Bernet Galleries Building [A: Not], and convert a garage into a new synagogue and congregational facilities for the Persian Jewish Center [A: Yes].”

Community board members are by definition deeply informed and committed to improving their neighborhood, but few have professional or elected-official experience. In fact, appointment of licensed architects is still rare across the city, though that constituency is rising. As David points out, “It’s important to have design professionals on a community board not just to assess what’s shown us in a presentation … but also to spot and ask about what’s missing, at times intentionally, which can happen when the stakes are high.”