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A Modern City in East Midtown? By ROBERT A. M. STERN Published: April 21, 2013     Last summer the Department of City Planning released its East Midtown study, envisioning a taller, denser, shinier future for the neighborhood around Grand Central. New and more liberal regulations that will allow bigger office towers are on their way to the City Council for approval before the end of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s current term. But what is a modern city, exactly? And is New York really in danger of falling behind new global cities like Shanghai? With district improvement bonuses, the City Planning study proposes to double the developable floor area on some sites around Grand Central, allowing enough additional square footage to give us a neighborhood of towering office buildings, some as tall as 1,300 feet or more. (For reference, the Chrysler Building is 1,046 feet to the top of its spire.) I’m nearly always an advocate of density: it’s socially beneficial and environmentally responsible. And I like tall buildings as much as the next architect, especially if I’m asked to design them. But the advantages of density can go only so far without the infrastructure to support it. And the appropriateness of tall buildings is a question of where and when, and what they contribute to the public realm. Let’s all admit that the Pan Am Building, now MetLife, was a mistake in 1963, and is still a mistake from an urbanistic point of view. It disrupted the vista down Park Avenue that had become an essential part of our city. Are we preparing to make the same mistake again, on multiple sites? The rezoning study makes no mention of protected-view corridors. Can we guarantee that in the future the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building will not be lost in thickets of taller buildings? And what of our streets and subway platforms? I commute through Grand Central several times a week, and at 6:20 a.m., when I catch my train to New Haven, the terminal is already full of people. When I return at 6:30 or 7 p.m., I can hardly make my way to the stairways and escalators that lead to the Lexington Avenue subway platforms. How will the added workers quartered in these new buildings get from their trains to their desks? The plan says that special assessments and payments in lieu of taxes will guarantee “pedestrian network improvements as development occurs.” There is nothing wrong with privately financed infrastructure improvements. But the study, if I read it correctly, gets it backward: first you put in the infrastructure, then you build the buildings. Look at the example of Grand Central, the private enterprise that spurred all this development in the first place. What lessons should we take from other great cities? In the early 1990s, Shanghai organized a special economic zone that led to the development of a financial hub in Pudong, on land previously occupied by warehouses and wharves. Towers sprouted to create an instant iconic skyline, but with a regrettable, scaleless urban moonscape below. Should we in New York in 2013 emulate the Shanghai of the 1990s? Or should we heed the lesson the Chinese themselves have subsequently learned, that saving old buildings and neighborhoods is essential to the continued vitality of great cities? In Shanghai, the pre-World War II buildings along the Bund, which loom so very large in the city’s appeal, have been saved and repurposed. Nearby, at Xintiandi, a historic residential neighborhood of stone houses and tight alleys has been transformed into a chic, walkable retail and entertainment district. Terminal City, a sophisticated mix of hotels, clubs, office buildings and residential blocks at the heart of East Midtown, was built on platforms bridging the rail yards north of Grand Central. It was a bold plan to create valuable real estate where once there had been urban blight. As much as anything, this development created what the world knows today as Midtown Manhattan. Some judicious pruning is no doubt appropriate, but are the right areas being targeted? In the center of the study’s bull’s-eye diagram are buildings worth preserving: George B. Post’s Roosevelt Hotel, the Yale Club by James Gamble Rogers, Carrère & Hastings’s historically important Liggett Building and Arthur Loomis Harmon’s extraordinary Shelton Club Hotel, now a Marriott, which inspired artists like Georgia O’Keeffe to some of their best work. Those and other distinguished buildings have come to define the area around Grand Central, but are not yet official landmarks. Instead of blindly targeting what is oldest for replacement, as the study does, why not develop a thoughtful preservation plan that takes a broad look at what is worth saving? In fact, the best path toward ensuring the future of East Midtown may well be that of preservation. Preservation, which too many in the real estate community reflexively oppose, has been a better stimulant for development than rezoning. SoHo and the Flatiron district were two of the most moribund parts of the city in the 1960s and ’70s; once they were designated as historic districts, the fortunes that poured in made them more vital than ever. We can do the same in East Midtown. The historic hotels and older office buildings of Terminal City could be repurposed for residential uses (and, I might add, the Yale Club is doing just fine). Some of these older buildings, their futures uncertain, may look a little dowdy today, but I’m confident that the stability that landmark designation provides would lead owners and developers to rediscover their intrinsic value. Our diversity, and the fact that we don’t look like Pudong, is the reason many creative types choose New York over the bland banalities of Silicon Valley, just as in London, they’ve chosen Clerkenwell over Canary Wharf, and in Paris, just about anywhere over La Défense. Why do tourists flock here? Because we are what we are. As we go forward, we need to evolve, not copy someplace else. We can’t sacrifice our legacy for the benefit of a small group of property owners, especially when other, less controversial sites, with the potential for visionary large-scale urbanism on par with the potential that Terminal City seized 100 years ago, are gaining momentum. At its most fundamental level, the problem with the so-called planning study is that it’s not a plan. It trusts that developers will build world-class buildings, and that we’ll sort out the public realm as we go. It looks to improve East Midtown by adding world-class office stock, but it dices the neighborhood into independent development zones with little broader thinking. There’s nothing of the unified vision that gave us Rockefeller Center, with its iconic Channel Gardens, its world-famous ice rink and its shop-lined indoor passageways that connect office buildings to subways. The proposed East Midtown up-zoning doesn’t give anything back to New York. It’s all about real estate and not about place-making, or should I say, place-saving. Even with 80 percent of its building stock over 50 years old, East Midtown is today, in the words of the planning study, “the best business address in the world.” Let’s keep it that way. Robert A. M. Stern, architect, is dean of the Yale School of Architecture and a co-author of a series of books about architecture and urbanism in New York.
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Gas Station on Houston to Go

