Posts tagged with "LPC":

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Chrysler Building public observation deck gets the go-ahead

Although observation decks remain shuttered across New York City (the newest and most dizzying in town was effectively shut down the day after it opened due to the coronavirus outbreak), the thirst for vertiginous ticketed attractions in the Big Apple hasn’t subsided. And RFR Realty, new-ish owner of the city’s 1,046-foot Art Deco landmark, the Chrysler Building, is happy to oblige. Earlier this week at a virtual public hearing, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission signed off on plans to build-out a glass panel-enclosed public observation deck on the terraces of the skyscraper’s 61st floor near its iconic silver eagles. Gensler was tapped by RFR to design the space. And to be clear, this won’t be the first observation deck at the Chrysler Building, which turns 90 later this month. The 71st floor was once home to an observation deck dubbed the Celestial that was in operation for 15 years until closing in 1945 per the New York Post. RFR honcho Aby Rosen has also expressed interest in reviving the Cloud Club. This legendary, long-running lunch club famous for its Dover sole, bread-and-butter pudding, and decidedly eclectic decor catered to big spenders on the 66th through 68th floors up until 1979. In addition to throwback sky-high clubs, Rosen wants to bring other retail and dining venues to the building as well. “I see the building as a Sleeping Beauty: It needs to be woken up and revitalized,” Rosen told the Post last year after purchasing the for-sale building, once the tallest in the world for a hot minute in 1930/1931, for $150 million. A timeline for the new observation deck has not been revealed.
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Last piece of Brooklyn Bridge Park approved by Landmarks Preservation Commission

At a virtual public hearing on Tuesday, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a small but consequential section of Brooklyn Bridge Park that will be located directly at the foot of the 137-year-old landmarked bridge’s eastern tower; the eponymous Brooklyn Bridge Plaza. The new section, which will take the form of a spacious two-acre pedestrian plaza, replaces a long fenced-off vacant lot that has long served as an awkward barrier between the park’s DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights sections. When the project is complete, park users will no longer be forced to essentially veer out of the park and onto the congested sidewalks lining Water Street in order to circumvent the fenced-off lot and reach one section of the park from the other. The plaza is also located near Fulton Ferry Landing and Pier 1, where the first section of the park opened in 2010. This final piece of the 85-acre puzzle that is Brooklyn Bridge Park comes with a price tag of $8 million. As the Brooklyn Bridge Park website states, the “grand civic space” will include elements that stay true to the park’s “overall design vocabulary” and could potentially be home to festivals, seasonal markets, and a variety of programming. Like the rest of the park the design of Brooklyn Bridge Plaza is spearheaded by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates. Plans call for the plaza to be flanked by plenty of greenery and seating and lined with concrete pavers that “mimic the span of the Brooklyn Bridge” per Brownstoner. The vacant lot in question was once home to the Purchase Building, a 1936 Art Deco storehouse that was demolished to some controversy in 2008 with plans to eventually redevelop the site as part of the park. Brownstoner also noted that lintel salvaged from the building will be incorporated into the design of the plaza. Construction work at the site is slated to begin this fall and wrap up late next year. Elsewhere in Brooklyn Bridge Park, a new and improved Squibb Park Bridge designed by Arup reopened earlier this month after its structurally precarious, semi-nauseating predecessor was dismantled in October 2019 after only six years—most of them spent closed for costly repairs—in existence. The new $6.5 million steel footbridge closely resembles the first ill-fated Squibb Park Bridge but with less terrifying bounce, and will once again provide a much-needed link between the Pier 1 section of the park and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. However, practicing social distancing won’t exactly be a walk in the park for users of the new bridge. Work on another yet-to-be-completed section of Brooklyn Bridge Park near its southern end, the Pier 2 Uplands, is expected to be completed this summer.
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A schoolyard fence proposal for Greenwich Village raises questions about creeping privatization

To screen or not to screen?

That was the question before New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) on April 28, when panel members reviewed a seemingly innocuous proposal to permanently alter a chain-link fence surrounding a schoolyard in Greenwich Village.

Their review turned into a larger, Jane Jacobsean-discussion about urban playgrounds in general and how a property owner’s push for privacy could end up taking life and vitality off city streets. It raised important questions about the creeping privatization of open spaces in the public realm while also, perhaps ironically, pointing out the difficulty of holding public hearings on Zoom.

