The Upper East Side's favorite feud has a new chapter, because white-suited landmark-loving writer Tom Wolfe is still extremely pissed about developer Aby Rosen's plans for the old gallery building at 980 Madison Avenue. Over the summer, Rosen had architect Lord Norman Foster draw up some new plans for the condo addition to the building, after Wolfe savaged the original 30-story plan and the Landmarks Preservation Commission gently rejected it. But Wolfe wasn't happy with the new design either, a shorter bronze-wrapped box to be dropped on top of the block-long building. Wolfe, who lives near the building in the Upper East Side Historic District, speaks with Max Abelson in this week's Observer, and the interview kicks off with some great trash talk directed right at Foster.
But isn’t the new plan better than the first?
No. The point is, this is a historic district. Not every building is landmarked, but the district is considered historic. That means anything you build should capture some of the character, not the exact forms, but some of the character of the surrounding buildings. So, in the case of 980 Madison, limestone, brick, Art Deco touches would all be appropriate. They would fit in. And yet the commission sided with you.
They never sided with me! They don’t give a damn about me. In fact, I’m sure the last person in the world they want to please is me. Whatever City Hall says will go—nothing is wrong with them except total flexibility. They said, ‘Oh it’s a beautiful building! If only you could put it somewhere else! We would approve it in a heartbeat!’ They just slobbered over quote-Lord-quote Norman Foster. In my humble opinion, I’m not a developer, but I think they need another architect, someone who knows how to draw a curved line; someone who knows how to use limestone.