Posts tagged with "Landmarks":

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Six LGBT historic sites declared NYC landmarks

Just in time for LGBT History Month, the New York City Council announced at the end of September that six sites have been designated Individual Landmarks for their significance to LGBTQ+ history. While the six sites were selected during Pride Month this past June, they were required to go through a few more rounds of confirmations by the full 51-person City Council, the City Council’s subcommittee on Landmarks, and the Land Use Committee. While there are always naysayers in Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) public hearings, these significant landmarks have officially made it.  This is great news for both the LGBTQ community and the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, an educational resource that began in 2015 with the goal of broadening people’s knowledge of LGBT history and geography “beyond Stonewall.” Sites are added to the project’s interactive map, which can be navigated through filters including “Cultural Significance,” “Neighborhood,” or “Era,” all of which aim to make “an invisible history visible.”  "I am very proud of these designations, which recognize that despite the obstacles they faced, the LGBT community has thrived in New York City," said Landmarks Preservation Commission chair Sarah Carroll in an earlier press release.  Below are the six newly-landmarked buildings:  Audre Lorde Residence (1898) Location: 207 St. Paul’s Avenue, Staten Island Architect: Otto Loeffler Audre Lorde (1934-1992), an American writer, feminist, and civil rights activist lived in this Staten Island home with her two children and partner Frances Clayton from 1972 to 1987. Born in Harlem, Lorde noted in an interview with Louise Chawla that this home was a perfect balance between nature and her commitment to raising her children in the city. While living there, Lorde was the Thomas Hunter Chair of Literature at Hunter College and spoke at the 1979 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.  Caffe Cino (1877) Location: 21 Cornelia Street, Manhattan Architect: Benjamin Warner Caffe Cino was designated for its significance as New York City’s first gay theater, as well as the birthplace of Off-Off-Broadway. The Greenwich Village Italianate-style building was occupied by Caffe Cino from 1958 to 1968 (closing a year before the Stonewall uprising) and currently houses a bar called The Drunken Monkey. The four-story tenement and store was constructed by Benjamin Warner in 1877 and features Philadelphia brick walls with iron and wood elements.   LGBT Community Center (1845) Location: 208 West 13th Street, Manhattan Architect: Amnon Macvey The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center has been an indispensable resource to hundreds of thousands of queer city dwellers since its opening in 1984. Colloquially known as “The Center,” the Italianate-style hub serves the community through health and wellness programs, political action, and social events. In 2001, the center brought on Françoise Bollack Architects to restore the facade and transform the former high school into its present-day program. James Baldwin Residence (Remodeled 1961) Location: 137 West 71st Street, Manhattan Architect: H. Russell Kenyon This building is “the most significant surviving building in the United States associated with the celebrated novelist, essayist, poet, and civil rights advocate James Baldwin,” claims the LPC designation report. Born in Harlem, Baldwin made this his Upper West Side residence from 1965 until his death in 1987. H. Russell Kenyon expanded an existing row house from 1890 into a modern five-story apartment house in 1961. While here, Baldwin participated in events including a meeting at Carnegie Hall with Dr. Martin Luther King shortly before his death, and where he wrote Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone (1968), If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), and No Name in the Street (1972). Women’s Liberation Center (1866) Location: 243 West 20th Street, Manhattan Architect: Charles E. Hartshorn From 1972 to 1987, this former Chelsea firehouse was known as the Women’s Liberation Center and was the home to many lesbian and feminist organizations, which broke away from the male-dominated LGBTQ organizations of the time. The space was run by volunteers and organized as a collective, serving as the primary meeting area for women fighting for LGBT rights through social service groups and political committees. Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse (1881) Location: 99 Wooster Street, Manhattan Architect: Napoleon LeBrun Another firehouse, this one in SoHo, was also designated. The Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) used the building as headquarters from 1971 to 1974, making it one of the most important LGBT political and cultural centers during these years prior to the opening of the LGBT Center (number three on this list). The GAA lobbied for local civil rights laws, worked against police harassment, and aimed for the creation of fair housing legislation and employment. Located in the SoHo Cast Iron Historic District, the building features neo-Grecian and Queen Anne-style ornamentation including terra-cotta reliefs and stained-glass windows.
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L.A.'s historic Earl Carroll Theatre will reopen as an entertainment complex