The gas station on the corner of Houston and Lafayette streets is one step closer to being demolished, a step that would remove one of the last vestiges of SoHo's grittier past. The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission has unanimously approved a plan to demolish three buildings—a BP BP.LN -0.82%PLC gas station, the bar Puck Fair, and a former mechanic shop—and replace them with a seven-story office building with a retail component.
Andrew Hinderaker for The Wall Street JournalThe BP gas station at the corner of Houston and Lafayette streets, which will be redeveloped by the real-estate development firm LargaVista.
The commission, which designated the site as part of the SoHo Cast Iron Historic District Extension in 2010 because of its prominent location, says it approved the demolition of the buildings because "they are atypical of the structures found elsewhere in the district," said a landmarks spokeswoman of the Tuesday vote. The neighborhood, once home to venues like Mars Bar, antique shops and an outdoor flea market, has gotten a makeover in recent decades as it has attracted a number of retail chains and office tenants ranging from technology companies to designers. Ten years ago, the area offered "all no-name stores," said Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of the retail group at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Today, she calls it "the denim corridor,"—a reference to jean retailers that have moved in like G-Star Raw and Supreme.
dboxA rendering of the proposed development.
The gas station, which was a Gaseteria before it was a BP location, has been owned by Marcello Porcelli's family since 1976. Mr. Porcelli, president of real-estate development firm LargaVista, decided he wanted to redevelop the site when BP's lease was up at 300 Lafayette St. The project, designed by CookFox Architects LLP, will contain 30,000 square feet of retail space and 40,000 square feet of office space. Mr. Porcelli—whose portfolio is represented by CBRE Group Inc.'s CBG -0.82%tri-state region head Mary Ann Tighe and Vice President Tom Duke—expects the project to be certified under the city's land-use approval process, which usually takes several months, According to CBRE, the average asking rent for office space in SoHo and NoHo was $79.44 a square foot in the first quarter, up from $49.78 in the year-earlier period. "It's got the exposure of Times Square and yet it's in a neighborhood like SoHo that's so exciting and dynamic," Mr. Porcelli said. Mr. Duke says he expects that the building would have some of the highest rents south of midtown for office and retail. "This is a trophy of LargaVista's portfolio," he says. But not everyone is a fan of his proposal. "We are an icon, I believe, in the neighborhood," said Fernando Dallorso, a manager at Puck Fair, one of the buildings that would be torn down. "I think it would be a loss, but nothing we can do about it." Mr. Dallorso says that the bar is currently in a lease, but he wouldn't discuss its terms. On Wednesday afternoon, the proposal to replace the gas station drew mixed reviews. The corner, which is surrounded by chains ranging from Adidas to Brooklyn Industries, was filled with shoppers and tourists with cameras strapped to their necks. How Zan, a 38-year-old architect who works across the street from the gas station, said good riddance. "It's creating too much traffic," said the Jersey City resident. "People in line, the cabdrivers, they think this is theirs. They occupy this place." But Miranda Santiago, a 31-year-old veterinarian who has lived in SoHo for two years, disagrees. "It's a bummer to see it go," she said. As for the grit and graffiti that SoHo was known for decades ago? "I almost feel like that's not even associated with SoHo anymore," she said.   http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324695104578414720097253696.html?mod=WSJ_NY_RealEstate_LEADNewsCollection  
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Frank Lloyd Wright wronged on Park Avenue

