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Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed. Earlier designs for a triangular building at 19 East Houston Street drew the ire of the both the community and the Landmarks Commission, so Perkins Eastman made significant changes before bringing the plans back this morning. While the original design had called for a primarily glass façade, the new one features a contextual brick façade at Crosby Street and a completely separate façade of staggered glass and recessed metal panels at East Houston, addressing commissioners' concerns that the building would appear thin and flimsy. Another concern was the amount of signage that would visible through the glass. The architects took away the option of introducing a huge LED billboard by removing the large, open space where it would have gone and also limited the retail signage by having the ground level appear to be single-height, although it will remain double-height on the interior. All of the commissioners found the new plans approvable except for commissioner Michael Devonshire, who took issue with the windows Crosby Street façade, and commissioner Michael Goldblum, who said that the "overall impression is still one of a flat building" and that the design was "not taking cognizance of the special space in which it finds itself." In the end, though, it was approved with only one opposed.
Mireya Navarro reports for The New York Times. Image from Acting on the recommendations of a task force convened after Hurricane Sandy, the City Council on Thursday approved new requirements that were expected to make buildings more sustaining during emergencies and prevent some of the hardships that New Yorkers endured after the storm last year. One change requires residential buildings five stories or higher to add faucets in common areas like laundry rooms so that residents on higher floors have some access to water for drinking, flushing toilets and other uses. Upper floors lose water when electric pumps stop working during blackouts, a problem that worsened conditions and forced many people out of their buildings after the hurricane. The requirement applies immediately to new residential construction, while existing buildings have eight years to add the fixtures. “It will make it much more possible to stay in a large building for an extended period without power,” said Russell Unger, chairman of the task force of more than 200 building experts, property owners and city officials that proposed the changes. Another piece of legislation requires new and existing hospitals and nursing homes in flood zones to install hookups that would enable quick connection to temporary generators and boilers so that such facilities can maintain electricity and heating when the power is out. The law requiring the hookups is effective immediately for new buildings, but gives existing buildings 20 years to comply. Another new law makes it easier to install backup generators and generators that run on natural gas, which is considered a cleaner and more reliable source of power than diesel fuel. And a fourth law allows temporary flood barriers on sidewalks. Despite the costs to comply with the new requirements — a 20-story co-op could spend $16,000 for the required one-common-area faucet per 100 residents — property owners have been generally supportive because of the losses suffered during the storm. “It’d help get buildings up and running faster,” Angela Pinsky, a senior vice president for the Real Estate Board of New York, said of some of the measures.  

Paul Gunther writes on Architizer.

Image via The Daily Beast (

Grand Central Terminal. Image via The Daily Beast.

Just days ago, New York Senator Chuck Schumer characterized preservationists as “those people [who] would see the city die a slow death.” With an eye on the shifts under way in New York politics, it is time to put to rest this false dichotomy between landmark preservation and economic progress. The Forum for Urban Design recently published an amalgam of alternative public policy ideas entitled "Next New York" (a handy must-read for any civic-minded design professional or associated gadfly). One of the included essays calls for the elimination of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, placing its duties under the umbrella of the City Planning Commission. This argument is based on the idea that the City Planning Commission makes objective, politics-free decisions, while the decision-making process of the Landmarks Planning Commission is "opaque" and "capricious." The essay cautions against "landmarking" away the economic vitality of New York City."

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The Landmarks Preservation Commission has recently given permission to SHoP Architects to build a 1,350-foot residential tower at 107 West 57th Street in Manhattan.

In light of these criticisms, it is necessary to check the facts. For better or worse, the tension between Planning and Landmarks has evolved as the best defense against the huge scale developments that seem most often to replace rather than complement. Change is, and always will be, an aspect of any vibrant and healthy city, but today that reality seems to translate directly to vast height and increased density; until “new” can include greater contextual deference, this tension will—and should—endure. A healthy city is not a monoculture. Preservation, development, and prosperity have always been natural bedfellows: without the fabled landscapes of Central Park and the Upper East and West Sides, one could not sell $100 million apartments along 57th Street. Even in the absence of design excellence, the property can rely on views, proximity and a historic address. “Landmarking” raises the worth of surrounding areas exponentially—the numbers don’t lie.  It's ironic that those who sought to destroy Grand Central Terminal 40 years ago, calling its preservation an impediment to progress, are being quoted anew, when in fact the preservation of Grand Central may be the foremost force behind the push for increased density.

