A New Beginning for West End Avenue

East, East Coast
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
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The Landmarks Preservation Commission is preparing to preserve a large swath of West End Avenue and the surrounding buildings. (Ed Yourdon/Flickr)

The West End Preservation Society could only save two of the buildings it had hoped for, but an entire neighborhood has been preserved in the process.

Back in 2007, a clutch of concerned citizens living on West End Avenue were dismayed to learn that two pairs of brownstones were bound for the wrecking ball, to be replaced by the sliver buildings much in vogue in Manhattan’s narrow upper reaches over the past decade. The houses at 732 and 734 West End Avenue are currently being demolished, but 508 and 510 West End Avenue survive, and likely will for some time thanks to the efforts of the society. The LPC is now preparing to finalize plans for a new, expansive historic district—lobbied for by the preservation group—running the length of West End Avenue from 70th Street to 109th Street. The result will be two-miles of almost uniterrupted pre-war grandeur. Read More

Allah Architecture Causes Controversies Worldwide

East Coast, International
Thursday, July 8, 2010
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It looks like New York isn’t the only city with a controversial mosque on the horizon—and in the case of Marseilles, that’s quite literally where it’s going. Archinect points us to a BBC report about the Grand Mosque, a huge new complex atop one of the city’s northern hills. As the video above shows, the complaints are akin to those surrounding the proposed mosque around the corner from the World Trade Center site—concerns about culture, paternalism, terrorism, and community, though in France the concerns are obviously less direct. In a favorable sign for the NYC mosque, the local community board voted against landmarking the former Burlington Coat Factory ahead of a binding review at the commission next Tuesday. The vote is non-binding but tends to carry some wait, though we’re curious to see what actually happens, as this should be one of the more interesting commission meetings in recent memory. Do check back for a full report.

Mainstreaming Modernist Landmarks

East, East Coast
Friday, April 16, 2010
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The Spring Mills Building in 1963, the year of its completion. (Courtesy Abramowitz, Kingsland & Schiff)

On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission named the former Spring Mills headquarters at 104 West 40th Street the newest New York City landmark—arguably the most important designation of the year so far. What makes Spring Mills so special is, well, that it’s not exactly special. Unlike notable predecessors—Lever House, the Guggenheim, the Ford Foundation—Spring Mills was preserved less for its architectural pedigree than its historical significance. Designed by skyscraper savants Harrison & Abramowitz, and completed in 1963, it is less the 21 stories of green glass on a slender facade that sets this building apart—though that is important, too—than its serving as a marker for the 1960s arrival of the Garment District in Midtown from its former Tribeca home. This makes Spring Mills more in line with, say, West-Park Presbyterian Church, a cultural and community icon, than Chase Manhattan Plaza, an architectural standout for being the first of its kind downtown. In other words, modernist landmarks have reached a point where they are akin to their brick-and-mortar predecessors, becoming simply another architectural style or era to be grappled with on its own merits. Read More

SHoP Floats

East, East Coast
Thursday, April 8, 2010
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SHoP's plans for the South Street Seaport may be back from the dead. (Courtesy SHoP)

One of the many flashy architecture projects believed to have been killed off by the recession was SHoP’s highly impressionistic proposal for the waterfront portion of the South Street Seaport. The bankruptcy of mall owner and would-be developer General Growth Properties seemed to scuttle plans for the sail-and-net-inspired complex, but having emerged from court protection, GGP is evaluating what to do with its remaining properties and it appears SHoP may once again be in the mix. The company is being spun off into two pieces following its bankruptcy, with the one made up of mixed-use and development-worthy projects getting a $6.55 billion infusion from three outside investors. It remains up to this new person what to do with the Seaport, but a GGP spokesperson tells Downtown Express, “Presumably the new company would continue to pursue the highest, best use of that property, which we felt was the proposal we put out.” Should the project return, there is still the issue of appeasing the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which saw it as more barnacle than beautiful.

Soho Salvage

East, East Coast
Thursday, March 25, 2010
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How long before 74 Grand Street is put back in place? (Courtesy Curbed)

Another piece of New York City’s historic fabric is disappearing. But only for a short time! We hope… Curbed swung by 74 Grand Street today and discovered that deconstruction of the five story cast-iron building was just getting under way. The building has been leaning for years after being undermined by construction a neighboring lot. Because it had gotten so bad recently—some 30 inches out of alignment in spots—the Department of Buildings declared the building would come down before it brought the entire blog along with it. Afraid a unique piece of the city would be lost, the LPC demanded the facade be replaced whenever a new building gets built on the site, and it would be locked up in a city warehouse until then. The LPC signed on reluctantly, as the oldest cast-iron facade in the city was once stolen from such a warehouse and sold for scrap. We’ve got our fingers crossed this time around.

