The Landmarks Law, signed into being by Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr., is soon to celebrate its 50th birthday. Since its inception in 1965, nearly 1,400 individual landmarks, 115 interior landmarks, 10 scenic landmarks, 109 historic districts, and 10 district extensions have been established throughout all five boroughs. While advocates, especially those aligned with the Landmarks50 alliance, believe that 'preservation provides a reassuring chain of continuity between past and present,' the inherent merits of preservation do not preclude it from the trials and tribulations of a growing, changing metropolis. Though there are oh-so-many to choose from... Here now, the 10 most heated preservation battles being waged across the city right now. Disagree with the selection, or have another historic site at risk to bring to our attention? Let us know via e-mail or in the comments section below.Read More
Mapping 10 Preservation Battles Being Waged In NYC Right Now
American Folk Art Museum
Not so much a battle anymore as much as the end-of-battle concession period, it is utterly inevitable that MoMA will gobble up the Billie Tsien-designed American Folk Art Museum. MoMA recently announced that before razing the 12-year-old structure, they will dismantle and store the copper-bronze alloy facade the folk art museum is known for. No plans have been made for use of the plates.
The Four Seasons Restaurant
Is it a question of taste, or is the wall that the 100-year-old Picasso-painted-curtain hangs on in the Seagram Building's iconic Four Seasons restaurant actually structurally unsound? The fight to remove the artwork has been put on hold after a Manhattan judge temporarily barred the tapestry's removal by landlord RFR Realty, whose CEO allegedly thinks of the tapestry as a "schmatte": the Yiddish word for rag. The removal has been blocked for at least a few more weeks, although its ultimate fate remains uncertain.
New York State Pavilion
It's been a long time coming: After nearly 50 years of neglect, the city is beginning to take action to determine the future of the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park 1964 World's Fair New York State Pavilion. There are three options the state sees for the Pavilion, which has slid towards rusty ruin in the past several decades: tear down the structures, stabilize them, or restore them for future use. Tearing the structures down will cost the state $14 million, with restoring them costing upwards of $70 million. While chatter seems to indicate that the structures will remain, exactly how they will be cared for has yet to be sussed out.
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Developers working with the famous Upper West Side full-block apartment building the Apthorp met the Landmarks Preservation Commission in January to propose a rooftop addition of four penthouses. The commissioners thought that the proposed addition by Goldstein, Hill & West "throws off the bilateral symmetry" of the Italian Renaissance Revival design, and asked the architect to return with a new proposal that is shorter and less bulky. As far as we know, plans are still on the drawing board.
The 109-year-old lowrise limestone mansion at 31 West 57th Street that currently houses the Rizzoli Bookstore, as well as its two lowrise neighbors, are slated to be torn down by the developer duo of LeFrak and Vornado Realty Trust. The developers plan to build a new development highrise in its place. As exepected, preservation groups and archicritics alike have spoken out against the project. There are currently no demolition permits on file, and no word as to whether the tower will be residential or commercial.
Merchant's House Museum
At debate in this preservation battle is whether or not the construction of architect Ed Carroll's proposed nine-story hotel will damage its 182-year-old neighbor, the Merchant's House Museum. The architect's proposal has appeared before the Landmarks Preservation Commission three times. At the most recent hearing on February 11, the Commissioners continued to stress their concern for the house's "fragile interior plasterwork," and concluded by sending the architect back to the drawing board for revisions to the front and rear facade.
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Church of St. Luke in the Fields
In a move not unfamiliar to non-profits as-of-late, the Church of St. Luke in the Fields is hoping to expand their West Village presence (and their bank accounts) with a 15-story apartment building atop of a parking lot on their plot between Hudson, Barrow, Christopher, and Greenwich streets. The church also hopes to add a two-story addition to their school. Because the land falls within the Greenwich Village Historic District, the church will need the approval of the LPC to move forward. Unsurprisingly, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation frowns on the project, although the proposed 70,000-square-foot tower is relatively modest considering that the lot is zoned for a building as large as 200,000-square-feet. The project, still seeking approval from the LPC, is being overseen by architects Beyer Blinder Belle.
Palisades Interstate Park
At stake in this preservation battle is the pristine view of New Jersey's Palisades from Inwood's Fort Tryon Park. In 2013, LG Electronics started making waves with its proposed 143-foot structure in New Jersey's Englewood Cliffs, which would, according to those looking to preserve the view, "Spoil the Palisades." The campaign against the structure got a boost in October 2013 when the World Monuments Fund named New Jersey's Palisades and Manhattan's Cloisters to its annual endangered sites list. The tech giant's expansion is currently thwarted by lawsuits that aim to protect the land.
Beth Hamedrash Hagadol
Closed to the public since 2007, the deteriorating Beth Hamedrash Hagadol synagogue on the Lower East Side has only recently decided to withdraw its hardship application to strip itself of its landmark status from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Because of the building's state of disrepair, synagogue leadership had previously sought to replace the 164-year-old building with a new residential structure, dismaying preservationists across the land. Efforts to save the building are ongoing.
Midtown zoning has come under fire following hot debate over the seven new supertowersand their shadowscoming to the Central Park South area. Extell's chief, Gary Barnett, defends his several projects which will stretch high (and long: the Municipal Art Society found that the shadows could reach up to 67th Street in the fall) above Central Park. At a recent debate, a shadow opponent and writer of the Times op-ed "Shadows Over Central Park" noted how the lack of direct light "[made] the park less pleasant." The debate often boils down to how the towers will cater to a select few of means while the park is a public space. A solution for future development is yet to be seen.