Posts tagged with "28 Liberty":
An ongoing fight over a storied Manhattan landmark proves that indeed, size does matter.
Fosun International, the Shanghai-based owner of lower Manhattan’s 28 Liberty Street (formerly One Chase Manhattan Plaza), has commissioned Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to revamp its own classic, 1960s International Style building and 2.5-acre plaza. Among its planned changes to the site, Fosun received Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) approval to build three glass pavilions on the landmarked plaza to serve as entrances to below-ground retail.
Although the commission approved the scheme, implementing changes at 28 Liberty requires an additional—and contentious—next step.
Fosun is seeking a modification of 28 Liberty’s deed restriction that would allow the pavilions to rise 11 to 17 feet above the highest points of the plaza, heights that far exceed the deed restriction’s stipulation that structures on the plaza shouldn’t be more than six feet tall.
SOM is updating the tower’s office space and plaza by reintroducing original details lost in prior renovations while transforming approximately 290,000 square feet of basement space into retail.
The developers maintain that the glass pavilions are a key part of the renovations. Fosun argues that the three pavilions will improve handicap accessibility to the stepped plaza as well as protect shoppers entering and exiting the retail spaces from inclement weather. The pavilions, along with glass storefronts along Liberty and William streets, are intended to activate street frontage and encourage more fluidity between indoor and outdoor, below-grade and street-level spaces of the plaza, and sidewalk and tower.
Although some later modifications imitate original conditions, all of the plaza’s elements are non-original aside from the Isamu Noguchi sunken garden. (The black-and-white Jean Dubuffet sculpture, installed 1971, was not included in the landmark designation.) The space is not a privately owned public space (POPS), but remains open to the public nonetheless.
Not all New Yorkers are thrilled with the changes. Some members of Community Board 1 (CB1), one of the city’s 59 local representative bodies, say the design and the deed restriction, although technically unrelated, cannot be considered independently from each other. They point to the scale of the pavilions as proof: According to plans filed with the Department of Buildings, the three proposed pavilions include a 17-foot-tall, 46-foot-long, 1,473-square-foot structure at the corner of Nassau and Liberty streets; another 16-foot-tall, 43-foot-long, 1,132-square-foot structure facing Pine Street; and a third 11-foot-tall, 18-foot-long, and 418-square-foot structure at Cedar Street.
The cubes’ sizes are not the only points of contention. Some residents think the architects’ renderings suggest the cubes are being rendered too transparently (a common offense in renderings), and that the built structures will impede sightlines on to the plaza, especially to the Dubuffet and Noguchi pieces.
“Depending on light and structural angles, a glass cube can be quite reflective. At most angles, glass cubes are pretty transparent, but they are not like a window, they’re totally going to interrupt the view,” said Michael Ludvik, glass engineer and founding principal of M. Ludvik Engineering.
SOM’s glass pavilions have been compared to the Apple Cube, which is not entirely accurate, Ludvik said. The Apple Cube is not made of anti-reflective glass, so when viewed from an angle, it can look almost opaque. To make the proposed pavilions as transparent as possible, he suggested using the thinnest and clearest glass available, along with appropriate fins, to minimize impact on clarity.
SOM could not be reached for comment on the glass choice, but a spokesperson for the developer explained that it is not far enough along in the process to have made a materials choice.
Alice Blank, an architect and resident who also serves on CB1’s board, asked why the design can’t be done differently, without the large pavilions that trigger the deed restriction modification: “I need to know, have all alternatives been considered before pavilions were added on top of the plaza? I need to know why the existing street-level entrances to the underground cannot be adapted.”
In July, a spokesperson for the developer issued a statement on the deed restriction modification to assuage concerns about the modification: “CB1 is voting on a MINOR MODIFICATION which would ONLY PERMIT THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE GLASS PAVILLIONS [sic] AS APPROVED BY THE LANDMARKS AND PRESERVATION COMMISSION [sic], AND NO OTHER CHANGES. THERE IS NO CREATION OF ADDITIONAL RETAIL SPACE, AND NO CHANGE OF USE.”
Blank questioned the impact of the changes and the legacy they could set. “Development is important, but [a] violation of commitments to preserve open space for the public in perpetuity ought to be reviewed with extraordinary care in light of the compromise of the public interest. What would be next—Seagram, Lever House?”
