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Four Seasons Restaurant Debacle Still Worries Preservationists

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Now that the alterations that Seagram Building owner Aby Rosen wanted to make to Philip Johnson's landmarked modernist interior at the Four Seasons are off the table, the city's preservationists are heaving a collective sigh of relief. But in the same breath comes a flurry of rumination on the meaning of landmarks and preservation in a city that, above all, values the dollar. New York Magazine archicritic Justin Davidson writes that the hearing "was a test of the commission's willingness to stand up to an influential and relentless developer who acts as though the very fact that he's chosen to spend his money on something makes it by definition good." (Davidson's stab echoes Rosen's post-hearing tirade to the Times wherein he opined that he should be congratulated for buying the Seagram Building and for wanting to throw large amounts of money at it.)

Which is probably why Rosen is not without his enemies. In a statement unaffiliated with the Historic Districts Council made on his personal Facebook page and pointed to by the Post, HDC executive director Simeon Bankoff reamed Rosen, "Can't say this on the [HDC] page but f–k Aby Rosen. F–k these hideous ogres who bully themselves into the places which make up our lives and ruin them . . . F–k them. These people are oppressors and should curl up and die." And "oppress" Rosen will continue to do. When the 56-year-old restaurant's lease is up in 2016, Rosen is giving it the boot.

The beloved space will give way to something else; exactly what is unclear. Despite Tuesday's triumph, Davidson points out that the LPC can't dictate how spaces are used. He illustrates the perils with Brooklyn's landmarked Gage & Tollner interior, a formerly resplendent restaurant-turned-tchotchke shop by floating walls that hide the interior "the same way a Mayan city lies undiscovered in the jungle." Hopefully the support of so many of New York's architecture-minded heavy hitters will be enough to keep the space from being hidden.
· Why Landmarks Said No to Aby Rosen's Four Seasons Renovation [NYM]
· Four Seasons Restaurant's Iconic Modernist Design Is Safe [Curbed]
· Reading Between the Lines of the Testimony in Favor of Saving the Four Seasons's Restaurant [Curbed]