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Philip Johnson, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Bess Myerson, and former Mayor Ed Koch on Jan. 30, 1975 as they leave New York's Grand Central after holding a news conference for the "Committee to Save Grand Central Station."

Image via Municipal Art Society.

Additionally, landmarks rank as the top driver of what is by far the biggest growth engine in New York: tourism. According to Crain’s New York, in the last decade, the tourism sector has expanded by 41.5%, outpacing all other categories and “more than compensating for job losses elsewhere including manufacturing.” These jobs require a wide variety of skills, making them a perfect match for modern urban demographics. Plus, positive perceptions of a travel destination can mean an increase in design and construction opportunities—in just the last 5 years, hotel space in New York City increased by 23.7%. (Even as hotel room inventory increased, rooms stayed full—in May of 2013, 91.9% of NYC hotel rooms were in use.)

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The High Line, a new tourist attraction, and the adjacent Standard Hotel.

What visitors seek, above all, are landmarks. Of the top 10 New York City tourist destinations, for example, nine are landmarks; tourists come for the city that is, its image bright in the collective imagination. Any who see preservation as a threat to the city's momentum should take a cold hard look at the economic facts. Some may describe such reliance on the past as doomed to decline, but it is undeniable that the endurance of beloved landmarks leads directly to economic well-being. If the dollars and jobs generated by tourism are judged as inferior to those generated by new construction, then New York risks becoming a Shanghai wannabe, a hub of 9-to-5 banality. The Chinese are now reconsidering the abnegation of their cultural past; New York must never follow suit. Preservation does not obviate construction or development; a mere five percent of the five boroughs’ real estate falls under Landmarks' protection. That translates into a minute 27,000 properties, including historic districts. While the incoming mayor and his senior staff should reform the designation and enforcement processes of the Landmarks Preservation Commission by increasing transparency, fairness, client ease, and efficiency, the robust preservation movement of New York City must continue for the sake of prosperity, strong communities, and regional identity—an identity visitors pay to experience.  