The Earl Carroll Theatre has gone by a lot of names since it first opened in Downtown Hollywood in 1938: Moulin Rouge, Hullabaloo, Kaleidoscope, Aquarius Theatre, Longhorn Theatre, and Nickelodeon on Sunset, to name a few. Since Nickelodeon relocated two years ago and left the building without a tenant, the theater community has eagerly awaited the renovation of the building to its former glory. On September 25, it was announced that Thaddeus Hunter Smith, one of the former owners of the nearby Fonda Theatre, and business partner Brian Levian, had signed a ten-year lease with the intention of not only restoring the building’s original facilities, but also transforming the site into an entertainment complex, with spaces for concerts, stage shows, movie premieres, and other specialized events. “We’re thrilled to be revitalizing the theatre, returning it to its original Streamline Moderne design, and bringing all kinds of wonderful entertainment experiences to locals and visitors alike,” said Smith. Working in close collaboration with preservationists and Hollywood historians, the renovation of the theatre will include the renovation and recreation of many of the building’s original details, including a 20-foot neon depiction of Beryl Wallace, Carroll’s girlfriend and muse, that once hung above the street entrance. Because it “exemplifies the optimism and grandeur of pre-war Hollywood,” according to the Los Angeles Conservancy, the building was designated a Historic-Cultural Monument in December 2016. It was originally designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann for director and producer Earl Carroll as a supper club and performance theatre, both of which were once world-famous for their over-the-top presentations. According to the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, the theatre hosted shows “on a massive stage with a 60-foot wide double revolving turntable and staircase plus swings that could be lowered from the ceiling,” while the supper club “featured a chorus of 60 girls singing and dancing while patrons dined in style.” The theatre is currently owned by developer Essex Property Trust, which first nominated the building for historic-cultural landmark status and has already begun construction on Essex Hollywood, a mixed-use development with 200 apartment units on the opposite side of the site. The Earl Carroll Theatre is slated to reopen to the public in late 2020.
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Six LGBTQ-related sites could be landmarked in New York City

Six sites significant to LGBTQ history have been calendared by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), a significant step towards formal landmark designation. The Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse at 99 Wooster Street; the Women’s Liberation Center at 243 West 20th Street; the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center at 208 West 13th Street; the Caffe Cino at 31 Cornelia Street; the James Baldwin Residence at 137 West 71st Street; and the Audre Lorde Residence at 207 Saint Paul’s Avenue on Staten Island are all one step closer to greater protection. This official calendarization arrived four years after the groundbreaking 2015 designation of the Stonewall Inn, the long-standing Greenwich Village gay bar that witnessed the 1969 Stonewall riots, as an official New York landmark. However, this official protection came nearly a half-century after the riots immortalized the bar, illuminating the tepid pace at which the LPC has moved to acknowledge LGBTQ-related landmarks. This month's calendaring could be seen as a response to this, spearheaded by activists and advocates who see the potential for progress through the landmarking process. Many pioneers are encapsulated in the selections—Caffe Cino is considered a hotbed of early gay theater, and both James Baldwin and Audre Lorde, whose homes were recognized, revolutionized the possibilities for gay people of color. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, also known as The Center, has been a vital meeting place since the early days of the AIDS crisis. While many of these spaces are no longer actively serving their original purposes, the physical spaces are visual reminders of the struggles for justice that so many faced, and continue to face, today.  Now that the calendar process has been completed, the next step for the Commission is to hold a hearing on June 4, where the general public can testify before commission members. A formal vote will follow.
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N.Y.C. Landmarks Preservation Commission approves Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire memorial