A luxury auto showroom designed by the famous architect and said to be the inspiration for his Guggenheim Museum design has been demolished. Move came on heels of city moving to possibly landmark the space.

http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20130412/REAL_ESTATE/130419943 By Matt Chaban @MC_NYC April 12, 2013 11:56 a.m.   Guggenheim Museum Frank Lloyd Wright's most celebrated New York work, the Guggenheim Museum. Photo: Buck Ennis For six decades, a luxury-car showroom with a distinctive swooping ramp stood at the corner of Park Avenue and 56th Street. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it was the first of only three New York projects by the modernist master. In six days late last month, the dealership was destroyed. "The loss of a Frank Lloyd Wright, it's a national tragedy," said Simeon Bankoff, director of the Historic Districts Council. Like so many in New York, he had no idea the space was even gone. The end came suddenly and unexpectedly. On March 22, the Landmarks Preservation Commission called the owners of 430 Park Ave. to tell them the city was considering designating the Wright showroom—until January, the longtime home to Mercedes of Manhattan—as the city's 115th interior landmark. Three days later, the commission followed up with a letter. Both went unanswered. Instead, on March 28, the building's owners, Midwood Investment & Management and Oestreicher Properties, reached out to another city agency, the Department of Buildings, requesting a demolition permit for the Wright showroom. The permit was approved the same day, sealing the showroom's fate. By the following week, workers had arrived and removed every last trace of a space that some architectural historians say inspired Wright's most celebrated New York work, the Guggenheim Museum. The city has lost an architectural gem, albeit a small and seldom-noticed one. Almost no one saw it go. Even if they had, there is almost nothing that could have been done to stop it. And yet this quiet disappearance also raises the question of whether there was anything worth saving. "I'm surprised, but I'm not," said David Hoffman, an executive managing director at brokerage Cassidy Turley, who arranged Mercedes-Benz's last lease for the space, in 2001. "It was notable solely because it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but it wasn't the Guggenheim; it wasn't monumental." Ironically, it was the Landmarks Commission's good intentions, and a disconnect between it and the Department of Buildings, that doomed the dealership. In August, the commission received a request to consider landmarking the showroom from Docomomo Tri-State, a preservation group focused on modernist buildings, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy. The commission decided to wait until Mercedes vacated the space to proceed. Part of the reason was that an interior-landmark designation can be granted only to a public space, and there had been a long-running debate in the preservation community about whether the showroom was actually anything but private property. Also, the commission had little reason to believe Midwood and Oestreicher would take the action they did. The delay proved fatal, but the outcome was likely inevitable. The commission is loath to designate a landmark without the owner's support, because the landlord, not the city, is ultimately the steward of the space. In the case of the auto dealership, the steward simply had other plans. Representatives for both Midwood and Oestreicher declined requests for comment. "Regrettably, the showroom was dismantled before the formal public designation process could begin," a commission spokeswoman said. "It is disappointing that the owners in this case demonstrated a disregard for the process." That process, however, is famously cumbersome. The commission cannot "calendar" a property—the first step in the landmarking process, and the point at which the Department of Buildings is notified not to allow work to be done on the potential landmark—until Landmarks has done sufficient research, which typically involves outreach to the owner. In the interim, the landlord is free to request demolition permits, and there is almost nothing either city agency can do to stop them. The Wright showroom is just one of several such cases in recent years. Back when the Madison Square North Historic District was proposed in 2000, the owners of the former ASPCA headquarters at 50 Madison Ave. removed much of the building's Beaux Arts ornamentation, with the Department of Buildings' blessing. The owners had plans for a multistory addition to create a luxury apartment building, and they did not want their work to be subject to the commission's whims. The tactic worked, and the property was left out of the district. Taking a different tack, the Institute of International Education closed a conference center designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto in 2008, thus creating a private space exempt from landmarking. Motivations for doing such end runs around landmarking are clear. "I can't think of too many owners that would be grateful to receive a phone call from the Landmarks Commission when they're about to do work on a building, which could stop their ability to make that investment and increase the value of the building," said Stephen Spinola, president of the powerful Real Estate Board of New York. In the case of the Wright showroom, the architect who worked on the demolition permits corroborates the city's timeline of the destruction coming shortly after the commission had reached out to the landlords. Silviu Zahara, of architecture firm Belea Group, said he had received the job two weeks ago, but he also insists he had no idea the space was crafted by one of the nation's most revered designers. "The drawings I got were from an architect I'd never heard of," he said. "Actually, it wasn't a great-looking space." To be sure, this was one of Wright's lesser works. Mr. Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council said that when he mentioned it to certain in-the-know colleagues, they were shocked to learn there was a Wright hiding in plain sight on Park Avenue. Even the renowned architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable was lukewarm on the showroom. "The spiral ramp motif … which was to be so beautiful an element in the Guggenheim, is employed here, though far less effectively, in part because of the low ceiling and partly because the cramped, abrupt turning motion all too clearly recalls the ramps of multifloor parking garages," she wrote in a 1966 book. Frank Lloyd Wright's luxury-car showroom at 430 Park Ave. completely demolished. Photo: Matt Chaban Still, the showroom has its mourners. "It's outside our scope as an institution, so we don't know what to do about [the demolition], but it's pretty bad," said Richard Armstrong, director of the Guggenheim. Some question whether there was any Wright worth saving, since the space was renovated twice, first in the 1980s and again in 2001. The merits of the space would have been considered at the Landmarks Commission. "That's a debate we should have had, and could have had, but now we can't" because of the demolition, said Vin Cipolla, president of the Municipal Art Society. "That's what the landmarking process is for." Margery Perlmutter, a member of the Landmarks Commission, was shocked to learn about the loss of the showroom. "All it takes is a savvy landlord and a smart tenant to do something special with that space," she said. "How many boutiques can claim to be inside a Frank Lloyd Wright? None that I know of, unless you count the Guggenheim gift shop." Just how much of an asset the space's pedigree could have been to a retailer will now never be known. But Faith Hope Consolo, a retail broker at Douglas Elliman and a self-professed fan of Wright, has her doubts. "It means nothing to a new retailer; they couldn't care less," she said. Instead, she estimates that having a blank slate to work with could add hundreds of dollars per square foot to the value of the lease, especially given the location, a block off busy 57th Street. "Of course, under the law the landlords had the right to do this," Ms. Consolo said. "I just wish they'd had the same respect for Frank Lloyd Wright as they did for their own rights."
Robin Pogrebin reports for The New York Times, When a new home for the American Folk Art Museum opened on West 53d Street in Manhattan in 2001 it was hailed as a harbinger of hope for the city after the Sept. 11 attacks and praised for its bold architecture. “Its heart is in the right time as well as the right place,” Herbert Muschamp wrote in his architecture review in The New York Times, calling the museum’s sculptural bronze facade “already a Midtown icon.” Now, a mere 12 years later, the building is going to be demolished. In its place the adjacent Museum of Modern Art, which bought the building in 2011, will put up an expansion, which will connect to a new tower with floors for the Modern on the other side of the former museum. And the folk museum building, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, will take a dubious place in history as having had one of the shortest lives of an architecturally ambitious project in Manhattan. “It’s very rare that a building that recent comes down, especially a building that was such a major design and that got so much publicity when it opened for its design — mostly very positive,” said Andrew S. Dolkart, the director of Columbia University’s historic preservation program. “The building is so solid looking on the street, and then it becomes a disposable artifact. It’s unusual and it’s tragic because it’s a notable work of 21st century architecture by noteworthy architects who haven’t done that much work in the city, and it’s a beautiful work with the look of a handcrafted facade.” MoMA officials said the building’s design did not fit their plans because the opaque facade is not in keeping with the glass aesthetic of the rest of the museum. The former folk museum is also set back farther than MoMA’s other properties, and the floors would not line up. “It’s not a comment on the quality of the building or Tod and Billie’s architecture,” Glenn D. Lowry, MoMA’s director said. Mr. Lowry personally went to the architects’ offices to inform them of the museum’s decision, a gesture that Ms. Tsien said she appreciated. “We feel really disappointed,” she said in an interview. “There are of course the personal feelings — your buildings are like your children, and this is a particular, for us, beloved small child. But there is also the feeling that it’s a kind of loss for architecture, because it’s a special building, a kind of small building that’s crafted, that’s particular and thoughtful at a time when so many buildings are about bigness.” The folk art museum, which had once envisioned the building as a stimulus for its growth, ended up selling the property, at 45 West 53d Street, to pay off the $32 million it had borrowed to finance an expansion. It now operates at a smaller site on Lincoln Square, at West 66th Street. Mr. Lowry said the expansion would complete the MoMA campus, which will ultimately consist of five buildings, four of them on West 53rd Street between Fifth Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas. Still to be built is an 82-story tower just west of the folk museum that is being developed by Hines, a Houston company, and was designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel. It will include apartments as well as exhibition space for the museum. When the projects are finished the museum will gain about 10,000 square feet of gallery space at the former folk art site and about 40,000 in the Nouvel building, officials said. The Modern’s second, fourth and fifth floors will line up with those in both buildings. (The second-floor galleries are double height.) “We’ll have a completely integrated west end to the museum,” Mr. Lowry said. “Floor plates will extend seamlessly.” Precisely what will be displayed in the new galleries has yet to be determined, but Mr. Lowry said they would include work from the Modern’s “midcentury collections, early Modern collections and temporary exhibitions.” The cost for the project has not been announced, he said, and fund-raising has yet to begin. MoMA’s 2004 renovation, designed by the Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi, increased the museum’s gallery space to 125,000 square feet, from 85,000 (and the overall size to 630,000 square feet, from 378,000). But the museum still needs more room for exhibitions. “We have a lot of art that we own that we would like to show,” said Jerry I. Speyer, the real estate developer who is the museum’s chairman. “When we built what exists today we didn’t get as much exhibition space as we really need.” Ms. Tsien said she and Mr. Williams, her husband, wished the Modern had found a way to reuse what they designed and to realize its value. “It’s a building that kids study in architecture school,” she said. “They study it as a kind of precedent to understand how buildings are made and to understand the kind of space it is because it is a complex and interesting building in a very small site.” But, she added, “it doesn’t seem to make sense to second-guess how they might have used it.” The Modern will interview architects to design the new addition, Mr. Lowry said, and hopes to select one by the end of this year. It expects to have the building demolished by then. Construction of the Nouvel project is expected to start in 2014, with both new buildings being completed simultaneously in 2017 or 2018, Mr. Lowry said. The museum has been aggressive about expansion. In 1996 it bought the Dorset Hotel, a 1920s building on West 54th Street, and two adjacent brownstones, using much of the sites for its extensive renovation in 2004. In 2007 the museum sold its last vacant parcel of land for $125 million to Hines, which decided to develop the Nouvel building and include space for the museum. Mr. Nouvel originally designed the tower, at 53 West 53d Street, with a spire rising 1,250 feet — matching the top floor of the Empire State Building — and Nicolai Ouroussoff predicted in The Times that it would be “the most exhilarating addition to the skyline in a generation.” But residents protested the height and the Department of City Planning demanded that Mr. Nouvel cut 200 feet from the top. He did so, and in 2009 the City Council approved plans for a tower that is to rise 1,050 feet. The museum is deciding what to put at ground level at the former folk art building site — perhaps additional retail or another restaurant, Mr. Lowry said. (Its upscale restaurant, the Dining Room at the Modern, received three stars from Pete Wells in The Times last month.) “We bought the site,” Mr. Lowry said, “and our responsibility is to use the site intelligently.” Ms. Tsien said she could not recall another example of such a high-profile architectural project being demolished so soon after it was built. “Museums have opened and closed and buildings have shifted,” she said, “but I don’t know about being torn down.”
Jackie Robinson’s former home in East Flatbush, a baseball card Community leaders and elected officials in East Flatbush are hoping they don’t strike out with the city Landmarks Preservation Commission in their bid to get landmark status granted to Jackie Robinson’s former home at 5224 Tilden Avenue in Brooklyn, the New York Daily News reported. The push to preserve the baseball legend’s old residence kicked off Tuesday, a day before the release of “42,” a film chronicling the slugger’s experience shattering the Major League Baseball color barrier as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson won both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards while living in the home from 1948 through 1949. Robinson was a hero for race relations on the baseball diamond and he took his work home with him. During the family’s first Christmas on Tilden Avenue, Robinson noticed that his Dodger-loving neighbors, the Satlows, didn’t have a tree. Not wanting them to go without, he took it upon himself to buy them one, not realizing they were Jewish. The family was so touched by the gesture that they put the tree next to their menorah. Robinson’s daughter wrote a book about the story called “Jackie’s Gift.” “It blends in just like the other houses in the district, and that’s why we need to work to landmark it,” City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who is based in Brooklyn, said of the home. “It seems pretty well kept for the time being. We want to make sure it stays that way.” [NYDN] – Evan Bleier
MAS believes 2013 presents New York City with a truly unique opportunity. Madison Square Garden’s 50-year special permit to operate an arena use on its current site has expired. In December 2012, Madison Square Garden filed an application to continue to operate an arena on this site in perpetuity and that request is now going through the City’s land use review process with a final decision by the City Council in late June/early July. NYC deserves a world-class train station and truly dynamic arena but if we approve the Garden’s special permit in perpetuity we will have neither. MAS strongly believes that now is the time to lay out a clear plan for New York City which presents a more ambitious and optimistic vision and moves the conversation beyond incremental and insufficient improvements to a fundamentally flawed plan. The city needs to do the right thing — and set as its goal a new Penn Station and a new arena in 10 years. The 1963 plan for MSG and Penn Station – designed by architect Charles Luckman – was developed at a time when the future of train travel was less certain and when approximately 200,000 people per day were using Penn Station. Today, New York has a station that was designed for approximately 200,000 but moves 640,000 people daily. Madison Square Garden, although it has undergone an expensive renovation continues to fall further behind as new more modern arenas are built. What should be one of the most exciting and dynamic buildings in New York City is unfortunately one of the least. Over the years many alternative locations have been suggested for MSG and the work will explore which sites offer the greatest opportunity. A new Penn Station and a new arena will be an economic engine for New York City – creating thousands of jobs, unlocking billions of dollars in additional private investment, making millions of commutes a year faster and more comfortable.