Hana R. Alberts reports for Curbed. hl1 [Renderings via James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, courtesy of the City of New York.] Friends of the High Line just unveiled one special design element for Phase 3, the part that curls west and then north into the Hudson Yards area. Where it curves to the west, at 10th Avenue and West 30th Street, is a particularly wide point of the span dubbed the Spur, and an enormous bowl-shaped feature is planned for that juncture. First spotted by DNAinfo, the bowl serves as an oval amphitheater-slash-chill out space, with seating for visitors that is encircled in broad-leaf woodland grasses, perennials, and ferns, as well as Snakebark maple and black tupelo trees. FotHL says it's "an extraordinary, sheltered, and vegetated interior room that one discovers through various openings and entries." And, somehow, they're fitting public bathrooms in there. Functional! Phase 3 is currently under construction and is set to open in late 2014. 1-spur-aerial-looking-west BowlfromOutside InsideSpur FallSpur context-map-1 context-map-2
Jeremiah Budin reports for Curbed. Developer DDG and architect Peter Guthrie presented their design for an eight-story, ten-unit condo building at 100 Franklin Street to the Landmarks Commission today amid fervent public opposition. For the most part, the Commission came down on the side of the neighbors, remarking that the design, which features a façade of recovered brick layered over by a glass screen as well as a mansard roof with a large bulkhead, was too "attention-calling" at the top and that, overall, it "just seems muddled and trying to do a lot of things." Multiple commissioners thought that the brick starting at the second floor gave the impression that the building was floating in midair. However, they were not opposed, in principle, to the use of glass in the Tribeca East Historic District, and did think that elements of the design could be saved going forward. The Tribeca residents who showed up to give testimony were, of course, far less reserved in their criticism. "Reused brick is contextual in a pizza store in Queens. It's not contextual here," said architect Walter Melvin, who also called the top of the building a "glass spaceship that has crashed on the roof." Another gentleman announced that the design, if approved, would create an "international scandal". Reps for DDG have claimed that the outcry against the project has been orchestrated by the residents of neighboring 17 White Street, who are worried about losing their lot-line windows. There were residents of that building in attendance, although they did not make up the majority of the opposition. They were either savvy enough not to mention anything about windows, or really did believe that the building would be a blight on the neighborhood, as their testimony suggested.DDG, who does have experience getting new buildings with inventive designs (41 Bond Street and 325 West Broadway) past the Landmarks Commission, will return with revised plans at a later date.
Matthew Katz reports for DNAinfo New York. Image from [DNAinfo/ Matthew Katz] A long-neglected Hell's Kitchen landmark — which was covered in scaffolding for decades and had become home to squatters and vagrants in recent years — is getting an overhaul to become a boutique hotel, its owners announced. The Windermere, a landmarked Queen Anne-style building at West 57th Street and Ninth Avenue, is set to be transformed into a 175-room upscale hotel with an outdoor rooftop space, according to owner Mark Tress, who purchased the property in 2009. In addition to the hotel rooms, Tress also plans to build permanent affordable housing, which would take up 28 percent of the building, plus retail spaces on the ground floor, the developer said. "We find the proposed work for the most part praiseworthy and welcome, especially after the building’s long history of neglect and decay," Community Board 4 wrote in a largely positive letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission after a meeting last week. However, CB4 objected to the ninth-floor rooftop extension, and hoped that a handicapped access platform would be changed so it blended into the building. The plan will require approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, along with the Department of City Planning and the Buildings Department. The Windermere has a rocky history. Built in the 1880s and converted to an artists' residence in 1895, it eventually was converted to single rooms and smaller apartments in the 1970s. In the 1980s, the managers of the building were convicted of harassing tenants and sent to jail, according to Community Board 4. The next owner, Toa Construction, took over the building in 1986, but let the building fall into disrepair, leading the city's to file a judgment against Toa for "willful neglect of a landmark" and collect more than $1 million in penalties, CB4 said. The five remaining tenants left the building in 2009. After that, locals said squatters took over the building. Many neighbors were happy for the restoration of the property, but some expressed concern that the new hotel could be a party-filled hotspot. "For 30 years, it's been an awful thing to pass and it's time that something goes forward," said Serhij Hoshowsky, 66, who's lived next door for 35 years. "I think putting amenities on the rooftop, a party room, or having outdoor space that is accessible to guests that are going to use this boutique hotel is the wrong way to go." Michael Sillerman, an attorney for the project, said that the design of the building may change based on community input. "We're going to explore ways to redesign and address those concerns," he said after hearing from worried neighbors at the CB4 meeting last Wednesday night. "We recognize there are quality-of-life concerns...and we want to be a good neighbor." Steven Golden, who manages 408 W. 57th St. next door to the landmark, said he hopes the project moves forward, but in the right way. "Our biggest concern in security and noise," he said. "We're supporting the development of the site — cleaning up that corner would be a great benefit to our building and the immediate community." extralarge [DNAinfo/Mathew Katz]    
Stela Rahman reports for The Architect's Newspaper. Image courtesy SHoP ( [Courtesy SHoP] After decades of controversy, and bitter contention between community groups and politicians, the Bloomberg Administration has announced its plans for the future of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA). Located along Delancey and Essex Streets in the Lower East Side, the precinct remains the largest tract of undeveloped New York City–owned land in Manhattan, south of 96th Street. The proposed mixed-use development, to be called Essex Crossing, will transform over six acres of under-utilized land into retail markets, restaurants, office space, entertainment spaces, and one thousand new apartments. While the overall plan for the site will be designed by SHoP Architects and Beyer Blinder Belle, the glassy, modern buildings will be designed by various architects. The redevelopment project arose from five years of collaboration between community stakeholders, grassroots local leadership, and elected officials working together in partnership with the city to reshape the long-neglected area. Through the provision of key services