Last week, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to approve a memorial dedicated to the 146 victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911. Reframing the Sky, designed by architects Uri Wegman and Richard Joon Yoo, will debut next year if supporters can raise $850,000 to cover long-term maintenance costs. The commission’s approval is the latest step in what’s been a six-year-long process to install the project in commemoration of the tragedy. Gina Pollara, a consultant with the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition, said now is the perfect time to get it done due to heightened awareness on labor rights issues in the United States. “Given the current political climate, I’m hoping this project begins to really open up the conversation about the importance of unions, workplace safety, and how we can address certain social justice issues today,” said Pollara. “For all of their imperfections, unions still perform a vital duty and are an important piece of the American labor force.” The factory’s infamous fire, now 108 years ago, set off a series of historic legislative reforms to protect workers’ safety. The employees who died there, many of which were young immigrant women, were trapped on locked floors of the multi-level facility at 29 Washington Place. Today, the structure, known as the Brown Building, is owned by New York University and though it’s a local and national landmark, many people don’t know its history. The coalition seeks to change that through a public memorial that shines a light on the tragedy and details its significance for blue-collar workers in the 21st century. According to the project statement, the future memorial will mimic the mourning ribbons that were traditionally draped on building facades as outward expressions of a community’s collective sorrow. It will feature horizontal stainless-steel bands that wrap the southeast corner of the building and a textured panel that lines its vertical edge. The names of the victims will be laser cut into the elongated panels where daylight will shine and reflect the letters off a highly-polished, steel surface placed at hip level. Through this, visitors will be able to see the names reflected in the sky. The project has already received widespread support since its announcement in 2013. Three years ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo approved a $1.5 million grant for its design and construction, but money is still needed to maintain it. The coalition is organizing a two-day upcoming event in collaboration with the Fashion Institute of Technology to raise awareness of the project and offer people the chance to contribute to its design. Anyone interested will be able to bring an individual piece of fabric that will be used to create a large ribbon that the designers will cast in metal and mount onto the building for the textured vertical panel. “The public engagement piece of this memorial is the most important part to us,” said Pollara, “because the legislation that came from this tragedy has affected us all personally whether we know it or not. The design features a very subtle thread of stitching the past and present together.” A public event, A Collective Ribbon — Weaving Stories of the Triangle Fire, will take place on March 16 and 17 at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Those who are unable to attend can send in personal pieces of ribbon to the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition at PO Box 1822, New York, New York 10113. Donors of $25,000 or more will have their names inscribed on the memorial.
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Advance tickets available to scale New York's massive Vessel next spring

Over the past two years, New York City residents have been awaiting the unveiling of one of the city’s most complex and outlandish landmark attractions. The Vessel—a 150-foot-tall, beehive-esque, interactive art installation in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards—is now allowing people to sign up for early tickets for a first step on its massive stairs. Visitors must sign up for specific time slots for entry into the free, climbable public space, which is expected to be engulfed by a frenzy of locals and tourists when it opens this coming spring. Composed of concrete and shimmering bronzed steel, the $150 million landmark, which will serve as the centerpiece of the Hudson Yards Plaza, topped out last December. The honeycomb-shaped megastructure will undoubtedly shape the nascent aesthetic of the new West Side neighborhood, one that is unique for its location above a massive rail yard. Aside from the Vessel itself, whose 2,500 steps, 14 flights, 80 landings, and 16 stories can hold over 1,000 people at a time, the site at Hudson Yards Plaza will also comprise a fountain and over 27 acres of landscaped space for events with views across the Hudson River and Manhattan. London-based Heatherwick Studio was chosen to design the landmark. To create a memorable work of art, the studio chose to build a structure that visitors could not only look at, but also use and explore.
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Celebrate LGBTQ History Month with this interactive map of historic N.Y.C. sites