The panel was asked to allow the property owner, the Church of St. Luke in the Fields and St. Luke’s School at 487 Hudson Street in the West Village, to cover an existing chain link fence with a faux-ivy vinyl screen that would block views of children playing in a schoolyard.

The commission last year gave St. Luke’s a temporary permit to put up the screen, and now the church and school want to make it permanent.  Besides blocking views into the schoolyard, the screen blocks views toward the campus of St. Luke’s, which includes a church dating back to 1821, a rowhouse dating from 1825, and a school built in 1955. Preservation commission approval is required because the property is in the Greenwich Village Historic District.

The request to “alter a fence,” though it appeared to be a minor item on the commissions’ agenda, triggered a lengthy debate over the need for and wisdom of screening playgrounds that traditionally have been open to view, and if so, how best to do so. The commissioners said they were troubled both by the ivy-themed graphic and the very idea of screening the schoolyard.

“I was not aware of this situation and I’m finding myself to be kind of appalled by it,” said vice chairman Frederick Bland, whose remarks set the tone for the discussion. “Not the design per se, although I’m not a fan of the ivy necessarily. But the whole idea of visual privacy of playgrounds. Is this something that’s occurring all over the city?“

Bland, the managing partner of Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners, said his office used to be near the schoolyard of Grace Church on Broadway, “which was lovely and open, and it was wonderful at noontime to see all the kids out playing. I just don’t understand why we’re doing this and, if so, is this a precedent that then everybody’s going to hide and protect their kids playing in playgrounds? I can’t imagine a city like this.”

“My heart is just leaping forward and saying this is a terrible precedent,” he concluded.

Chain link fencing is a very common material for New York City school playgrounds, but “it’s always open and it always allows people to see” in, said commissioner Michael Goldblum. “That’s part of the street life of New York City. It’s part of the street life of Greenwich Village…Seeing that activity is part of the life of the street. So I would not think that any kind of material that blocked that would be appropriate.”

Other commissioners objected to the ivy pattern on the screen.

“The graphic is so dominant. It’s so powerful,” said commissioner Everardo Jefferson.  “Maybe there’s a graphic pattern that’s softer, not so dominant.”

 “They should just grow English ivy on it and have the real thing,” suggested commissioner John Gustafsson. “This is just awful.”

St. Luke’s operates a coed Episcopal day school for grades JK (Junior Kindergarten) to 8, divided into a lower school and an upper school. The chain-link fence in question is roughly nine feet high and stretches for a block along Christopher Street, between Hudson and Greenwich streets.  On the school’s side of the fence is a playground with a half-basketball court in the middle.

Commissioners were told the chain link fence has been in place for years and is “grandfathered in,” meaning it’s allowed to stay and not up for discussion. Last year, commission staffers say. St. Luke’s sought and received a temporary permit to make one 40-foot-long section of the fence three feet higher, with the expectation that a higher fence would help prevent errant basketballs from ending up in the street.

Besides asking to increase the fence’s height in the section corresponding to the basketball court, St. Luke’s last year asked for and received temporary permission to cover the entire length of the fence with a vinyl screen that would block views into the schoolyard from Christopher Street. By the fall of 2019, the faux ivy screen was in place. At this meeting, the property owners were seeking a “certificate of appropriateness” that would make permanent modifications that started out being temporary.

No one from St. Luke’s spoke at the hearing. Instead, St. Luke’s was represented by its design consultant, Signe Nielsen of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects. No one from the general public asked to testify about the St. Luke’s item but Manhattan Community Board 2, an advisory group that had reviewed the proposal, sent a resolution recommending denial of the application.

To complicate matters, the April 28 meeting was a virtual hearing held via Zoom. It was just the second time the commission has had a virtual public hearing while its offices and hearing room at 1 Centre Street have been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nielsen had already submitted the drawings and photos required to support her application. But when it came time for her to begin her presentation to the commissioners, she had trouble with her computer connection and was unable to communicate with them in any intelligible way.

After many Hellos, Director of Preservation Cory Herrala asked staff preservationist James Russiello to start outlining the proposal to the panel. Eventually, with the help of the staff, Nielsen resolved her audio problems and was able to “join” the meeting and address the commission.

At the start of the presentation, commissioner Jefferson asked why St. Luke’s wanted a screen on the fence. “Why not see the playground?”

He was told the owner wanted the screen for privacy reasons. “The purpose of the covering is so that you can’t see into the playground from the street. It’s solid,” Russiello said.

