Grand Central Terminal Lobby via Wikipedia
On June 26th, 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a momentous decision that wouldn’t just save a cherished New York landmark, it would establish the NYC Landmarks Law for years to come. This drawn-out court battle was the result of a plan, introduced in the late 1960s, to demolish a significant portion of Grand Central Terminal and erect a 50-story office tower.
Though the proposal may seem unthinkable now, it wasn’t at the time. Pennsylvania Station had been demolished a few years earlier, with the owners citing rising costs to upkeep the building as train ridership sharply declined. The NYC Landmarks Law was only established in 1965, the idea of preservation still novel in a city practicing wide-scale urban renewal. Finally, Grand Central wasn’t in good shape itself, falling apart, covered in grime, and home to one of the highest homeless populations in New York City. But a dedicated group of preservationists–aided by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis–took the fight to the highest levels of the court. Keep reading to find out how, as well as learn about the celebrations planned by the MTA surrounding the anniversary.
Here’s how Grand Central was saved
During a nearly two-hour public hearing on Tuesday, passionate preservationists, architects, and community groups testified in front of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in support of designating the postmodern skyscraper at 550 Madison Avenue as an individual landmark. Best known as the AT&T Building, the 37-story tower was designed by Philip Johnson, along with his partner John Burgee, and completed in 1984.
As postmodernism’s first skyscraper, 550 Madison has stood out for its pink-gray granite facade, arched entryway and Chippendale-inspired crown. A wide range of people on Tuesday voiced support for giving 550 Madison landmark designation, including architectural critic Paul Goldberger. In his testimony, Goldberger cited his own 1978 New York Times review of the building, before it was built, when he called the AT&T Building “a major monument” of postmodernism and “the most provocative and daring skyscraper to be proposed for New York since the Chrysler Building.”
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Photo courtesy of Lord & Taylor
Lord & Taylor’s iconic New York City flagship store will close its doors next year, after occupying the Fifth Avenue building for 104 years. In an attempt to keep afloat last year, Hudson’s Bay, owner of the department store, sold the 676,000-square-foot building for $850 million to WeWork, who planned to make the landmark its new global headquarters.
While Lord & Taylor was left with roughly 150,000 square feet of space at 424 Fifth Avenue, the company struggled to maintain profitability after the turnover of the building to WeWork. Including the iconic flagship, the company will also close as many as 10 Lord & Taylor stores total (h/t Bloomberg). In a first-quarter report, Hudson’s Bay said: “Exiting this iconic space reflects Lord & Taylor’s increasing focus on its digital opportunity and HBC’s commitment to improving profitability.”
Photo via via Alexandra Ferguson
The city released on Monday a plan to preserve at least 300,000 square feet of production space in the Garment District for the fashion industry by providing tax breaks for owners who lease manufacturing space. While the district, bound by 35th and 40th Streets and Broadway and Ninth Avenue, was once home to hundreds of thousands of fashion jobs, it has lost 85 percent of firms in the last three decades.
In addition to the tax incentives, the plan creates a new zoning rule that would help limit the construction of hotels by introducing a special permit. The Garment Center IDA program, backed by City Hall, the city’s Economic Development Corporation, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and industry leaders, also includes lifting previous protections from a 1987 mandate that preserves millions of square feet of apparel-production space on certain side streets. According to the Wall Street Journal, if the plan is approved by the city council, owners would be allowed to convert buildings to other uses, like offices.
Google Street View of 666 Fifth Avenue
Kushner Companies has agreed to purchase the remaining 49.5 percent stake in 666 Fifth Avenue from Vornado Realty Trust for $120 million, nearly wrapping up the drawn-out saga of the problem-plagued condo tower. According to the Wall Street Journal, Vornado said the contract with Kushner is expected to close in the third quarter of this year and is conditional and “there can be no assurance that this transaction will be completed.”
Kushner Cos. first purchased the 41-story building in 2007 for a record $1.8 billion, but the economic recession created enormous financial strain for the company. To help restructure the building’s major debt, they brought in Vornado, which purchased the stake in the building for $80 million and the assumption of half the property’s $1.2 billion mortgage in 2011.