A Castle Near the Sand

East
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
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The Shore Theater was calendared today, the first step in the landmarks process. (vanz/Flickr)

With snowpocalypse about to descend on the city, summer feels a long way away. But there is cause for sun-soaked celebration today, as the Landmarks Preservation commission calendared the Shore Theater, the first step in the public review process to make the building an official city landmark. The calendaring is actually the first fruits to bear from the Bloomberg administration’s 13th hour deal with developer Joe Sitt. It will be months before amusements return to a saved Coney Island, but a major negotiating point for the community—and the amusement community in particular—was more landmarks in Coney to protect the area’s historic buildings from the flood of development the city’s rezoning hopes to create. So far, there are no other buildings in the docket besides the 1920s theater-and-hotel building, though, which could be cause for concern—especially after the area’s oldest building recently suffered water damage. Still, after decades of deterioration, any progress is good. In other landmarks news… Read More

BandAid for OToole

East, East Coast
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
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Could the "Overbite Building" be saved by St. Vincent's failure. (AllWaysNYC/Flickr)

Another entry in the good bad news department today, as the Post breaks the big story that St. Vincent’s hospital in Greenwich Village is on the verge of bankruptcy again. According to the tab, crosstown rival Continuum Health, which runs Beth Israel, St. Luke’s and Roosevelt hospitals is prepared to take over the city’s last remaining Catholic hospital, and it could close many of the hospitals services, such as surgical and in-patient care, and possibly even the emergency room, one of the few on the west side of Manhattan. So how is this good news, that this critical hospital might close? Well, that pride of place, combined with the first bankruptcy, was part of the reason St. Vincent’s used to justify its major expansion and real estate deal with the Rudins, which would have created a new hospital by Pei Cobb Freed and a huge condo project by FXFowle. Now all that could be in doubt: Read More

The Return of Cousin St. Vinny

East, East Coast
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
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Might the courts override the LPC and save Albert C. Ledners National Maritime Headquarters in Greenwich Village? (Courtesy MAS)

Might the courts override the LPC and save Albert C. Ledner's National Maritime Headquarters in Greenwich Village? (Courtesy MAS)

Back in March, Protect the Village Historic District sued the Landmarks Preservation Commission over its granting of a hardship to St. Vincent’s Hospital, so that it might demolish Albert C. Ledner’s National Maritime Union Headquarters, now known as the O’Toole building, and replace it with a new hospital tower designed by Pei Cobb and Freed. The focus of PVHD’s suit is that the hospital did not explore suitable alternatives, nor did the commission require them, but now, the state Supreme Court appears to be questioning the very nature of the hardship finding—that retaining the O’Toole buildings prevented the hospital from carrying out its charitable mission—or at least that is the finding of a brief filed today by the Municipal Art Society and half-a-dozen preservation groups that directly challenges the LPC on the matter. Read More

Crowning 23 Beekman

East, East Coast
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
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Paul Rudolph's 23 Beekman Place took the first step toward becoming a landmark today. (Peter Aaron/ESTO)

While the big news out of the LPC today was the approval of 980 Madison, there were quite a few noteworthy developments as well, namely the designation of three new landmarks and the calendering of 23 Beekman Place, better known as the Paul Rudolph house, which is the first step in the designation process. Poking fun at her fellow colleagues who had been skeptical of the Norman Foster designed addition at 980 Madison, which had been approved earlier in the day, commissioner Margery Perlmutter quipped, “Sometimes a rooftop addition does become a landmark.” Rudolph’s quixotic construction was completed in 1977, though he would revise it, like much of his work, until his death two decades later. Read More

MoMA Makes for Bad Neighbor

East
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
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A group of Midtown residents and concerned citizens, many from the West 54th/55th Street Block Association, have been the leading opponents of Jean Nouvel’s MoMA tower. They have been very vocal during hearings at Landmarks and, just a few weeks ago, City Planning Commission. Now, The Coalition for Responsible Midtown Development, as the group is calling itself, have launched a website, no2moma.com. There, they succinctly recast their previous opposition to the project–light & shadows, traffic & congestion, out-sized & ugly–as well as presenting a six minute documentary that makes the group’s best case yet. Our favorite part is the clip above, where the Nouvel tower rises, Frankenstein-like, from “a lot no bigger than a McDonald’s drive-thru.” The full video is after the jump, but, given statements made by some commissioners during a meeting Monday, all this flash and frustration may be too little too late. Read More

Chasing One Manhattan Plaza

East, East Coast
Monday, July 13, 2009
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Some day, all this could be yours, as far as the eye can see. (epicarmus/Flickr)

Some day, all this could be yours, as far as the eye can see. (epicarmus/Flickr)

The financial crisis has officially hit architects. No, not in the way you think. We’re talking about banks selling their marquee properties, namely the news today, delivered by the Observer, that JPMorgan Chase may be selling its former headquarters building at One Chase Manhattan Plaza. Designed by Gordon Bundshaft of SOM under the auspices of then-bank president David Rockefeller, the building, which also features an Iasmu Noguchi rock garden, was named a landmark by the LPC in February of this year. Maybe that helped auger the sale, which could include 22 buildings and which the bank continues to deny. (See, we care about commercial real estate, too, and not just famous houses.)

Prospecting for Landmarks

East, East Coast
Thursday, July 2, 2009
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Last week, Prospect Height’s became the city’s newest landmark district. At 850-odd buildings, it is the largest district to be created since the Upper West Side Historic District was created in 1990. Clearly, a lot of work went into the three-year effort championed by locals and the Municipal Art Society and driven largely by the nearby Atlantic Yards project and the undue development it spurred on one of Brooklyn’s last unprotected brownstone neighborhoods. To highlight just how hard it is, but also what a triumph, MAS put together this thoughtful little video. Hopefully it will inspire you to do something civic minded as well on this patriotic weekend or beyond.

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