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11 historic Midtown East buildings landmarked in one fell swoop

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Preservationists were pushing for these buildings to be landmarked before the neighborhood is rezoned

It didn’t take the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission a long time to give their verdict on a bunch of historic buildings in Midtown East that had been on the agency’s calendar since this past summer. The verdict was unanimous—all 11 of them were declared New York City Landmarks.

The public hearings for the buildings, which include the Pershing Square Building, the Graybar Building, the Shelton Hotel Building, and the Yale Club of New York City were all held shortly after the items were calendared.

The most contentious of the sites was the Pershing Square Building. Many transportation advocates, and most notably Vishaan Chakrabarti, a professor at Columbia University and the founder of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU), argued that landmarking that building would hobble transportation improvements in the area, especially as the city moves forward with its plan to rezone Midtown East and attract more modern office buildings to the neighborhood.

Most local elected officials and preservation groups didn’t buy into that argument. The LPC seemed to agree with them back in July, and did so today as well. LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said that historic buildings could “sensitively incorporate” any infrastructural improvements that were required in the future.

It was smooth sailing for the rest of the buildings, and at the end of all the buildings being landmarked, some of the commissioners took a moment to commend the multiple city agencies that allowed the landmarking process to move forward swiftly and seamlessly, and hoped that the LPC could work similarly on large-scale landmarking projects like this in the future.

“The agency’s comprehensive plan aims to ensure that an area defined by constant evolution retains its unique interplay between historic buildings and new construction,” Srinivasan said in a statement.

Of the 12 buildings that were identified over the summer, 11 were landmarked today with the verdict on 601 Lexington Avenue, now known as the Citigroup Center yet to be decided (a vote is expected by the end of the year). There was an increased push to have these historic buildings landmarked before the Midtown East rezoning initiative moves forward. Through that effort, the city is hoping to create 16 new buildings that will predominantly be offices, but there are plans for 300,000 square feet of retail and 119 apartments as well.