This month is LGBTQ History Month and to honor it The Municipal Art Society (MAS) of New York featured a panel about historic sites associated with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights movement at this week's MAS Summit in New York City. Every year, the conference explores how present-day issues can be informed and challenged by historical advocacy. On Tuesday the ninth annual program featured a lecture led by the co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, Ken Lustbader, who, in his own words, is trying to put LGBT history on the map by “looking at it through a rainbow lens.” Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a police raid at the Stonewall Inn gay bar in New York's Greenwich Village. Lustbader recalled that the riot wasn’t the first at the Christopher Street institution, but one that is especially remembered for the days-long protest where patrons were inspired to fight back, forever marking the N.Y.C. neighborhood as the unofficial cradle of the LGBT rights movement. Stonewall Inn is just one of the places the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project documents in its interactive map of historic and cultural sites associated with the community in all five boroughs. From the Angel of the Waters statue atop the Bethesda Fountain—an 1860s masterpiece by lesbian sculptor Emma Stebbins and the earliest public artwork by a woman in New York City—to Carnegie Hall—the venue famous for hosting countless performances and works by LGBT artists—the list of historic sites reaches way beyond bars and clubs. Continuously being added to, the network of hundreds of locations illustrates the richness of the movement’s history and its influence in the United States. Covering sites dating from the city’s founding in the 17th century to the year 2000, it currently lists 5 locations in Staten Island, 12 in Queens, 123 in Manhattan, 8 in Brooklyn, and 4 in The Bronx. The 150 pins presently live on the map can be filtered by cultural significance, neighborhood, era, and LGBT category. The organization also offers themed tours that rotate throughout the year, including ones on Jewish New York, Transgender History, and The AIDS Crisis. Many of the movement’s historic sites were unappreciated and a vast majority remain completely unknown. Landmarking LGBT sites comes with its own set of unique challenges. When a potential landmark cannot be evaluated on architectural grounds alone, a site's social history can be difficult to establish because of a lack of proper documentation of LGBT sites. According to Lustbader, there’s historically been almost no record of various sites keeping because of stigma and fear of exposure. There’s another caveat: proving identity and gender can be difficult for LGBT people. Today, there are now 17 LGBT-related sites of the more than 93,000 listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Lustbader and fellow project directors Andrew S. Dolkart and Jay Shockley confronted these challenges with 25 years of LGBT-specific research conducted by historic preservation professionals and numerous outreach events and crowdsourcing opportunities to develop a step-by-step guide to evaluate state and national LGBT register listings. The guide and all of their research can be accessed in the Historic Context Statement for LGBT History in New York. Discover hundreds of places that represent NYC’s LGBT past on nyclgbtsites.org. Each site contains descriptive historical accounts, contemporary and archival photographs, related ephemera, and multimedia presentations. Happy cruising!
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Historic midtown N.Y.C. church to transfer air rights to JPMorgan

JPMorgan Chase is one step closer to constructing its new headquarters atop the footprint of the soon-to-be-demolished Union Carbide building in New York City. Since February, the bank has successfully initiated the transfer of development rights from the adjacent Grand Central Terminal and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. On Tuesday, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission signaled the third major structure to give over rights in the deal—the 100-year-old St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. The commission voted unanimously to approve a master plan for the restoration and continued maintenance of the historic church, pending the planned transfer of air rights to JPMorgan. Commissioner Michael Goldblum called the decision a “joyous day” for St. Bart’s and acknowledged the success of the many buildings that have begun a revival process due to the deal, some of which would “never have had the ability to raise adequate funds” for themselves. The financial giant has agreed to purchase at least 50,000-square-feet of development rights from St. Bart’s for $20.7 million, which the deteriorating church will use to underwrite countless renovation projects on site. At the end of June, The Real Deal reported that the bank is also considering buying 505,000 square feet of additional development rights for seven times the current price. This is all part of JPMorgan’s plan to secure the initial air rights needed to build out its new, 70-story headquarters at 270 Park Avenue. The tower would replace its current home, formerly known as the Union Carbide building, completed in 1961 and designed by Gordon Bunshaft and Natalie Griffin de Blois of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Though it’s not designated as a historic landmark, the building is considered one of New York’s most classic Modernist structures and preservation advocates are criticizing JPMorgan’s attempt to take it down. Under the Midtown East rezoning plan, which passed in August of 2017, the bank is allowed to build a larger office building as long as it contributes to a “public realm improvement fund.” This includes buying the air rights from various neighboring institutions in order to assist them in carrying out their own structural work. Since it received status as a New York City landmark back in 1967, the Byzantine-style St. Bart’s Church is eligible for both the city’s and JPMorgan’s help.  Representatives from the church touted the importance of yesterday’s LPC vote, calling it a transfer that “needs to happen” for the building to continue functioning properly. In addition, the New York Landmarks Conservancy as well as Community Board 5 recommended approval. “The only break in the skyline as you walk along Park Avenue is St. Barts,” said the church’s building committee chairman Peter Sullivan. “This beautiful building gives the eye a much-needed break amidst all the skyscrapers, but any person will tell you it needs a lot of work to fix.”
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ASH NYC makes Detroit's Wurlitzer Building sing again

