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Under the Queensboro Bridge, a beloved retail space is set to be revitalized

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But the Landmarks Commission wants some changes before that happens

Rendering by GreenbergFarrow via LPC

Earlier this month it was revealed that craft store Michaels was set to take over the former Food Emporium space under the landmarked Queensboro Bridge, but before the move can be finalized, the company needs to get approvals from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to remodel the space.

To that effect, architecture firm GreenbergFarrow, which is designing the space, appeared before the LPC Tuesday afternoon. For the most part, the proposal seeks to maintain the space as is, but they did propose a few eye-grabbing changes that didn’t go down too well with the Commission.

Foremost was a red film at the base of the arched windows on both the East 59th and East 60th Street entrances to the space. The architects proposed that the reversible film would cover the lower opaque section of the windows and not affect the interior space as much, but the commissioners felt it was too much of a distraction and took away from the uniformity of the overall space.

Here’s what they are taking about:

“I think the red film detracts from the space,” said commissioner Diana Chapin. “It takes away from the sense of the arches.”

“The red paneling on the side can be removed,” Meenakshi Srinivasan, the chair of the LPC, added decisively.

Some of the other major changes Michaels is proposing for the space had to do with lighting and installing ducting into parts of the iconic vaulted ceiling. This elicited a mixed response from the commissioners.

Commissioner Michael Goldblum wasn’t enthused by the lighting proposal and said the heavy, decorative-style lights that the architects were proposing would penetrate the terra-cotta tiles, and that the ducting would obscure the vaults.

“For me the stuff that’s happening on the ground level is not as important as what’s happening in the vault area,” he said.

Srinivasan however stressed that the lighting and the ducting was a challenging issue to address especially considering the size of the space, and that instead of rejecting the application, Michaels and their architects should be given a little more time to revise their proposal.

Two people spoke during the public testimony section of the proposal. Judith Schneider, speaking on behalf of the 60th Street Neighborhood Association, strongly backed Michaels’s design and praised how they had used lighting to better highlight the space.

“There are few tenants who could afford to take on a space like this, and the community could really use a tenant like Michaels in the area,” she said.

Another community group, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, was a little more skeptical. While they supported Michaels’s move to the space, they too were concerned about the lighting and the red film on the exterior—a sentiment the Commission would go on to echo shortly afterward.

In the end, the Commission decided not to vote on the matter, and instead asked the architects to revise their plan and return at a later date. The space had been home to Food Emporium for 16 years until its parent company, A&P, declared bankruptcy, and the shop below the Queensboro Bridge eventually closed in November 2015.