Blank’s concerns mirror public outcry over the recent Rivington House scandal, in which the city lifted a deed restriction that mandated the property be used as a healthcare nonprofit, a move that allowed the owner to profit handsomely from the sale of the property. In response, Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a series of reforms to the deed modification process that could impact the dealings at 28 Liberty in the near future. Faulting “a process that has failed to protect and preserve significant community assets, like Rivington House,” councilmember Margaret Chin, whose district includes 28 Liberty, along with Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer, favor a process that would make deed restriction changes subject to a rigorous public land use review.
Judgment day for the plaza is near if the city can agree on how, exactly, to process deed change requests. Right now, the mayor’s office is forging ahead with rules for the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) that would provide clear guidelines for changes to deeds.In parallel to the mayor’s office, sources tell AN the city council could vote soon on legislation that would create a more rigorous public review than the mayor’s rules. Although the board’s decision is purely advisory, in October CB1 voted in favor of council-led deed change reform.
“The sheer existence of such a restriction reveals the great foresight and care which went into the planning of this architecture to prevent it from being marred from future, insensitive fads, most relevantly the corporate ‘Apple Cube.’ More broadly, the proliferation of recent deed changes which disadvantage the public to serve private entities is deplorable. Any changes should be weighed in the context of the long term: Is it wise to permanently alter an individual landmark for the current owner? Do these proposed spaces hold any longitudinal, classical value?"Both the HDC's and Blank’s concerns mirror public outcry over the recent Rivington House scandal, in which the city lifted a deed restriction that mandated the property be managed as a healthcare nonprofit, a move that allowed the owner to profit handsomely from the sale of the property. In response, Mayor de Blasio has announced a series of reforms to the deed modification process that could impact the dealings at 28 Liberty in the near future. Faulting "a process that has failed to protect and preserve significant community assets, like Rivington House," Councilmember Margaret Chin, whose district includes 28 Liberty, along with speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Councilmember Ben Kallos, and Manhattan borough president Gale Brewer, favor a process that would make deed restriction changes subject to a ULURP. Although Fosun is not seeking to lift the deed restrictions, it has paid James Capalino, the same lobbyist involved in the Rivington House deal, $120,000 since January 2015 to push the city's Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) for deed modifications at 28 Liberty, DNAinfo reports. Judgment day for the plaza is near. The board is voting tomorrow on the modification of the deed restriction it tabled in July, thus confirming the fate of the design and the deed restriction. Although the board's decision is purely advisory, a vote to modify could give Fosun leverage in future discussions with DCAS to modify the deed restriction.
CB1 vote to modify deed restrictions on SOM's 28 Liberty Plaza today could pave way for SOM-led redesign
The addition of the entry pavilions will change the integrity of the original design of this celebrated plaza; they will compromise three of the neighborhood’s important view corridors; they will act as beacons of commerce day and night and will significantly increase pedestrian foot traffic in the area. These are major changes with major consequences for the community.Blank, who is a CB1 member but does not represent the board in her advocacy around this issue, went on to condemn the renderings as misleading. "The structures have been rendered so diaphanously as to risk leaving the misleading impression that the addition of 3 large structures on top of this classic modernist plaza, will have little visual impact or aesthetic consequence." The changes will enhance the plaza and bring key elements back to their original condition, countered SOM associate director Frank Mahan. "No one has a greater vested interest in doing right by this building than SOM. It's important to be good stewards of classic work." Mahan called the cubes in question "minimal and transparent," noting that they "will impact the existing architecture in a minimal and appropriate manner." Adaptively reusing the basement enables restorative measures like reinstating the parapet that once encircled the plaza, cleaning and restoring the Noguchi sculpture on-site, and eliminating non-original air intakes on the plaza's north side, he explained. Modifying the site's deed restriction clears the way for the proposed development. When reached for comment, Blank noted that if the deed is modified the return on investment for Fosun is high, and the public should have additional opportunities to weigh in on whether these changes offer an equitable exchange. For those wishing to weigh in tonight, CB1's meeting begins at 6PM in the DC37 - Auditorium at 125 Barclay Street.