The Siren Hotel 1509 Broadway Street Detroit Tel: 313-277-4736 Designer: ASH NYC After thirty-five years of vacancy and deterioration, Detroit’s Wurlitzer Building is making sweet music in Motown again. The Siren Hotel, recently opened inside the svelte historic terra-cotta building, is the work of ASH NYC, a firm premised on bridging the worlds of interior design and property development. ASH NYC simultaneously acts as designer, developer, owner, and operator of the hotel, and, with assistance from Quinn Evans Architects (QEA), has restored many of the building’s 1926 features, including travertine floors and plaster ceilings. Each of The Siren’s 106 guest rooms features items designed and fabricated by ASH NYC, as well as custom woven blankets by Cranbrook Academy of Art graduate students. The former home of pianos, jukeboxes, and organs boasts six distinctive food and beverage outlets, including Albena, an eight-seat chef’s counter with James Beard nominee Garrett Lipar offering a tasting menu inspired by the Great Lakes, and Sid Gold’s Request Room, a piano karaoke bar. The interior of Candy Bar, the hotel’s opulent cocktail lounge, evokes the sweet pink beaded gowns worn by The Supremes.
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Controversial condo tower proposed to top a Toronto landmark

A 44-story tower has been proposed to top one of Toronto’s most beloved pieces of 20th-century architecture—and many Torontonians aren’t happy. The former Bank of Canada building, built in 1958 and designed by Marani & Morris, currently stands at just eight stories and occupies a choice spot of downtown real estate at 250 University Avenue. The existing structure is designated a heritage building and heritage specialists GBCA Architects have been brought in to consult on the work related to original building. The new combined structure, designed by IBI Group, would reach just over 575 feet and bring the total floor count to 54. It would house 495 condominium units while the original building would continue to host retail and office space. The existing subterranean safe, which currently serves as a common area, and mechanical rooms would be converted into two stories of bicycle storage, while two additional underground levels would be added to provide space for a parking garage. The addition is certainly stirring up controversy. There are numerous dissenting comments on its announcement on Urban Toronto, a news site for new developments in the city. On Twitter, Alex Bozikovic, architecture critic for The Globe and Mail, responded to the announcement unequivocally: “No. Absolutely not.” Bozikovic went on to call the proposed addition a “junkpile.” Many commenters followed suit deriding the proposal as a “total failure” and “the second worst [tower addition] I’ve seen.” One commentator put it more generously, saying “the plan lacks imagination.” https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js The limestone-colored accents of the addition are ostensibly designed to use color related to the original building, which features modernist sculptures on the facade, though, as another Twitter user pointed out, “They couldn’t even line the damn thing up.” Developer Northam Realty Advisors, who is seeking rezoning in order to construct the addition, is no stranger to controversy. In 2016, the group proposed replacing a historically designated building in the Historic Yonge Street Heritage Conservation District with a pair of towers. (The plan was later revised to be just one, taller tower, also designed by IBI Group.) While received well by some, many were not so positive, and the plan has not yet been approved. As far as the proposed addition to the Bank of Canada building, perhaps Twitter user John Howe put it best: “We can only pray it’ll look better in real life.”
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Here's what NYC architects need to know about changes to Landmarks rules