“This is a fence that’s fronting a playground with children of different ages,” Herrala said. “I think there’s been an attempt to provide privacy from people walking by for some time.”

In recent years communities around the country have seen students killed in school shootings, and they’ve taken various steps to increase both security and privacy.  Sarah Carroll, the commission chair, told the panel this isn’t the first time administrators of a school in New York City have sought to screen a playground. “I think that many schools do try to create some security and privacy for children playing. It’s not unusual and not the first time we’ve seen a request for privacy for areas that children will be.”

Commissioners also asked why the designers went with the fake ivy pattern.

Nielsen, able to respond at that point, said the ivy was considered more palatable than other options under consideration.

“We had picked ivy because it was neutral, cheerful and far preferable” to alternate choices, she said. “There was some suggestion for whether this vinyl print should be a replication of a brick wall. We did not respond to that, but that was one of the suggestions that had been made by the community board.”

Carroll, who previously served as the commission’s executive director, said she thought the ivy pattern was intended to evoke the “garden nature” of the space between buildings on the St. Luke’s campus.

During the discussion phase of the hearing, a few of the commissioners said they could accept the proposal to keep one section of the fence higher if it would prevent $50 basketballs from going into the street. But no one liked the ivy screen. Some said they would be open to the idea of a more translucent, mesh-like material, like many tennis courts have. Others said they didn’t want a screen at all, or at least a lower screen.

Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron stressed that there is a difference between a fence and a wall.

“What I object to is that this is no longer a fence at all. Nothing about it is screen-like or fence-like. It’s an opaque, solid wall,” she said. “So the point is that we would be approving a solid wall and the proposal here is for it to be made even taller.”

Shamir-Baron said she would be willing to consider a screen that’s translucent or perforated in some way.  “It needs to have transparency,” she said. “It’s not the image that I find problematic but its opacity.”

Commissioner Diana Chapin expressed doubt that the material would age well. “I don’t think it’s going to hold up and look good even if we wanted to have this wall-like effect,” she said.

“If they need some kind of semi-privacy,” said panelist Michael Devonshire, “they could get a neutral mesh and mount it on the inside of the chain-link fence.”

At the end of its discussion period, the panel typically votes to determine whether an application gets approved. In this case, Carroll didn’t let it come to that. She told the panel she thought that because Nielsen had so much technical difficulty at the start of the meeting and wasn’t able to participate fully, the panel ought to take no action and give Nielsen and her clients time to digest their comments and schedule another meeting. It was a polite way of suggesting that they go back to the drawing board.

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FXCollaborative’s UWS Children’s Museum conversion sparks preservation fears

A year-and-a-half after the news broke that FXCollaborative would be converting Manhattan’s derelict First Church of Christ Scientist on West 96th Street into the new home of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM), the project has gone before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to mixed reviews. The Beaux-Arts-reminiscent church was originally completed in 1903 by Carrère & Hastings, and befitting its pedigree, was landmarked by the city in 1974. However, due to the rapid decline of Christian Science, the building was sold to Crenshaw Christian Church in 2004, then again to a residential developer in 2014. The building was decommissioned as the First Church of Christ Scientist when the original congregation left and merged with the city’s Second Church, in the process turning that location into the new First Church of Christ Scientist (yes, it’s confusing). After several failed attempts to convert the building into high-end condos, the developer unloaded the property to CMOM in 2018. Now FXCollaborative’s plans for 361 Central Park West have been unveiled. At an LPC meeting this Tuesday, March 3, the museum presented their reworked vision for the building. That includes removing the former church’s stained glass windows and replacing them with clear, bird-safe glass, excavating below the building for a new cellar and sub-cellar area, inserting a new workshop and performance space at the top of the building, improving handicap accessibility, and a suite of quality-of-life improvements. One of the design team’s guiding principles was to better connect the museum to Central Park across the street, which the new windows and lowered entrances should help with. The full proposal can be found on the LPC’s website. Of note is that much of the exterior will be seemingly unchanged apart from the new rooftop area, including a refusal to route lighting through any of the existing exterior stone. However, the rooftop addition and removal of the building’s historic stained glass is causing the most consternation among preservationists. The Society for the Architecture of the City, former congregation members, and nearby residents expressed concern over the changes, as the addition would be visible from the street and the original windows were part of the building's original designation. If the project moves ahead, the windows would be sent to St. Louis’s National Building Arts Center for conservation. A number of big names also tendered support for the conversion, including Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who spoke in person, and Deborah Berke, who submitted a letter of support. Ultimately the commission was mixed on the changes and raised the same concerns mentioned previously. The project was sent back for revisions and will be brought before the LPC again sometime in the near future. If everything goes smoothly, the museum’s new home is anticipated to open in 2023.
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Frick expansion critics propose buying Jeffrey Epstein’s mansion

