Preservation Issues

Testimony on Recent Landmark Alterations and New Construction


Proposed tower on 57th Street adjacent to Steinway Hall


Proposed tower on 57th Street adjacent to Steinway Hall

The Conservancy testified on applications to the Landmarks Commission for alterations and new construction at the sites of four individual landmarks. 
 
We applauded a plan to convert the upper floors of the Woolworth Building to residential use. Since a different reuse scheme failed a decade ago, thirty floors of one of New York’s finest towers have been vacant. This proposal called for restorative work at the facades, installation of new windows to match original, and construction of low-scale additions at the base of the tower.  The Conservancy supported all of these alterations, and the Commission approved the application.
 
Much more visible penthouse additions at the Apthorp were met with dismay by the Conservancy, elected officials, the Community Board, preservation colleagues, and residents. We objected to the two-story rooftop additions which would have destroyed the classical form and massing of this stately Upper West Side landmark.  At the end of a lengthy hearing, the Commission did not have a quorum and did not take a vote.
 
Two new towers on West 57th Street will change the New York skyline and cast long shadows over Central Park. The Conservancy testified on two applications for new construction. The first is adjacent to Steinway Hall at 109-113 West 57th Street; and the second is a block away at the corner of 57th Broadway on an L-shaped lot that contains the BF Goodrich Building (1780 Broadway) and is adjacent to the Art Students League Building (215 West 57th Street). In both cases, we supported restorative work that will improve individual landmarks, but raised concerns that these towers, at 14 or 1500 feet tall, would not have harmonious relationships with their low-rise neighbors.  Each could be built as of right without encroaching on the historic buildings, but the developers have selected designs that will rise, in part, on landmark sites. 
 
At Steinway Hall, part of the new building’s footprint will be on the Steinway lot, and the base of the tower will be set back to allow the landmark to be more visible. The Commission approved the thin bronze, glass, and terra-cotta clad skyscraper designed by SHoP Architects. At the BF Goodrich site, a section of the glass tower will cantilever over the neighboring Art Students’ League.  We raised concerns that both during and after construction, the masonry building with its roof full of skylights could be in danger.  The Landmarks Commission approved the proposal.