Preservation Issues

Conservancy Testifies Against Rooftop Addition

-827-831 Broadway

Read out Testimony

-827-831 Broadway LPC Testimony

827-831 Broadway, Manhattan

The Conservancy spoke out against a proposal that would have set a precedent for looser standards at landmarks designated for their cultural or historic significance. At an LPC hearing on January 9, the Conservancy joined elected officials, local advocates, and neighbors, in asking the Landmarks Commission to reject a plan for a large, glass-clad rooftop addition to the 827-831 Broadway Buildings, an individual landmark designated at the end of 2017.

The 1867 Buildings were designated for associations with the Abstract Expressionist artists who once lived and worked there, especially Willem de Kooning. The LPC also called out the architecture, referring to them as commercial “’palaces’ which “drew architectural inspiration from Italian palazzi” and marked a moment when architect Griffith Thomas, whose later work would be largely associated with cast-iron buildings, started using cast-iron elements.

The architects presented an addition that ignored the context of the historic structure, and justified the move by saying that this is a cultural landmark, so they did not need to make any connections to the architecture and based their design on de Kooning’s art.

We decried the multi-faceted, reflective surfaces as well as the height, which at 50-feet tall, would have increased the size of the structure by nearly two-thirds, saying, “This addition completely loses sight of the landmark buildings, diminishing them and treating them as only a prop. And we’re not convinced that anyone seeing this highly visible structure would recognize the de Kooning influence.”

We were also concerned that if approved, this proposal would set a precedent, in which landmarks designated for their cultural or historic significance could routinely be treated as pedestals for additions that have no connection to protected landmark structures. Such a precedent would be completely contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Landmarks Law. There have been many landmarks designated for their culture and history, as well as architecture, but the Law treats them all the same.

The Commissioners had a mixed response, with some agreeing that the architecture cannot be ignored, and others willing to look into that possibility. They asked the architects to return with a lower-scale addition. We will continue to follow this proposal and the Commission’s approach to landmarks designated for cultural significance.