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NYPL’s Rose Main Reading Room could become a NYC landmark

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The chorus is growing to landmark more interiors at the NYPL’s Fifth Avenue building

NYPL Rose Main Reading Room Finished Max Touhey

Update, 6/6/17: As expected, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission calendared the New York Public Library’s Rose Main Reading Room and Bill Blass Catalog Room on Tuesday. The entire hearing wrapped up in just a few minutes, and the verdict was unanimous. The Commission will now debate on landmarking the spaces at a later, yet-to-be-determined date this year.

“This would be an opportune moment to consider landmarking these iconic spaces,” Meenakshi Srinivasan, the chair of the LPC, said at the meeting, shortly before the item was calendared. “These spaces have been meticulously restored and I cannot recommend enough that the Commission consider calendaring this item.”

The New York Public Library’s majestic Rose Main Reading Room and Bill Blass Catalog Room recently got a facelift, and now, the chorus calling for those two rooms to become New York City landmarks is growing.

It looks like the Landmarks Preservation Commission is listening: The LPC has included those two rooms on its agenda for this Tuesday’s meeting as part of its Research Department’s public meeting agenda. That move is merely the first of several steps it’ll take to eventually (maybe, hopefully) give those two rooms interior landmark status.

This isn’t the first time that preservationists have sought to protect the Rose Main Reading Room: Back in 2013, Manhattan Community Board 5 asked the NYPL to consider landmark status for the enormous space, though that did not end up moving forward. Last month, State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Kreuger, who supported the 2013 push for preservation, asked the LPC to reconsider the renovated spaces within the NYPL as landmarks.

“The Public Library is the crown jewel of culture in our city, and as historic and beautiful on the inside as outside,” Hoylman said in a statement. “It’s essential that the library’s grand public spaces be preserved for future generations of New Yorkers.”

But there are some who don’t think the LPC is going far enough to protect the library’s interiors. Currently, only a few spaces within the NYPL’s main building—including the grand staircase at the Fifth Avenue entrance—are designated landmarks. The Committee to Save NYPL, a preservationist group that led the charge against the library’s controversial, never-realized Norman Foster renovation, wants the LPC and the NYPL to consider landmarking more than a dozen spaces within the building. (Those include the Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall, where the library occasionally holds free exhibits, and the Celeste Bartos Forum, a stunning room that’s often rented out for weddings.)

“Carrère & Hastings conceived of the library as a unified design expressed through a shared architectural vocabulary, use of similar materials, and decorative motifs that recur throughout its many rooms,” the group wrote in a letter to LPC chair Meenakshi Srinivasan. “A piecemeal approach to interior designation does not adequately respect this design and leaves some of New York’s most sublime manifestations of Beaux-Arts interiors unprotected.”

Unsurprisingly, CSNYPL has the support of the Municipal Art Society and the Historic Districts Council, among other preservation-minded groups. The library has also expressed support (so far) for a potential landmark designation.

Want to show your support? The LPC will begin the process tomorrow at its regular meeting.

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