The application before the Commission on March 21st was limited to the building’s façade. The applicant represented to the Commission that they had valid DOB permits for the work on the plaza that pre-dated designation and, as a result, that portion of the work was not before the Commission. During the process, the Commissioner’s reference was based on the representation by the applicant. If there were no valid DOB permits for the work on the plaza issued prior to designation, the applicant would be required to obtain an LPC permit prior to the issuance of a DOB permit.A site visit this week revealed that there is construction fencing surrounding the perimeter of the plaza, though the stair to the subway through the sunken plaza remains unimpeded. Signs show a Gensler rendering of the revamped plaza and office building, above, but the only permits posted are for work on the 29th floor: Boston Properties could not be reached for comment on the current status of the renovations or the approvals process. The changes that DCP approved in Boston Properties’ land use application would add benches and would not reduce the total area of the POPS's sunken plaza. (Technically, to the DCP, the plaza is an "open air concourse," an exposed area that sits more than 12 feet below-grade and provides access to the subway. Here, at its lowest, the tiered public space sits 13 feet below grade.) Its 6,000 square feet of tables, chairs, and concrete gave the Citicorp Center a FAR bonus of almost 59,000 square feet. In exchange, the public received six trees, 19 tables, 76 chairs, and a designer fountain, plus retail at the western edge of the concourse. The DCP-approved changes would add two tables, eight chairs, and 153 feet of benches to the count, and a new fountain would replace the Sasaki fountain in "approximately the same location." Among other changes, the plans call for a stairway from the concourse to the sidewalk would be widened, and repositioned to improved pedestrian circulation from the subway to the street. The land use review application says the changes would "improve public access, provide better circulation and connectivity, and create a more visible and vibrant Public Spaces [sic]." This fountain-for-fountain, space-for-space tradeoff is acceptable per City Planning but for preservationists, the thought of losing Sasaki fountain is devastating. “The Citicorp Center is about public space—that’s what makes it architecturally interesting and designation-worthy,” said preservation activist Theodore Gruenwald. “We are seeing all of these changes done very much behind the scenes, without public oversight.” Designed by Sasaki Associates principal emeritus Stuart Dawson, the Citicorp Center's plaza and fountain is just one of the city’s 333 POPS, the essential New York City micro-spaces that make public places out of office building plazas, atria, and concourses. Introduced as a development incentive in the 1960s, POPS let developers build taller than zoning allowed in exchange for open space. Recently, though, the public-ness of these public spaces has come under threat. The election propelled Trump Tower's inaccessible POPS into the limelight, and the loss of the Water Street arcades last year has further highlighted the vulnerability of POPS, especially those that are more marginal. Though not a POPS, the owners of SOM's landmarked One Chase Manhattan Plaza tried—and failed—to build three glass pavilions on the building's plaza, a move that would have segmented the public space and blocked views of a massive Dubuffet sculpture. Rule-breaking POPS have caught the attention of the law, too. This month the office of the New York City comptroller released the results of a POPS audit (PDF), which found that more than half of the city's privately owned public spaces did not provide mandated access or amenities (though the POPS at Citicorp Center was in-compliance—at least by this measure). UPDATE 5/8/17: The DOB initially represented to AN that there were no permits issued for the work on the sunken plaza and Sasaki fountain. On May 5, 2017, the agency informed AN that an ALT–2 permit to remake the plaza was filed on November 18, 2016 and issued on December 2, 2016. The LPC signed off on the permits that same day, four days before Citicorp's landmarking on December 6 and well after the conclusion of the public comment period. AN plans to update readers on this developing story.
Posts tagged with "Midtown East":
The city is looking to change a method developers use to calculate how much sunlight a building will obscure once it tops off. Crain's reports that the Waldram diagram, as it's called, will be toggled to encourage taller buildings in Midtown East as part of that neighborhood's anticipated rezoning.
To illuminate city streets and sidewalks that snake through urban canyons, the formula dictates that building taper sharply as they reach towards the sky. Typically, when architects build tall, they are presented with two options: They can create classic, "wedding cake" style buildings with tiered setbacks aligned to the zoning, or they can use calculations like the Waldram formula to attain a smoother, graduated facade. Due to building codes that require multiple stairwells and additional smoke ventilation shafts, building tall becomes less efficient (i.e. more costly) as skyscrapers butt up against building codes and the formula, which applies in Midtown only.
