Architect Philip Johnson holding a model of the AT&T building (circa 1979).
550 Madison Avenue - Midtown
Conservancy Supports Designating Johnson Masterwork

New York’s most prominent post-modern building is one step closer to landmark designation. The Conservancy joined with the owners of 550 Madison Avenue (former AT&T Headquarters Building), architects, preservationists, and elected officials to support the designation at a Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) hearing on June 19. Over 30 speakers voiced support for the designation, with none opposed.

Philip Johnson’s design for the Midtown tower broke away from decades of unadorned glass-clad modernism, shocking the architectural community of the late 1970s. Johnson’s scheme recalled the classical form of a column, with a delineated base, shaft, and capital. His use of granite, and the Chippendale-inspired broken pediment at the roof signaled the arrival of post-modernism in New York. Over the last three decades, the tower has become an icon of the City skyline.

Plans, revealed late last year, to install an undulating glass façade at the base triggered a call for landmark designation to protect the storied tower. At the hearing, the owners dismissed the earlier proposal, but asked the LPC to consider their intention to create a public garden at the site of an annex and covered walkway. The annex and walkway were part of public space that AT&T, the original owners, promised in exchange for zoning bonuses.

At the end of the two-hour hearing, the Commissioners did not ask questions or take a vote, but will likely make a decision later in the summer.

Neighborhoods Safe for Now: But Mayor Likely to Try Again

Mayor de Blasio’s third attempt to pass legislation in Albany that would allow out-of-scale buildings in City neighborhoods failed again this past session. But it will almost certainly be back.  

Preservationists and the City’s delegation of State Senate and Assembly Members have opposed lifting a longstanding State cap on the size of residential buildings for several reasons. Communities in all five boroughs are already concerned about over-development. They have also decried the de Blasio administration’s lack of public explanation or debate on this issue.  Here’s what should happen before the City–and its Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) allies–try again. 

The Mayor should forget about a citywide bill. The Department of City Planning (DCP) needs to identify discrete areas where they can demonstrate that increased density can be absorbed without overwhelming transit systems and schools, or damaging quality of life. The public should be engaged throughout this planning process.

DCP should also study if allowing smaller bonuses in these select areas would be an alternative to lifting the cap.

The agency should report on the impact of recent citywide and targeted upzonings which have already increased building size and altered neighborhoods. The agency should inform the public how many affordable units have been created and how many affordable units have been lost to new construction. 

Current and future Historic Districts, and neighborhoods zoned for less than 12 FAR should be excluded from attempts to lift the State cap.

The Chair of the Assembly Housing Committee held one informational meeting in his office on this issue and plans to continue discussions. We intend to participate. We also will press forward to ensure that real public planning is completed before there is another attempt to drastically change the character of our neighborhoods.
Lower Manhattan
Conservancy Hosts Meeting with Officials from China

Who decides how a historic building gets used? How do you ensure that your grants are used for the right purpose? How does a person know if a building is landmarked? Where do you get your funding? 

These were just a few of the questions posed by a delegation of 25 officials from the city of Hangzhou and the Jianggan District in China who visited the Conservancy on June 20.

After seeing a presentation of various Conservancy projects, the delegates said they were surprised by how much impact a non-government organization could have. In China, the government initiates most preservation projects. They were also surprised by the diversity of our projects and the number of building types in New York.

Jiang Shanwu, director of the Hangzhou International Urbanology Research Center, said he was surprised to see large buildings near New York City landmarks. To protect an individual landmark in China, he said, an area around the building is designated.

Following the meeting, Glen Umberger, the Conservancy’s manager of special projects, led a short walking tour of Lower Manhattan landmarks near our office.

Hangzhou is an enduringly popular tourist spot in southeast China, an hour from Shanghai. West Lake, with numerous islands, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site prized by visitors and residents alike. The ancient city, is trying to balance heritage and tourism with new economic centers. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The visit was sponsored by The American and China International Foundation, that brought a delegation from Shanghai to our offices last year. We thoroughly enjoy meeting Chinese preservationists and planners, and look forward to future visits. 
(Left to Right) Rev. Dr. William Lupfer - Trinity Church Wall Street; Andrew Kimball - Industry City; Michael Braner - Chairman of the Landmarks Conservancy; and Richard J. Moylan - Green–Wood.
Metropolitan Club
Over 200 Guests Celebrate 30th Annual Chairman's Award

The recent Conservancy Chairman’s Award honorees have shown how a more than 300-year-old parish, a 180-year-old cemetery and a 161-year-old industrial complex can be today’s tourism draws and economic engines. More than 200 persons applauded that message on June 7 at the Metropolitan Club for our 30th annual Chairman’s Award Luncheon.  

“Buildings guide people’s actions and interactions,” noted Rev. Dr. William Lupfer, Rector of Trinity Church Wall Street. “They carry through values from previous times to now.” He was honored for the recent restoration of St. Paul’s Chapel and Churchyard and the interior restoration of architect Richard Upjohn’s Trinity Church.

Andrew Kimball, CEO of Industry City, was honored for turning an 1857 industrial complex on the Sunset Park waterfront into an economic powerhouse. Kimball said that “without the Landmarks Conservancy, and other New York visionaries, places like Industry City and the Brooklyn Navy Yard would have been leveled by some misguided planning effort.”  

More than 250,000 visitors a year tour Green-Wood Cemetery thanks to the leadership and skill of Richard J. Moylan, President of Green-Wood Cemetery and the Green-Wood Historic Fund. He was honored for his care of the monuments and grounds of the National Historic Landmark and initiating popular tours and programs. “The Conservancy’s help has been invaluable to where Green-Wood is now,” he said,” and that is special.”

Tourist In Your Own Town
Take a Trip to Snug Harbor and the Staten Island Museum

Visit the Staten Island Museum located in Snug Harbor, Staten Island. Snug Harbor is an 83-acre campus, which was once a home for retired seaman. It now houses several cultural institutions in Landmark Greek Revival buildings.

The Museum dates from 1881, when a group of naturalists combined their collections to record the island’s plants and animals; it has since evolved adding art and history to its mission.

Plan Your Visit
Located in Snug Harbor, Staten Island - 1000 Richmond Terrace, Building A. The museum has a suggested admission.
For hours and directions, visit
Mystery Landmark
Did You Identify This Mystery Landmark?

Designated a City Landmark in 1989, the Parachute Jump is located at West 16th Street on the Coney Island Boardwalk . James H. Strong was the inventor and Elwyn E. Seelye & Co. engineered this 1939-40 New York World's Fair ride. It was relocated to Brooklyn and used again as a ride until 1964. Although, not in use as a ride, it remains one of Brooklyn's most visible landmarks. A multicolored light scheme was added in 2006 by Leni Schwenginger.

The building was correctly identified by Kevin Smith and his favorite landmark is the beautiful Washington Square Arch designed by Stanford White .
This month’s Landmark News is sponsored by   Stribling and Associates
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