Plot twist: Several New York preservation groups want the Frick Collection to stop part of its controversial expansion plan and instead, buy Jeffrey Epstein’s mansion across the street to use as gallery space. New York Daily News reported that two groups, Save the Frick and Stop Irresponsible Frick Development, propose that the late financier’s home, located at 9 East 71 Street, along with other buildings on the block, be alternatively used for the institution's growing needs. For years, the museum has attempted to upgrade its physical presence in the Upper East Side community but has been unsuccessful until recently in 2018, when a scheme by Selldorf Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle passed through the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The current plan includes repurposing 60,000 square feet of existing space and adding 27,000 square feet of new construction while enhancing accessibility, and most notably, moving and reinstalling the Russell Page-designed garden above its current location to make way for an auditorium underneath. Despite both pushback and support from various area residents, art world leadership, and preservation organizations, the design team negotiated several rounds of revisions on the plan, including the path to demolishing the Frick’s beloved Music Room and Reception Hall. Recently, Save the Frick launched a new petition calling for the LPC to reconsider a rejected proposal to designate the spaces as interior landmarks.   On-site work is set to begin later this year, and according to Joe Shatoff, COO of the Frick Collection, that the Epstein ploy doesn’t carry much weight given the amount of work it's taken to get the plan off the ground. He released a statement to the Daily News rebutting the proposal: 
“Our renovation and revitalization plan has been guided carefully by two key tenets—first and foremost, to preserve the unique, intimate experience of the Frick, and secondly, to ensure the long-term future of the museum and library. A separate building across the street does not answer these needs and would not provide the critical adjacencies required to make it a functional solution.”
It remains unclear what will happen to Epstein’s estate. His Upper East Side home—one of many—is reportedly valued at $77 million and where police uncovered hundreds of photos of underage girls. 
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Major updates proposed for Rockefeller Plaza overhaul

  The landmarked public spaces and plaza of Rockefeller Center, designed in large part by The Associated Architects (an umbrella name for a collection of firms at the time) and built in the early 1930s, are up for a major revamp. Gabellini Sheppard Associates, along with Tishman Speyer, who owns most of the plaza, are proposing a series of changes large and small which went up in front of the Landmark Preservation Commission yesterday (the full proposal is available here). Some of the interventions, which were on the whole well-received, were intended to bring the famous Midtown location more closely in line with its original intent and increase public access and streamline circulation. Perhaps the most symbolic move towards this would be the relocation of a ten-foot-wide “credo” monument honoring John D. Rockefeller, Jr., that was added in the 1960s away from the stairwell where it currently stops the flow of foot traffic and into the gardens. The large stone parapet around the sunken plaza’s central stairwell that was added when ice skating became an annual activity, would be changed to a more delicate brass railing with planters. Both would be removable such that in the warmer months a larger staircase could be added, as was originally in place in the early 1930s. Doors within the sunken plaza that are currently of different heights and punctuated unevenly would be standardized, though the LPC seemed to push back against all-glass walls. Gabellini Sheppard intends to replace much of the stone—which is deteriorating in places—in kind, though the LPC suggested they attempt to retain as much as possible. The pools featuring block glass in the channel garden would be renovated to their former reflective luster thanks to mirror-backed structural glass that would still allow sunlight to filter to the concourse below. Other changes include the moving of statues, flag poles, and rearranging some landscaping, which the commission asked be in part reconsidered. Softer lighting would be integrated throughout, and new terrazzo and other pavements would be added. The height of the road, which is three inches lower than the sidewalks, would be brought up to that same level. The most contentious proposal was the addition of new elevators and the shifting of some stairwells. The current glass canopy elevators would be replaced with transparent volumes topped with bronze. While many on the commission commended the simplicity and transparency, the proposal to integrate screens for public art displays was opposed, including by the local community board, which supported the project otherwise. After responding to suggestions, Gabellini Sheppard Associates will go before the LPC again at a later date with a revised proposal.
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Preservationists fight to save Midtown Manhattan's 19th-century Demarest Building