such as affordable housing, educational and cultural amenities, developers will attempt to build on the area’s rich history and add to a vibrant neighborhood that is undergoing rapid gentrification. The venture represents $1.1 billion dollars of investment by Delancey Street Associates. Image courtesy SHoP ( Image courtesy SHoP ( Image courtesy SHoP ( Image courtesy SHoP ( “The winning proposal reflects the priories of the local community that were articulated during the multi-year community planning process,” said City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden in a statement. “This development plan exemplifies key principles of great urban design and community building by enhancing the pedestrian experience of these currently underutilized blocks within the Lower East Side.” Housing affordability is a huge consideration in the venture, with 50 percent of the one thousand new apartments being planned for low- to middle-income earners and senior citizens. Part of the entertainment amenities will include a movie theater, bowling alley, and an Andy Warhol Museum. Educational facilities will consist of schools for early childhood, senior citizens, as well as a parcel of land being reserved for a public school which may be developed in the future by the School Construction Authority. Image courtesy SHoP ( Image courtesy SHoP ( One of the unique components of the development will include a space to be known as “the Market Lin,” which will comprise a series of natural light-filled spaces for small-to-medium sized vendors. The planned concourse of vaulted archways between Essex and Clinton Street will host a range of tenants from retail and food, to a center dedicated to learning craft skills and producing handmade merchandise. Based on community needs, the project will also include a large grocery store and fitness center. The location of the site continues to grow as a tech corridor, connecting downtown Brooklyn, Dumbo, the Lower East Side, and the new Applied Sciences campus on Roosevelt Island. As a means of capitalizing on the growing markets, the development will incorporate 250,000 square feet of new office space. Image courtesy SHoP ( Image courtesy SHoP ( It remains to be seen how this ambitious project will achieve a seamless integration into an existing neighborhood that has been overlooked for decades. Deputy Mayor Robert K. Steel said in a statement: “This project is the pinnacle of urban development in 2013. It has all the hallmarks of a Bloomberg administration project: transforming an underutilized asset into a place that serves the diverse needs of the community.”  
Suzanne Labarre reports for Co.DESIGN. Image courtesy of Architecture Research Office and dlandstudio ( [Image Courtesy of Architecture Research Office] Diana Balmori, Michael Manfredi, Peter Gluck, and more top architects speak exclusively to Co.Design on how to safeguard cities against the next Hurricane Sandy. A year after Hurricane Sandy struck the United States, destroying houses and public infrastructure along the Eastern Seaboard, we reached out to several architects and posed two questions: What did you learn from Sandy? And how can architects prepare for the next storm? Their responses, edited and condensed, are below.--Eds Peter Gluck, principal of the design-build firm GLUCK+ Image from Unfortunately, architects tend to think they can profit from the damage. You wonder if they’re coming in to look at the problems or to get more work. I was appalled to hear that in the first week after Sandy, there were AIA ads for architects needed. It made my stomach turn--architects being ambulance chasers. One of the obvious things architects can do is design their buildings that are within the flood zones to withstand the flood. We’re doing a project for Duke University, which is in flood areas, on the coast. We placed the second floor, where the expensive lab equipment is located, 25 feet above sea level and the whole building is designed to withstand winds of 140 mph. Buildings on the coast need a lot of structural resistance to the wind itself. And of course, water is a big issue. We placed the science building at Duke very high above sea level and are allowing the first-floor spaces to get destroyed--the first floor is programmed such that it wouldn’t be a disaster if it got wiped out.--As told to Carey Dunne Michael A. Manfredi, founding design partner at Weiss/Manfredi Architecture/ Landscape/ Urbanism Image from From our studio research and our own work, we’ve discovered that one of the great lessons is to not rely on a single methodology for accommodating events like flooding. Our very first project at Olympia Fields was designed to accommodate torrential rains and collect water in a safe yet aesthetic manner. In other words, water collection is woven into the core of the design. In the 25 years since, our practice advocates a multidisciplinary approach to shaping sites and engaging infrastructures. At our newly completed park at Hunter’s Point South, 88% of the shoreline is now soft, which means that it is designed to absorb a severe influx of water. The roof of the park pavilion is designed and constructed to resist hurricane-force winds. This park now represents a first line of defense for the surrounding community, which sat four feet underwater a year ago during Hurricane Sandy. Infrastructure is often incorrectly perceived as hard and inflexible. These same considerations apply for landlocked sites as well. At the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, our rain gardens and 10,000-square-foot green roof are able to absorb a substantial amount of water without damaging the new structure or this historic site. In this way, we can rely on soft infrastructure that acts as a giant sponge to collect and gradually release large quantities of water over time, instead of all at once. It is our belief that it is now time to design alternate strategies that support resilient and pliable sites capable of absorbing cycles of extreme, unpredictable events.--As told to Suzanne LaBarre Craig Dykers, principal of the architecture firm Snøhetta Image from It is important to look at small-scale solutions and legislative guidelines to help prevent loss of life and property. The grand and sometimes epic conceptual thinking is useful, but it should be balanced with immediacy. Simple flood protection can easily be implemented in building construction to ensure their contents are protected better. Beyond this, we must focus on landscape design that augments the natural needs of shorelines and basins where flooding may occur. Educating people who live in flood-prone zones should be more extensive than simply posting evacuation plans. In some places, there are credits given to those who design and inhabit shoreline conditions responsibly, measured by their inclusion of environmentally sensitive planning. --As told to Belinda Lanks Diana Balmori, principal of the landscape architecture studio Balmori Associates Image from We need to change to sustainable systems NOW, not in the future. That means nature-based systems that can be implemented very quickly, unlike big hard engineering infrastructure projects, and for less money. Green roofs, green streets, rain gardens, pervious paving, linear parks, floating landscapes (which we are currently working on) are all tools that are immediately implementable and do not cost billions. Architects need to learn about those soft systems, and landscape architects who do know about them need to develop a richer language and more varieties of nature-based systems. Architects pay little attention to sources of energy, and to where they are placed. Both are issues that have moved to the head of the list and cannot be treated as something the mechanical engineers alone will place in the buildings architects design.