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New York City Is Getting a Second 'Empire State Building'

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Thanks to an approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the isle of Manhattan will soon have two structures dubbed the "Empire State Building." A once-divey, now-regal prewar rental building headed for a li'l facelift, 640 Broadway will have that moniker etched above its entryway after renovations are complete. It will also get penthouses and restoration work.

But how can it just call itself the Empire State Building? After all, there's a kind of famous 1,250-foot-tall building with that name at Fifth Avenue and East 34th Street. Perhaps you've seen it? Well, 640 Broadway, designed by DeLomos and Cordes and completed in 1897, was originally home to the Empire State Bank. And above its entryway on Broadway were the words "Empire State Building." Those words were lost to the sands of time, but the proposal from architect Joe Levine and Bill Higgins of the preservation firm Higgins Quasebarth & Partners seeks to reconstruct that lettering as well as the cornice, molding, and brackets.

The nine-story building will also get a new fiberglass balustrade to replace the one lost over the years. Behind that will be twin one-story penthouses. There will also be a barely visible glass railing. The building is also seeking a waiver to allow for this addition, since it exceeds setback and rooftop recreation requirements.

The building's windows are being replaced and restored where necessary, and the storefronts are being repaired and restored, including cornices over them. Commissioner Michael Devonshire called the proposal "completely appropriate" and it was approved unanimously.

Despite the bizarre-yet-historically accurate name thing, the projecct even got the backing of the Historic Districts Council. "HDC found the rooftop addition to be sufficiently concealed, and feels that it is a fair project in exchange for the planned restorative work," HDC's Barbara Zay said.
—Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
· 640 Noho [official]
· The Empire State Building, 640 Broadway [Forgotten NY]
· All Landmarks Preservation coverage [Curbed]