Hana Albert reports for Curbed New York

Turns out 1913 is the year of New York centennials—at least, architecturally speaking. Blockbuster landmarks Grand Central Terminal and the Woolworth Building have hogged much of the glory thus far, but it's only March. We've rounded up 11 other buildings that are celebrating their 100th birthdays this year, and the motley assortment of century-old structures tells us a little something about the pre-WW1 city of yore. For one, showbiz and Broadway were booming, with four now-landmarked theaters opening their doors in Midtown and one up in Hamilton Heights. Other office buildings, like J.P Morgan's headquarters at 23 Wall Street, the Times Square Building (longtime erstwhile home of the New York Times), and the World's Tower Building, sprang up as an era of frenzied skyscraper construction came to a close before the war. Oddballs include that other Grand Army Plaza, at Central Park South and 59th Street, and a residential building in Clinton Hill that boasts beautiful carvings.

1. 23 Wall Street  

Located at the intersection of Wall Street and Broad, this classical-looking building with long-gone chandeliered interiors is remembered as the headquarters of J.P. Morgan & Co. Apparently, it was so inextricably associated with the business giant that it was even known as the "House of Morgan." A tumultuous and attention-getting history ensued after 1913—home to an infamous 1920 bombing, it appeared in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and now has decidedly less glamorous retail space on the ground floor.

2. The Woolworth Building

The iconic green-topped Woolworth Building opened its doors on April 24, 1913. The green-topped physical manifestation of five-and-dime baron Frank Woolworth's fortune, it was, for 16 years after its completion, the tallest building the city. There's an exhibition at the Skyscraper Museum till July to honor its 100th birthday. But one day, you could even live there, since the top floors are being converted into luxury condos that are set to hit the market in 2015.

3. Times Square Building

The Gray Lady called this building home for 90 years before moving to its Renzo Piano-designed skyscraper on Eighth Avenue. Now that those darn journalists are out, it's home to some offices and a bowling alley.

4. Shubert Theatre

Originally opened 100 years ago by British actor Johnston Forbes-Robertson, the first productions to grace its stage were Shakespearean: "Hamlet," "The Merchant of Venice," and "Othello." During Broadway's golden age and beyond, stars' names were constantly lit up on its iconic marquee, from Ingrid Bergman and Barbara Streisand to Rex Harrison and Gene Kelly. Frescoed outside and full of plasterwork and painted panels inside, "Spamalot" and "Memphis" were its recent blockbusters, while "Matilda" is currently playing.

5. Booth Theatre

Another theater built by Lee Shubert, it opened the same year as the Shubert Theater and is located one block away, though its back abuts the Shubert's and the two structures are meant to be seen as a seamless whole. Though less ornate on the whole, the Booth Theater's stage has seen the likes of old- and new-world boldface names, like Henry Fonda, Ralph Fiennes, and Vanessa Redgrave.

