Distinguished Mid-century Modern Building to be Demolished Conservancy Seeks Designation

The Conservancy again urged the Landmarks Commission ( see letter ) to designate the former Union Carbide Building, as current owner JP Morgan Chase publicized its plans to demolish the tower at 270 Park Avenue, just north of Grand Central Terminal. 270 Park, a 52-story, 700-foot-tall tower from the mid-century era, is set to be replaced with a 70-story, 1,200-foot "supertall" skyscraper. The new building would be the first to take advantage of the East Midtown rezoning, which allows substantially larger structures in the area around Grand Central.

This Modern tower is one of a list of 16 buildings that the Conservancy, Historic Districts Council, and Municipal Art Society submitted jointly in November 2013, requesting designation. While we were pleased to see eight of them designated as individual landmarks, we noted throughout the East Midtown rezoning public review process that the remainder of the buildings on the list would face severe development pressure, and now, 270 Park Avenue will be the first loss.

This building well represents Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill’s mid-century portfolio, and is recognized to be the work of Natalie de Blois, one of the few women architects of this era. It was called out in the 2013 East Midtown rezoning Draft Environmental Impact Statement as “one of the City’s great modern buildings,” and “a natural evolution in the new corporate architecture that started with Lever House and the Seagram Building … it marked the end of that short-lived but graceful clean-cut era as it was followed by many vastly inferior imitators.”  

We appreciate that JP Morgan Chase wants to stay in the City, but we have to believe that there are alternatives that would allow them to do so, without demolishing this building. Despite alterations to the plaza, 270 Park Avenue retains its form and proportions, hallmarks of its style. Losing this tower would diminish our understanding of the evolution of Modern corporate architecture along Park Avenue, and in New York as a whole.

We have not received a response from the Landmarks Commission.
Citywide Alert!
Mayor Seeks Larger Buildings in Residential Neighborhoods

The Landmarks Conservancy is working to stop a second attempt by the de Blasio administration to lift a state-mandated cap on the height and size of residential buildings. This could lead to out-of-scale buildings in neighborhoods throughout the City.

The Conservancy fears that lifting the cap would escalate development pressures in historic districts, neighborhoods that qualify as Historic Districts but lack protection, and contextual zones where communities often spent years achieving height limits on residential streets.

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and Regional Plan Association (RPA) both support eliminating the cap. They argue that the City needs additional density, significant new housing and the “affordable” units that the larger buildings would supply. They also say that new projects would go through ULURP, the City’s public review process, where communities would have opportunity to comment. But RPA recently collaborated on a study which showed that ULURP is flawed. Projects are often fully formed before starting the process and hard to stop. Community Boards are often no match for highly paid real estate attorneys and consultants promoting new development. In many recent cases, communities resisted proposed projects with Mandatory Inclusionary Housing because the projects would be out-of- scale with the neighborhood and the “affordable" units would be too expensive for current residents.

The Conservancy worked with State Senator Liz Krueger and colleague groups to stop a similar effort two years ago when the City tried to push it through with no public notice or input. We are working with them again. The State imposed the 12 FAR cap in 1961 to protect the character of residential neighborhoods.

We will again ask for your help when we have specific bills introduced in the legislature.    
East Harlem and More
Conservancy Testifies for Five New Landmark Designations

The Conservancy testified in support of landmark designation of a CBJ Snyder school in East Harlem and two richly ornamented towers in Madison Square North at Landmarks Commission hearings in February. We joined elected officials, local advocates, and our preservation colleagues, speaking out for five new designations in these neighborhoods that are facing development pressure. 

East Harlem is one of the communities that the City is looking to rezone. The intention is to encourage larger buildings that combine new market-rate apartments and affordable housing, but there are concerns that historic buildings will be the targets for the new construction. In conjunction with the rezoning, the Landmarks Commission surveyed the area and brought three new designations forward at a February 13 hearing. 

El Barrio’s Artspace PS 109 is the former Public School 109, a Gothic Collegiate treasure on East 99th Street. The Conservancy was involved in saving the school in the late 1990s, when the City closed it with plans for demolition and let it deteriorate. We worked with local activists, engaged an engineer who produced a report which found that the building could be reused, and got it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We celebrated the restoration and reuse of the Collegiate Gothic school building, which now offers affordable housing to local artists and has community facilities.

The Richard Webber Harlem Packing House at 207-215 East 119th Street is a grand Romanesque Revival, whose style elevates it above the typical 19th century industrial building. Constructed as a part of a meat-processing complex, the attractive masonry façade features arches, pilasters, and fetching terra-cotta cow head reliefs. While there have been alterations, the building retains its original height, massing, materials, and many intact decorative details.

Examples of tax credit projects: Kings Theatre - Flatbush, Brooklyn and a restored New York City home.

We Need Your Help to Continue State Historic Tax Credits
The fight to extend the State Historic Preservation Tax Credits through 2024 is gaining support in the Albany legislature and we’re asking you to help.  The credits expire at the end of next year.