Another prominent Midtown Manhattan building could be demolished and replaced with a 26-story mid-rise tower.  The Demarest Building, a 19th-century, iron-framed structure on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street, has long been loved for its three-story-high arched windows and unique history as a high-end horse carriage showroom and later as the home of the world’s first electric elevator. Its owners, Pi Capital Partners, filed an application for the new building this summer but have yet to begin the paperwork for a demolition permit, according to amNewYork Over the past few years, preservation groups have tried without success to stop the project. They worry that, if destroyed, the Demarest Building would be a major loss for the city, given its architectural and technological legacy. It was designed in 1890 by local firm Renwick, Aspinwall & Russell, the practice of St. Patrick’s Cathedral architect James Renwick Jr., and built by Aaron T. Demarest, a prominent carriage and automobile manufacturer. The then-upcoming Carnegie Hall was thought to be the design inspiration for the light-orange Beaux Arts building, though it’s unlikely since they were built around the same time.  Preservationists are set to gather today at 10:30 a.m. at a rally on-site (339 Fifth Ave.) to protest the Demarest's potential demolition. The event is co-organized by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, which has repeatedly appealed to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to designate the building as a local landmark and has launched a petition (here) to save the building. The LPC claims its exterior has been altered too much since opening nearly 140 years ago.  Andrew Berman, the organization’s executive director, told amNewYork that despite any changes, the Demarest Building is particularly significant given its age and because it’s a “great link to New York’s commercial past and its development as the commercial capital of the world.”  Situated blocks away from Penn Station and near Herald Square as well as the Empire State Building, the structure is and has always been a cornerstone of activity. While now the ground floor contains a Wendy’s, a souvenir shop, and a money exchange, the upper portion of its tan brick facade—with its terra-cotta panels and detailing—has remained architecturally iconic, preservationists argue ,and should be saved. 
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Neighbors and preservationists sue N.Y.C. Parks Department to save a rare brutalist landscape