The city is hoping that the rezoning will spur the development of more Class A office space in the 73-block district, which is losing potential tenants attracted to towers in the Financial District with larger floor plates. Consequently, proposed changes will permit towers up to 40 percent taller—and bulkier—than those currently allowed.
The Department of City Planning (DCP) estimated that the rezoning will lead to the construction of a few new towers, so it's unlikely that the entirety of Midtown East will be shrouded in perma-dusk in the future.
Today it took the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) only an hour to rebuke some of the city's most powerful real estate interests by designating 11 new landmarks in Midtown East.
After hearing public testimony on the Ambassador Grill & Lounge and Hotel Lobby, the commission decided that the Pershing Square Building and the Graybar Building, as well as the Shelton Hotel Building, the Yale Club of New York City, and seven smaller structures, all between East 39th to East 57th streets, from Fifth to Second avenues, were worthy of landmark status.
As the neighborhood is rezoned to allow developers to build more Class A office space, preservationists are concerned that increased height and density allowances will threaten the district's historic architecture. To address the neighborhood's challenges in the face of impending change, in 2014 Mayor Bill de Blasio created East Midtown Steering Committee, a coalition of city agencies, reals estate interests, and nonprofits tasked with creating guidelines to shape growth. The LPC was asked to collaborate with the Department of City Planning (DCP) to make sure important historic items were calendared before DCP moved ahead with the rezoning.
Even as LPC commissioners praised the partnership between their agency and DCP as a "model" of future collaboration, groups with a financial stake in Midtown East especially opposed landmarking buildings like the Pershing Square and Graybar, which harbor key subway and commuter rail access points.
Although city officials who represent the district supported the landmarking of the Pershing Square Building, the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), Grand Central Partnership, the Riders Alliance, and architect Vishaan Chakrabarti, the founder of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU), argued in July that landmark status would make it harder to upgrade the infrastructure underneath, a potential damper on the neighborhood's projected growth.
The Graybar Building faced a similar geography of public opinion. Despite support from the Municipal Arts Society (MAS), Landmarks Conservancy, and city officials who represent the district, the landmarking was opposed by the owners, SL Green.
In today's meeting, the LPC refuted the real estate and transportation groups' arguments with an appeal to history. The Pershing Square Building especially, said Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan, was developed concurrently with crucial infrastructure. “Mass transit is part of this building. The commission recognizes infrastructure improvements will take place, and historic buildings can adapt to that.”
"The city is undergoing radical transformation," said commissioner Adi Shamir Baron. Highlighting the massive construction site that will soon be One Vanderbilt, she added that even as demolitions represent the health and growth of the city, "the designation of these buildings, individually but especially in aggregate, these 11 go some way towards filling that gaping hole."
- 445 PARK AVENUE, Kahn & Jacobs, 1946-1947
- 450 PARK AVENUE, Emery Roth & Sons, 1968-1972
- 4 EAST 43rd STREET, Andrew J. Thomas, 1916
- 661 LEXINGTON AVENUE, York & Sawyer, 1925-1926
- 111 EAST 48th STREET, Cross & Cross, 1925-1926
- 18-20 EAST 50th STREET, Rouse & Goldstone; Joseph L. Steinman, 1915
- 420 LEXINGTON AVENUE, Sloan & Robertson, 1925-1927
- 509 LEXINGTON AVENUE, Schultze & Weaver, 1928-1929
- 56 EAST 42nd STREET, J.E.R. Carpenter; Dwight P. Robinson, 1928-1929
- 17 EAST 47thSTREET, Henry Otis Chapman, 1932
- 5 EAST 48th STREET, Wilfred Edward Anthony, 1921
- 125 PARK AVENUE, John Sloan (York & Sawyer), 1921-1923
- 250 PARK AVENUE, Cross & Cross, 1923-1924
- 525 LEXINGTON AVENUE, Arthur Loomis Harmon, 1922-1923
- 270 PARK AVENUE, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, 1956-1960
- 52 VANDERBILT AVENUE, Warren & Wetmore, 1914-1916
- 50 VANDERBILT AVENUE, James Gamble Rogers, 1913-1915