This week the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) is holding a public hearing on changes to its rules of operation. Among other modifications, the new rules would allow the agency to move items off its public hearing calendar, a change the LPC says would alleviate pressure on the almost all-volunteer commissioners who meet weekly to debate and vote on new landmarks, as well as changes to historic properties. Many leading preservation groups, however, believe that channeling more items to agency staffers would deprive New Yorkers of the opportunity to meaningfully weigh in on changes to the historic built environment. Right now, select LPC applicants go through a public hearing, a Tuesday meeting at the LPC’s Manhattan office where architects and owners present their plans to the agency's 11 commissioners and to the public. These meetings let stakeholders weigh in on small items like the window replacement scheme for a private home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and on headline-grabbing proposals like the landmark potential of Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s AT&T Building. Discussions on each item can last twenty minutes or one-and-a-half hours, depending on how controversial the item is or if the commissioners debate the owner's request vigorously. Other more minor issues, like small storefront build-outs in a landmarked building or railing replacement on a private home in a historic district, get evaluated by LPC staff and approved behind the scenes. The items in public hearings are seeking a Certificate of Appropriateness, while the items processed by staff are awarded either a Certificate of No Effect or a Permit for Minor Work. The draft of the new rules (PDF) addresses both changes to the public hearing process as well as issues like sidewalk modifications, appropriate materials, and “no style” buildings, to name a few. Together, they cover more nuts-and-bolts preservation issues than can be discussed in a single article, so The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) reached out to preservation leaders to get their take on the key issues the public, especially architects, should watch out for ahead of tomorrow’s hearing on the proposal. Many leading preservation groups are worried that the proposed rules would silence the public’s voice on changes that have a cumulative impact on the city’s historic fabric. Simeon Bankoff, executive director of preservation advocacy group the Historic Districts Council, was concerned about what he sees as a softening of requirements around materials for repairing and replacing historic building components. After six stories on masonry buildings, for example, the new rules would allow owners to use substitute materials like fiberglass in lieu of original stone or terra-cotta when replacing historic building elements. “Rather than lowering the standards—which we felt was being done in many cases in these rules—you want to raise them,” Bankoff said. “People are going to build to whatever standard you give them. If the reward is they don’t have to go through a public hearing, they should be held to the highest standards possible.” Under the new rules, rear yard additions, which can be contentious, would be heard by staff only, provided they met certain requirements. HDC believes that rear-yard addition should go before the public, because neighbors have a right to comment on what is (literally) going on in their backyards. On the plus side, Bankoff said, the proposal includes “nice language” on the collective impact of rooftop and rear yard additions, as well as signage. Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), a leading downtown preservation group, expressed concern that, under the new public hearing rules, more buildings could wind up like Twin Peaks, an unusually proportioned Greenwich Village co-op that that exemplified the neighborhood’s bohemian spirit. The owner got staff approval last year to repaint the structure and its distinctive brown half-timbering beige and dark grey, a move that Berman believes could have been avoided had the public been given a chance to weigh in on the significance of the original contrasting color scheme. He was blunt about the impact of the changes to the public hearing. “The proposed rules are fundamentally anti-democratic, anti-transparency, and anti–public participation. This is the opposite direction the commission should be moving in.” Landmark West! Executive Director Sean Khorsandi echoed GVSHP’s concerns. “The New York City landmarks commission has been trendsetters, nationwide and globally,” he said. “The commission is in a league of its own; people have been looking to it to set the standards. We see these proposed changes as a little bit of a backtrack.” On the Upper West Side, the neighborhood for which Landmark West! advocates, Khorsandi said the new rules would have a substantial impact on current and future landmarks. The  rules would allow alterations to features not mentioned in the designation report, a change that would disproportionately impact earlier designations like The Belnord. The apartment complex’s one-page report doesn’t mention the property’s distinctive vault lights, as the LPC used to require short-and-sweet reports on all items, regardless of their size or importance. This leaves historic features on early designations vulnerable to inappropriate changes or outright removal. To ensure sensitive treatment of protected items, Landmark West! would like to see the agency hire more staff, instead of moving items away from public hearings. Architecture and urbanism advocates at the Municipal Arts Society (MAS) also believe the new rules might unintentionally incentivize removal of these vault lights, among other historic features. Tara Kelly, MAS’s vice president of policy and programs, explained that the group was concerned about the language around “no style” buildings, vague wording that covers structures that are undistinguished or don’t contribute to the look and feel of a historic district. The term originated in the Upper East Side Historic District around three decades ago, but, a “no style” structures of yesteryear might become historically significant years later. Kelly (a former executive director of Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts) cited 966 Lexington Avenue, a simple mixed-use building that wasn’t named in the original historic district, but probably would have been included had the district been designated today. “It takes time to appreciate a new style,” Kelly said. “We want to see the commission take a harder look at those buildings, not make exceptions for them.” To help the public understand all the changes afoot, MAS has released a set of interactive maps for each category of permit to help the public understand what landmarks currently exist and how they’ve been modified over time. Unlike other preservation groups AN consulted, however, MAS conditionally supports the changes that would move items out of the public hearings. “As long as these rules are strong, robust, and thoughtful and take into consideration the recommendations that we have for the rules, and the staff is well-trained and well-supported in their ability to execute the regulation, we don’t have a problem with the staff doing so,” Kelly said. Although the chatter around the changes to the public hearing is loud (especially on preservation Twitter), the new meeting rules would affect relatively few items. A LPC spokesperson said that each year, the vast majority of the approximately 14,000 permit applications are decided by staff, while fewer than 1,000 items get discussed at the public meetings. Right now, the agency has 36 staff members reviewing permits, and they will welcome three new permit-reviewing staffers in fiscal year 2019, which begins in July. Taken together, the number of permit-reviewing staff has increased 44 percent between fiscal years 2013 and 2019.  Even so, the increasing number of permit applications places stress on the commissioners at the public hearing—only LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan is paid for her work. The other ten commissioners take time away from their practices as architects and planners to serve in a volunteer capacity on the commission nearly every week. Of the items that go to public hearing, the LPC contends in its summary of the new rules that agency staff could “approve a variety of work-types that are consistently approved by the Commission utilizing established criteria.” AN spoke with a government insider familiar with the proceedings who confirmed that the changes are intended to save staff time and increase efficiency so LPC staffers can process more applications. Overall, the insider said the intended goal is to make the process easier for homeowners and developers. The rules changes were a long time coming. Beginning in February 2017, the LPC convened multiple meetings with eight leading preservation groups to discuss the agency's ideas. A LPC spokesperson confirmed that representatives from the New York Landmarks Conservancy, MAS, the Brooklyn Heights Association, HDC, Society for the Architecture of the City, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, Landmarks West!, and GVSHP were shown criteria for specific types of work and asked for input on the criteria. As part of its outreach, agency representatives also met with community boards, members of the public, and other preservation groups, as well as AIA New York (AIANY), Urban Green Council, the NY Bar Association, and REBNY. In addition to those groups, LPC staffers solicited input from window manufactures, expeditors, and preservation architects on the rules. The current draft was released in January of this year. Suzanne Mecs, managing director of AIANY, delivered a statement in support of the rule changes. The organization characterized the public hearings in pursuit of a Certificate of Appropriateness as “a process that can often be expensive, time-consuming, and complicated.” With more items decided on by staff, AIANY believes the public hearing process will improve because, it reasoned, the commission will have more time to focus on “complicated preservation projects with subjective design considerations or innovative technical solutions that do not readily conform to the previously-established criteria of the Commission.” The AIA held a forum on the changes with its members and Srinivasan in early March. For those who want to weigh in on the rules, the meeting begins tomorrow, March 27, at 9:00 a.m. The agenda and more details can be found here. Edward Gunts contributed reporting.
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What is going on with the AT&T Building lobby?