--As told to Sammy Medina John Cary, executive director of the forthcoming Autodesk Impact Design Foundation and founding editor of There's a lot to be done in terms of minding flood zones and taking those things much more seriously. In the past, we looked at hundred-year worst-case scenarios, and I think we're going to see a greater recurrence of this kind of thing as the climate changes. One thing that I don't believe is going to help a great deal is the proliferation of design competitions and contests that seem to pop up after these kinds of disasters and which frankly don't address or engage with the real needs on the ground or the kind of readiness that we need to have. We need much more practical solutions that are both preemptive and responsive when something does goes wrong.--As told to Sammy Medina Stephen Cassell, principal of the architecture firm Architecture Research Office Image from We had done a research study looking at lower Manhattan, mapping where the flood zones were, and after Sandy, all the research we did proved true--we had predicted which areas would flood. We were happy it wasn’t the worst-case scenario. It’s one thing to know intellectually what will happen--to think, OK, these are the effects of climate change--and a completely different thing to actually see the impact of a devastating storm like this. What we really learned is, we better get cracking in starting to deal with these issues. One of the most basic things architects can do is look at the levels of buildings and start building more resilient structures, asking questions about various scenarios. What’s going to happen when it floods? What about when the power goes out? Can you open the windows? Is there a place to plug in? And we need to look at the specific effects of Sandy on every type of residential building, so that our rebuilding efforts are not just based on theory but on actual data.--As told to Carey Dunne Lisa Switkin, associate partner of the landscape architecture firm James Corner Field Operations Image from James Corner Field Operations is involved in a number of NYC waterfront projects that were deeply affected by Hurricane Sandy, including Domino Sugar and Greenpoint Landing in Brooklyn, Hallett’s Point in Queens, South Street Seaport and Muscota Marsh in Manhattan, and Cornell University NYC Tech Campus on Roosevelt Island. A unique design concept has been developed for each site responding to storm surge, flooding, and the escalating effects of climate change with the deployment of innovative strategies and techniques such as terracing, retention and absorption, wetland creation, elevated bulkheads and walkways and use of riparian plantings and porous materials. As landscape architects, we are trained to think about larger systems and networks that go beyond project boundaries. This is especially important when considering how to make a project resilient. In addition to raising key infrastructure and utilities and developing hard systems (floodwalls, revetments, levees, and bulkheads), there are a number of soft systems (wetlands, beaches, dunes, and parklands) that can be integrated into projects to help absorb storm and flood events while also enriching biodiversity and open-space amenities. Edges between land and water are where these resilient systems need to be developed, avoiding singular "walls" where possible and seeking instead to thicken thresholds, margins, and intertidal zones.--As told to Suzanne LaBarre  
Curbed Staff writing for Curbed. Image from "Contextual" was the key word at last night's Community Board 8 meeting in Brooklyn. The board's land use committee mulled a proposal for new construction in an empty lot at 576 Carlton Avenue between Bergen Street and St. Marks Avenue in the Prospect Heights Historic District. The lot has stood empty for years and the owners, who live next door to the site, want to build a 4-story single family home in the space. However, construction in a Historic District must be built to match the character of the neighborhood and this was the sticking point of the proposal. Committee members were unsure that the new building with its modern touches, including the new garage and black painted steel, would be contextual with the surrounding buildings. "It's a beautiful design," said board member Curtis Harris, "but it doesn't seem to be in context with everything else on the block."
[Photo of the site via Google Streetview]
The Brooklyn-based firm CWB Architects, which is very familiar with working in the borough's historic districts, has been contracted to design the house, and firm founder Brendan Coburn pointed out ways in which he'd incorporated elements from the surrounding homes to create the blueprint. For example, while the building will be four stories tall, the fourth floor is recessed from the façade, leaving the street wall three stories high and allowing it to blend in better with the 3-story buildings on either side of it. Coburn also designed a bi-level brick façade to align with the street walls of the adjacent buildings. The street wall of the proposed house aligns with that of 578 Carlton Street and the two-story bay window aligns with the street wall at 574 Carlton. The bay window, though made of steel, will be painted black, as will the garage door, to match the detailing of the neighboring home. In an attempt to further reassure the skeptical committee members, Coburn also mentioned that accommodating the garage would not require any sidewalk alterations because there is already a curb cut. cross-section-576-carlton.jpg Still some residents were concerned that building a new house in the lot would impact "the aesthetic of their neighborhood" and wanted to make certain the immediate neighbors were given proper notice as to what might be happening next door. To that end, the committee decided to approve the plans for presentation to the full board next week—with a few modifications. Coburn must provide proof that he gave notice of the proposal to neighbors living within 50 feet of the lot and documentation that the existing curb cut is legal. He also must commit to a contextual façade with a southern wall made of brick, and the designs need to include more greenery in the front yard. If the full board determines that the designs are suitable for the neighborhood, the architects will then present the proposal to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in a public hearing next month. Between further modifications, future meetings, and construction, it will be at least another two years before the house is complete. But Coburn is patient. He knows that continual adjustments to the project are all part of the process. "Our strategy is to be appropriate and blend in," he added, "but you never know what one person's version of blending in is versus another."  
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West 57th’s Hodgepodge Block