From 2013 to 2016, 52 New York City projects used the commercial credits, which are also available for residential restoration projects. This activity resulted in 760 new residential units and 96 low or moderate income units from projects such as The Williamsburg Savings Bank, Temple Court (now The Beekman) in Lower Manhattan, Metropolitan Life Building, Bronx General Post Office, Nassau Brewer, Hudson Theater and the Randolph Houses in Harlem. 

Governor Cuomo has extended the credits two years in advance but did not do so this year. Proponents are concerned that developers may hesitate to go ahead with projects because they often require a long lead time.

The Conservancy has been working with the Preservation League of New York State and other groups. We’ve contacted New York City Assembly Members and Senators and are pleased with the support we’ve gotten. The League held an Albany lobby day to continue the press. In addition to the two year extension, we are asking to decouple the State commercial tax credits from the Federal historic commercial tax credits. While Congress recently renewed the credits, they required that they be taken over five years. We believe the State credits should continue to be available all at once.  

Please Contact your  State Senator and  State Assembly Member and ask them to support Assembly bill A.9882 and Senate S.7648. Tell them the State Preservation Tax Credits are important for the economy and in the restoration and reuse of historic buildings throughout the City and State.
Midtown East - 51 East 42nd Street
Midtown Terra Cotta Pieces Have New Homes

Several large pieces of decorative terra cotta were removed from a handsome Warren and Wetmore building demolished to make way for One Vanderbilt have finally found good homes. Nine pieces are at the St. Louis based National Building Arts Center , a museum of architectural elements. The others are at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture .
Jennifer Hoover, Director of Finance & Operations at the Architecture School, said Notre Dame received the pieces “with great appreciation” and that the elements will be restored and put on public display at the School.

The National Building Arts Center houses the nation’s largest and most diversified collection of building artifacts. A variety of architectural elements from the Brooklyn Museum are now also at the Center.

The quest for a home for the terra cotta began last April as 51 East 42nd Street, across Vanderbilt Avenue from Grand Central, was being readied for demolition. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer strongly backed a request from Conservancy Chair Lloyd Zuckerberg to save some of the elaborate terra cotta decoration on the facades. SL Green, the developer for One Vanderbilt, agreed to save some pieces and also paid the shipping costs.

“51 East 42nd Street was one of the little gems scattered throughout New York,” said Zuckerberg. “It was designed with tremendous care to be a background building to the main event—Grand Central Terminal,” he added . “Honoring its memory by distributing its architectural elements allows future generations to understand the importance of detail in enriching the aesthetic character of urban settings.”

Anthony Schembri of SL Green wrote Zuckerberg on January 31 that “SL Green cannot be happier that the terra cotta elements will be displayed for students and the general public to appreciate.” He called the pieces “invaluable architectural elements.” 

The Conservancy believed 51 East 42nd Street deserved landmark designation. Failing that, we thank our Chair and SL Green for ensuring that elements of the building will be cared for and publicly appreciated.    
Tourist In Your Own Town
View the Birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt

Visit the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace at 28 East 20th Street in Manhattan. Roosevelt was born here in 1858 and lived at this place until he was fifteen when the family moved uptown. The original house was demolished in 1916, but was rebuilt in 1923 by the Woman's Roosevelt Memorial Association.

The house museum was designed by Theodate Pope Riddle, one of America's earliest female architects. Rooms have been restored to reflect their appearance between 1865 and 1872 and most of the furnishings are from the original house or were provided by the Roosevelt family.

Plan Your Visit
Located at 28 East 20th Street, the National Park Service runs the house museum and offers  free  guided tours. 

For hours and directions, visit   nps.gov/thrb

Famous Teddy Quotes...

"Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground."

"Believe you can and you're halfway there."

"Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far."

"It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed."

Mystery Landmark
Did You Identify This Mystery Landmark?

It's Saint Bartholomew's Episcopal Church at 50th Street and Park Avenue in Manhattan. It was designed by renowned architect Bertram Goodhue, 1914-1919 and was designated a City Landmark in 1967.

The photo shows the fine salmon-colored brick work with bands of limestone and the ornamental carving that symbolizes the martyred Saint Bartholomew who, according to tradition, was flayed alive, crucified, and then beheaded. This decorative element is located on the front facade gable facing Park Avenue.

The building was correctly identified by Jessica Schulman and her favorite landmark is the former hospital area on the South Side of Ellis Island .
Save the Date - May 8, 2018
St. Bart's to Host Moses Awards
The Conservancy invites you to the presentation of the Lucy G. Moses Preservation Awards, our highest honors for outstanding preservation. This year we honor John H. Beyer , architect and founding partner of Beyer Blinder Belle, as well as the owners and stewards of historic buildings across the City, who completed extraordinary restoration and reuse projects in 2017, including St. Bart's!

This month’s Landmark News is sponsored by   Stribling and Associates
This newsletter is made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.  
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