6. Longacre Theatre

Yet another theatrical venue now overseen by the Shubert Organization, this one was named for Longacre Square, which today is universally known as Times Square. Back in the 1920s, Ethel Barrymore took the stage for three productions; in 2012, it hosted Mike Tyson's one-man show. What a century.

7. Cort Theatre

"The Cort is the only surviving, still active, legitimate theatre designed by Thomas Lamb. Its classic exterior was inspired by the 18th-century French Petit Trianon at Versailles," says its official history. Grace Kelly made her Broadway debut here, and the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Al Pacino, John Leguizamo, and others all had starring roles in the Cort's productions.

8. Charles Scribner's Sons Building

Originally built to house the Scribner's Bookstore, this Beaux Arts beauty has a detailed facade that, appropriately, includes four busts of major printers. Designated a landmark in 1982, it is now home to a ground-level Sephora (one of many elegant old New York buildings, in fact, now occupied by a chain store) with offices above.

9. Grand Central Terminal

The station has been planning its 100th birthday party for months now, which includes tons of publicity buzz and a full schedule of concerts, events, and special speeches (official site). There are a ton of little-known facts about this preservationists' gem, such as an art school once occupied the seventh floor or CBS broadcast the 1960 Olympics from studios in the terminal (they are now tennis courts).

10. The World's Tower Building

Renovated in 2008, Edward Browning constructed this 25-story tower with the fanciful idea that he could put a runway for airplanes on the roof so he could arrive and depart in style. (It never happened. Remember, this was 1913.) To prospective tenants at the time, high-speed elevators, just like in the Woolworth Building (oooh, competition), were touted.

11. Grand Army Plaza

Not to be confused with Brooklyn's plaza of the same name, this one is located at the juncture of Central Park South and the former Plaza Hotel, with part north and south of 59th Street. It has a fountain and other decorative elements in the Beaux-Arts style popular at the time and got spiffed up during a $3.7 million renovation in 1990.

12. Hamilton Theatre

There's been some recent action (a dumpster filled with debris, says our tipster) in front of the Hamilton Theatre, a landmarked building that dates back to 1913. The stage itself has been dark for years (the building's interior is, accordingly, beautifully decrepit), but since the dollar store on the ground closed its doors, area residents have been buzzing that it's destined to get turned into a complex of condos while keeping the protected facade and other elements intact.

13. Royal Castle Apartments

This Beaux Arts beauty in Clinton Hill has intricate carvings of stone masons on its facade, which Ephemeral New York says is a constant reminder of the kind of skilled work that goes into constructing a building like this. Brownstoner comments that "the shape of the roofline would be at home in Vienna." After 100 years, people still live in this 52-unit building at the corner of Gates and Clinton avenues.