Cristopher Gray reports for The New York Times. Image Ian Douglas (  [Ian Douglas for The New York Times] The developer Extell now has the go-ahead from the Landmarks Preservation Commission to cantilever a 1,400-foot tower over the Art Students League at 215 West 57th Street, which will create, certainly, a beanstalk presence on what was already a thoroughly jumbled block. Just how this short section of 57th between Broadway and Seventh Avenue became home to so many disparate institutions — the league, apartment buildings like the Osborne and car-related businesses like the old General Motors factory at Broadway — is a good question. The architectural mix, uncommon in Manhattan, came about as three distinct kinds of development moved in from three directions.        In 1880 this block was practically terra incognita, with just a few miscellaneous structures. Two blocks east, the intersection of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue was on its way to becoming a nexus of mansions, and 15 blocks south, what was still Longacre Square (soon Times Square) had emerged as a center for carriage manufacture.        Image Museum of the City of New York ( [Museum of the City of New York]
Broadway below 42nd Street had been a favored address for hotels and their cousins, apartment hotels. Beginning in the mid-1870s such buildings also came to Longacre Square; then, in the late 1870s, apartment-house development for some reason jumped to Seventh Avenue, with projects like the 1879 Van Corlear, built from 55th to 56th Street by Edward Clark as a run-up to his Dakota of 1884.
The building, long gone, was from the outside a harsh sweep of red brick, resembling a particularly punitive home for fallen women. But the interior was advanced for its time, with cross-ventilation, foyer-centered entrances and well-thought-out sleeping, entertaining and service areas.       