After a year and a half of radio silence, a contentious plan to transform the northwest entrance of Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park is back in the spotlight. Friends of Fort Greene Park, a collection of neighborhood residents and preservationists, and the Sierra Club have brought a lawsuit against the N.Y.C. Parks Department in the New York State Supreme Court over plans to modernize the park and remove a rare landscape intervention from Arthur Edwin (A.E.) Bye, Jr. Jump back to 2017, when the proposal to build a new grand entrance at the northwestern corner of the park first came before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The 30-acre Fort Greene Park was Brooklyn’s first and originally grew out of the military fort from which the neighborhood took its name. The city brought Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux on in 1868 to turn the green space into an official park, and the duo cut tight, winding pathways that offered wide views of the planted landscape, similar to their work in Prospect Park and Central Park decades later. The park has been updated three times since then, but the basic layouts and deference to the Olmsted and Vaux plan have remained consistent throughout. In the early 1900s, McKim, Mead & White cut across the meadow in the park’s northwest corner to improve access to the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument, a 150-foot-tall column dedicated to the over-11,500 American prisoners who died on British ships during the Revolutionary War. The monument is reached by climbing a 100-foot-wide granite staircase cut into the side of a hill. In 1971, landscape architect A.E. Bye was commissioned to accentuate the path from the park’s entrance to the sweeping monument steps using cobblestones and native plants. Bye, who rarely took on public projects, proposed a series of subtle, multipurpose brutalist mounds reminiscent of graves—a reference to the prisoners interred in the crypts below the monument. Bye worked largely through sculpture and drawings to realize his designs, and a pre-Diller Scofidio + Renfro-era Ricardo Scofidio was enlisted to help create a drawing set that the city could build from. A $10.5 million renovation and a “grand new entrance” to the park would scrap that. The improvements are part of the Parks Department’s Parks Without Borders initiative, which seeks to break down barriers between city parks and the street to create a more inviting landscape. The new scheme would move the park’s entrance to the corner and create a direct route to the monument through the existing circular garden…and Bye’s mounds. Those would be leveled to create a tree-lined “boulevard,” while 58 trees would be removed. The Parks Department claims that the mounds impede ADA accessibility, although the new flattened concrete plaza would terminate at the steps of the monument. Those changes were unanimously approved by the LPC in November of 2017. Then, on April 1 of this year, Friends of Fort Greene Park, the Sierra Club, and Michael Gruen, president of The City Club of New York and the attorney for Friends, filed a petition (here) with the State Supreme Court over the decision. The Parks Department claims that of the 52 mature trees it would be removing, 38 are for design purposes and 14 are in failing health. Twenty-eight of those trees are Norway maple, a species that the department classifies as an invasive species with a typical lifespan of 60 years in City parks, and many are at least 50 years old at the time of writing. Additionally, another 31 trees would be removed for a drainage project near the park—13 for design reasons and 18 for their condition. The department states that in keeping with their tree restitution plan, 80 trees would be planted in and around Fort Greene Park. Additionally, the department states that these improvements, as well as adding a basketball court and expanding the barbecue area, were all researched with input from elected officials, the community board, and the surrounding neighborhood. Friends of Fort Greene Park disagrees with that assessment, claiming that the department was able to avoid conducting a full environmental review. When the group had previously filed a Freedom of Information Act request over the environmental impact statement, it received a heavily redacted version. Over one-quarter of the 150-page report was blacked out. “Despite community outcry, the Parks Department is proceeding with plans to cut 58 park trees, and to bulldoze popular landscape features in the historic park,” reads a statement from Friends of Fort Greene Park. “Neighbors had no alternative but to sue the Parks Department, to compel the city to do the required environmental review assessing the impact of the proposed project. Neighbors had earlier brought a successful court action against Parks to release secret documents about the decision to remove mature park trees. “Despite a court order, Parks has refused to fully comply with the release of documents. Neighbors believe that documents will reveal that Parks had misled city officials about the health of the park trees, creating a false impression that the trees were in poor health when the opposite is true. Fort Greene neighbors commissioned an independent arborist's report that proved the trees were in excellent health. “In addition to removing scores of trees, the Parks Department plan would also demolish a picnic area and rolling landscape mounds that are popular with neighborhood families. In what neighbors see as a scandalous act of social engineering, the Parks plan would relocate the leafy picnic grounds to a new, and more exposed site across the street from an existing NYCHA building, and away from the planned luxury high-rise.” While the lawsuit is still pending (the first filed at the state level to protect a brutalist structure), Friends has pledged that it will continue to raise awareness of the issue. When reached for a statement, the Parks Department wrote that it doesn't comment on pending litigation. AN will follow this story closely as it develops.
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Snøhetta's revised AT&T Building scheme clears Landmarks Preservation Commission

The protracted battle over the modernization of the Philip Johnson and John Burgee–designed AT&T Building may finally be drawing to a close. Last time Snøhetta went before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) with its revised plans for the postmodern tower at 550 Madison Avenue, the commissioners adjourned without coming to a decision over whether proposed changes were appropriate. A month later, it looks like owners Chelsfield America, Olayan America, and minority partner RXR Realty will be able to move ahead with their plans to renovate the 1984 office tower into Class A office space. In a public meeting earlier today, the LPC granted the 550 Madison team a Certificate of Appropriateness, but not without first voicing concerns. Snøhetta’s scheme would only touch approximately six percent of the landmarked tower’s granite facade and would leave retail in the enclosed arcade. The full presentation can be viewed on the LPC’s website, but the biggest changes are as follows: The plan would remove the glass enclosure and accompanying heating and cooling elements that were added in the 1994 Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman renovation. The rear lot, which runs north-south through the block, will be converted into a garden and gain a lightweight, Y-shaped steel canopy. The retail kiosks at the rear will also be removed to expand the square footage allotted to the public plaza, and two stories of new windows will be punched in the back of the building at the base to lighten up the new amenity floors. On the Madison Avenue–facing side, the heavily-mullioned windows added to the flat arches in the 1994 renovation will be updated with much larger panes of glass. Inside the 60-foot-tall lobby, the elevators along the rear wall will be reoriented to provide a clear line of sight from the entrance to the garden. The ownership team also plans on building out a publicly-accessible retail mezzanine and two amenity floors above the lobby. Commissioners at the February 12th hearing once again expressed concern over the lack of an interior landmark designation, which was precluded by the “secret” demolition conducted last year. The proposed replacements to the Philip Johnson–designed pavers and flooring were also analyzed. The scheme was ultimately approved, but the project team will have to work with the LPC to address their issues with the current plan. All-in-all, now that work can begin, Snøhetta claims that the amount of public space will increase by 50 percent, and that the team is “targeting LEED Platinum, Wired, and WELL certifications.” Once the renovations are completed in 2020, it’s expected that the building’s employee capacity will increase from 800 to 3,000.
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New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission approves resurfacing of modernist 140 Broadway plaza