It used to be known as the Grand Central of the Bronx, a train administration center that later became a subway station that slid into disrepair has been restored. The MTA reports, The MTA’s top-to-bottom rehabilitation of the East 180th Street 25 subway station has recaptured the grandeur its original builders had in mind when the century-old North Bronx transit terminal served as the administration building for the old New York, Westchester and Boston Railway system. The two-year, $66.5 million project breathed new life into the unique subway station that serves the and lines and is a major link to two major Bronx attractions – the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Gardens. Designed and built during a period when riding the rails was a grand experience rather than bookends to a work day, the structure is a handsome example of early 20th Century architectural design that has long stood as a community landmark. “This beautifully renovated station is a tribute to the Bronx and provides an uplifting experience for everyone who passes through it,” said MTA Acting Chairman Fernando Ferrer. “I’m very pleased the MTA has restored an element of the Bronx’s glory while improving the daily commutes of its residents.” The stucco, red terra cotta-tiled roof building boasts a pair of four-story towers, entry courtyard and a handsome clock, which replicates the original timepiece in place when the structure was built. The building was designed with arches and balconies that give it the distinct look of an Italian villa. On the exterior is a restored plaque topped with the head of Mercury, the Roman god of transportation. “The subject of this project serves to demonstrate the architectural variety of the New York City subway system and the care and effort that goes into maintaining the system and restoring elements to their original appearance,” said NYC Transit President Thomas F. Prendergast. “The East 180th Street Station was built to a grand design by its original operator and we have taken the opportunity to return it to as close to its original condition as possible.” Work on the station required restoration of the landmark building’s exterior walls, windows, stucco work, roof tiles wood doors and mezzanine areas. Of course, this type of work required skilled craftspeople. There are two retail spaces in the station’s lobby, as well as NYC Transit employee facilities for Rapid Transit Operations, Signals and Structures. “This was a tremendously rewarding job, bringing the station back up to a state of good repair and restoring the aesthetic features that make it stand out. East 180th Street will be a welcoming structure for Bronx subway customers for many decades to come,” said Program Officer Dilip Patel. Major portions of the project, designed by Lee Harris Pomeroy Architects, included the refurbishment of the mezzanine passage with new tile work and ornamental mosaic bands and the introduction of mosaic panels designed under guidance of the MTA Arts for Transit program. The station’s side entrance has been rehabilitated and the designs of both passageways are marked by large spans of structural steel overhead, painted a pale green the same as they were when the station was first opened. New lighting has been installed on the building’s interior and exterior, making the station as attractive by night as by day. The elevated subway platforms have similarly been rehabilitated, including new platforms, edge safety tiles, canopies and track beds. ADA compliance is achieved through a new pathway that allows wheelchair access and the installation of two elevators that link the mezzanine to the platforms. New tile work and ornamental mosaic bands and panels have been installed. Designed by artist Luisa Caldwell under the MTA Arts for Transit program, the panels reflect the surrounding area and the nearby Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Gardens. One important element was donated to the project by construction contractor Citnalta. Company President Mike Gargiulo visited the job and felt that the historic building was missing just one thing – a clock. Having studied historical preservation in college, he thought a clock would add a lot to the project. Some electronic sleuthing turned up old images showing the original clock. A similar item was sourced from Electric Time Co. in Massachusetts. The old images were sent up to them and they suggested a clock that would fit the design of the early 20th Century transportation building. “We at Citnalta, with NYC Transit’s and Lee Harris Pomeroy’s permission, donated the clock and the installation, because we thought it completed the look, making a great renovation just a little bit nicer,” said Gargiulo. The northern segment of the 5 train, known as the Dyre Avenue Line of the New York City subway system, was once part of an electrified commuter railway connecting the South Bronx with White Plains and Port Chester in Westchester County. Owned by the New Haven Railroad, the New York Westchester and Boston Railway were short-lived, in service only between 1912 and 1937. New York City took ownership of the Bronx portion of the line in 1940 and tied into the IRT at East 180th Street.
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56 Leonard signs $30M Worth of Contracts

After only about a week on the market, four of the 145 units at the luxury condominium building at 56 Leonard Street in Tribeca are in contract, Curbed reported. The long stalled project restarted construction in October and put its first round of units on the market on Feb. 28. The contracted prices for the four units range in price from $4.3 million for a 1,691-square-foot two-bedroom unit to $10.5 million for a 3,412- square-foot four-bedroom unit. A 2,252-square-foot three-bedroom is also in contract for $5.5 million. The 830-foot Herzog & de Meuron–designed development project is being marketed by Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, which in less than a week has generated over $30 million in sales at the building between the four in contract units. “This has been a landmark initiative and a long-held dream,” Kelly Kennedy Mack, president of Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, said in a January statement.” [Curbed] –Christopher Cameron
150 Wooster Street A group of Soho artists have filed a lawsuit against the city Landmarks Preservation Commission demanding that the agency reverse an October decision allowing a developer to raze a MacLaren baby stroller store to build condominiums, DNAinfo reported. LPC approved the demolition on the grounds that the property, at 150 Wooster Street, “does not contribute to the historic district and its demolition will not detract from the special historic and architectural character of the historic district.” As The Real Deal reported last year, the stroller store will give way to seven high-end residences and 6,300 square feet of retail. The developer behind the project is MTM Associates, an affiliate of MacLaren that has owned the property for decades. The artists claim that new construction would change the block’s character, bring more foot traffic and block sunlight. “And if they build a store that large,” the plaintiffs allege in the suit, “it will be a mall-type store. We’re trying to keep more mall-type stores out of Soho.” A Wooster Street artist named Joyce Kozloff told DNAinfo that the LPC has recently favored large developers over concerns of the community. However, the city law department that represents the LPC disputed this claim. “As the proceedings before the Landmarks Commission reflect, and as will be demonstrated to the court, the Commission’s actions with respect to this building have not only been consistent, but also appropriate to the special features of the Soho-Cast Iron Historic District,” senior counsel Pamela Koplik told DNAinfo in a statement. [DNAinfo]–Zachary Kussin