Since 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of New York City's landmarks law, it seems that conferences, exhibits, and panels are taking place right and left over the crucialand divisiveissue of preservation. But in the midst of lots of big-picture thinking and analytical reflection in hindsight, let's not forget that modern-day fights are still ongoing. That means myriad people are squaring off against developers and landlords to save buildings, views, and even a smokestack at this very moment. Did we miss your favorite preservation battle? Let us know.Read More
Mapping 20 Preservation Battles Raging in New York Right Now
807 Park Avenue
The Landmarks Preservation Commission is currently stuck on whether or not to okay the demolition of 807 Park Avenue, a heavily-modified 1899 building that falls in the Upper East Side Historic District, to make room for a new 12-story residential building. The request to demolish comes via developer Aion, who purchased the structure from rapper Puff Daddy for $14.3 million in 2005. After reconfiguring the building into three expensive units that failed to rent despite multiple stunts the developer has crafted a proposal involving razing the existing 12 story building and erecting a new one in its place. It's been in limbo since 2008, and has been called "cursed."
Though the Brooklyn Lyceum, a bathhouse-turned-arts and events space, has already sold to a developer, and that developer has announced plans to turn it into condos, the former owner who lost control of the historic building isn't giving up the fight yet. He still has appeals ongoing in various court systems.
, Since its erection in the 1920s, the theater hosted a massive collection of Harlem luminaries, from big bands led by Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington, to Joe Louis prize fights, to NAACP anti-lynching meetings
Coney Island Beach & Boardwalk
The fight against the Parks Department's plan to concrete-ify the Coney Island boardwalk has included a rally as well as vocal opposition from local politicians and community leaders. The Parks department has tweaked their plans to appease the criticsthe boardwalk's center carriage lane will be built in concrete, but will be flanked by plastic imitation woodbut it's not really putting out the oppositional fire.
The Frick Collection
Last year, the Frick Collection announced a substantial addition to its uber-historic Upper East Side Gilded Age mansion. It involves adding additional gallery and conservation lab space at the cost of removing a 1970s-built viewing garden designed by landscape architect Russell Page. The expansion is attracting both praise and harsh criticism from neighbors and architecture critics alike, but before moving forward, needs to go before the Landmarks Preservation Commission first.
Brooklyn Heights Promenade
This one is a long, complicated, and technical tale, but in essence a group of Brooklyn Heights residents are at odds with the developers of a hotel-condo building called Pierhouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park over whether the development blocks a crucial, perhaps protected view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the promenade. Builders are lowering the height of one section by a eensy-weensy smidge, but given the shenanigans at the most recent park board meeting, that's not really going to assuage any detractors.
South Street Seaport
Oh, the saga of the South Street Seaport. In essence, Howard Hughes Corporation wants to make a lot of changes to the historic area, including a whole new entertainment complex at Pier 17, building affordable housing on Schermerhorn Row, and putting up a tower along the East River. Those proposals and more have attracted passionate detractors as well as defenders, and sparked epic community meetings. Reading our detailed past coverage is one way to wrap your head around the many issues (and buildings) at stake.
First Church Of Christ, Scientist
The Landmarks Preservation Commission is having a hard time stomaching various revised proposals to convert an Upper West Side church at 96th and Central Park West into condos. The crux of the issue remains window placement; the LPC has been quick to shoot down the addition of new windows into the 1903 building's park-facing facade. Oh, and residents hate it, too. All this has sent architects Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel back to the drawing board yet again.
New York State Pavilion
Despite a few small triumphs in the fight to save Philip Johnson's 1964 World's Fair structures in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, their fate remains uncertain. The city is funding a $5.8M restoration that will focus on repairing the electrical system, rebuilding the towers' staircases, and fixing the concrete platforms that hold up the observation decksthat plan also includes lighting them up at night, in the hopes that it'll attract attention to raise the rest of the funds for restoration.