Last month The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reported that the AT&T Building's lobby was demolished. Now, though, preservationists believe the lobby at 550 Madison Avenue is more intact than previously thought. Permits for the lobby demolition were issued in December, and in January, developer Chelsfield and investment group Olayan America, the team behind the postmodern tower's redesign, confirmed the interior had been sledgehammered. Acting on that information, Manhattan Community Board 5's (CB5) Landmarks Committee voted on a draft resolution last month that condemned the development team's decision to demolish the lobby in the middle of talks with the board and preservation groups like the Municipal Art Society (MAS) and Docomomo US, among others. Although the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) excluded the lobby of the Philip Johnson and John Burgee–designed tower from landmark consideration last November, 20th century preservation experts consider the interior and exterior of the building to be one cohesive space, even after early 1990s renovations enclosed the lobby and surrounding arcades. Earlier this month, however, preservation activist Thomas Collins said he walked by the building and saw most of the lobby was still intact. Most of the granite walls, the oculus, and the ceiling appear to be there. At the top of the arch, the north wall was still visible, but when Collins walked by the building today, the lobby was scaffolded up to the oculus level. It appears the main plan is to rotate the elevators a quarter-turn, opening up a sightline from Madison Avenue into a garden that will replace an annex and the enclosed arcade between 55th and 56th streets. In Collins's estimation, the programmatic requirements of the proposed work do not necessitate cosmetic changes outlined in the demolition permits. He believes the elevators could be rotated while "[retaining] 80 to 90 percent of the historic fabric.” When prompted for an accurate and detailed description of the work performed, a spokesperson for the developer issued the following statement, which was attributed to Chelsfield Managing Director David Laurie:

"We are six weeks into an approximately eight-week demolition process, consistent with LPC-approved permits issued in December. The entire space is beyond restoration with the majority of the lobby’s features now removed. This renovation work is in accordance with our plans to revitalize 550 Madison, making it viable for multi-tenant occupancy."