The third time’s the charm for engineers NV5 and preservation consultants at Higgins Quasebarth & Partners. On February 5, the team, this time joined by stone conservation expert George Wheeler, successfully argued before New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) for permission to swap the stone out at the Manhattan plaza of the landmarked 140 Broadway building. The former Marine Midland Building, an international-style office tower designed by Gordon Bunshaft and SOM in 1967, is distinctive for how its imposing black massing “floats” above a plaza of what was originally travertine surrounding Isamu Noguchi’s distinctive Red Cube. The travertine pavers were replaced with pink granite in a 1999 renovation, and the project team went before the LPC to propose a new shade of granite closer to the original stone. That drew the ire of preservationists and some of the commissioners, who asked why travertine wasn’t being used instead. Much of the presentation (available here) from 140 Broadway’s ownership and project team dealt with that question. The pitch was that granite, with a compressive strength of nearly three times that of travertine, would be a much more durable replacement. Travertine’s pockmarked nature also renders it particularly vulnerable to freeze-thaw cracking and salt blooms because water easily impregnates the porous stone. The team maintained that five-inch-thick travertine pavers would be needed to meet all of their aesthetic and safety concerns, and that because of the voids under the plaza, the pavers can only be two-inches thick. While Bunshaft had chosen travertine to evoke the feeling of a Roman plaza, the presentation made it clear that New York’s climate was much harsher than Rome’s. The comprehensive analysis was done after the ownership team’s prior two LPC presentations in March and November of 2018. Commissioners had previously declined to vote on the proposed granite replacements and suggested that NV5 and Higgins Quasebarth look further into travertine. As preservationist Theodore Grunewald noted, the reason 140 Broadway’s plaza was before the LPC was that the granite installed in 1999 was also failing and that there was no guarantee that it wouldn’t happen again. Travertine plazas are still in use at Manhattan’s W.R. Grace Building and Solow Tower Building, both designed by Bunshaft, but the project team noted that the drainage systems and sloped “skirt” at the base of each tower helped facilitate the quick movement of water off of the vulnerable stone beneath. Ultimately the commissioners voted to approve the use of Tudor Gold Granite, although there were some concerns about the need to choose a color closer to the original travertine. Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron, the only nay vote at the hearing, noted that the commission’s role was to preserve moments in time, regardless of viability, and not just upgrade the city’s properties with "space-age materials."
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Snøhetta brings revised AT&T Building plan before the Landmarks Preservation Commission