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Thankfully, Landmarks said the glass dome proposed for the Union Square-facing Tammany Hall is a no-go, since it's just too out of context for the 1929-built structure, which was just made a landmark in October of 2013. The owners have considered (and perhaps still are considering) other updates to the building, such as demolishing an interior theater to make room for retail and office space.
Shulamith School For Girls
A 107-year-old smokestack in Midwood that was part of one of the first silent film studios in America, the Vitagraph Company of America, is in danger of being demolished. It is currently owned by the nearby Shulamith School for Girls, but with the school's plans to move, the future of the smokestack is up in the air. In September of 2014, scaffolding went up around it stoking fears that demolition is nigh. In 2012, the Landmarks Preservation Commission ruled that the smokestack "lacked architectural merit," but neighborhood activists (including the Midwood Merchants Association) and film history buffs are still pushing for landmark designation, with plans to re-apply.
East New York Savings Bank
Residents of East New York are rallying to stop the demolition of the former East New York Savings Bank. The Renaissance Revival building dates to 1898, and occupies a full block at Pennsylvania and Atlantic avenues. It's to be replaced by a seven-story medical building. Scaffolding is already up, but Congressman Hakeem Jeffries is backing the preservationist cause.
At one point, preservationists thought they had won the battle. In March 2013, Vornado said they abandoned plans to raze the historic hotel replace it with a glassy 3 million-square-foot tower, and instead, the developer planned to renovate the hotel. But now signs point to Vornado's capitalizing on the hotel's prime Midtown real estate. In an earnings call, Vornados chairman and CEO said, "We are considering options which go from A to Z, including demolishing it to renovating it to turning it intoto combining it with the Manhattan Mall behind. I know it’s been a long time in the making, but we’re really committed to, we are not able to comment today as to what our eventual development plan will be."
Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Not that there's much that can be done about it at this point, but there's been an outcry over the two modern-looking towers being built next to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The central argument, among others, is that they obscure the landmark church. But despite, strenuous objections from local preservationistsJustin Davidson and Michael Kimmelman, the Brodsky Organization won approval and the 15-story rental buildings are on their way up.
French Evangelical Church
Dissenters have protested the construction of an 11-story tower that will essentially "encase" Chelsea's French Evangelical Church in concrete. The place has got a long history, and, to be perfectly, frank, Einhorn Development's last available design is pretty ugly.
Jackson Street Settlement House
The Jackson Street Settlement House is neither an individual landmark nor is it in a landmark district, which means that Williamsburg residents face an uphill battle as they try to save it from demolition at the hands of nonprofit The School Settlement Association. The Association wants to replace the historic three-story building, which was featured in Betty Smith's famous novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, with a four-story building that will be better suited to accommodate the group's after-school and summer-camp programs for local children.
429 E. 64th & 430 E. 65th Streets
In a preservation battle that's going on five years now, the Stahl Organization is trying to tear down two landmarked Upper East Side buildings, claiming that they're financially too difficult to keep up. Yet critics say that they are purposely keeping the apartment complex in bad condition to prove their point, and Landmarks shot down their plea. The structures, which were built in 1914 as a model for modern tenement living that granted light and air to residents, were landmarked, then unlandmarked, then landmarked again, so it's a bit of a mess. Most recently, Stahl has sued for permission to raze them.
67 Vestry Street
Some discontented tenants of 67 Vestry Street, the Aby Rosen-owned former Tribeca warehouse which may be replaced by a new 11-story building designed by SLCE, are not giving up on their hopes of preserving the former A&P warehouse just yet. The building's tenants may appeal to Borough President Gale Brewer or attempt to expand the Tribeca North Historic District to include 67 Vestry.
Mega-corporation LG is stuck in a deadlock with neighbors and area environmentalists, who say that its planned headquarters stick up too prominently above a supposedly unmarred stretch of the verdant Palisades along the west side of the Hudson River in New Jersey. Both sides have websites (con, and pro) and defend their causes to anyone who will listen.