Through the spokesperson, Laurie declined to elaborate on repeated requests to give details on whether the floors, fixtures, and interior partitions had been demolished per the permits for the $100,000 project that were issued in December. Architect Scott Spector, principal of Spector Group Architects, is signing permits for this phase of the lobby project. Given the developer's reluctance to share details on the state of the lobby, the community board is trying to determine the exact scope and scale of the demolition-in-progress. "Until we know it is not correct, we cannot take any information as fact until [the board] can verify it," CB5 Landmarks Committee Chair Layla Law-Gisiko said. "If we were to find out that it was a misrepresentation, it would be very disappointing and worrying. We're always trying to work in good faith with all the stakeholders." She added that the board knows the building must be altered to prepare it for multi-tenant occupancy, but that the alterations must be contextual. "Putting Philip Johnson's architecture in the dumpster? No," she said. At the full CB5 board meeting last week, members approved a resolution in support of landmarking, and encouraged the LPC to review the lobby as-is for potential interior landmark designation. The resolution also recommended reverting the public spaces Sony (the primary tenant after AT&T) had converted to retail in 1993 back to public use. Although community board decisions are non-binding, the LPC takes them into account in its deliberations. In addition to CB5's voice, five local politicians signed a letter to Laurie urging the development team to "engage in a good-faith dialogue" with preservationists and others to make sure the renovations honor Johnson and Burgee's original design intent. The undersigned—two state senators, two assembly members, and new City Council District 4 rep Keith Powers—said they understood the lobby wasn't up for landmark consideration, but encouraged Chelsfield and Olayan America to treat the space sensitively nonetheless. This latest controversy is an aftershock from the October reveal of Snøhetta's renovations, which sought to replace 550 Madison's imposing pink granite facade with an undulating glass curtain wall that would expose the 37-story tower's steel framework. The $300 million redo was met with an avalanche of criticism, with some architects and pomo enthusiasts taking to the streets to protest the planned changes. Collins took the lead on the landmarks nomination, preparing the LPC paperwork for the building's nomination. These are the first major changes to 550 Madison, as the building is now officially known, since Olayan America acquired the property for $1.4 billion in May 2016. Since last February, records show the owners have paid two lobbying firms over a quarter-million dollars to attempt to influence the Manhattan Borough President, the Department of City Planning, and various council members—not an unusual move for a development of this caliber. This year, the group has retained the lobbyists at Kasirer to speak with the Manhattan Borough President, the Department of Buildings, community boards, and the LPC, among other entities. Records show the group, working as OAC 550 Owner LLC, has spent no money so far in 2o18 on these efforts, however. An AN reporter went to eyeball the lobby on February 2, looking for possible changes. Whereas it was previously possible to see into the space through cracks in the butcher paper, workers have taped the cover-ups to the glass so thoroughly that none of the lobby is visible from the street. For his part, Collins believes the permits are for preemptive demolition. "They don't have a plan for the interior; they just want to mess up enough of the interior so the LPC won't touch it," he said. This story has been updated to clarify the scope and impact of the interior renovation.
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Skyscraper Museum releases interactive Lower Manhattan walking map

The Skyscraper Museum has updated the historic Heritage Trails map and released it as an interactive online resource. The original 199os map created by Richard D. Kaplan covers landmarks in Lower Manhattan and was intended to draw tourists and visitors to the area after the 1987 stock market crash and the recession of 1994. Along with moving the map online, the Skyscraper Museum has added sites from 1998 to the present day. The walking trails used in the original map are preserved in the new online version. Richard D. Kaplan was an architect whose family established J. D. Kaplan Fund, a private foundation in New York supporting the arts, civil rights, parks, and preservation in New York. The interest in mapping out New York City’s buildings using technology has not only been a venture of the Skyscraper Museum. Another interactive map that explains New York’s landmarks has been created by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The LPC map allows users to find landmarks by architect, style, and other categories. Meanwhile the Concrete New York Map created by Blue Crow Media looks strictly at brutalist architecture across New York City. The Heritage Trails map points users to four possible trails. The Green trail covers the east side of the Financial District and moves down south to Battery Park City; sites here include Battery Park City and the Statue of Liberty. The Blue trail is focused on Chinatown and the Seaport, including the Fulton Fish Market and the Federal Reserve Bank. The Red trail covers Broadway and Chinatown, stopping at Little Italy, and includes Newspaper Row and St. Paul’s Chapel. The Orange trail is on the west side of Lower Manhattan and includes the World Trade Center and the American Stock Exchange. The interactive map offers a new way of looking at city landmarks. For example, one sight poses the question, “What has 200 elevators, 1,200 restrooms, 40,000 doorknobs, 200,000 lighting fixtures, 7 million square feet of acoustical tile ceilings, more structural steel than the Verrazano Narrows Bridge?” The answer: The World Trade Center.