Within a few years the Wyoming, the Ontiora and other apartment houses also rose on Seventh, and ultimately the stone-dealer Thomas Osborne decided to try his hand at this new type of multiple dwelling. His 1885 Osborne, a veritable brownstone quarry of 14 floors at the northwest corner of 57th, was one of the biggest of the crop.       

The seed of innovation does not always find fertile ground, and The Real Estate Record and Guide saw “nothing architecturally interesting” about Osborne’s effort. A further slap in the face came when Osborne lost his vertical advertisement through foreclosure. However, it was the first of several apartment-house place markers on this block of 57th Street, including the Rodin Studios, on the southwest corner of Seventh, as well as others nearby, like the Alwyn Court at 58th Street.       

A second thread of development arrived in 1892, when the American Fine Arts Society built 215 West 57th, the structure now known as the Art Students League. The society was a consortium of art organizations that banded together in 1889, and in moving to this block extended a line of ateliers on West 57th Street, like the Rembrandt and Sherwood Studios, and also Carnegie Hall, begun at Seventh and 57th in 1889.       

A relation of the society’s was the lacy Gothic American Society of Civil Engineers, at 220 West 57th Street, built in 1897 and occupied for years by Lee’s Art Shop, which has preserved many of the interior details.       

The final part of the transformation was the northward movement of the carriage operations of Longacre Square along Broadway. This was first felt in 1902 at midblock, next to the Art Students League, with Frank Gould’s colossal, banklike indoor riding ring, long ago demolished.       

Peerless and Demarest, builders of horse-drawn and motorized vehicles, followed, and by 1910 had erected their Gothic-style white terra-cotta factory and showroom — later owned by General Motors — at the southeast corner of Broadway and 57th. At the northeast corner, Fiat took over a four-level store and showroom.       

Almost simultaneously the Chicago architect Howard Van Doren Shaw designed a building with an unusual double façade for the L-shaped plot fronting on both Broadway and 57th.       

By this time the block had just a few available plots, including one at No. 218 on the south side for which, in 1916, Consolidated Gas had Warren & Wetmore design its three-story limestone showroom. Although a commercial enterprise, the building certainly had a civic grandeur. It was torn down years ago.       

In the 1990s the Art Students League declined two offers to build a tall building over its rear parcel. But the offer of $20 million for its air rights from Extell Development was persuasive, and now plans call for the league building to have a skinny pencil-case tower cantilevered overhead.       

The Extell project would not be possible without the commission’s astonishing move of making a landmark of the Broadway frontage of the Shaw building while leaving the 57th Street bay, essentially identical to the one on Broadway, up for grabs. And grabbed it the developer has; the site is now cleared.       

We have, then, a New York block, a sort of architectural loom on which three distinct strands coming from three directions were woven into a single fabric — where from now on it appears the only place to go may be straight up.



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