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Photo of Michael Cohen via Wikimedia; image of Trump Park Avenue via Google Earth
Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney for President Donald Trump, has put up his family’s Park Avenue apartment as collateral against a bank loan worth millions of dollars. The bank valued Cohen’s condo, fittingly at Trump Park Avenue in Lenox Hill, for $9 million. The financially troubled lawyer is putting his apartment against $12.8 million in loans he took out for his taxi business in 2014. Cohen secured these loans by New York City taxi medallions, which have dropped in value by 80 percent due to the growth of ride-sharing services, according to Bloomberg.
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Via Krystal T’s Flickr
Following back-to-back fatal fires in 1998 at two New York City buildings that lacked working sprinklers, public officials advocated for new regulations requiring sprinklers in all buildings. Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s administration that year pushed for legislation to address the lack of sprinklers in high-rise towers. But real estate developers, including President Donald Trump, fought against the proposals, citing the high expense of retrofitting existing buildings with them, as the Washington Post reported.
After fierce lobbying from developers, including Trump who personally called a dozen council members, the city enacted a law in 1999 that would require sprinklers in new construction but not existing buildings, exempting the president’s Trump Tower. On Saturday, a fire ripped through a 50th-floor apartment at Trump Tower, killing a 67-year-old art dealer. Sprinklers were never installed at the Fifth Avenue property.
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Google Street View of 666 Fifth Avenue
Update 4/9/18: Vornado announced on Friday that it reached a “handshake” deal to sell its stake at 666 Fifth Avenue back to the Kushner Cos, according to the New York Times. It remains unclear if the Kushners have found a new partner. Steven Roth, chairman of Vornado, in the filing, said the payment would cover the company’s investment: “The existing loan will be repaid including payment to us of the portion of the debt we hold.”
Kushner Cos. said this week it is in talks to buy the remaining 49.5 percent stake in 666 Fifth Avenue from Vornado Realty Trust, furthering the drama at the 41-story Midtown Manhattan office building, according to the Wall Street Journal. The tower has remained one of Kushner Cos. most financially troubled projects. In addition to its debt and high rates of vacancy, the building has been mired in controversy, mostly due to Jared Kushner’s role as a senior adviser and son-in-law to President Donald Trump. While Jared divested in the property to avoid conflicts of interest, investors have been reluctant from entering a deal with Kushner Cos.
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Rendering via Sam Biroscak/ Design Pavilion 2018
New York City has 280 miles of scaffolding, totaling more than 7,700 sidewalk sheds in front of 7,752 buildings. Described as pervasive eyesores and sunlight-blockers, scaffolding has an unflattering reputation in the city. Artist Sam Biroscak is looking to change the public perception of these sidewalk sheds, by highlighting it as an “under-appreciated” urban element in his conceptual design. Dubbed Mossgrove, Biroscak’s project would create an architectural pavilion in Times Square made of two materials seen as nuisances: moss and scaffolding. The proposal calls for the installation be built during NYCxDESIGN, a nine-day event featuring interactive installations and talks. The theme of this year’s Design Pavilion will be “From This Day Forward” (h/t Untapped Cities).
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432 via DBOX; Alex Rodriguez via Wiki Commons; Jennifer Lopez via Wiki Commons
Update 4/2/18: The pair picked up a three-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom that takes up half of the 36th floor of 432 Park, according to Observer. The apartment measures just over 4,000 square feet and features its own elevator, oak floorings, a library and custom-designed eat-in kitchen.
Power-couple Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez, affectionately known as J-Rod, have purchased an apartment for $15.316 million at 432 Park Avenue, the tallest residential building in the Western Hempishere. As Mansion Global reported, the duo picked up a 4,000-square-foot unit with three bedrooms and four and a half baths. The deal, which closed in February, turned out to be less expensive than expected, as the couple in October reportedly checked out a $40.5 million three-bedroom and an $82 million penthouse.
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