Following the release of an updated scheme for 550 Madison in December of last year, Snøhetta once again went in front of New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), this time for a Certificate of Appropriateness. The changes to the postmodern, Philip Johnson and John Burgee–designed skyscraper (now a New York landmark) are much more modest than the Snøhetta design that sparked the ire of preservationists back in 2017. Under the revised plan presented to the LPC on January 15, only six percent of the 1984 AT&T Building’s original facade would be changed. That includes a new row of windows on the western side (the rear) of the tower’s base and infilling the two large arches to accommodate the new elevator shaft locations in the lobby and the relocated doors to the rear passage. At the LPC meeting, Snøhetta, along with representatives of 550 Madison’s owners, Chelsfield America, Olayan America, and minority partner RXR Realty, described their design philosophy for the scheme: “Preserve and revitalize the landmarked tower, restore the original site design intent, improve on multiple alterations at the base, increase and enliven the public space." The glass-enclosure added to the building’s rear plaza in the 1994 renovation by Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman would be stripped and replaced with a lightweight and open-ended Y-shaped steel-and-glass canopy. The quarter-circle glass canopy and attached annex were original to Johnson and Burgee’s design, but enclosing the open-air walkway meant that catwalks and a ductwork system had to be installed to ventilate the space. Snøhetta claimed that by removing the annex building and extending the canopy to the tower’s neighbor, along with opening the rear row of enclosed colonnades, the firm could increase the amount of available outdoor public space to 21,300 square feet from the current 4,500 square feet. That’s up from the original open-air breezeway scheme from 1984 as well, which only included 20,500 square feet—and that’s including the unenclosed colonnades that served as the building’s privately-owned public space (POPS). The new garden would be arranged according to a program that heavily invokes circles, a motif that, as Snøhetta noted, Johnson returned to again and again throughout his career. At the building’s Madison Avenue–facing front entrance to the east, the design team elaborated on their plan to replace the heavily-mullioned windows added to enclose the flat arches by Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman. At the direction of Sony, which was headquartered in the building from 1992 to 2013, the columns were enclosed to create street-level retail spaces—something that AT&T fought against vehemently during the tower’s design process. While 550 Madison’s ownership team won’t be opening up the colonnade POPS and transforming it into a public space again, they’ve instead proposed replacing the windows in the flat arches with much larger panes. The new windows, which would only be divided into a three-by-four grid with two-inch-thick bronzed mullions, would be set back five feet from the front of the arches, unlike the current windows, which sit flush with the sidewalk. Public testimony presented before the commissioners was mixed but trended favorably. Representatives speaking on behalf of Robert A.M. Stern, Barry Bergdoll, Richard Rodgers, Signe Nielsen, Alan Ritchie (who worked on the original project with Philip Johnson in the 1970s), Claire Weisz and Mark Yoes, Elizabeth Diller, and others presented letters of support for the new proposal. Johnson Burgee wasn’t available to speak, but he contributed a letter of support for the plan as well. Many of the speakers addressed that upon its opening in 1984, the AT&T Building’s arched public space was dark and underutilized, and that Johnson was a proponent of adaptive reuse. Architecture critic Paul Goldberger, who had previously testified his support for the 550 Madison team’s changes to the building (and its landmarking), also spoke, but this time disclosed that he had been working as an outside consultant on the project. Goldberger had drawn criticism after an article in The Real Deal revealed his role, and that he subsequently had not revealed his ties to the tower’s management team prior to testifying. Speaking to AN, Goldberger admitted that he had made a mistake in not disclosing his involvement sooner but stood by his criticism of the building’s underutilized public space as having remained consistent throughout his career. His role in the project, he said, is that of a historian and someone who has intimate knowledge of the building. The praise wasn’t unanimous. Liz Waytkus, executive director of Docomomo’s U.S. chapter, criticized the new windows on Madison Avenue as they would allegedly stray even further from the tower’s original design intent and create a false sense of openness for an enclosed area. Concerns were also raised over the replacement of Johnson’s original articulated paving in favor of a simplified circular plan. Preservationist Theodore Grunewald spoke to the need to preserve 550 Madison’s “forest of columns” design and the relationship of void-to-solid between the cavernous underside and upper mass of the tower. Ultimately, the commission adjourned without making a decision. They needed time to consider the new scheme and accompanying testimony, and more importantly, lacked the number of commissioners required for a quorum. The LPC will reconvene and discuss the matter again at a future date. The entire presentation shown at the January 15 meeting is available here.
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New York City's Pier 17 will transform into a winter wonderland

As summer comes to an end and temperatures begin to drop, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved plans to convert the newly revamped Pier 17 into a rooftop winter village during the colder months. The proposal by Rockwell Group will introduce a warming hut, winter marketplace, and ice rink nearly the size of Rockefeller Center's to the city’s waterfront, making the historic South Street Seaport district a year-round attraction. In recent years, the Seaport has transformed into a lively residential and commercial hub, where residents and visitors have been drawn to the area for its top retail, dining, and cultural attractions, as well as its spectacular views of the Brooklyn Bridge and New York City skyline. The winter wonderland idea originated from the urban ice skating rinks at Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park, which have historically been popular seasonal attractions. The design is further inspired by a set of five different materials that the firm wanted to celebrate in connection with the neighborhood’s rich past as a gateway for international shipping and maritime activities. Those materials include bronze, teak, commercial barrels, cargo units, and ice. While only temporary, the installment will cover over 50 percent of the rooftop of Pier 17, a massive 30,000 square feet. The renovation of Pier 17 and its subsequent winter addition are parts of a larger plan to bring new restaurants, shopping centers, and family-friendly public spaces to a neighborhood that is drenched in history. There is no doubt that Pier 17 will achieve this goal, as it has already helped revive the vibrant and effervescent neighborhood, contributing to Lower Manhattan’s recent evolution into a community that never sleeps. Pier 17’s rooftop is known for hosting several sold-out events ranging from comedy shows to concerts. Still awaiting completion are two restaurants by celebrity chefs David Chang and Andrew Carmellini, as well as a 19,000-square-foot ESPN studio.