DATE AND TIME
Thu, January 19, 2017
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM EST
SAG-AFTRA Foundation – Robin Williams Center
247 West 54th Street
New York, NY 10019
An extraordinary evening with three distinguished architectural and planning experts:
- Vishaan Chakrabarti – Founder of the Practice for Architecture and Urbanism
- Michael Kimmelman – Architecture critic of The New York Times
- Tom Wright – President of the Regional Plan Association
They will lay out their vision for the future of the West Midtown Transit Corridor, the largest transportation hub in the United States, which includes Penn Station, Moynihan Station, Amtrak’s Gateway project and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
Join us for a lively discussion about the future of regional transit, why Madison Square Garden needs to be moved, how it can happen, and what a new, world-class Penn Station would mean for New York.
[Image Credit: Practice for Architecture and Urbanism]
In todays 3rd Quarter earnings conference call Steve Roth still referred to the grand ‘ol lady as a “parking lot”
“A word about the hotel business in New York. While both domestic and international tourism remains strong, the hotel industry is in a down cycle, the victim of gross oversupply. The results of our Hotel Pennsylvania have been weak. We continue to look at this hotel as a parking lot for future development as part of our overall Penn Plaza strategy.”
Still no decision on if they want it to be a residential or an office tower.
The transcript can be found here
Vornado Realty Trust CEO Steven Roth has offered up yet another possibility for the future of Hotel Pennsylvania — apartments and retail.
Uncertainty has swirled around Vornado Realty Trust’s plans for the building for years. It was originally slated to become 68-story office tower called 15 Penn Plaza, but that plan was jettisoned when Merrill Lynch decided not to lease space there. In 2013 Vornado announced a $300 million renovation, but in 2014 it said the proposal for 15 Penn Plaza could be back on.
On a conference call last week, Roth said an office building at the site simply isn’t a viable option with current market conditions.
“The problem is we cannot deliver the site economically in competition with what Hudson Yards is doing and the World Trade Center is doing. And we’re not off by a little, we’re off by a lot for lots of different reasons,” he said, according to Real Estate Weekly. “I can’t tell you how much we hate having to build a building where we have to get $150 rents or something like that,” he added.
He stopped short of making a definitive plans, however. “The options for Hotel Penn are, leave it where it is, knock it down,” he said, “If we knock it down, it’s going to be apartments and retail. If we leave it the way it is, it’s going to be a hotel.”
We received this letter (along with a generous donation) yesterday, from Robert Clayton, a NYC resident, and a preservationist, who is no stranger to fighting city hall.
I first became interested in preservation in 1974, when, at the age of 20, I fought to save Loew’s Triboro Theatre in Astoria. Our committee was successful in getting the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to designate the building on July 23, 1974, but the designation was overturned by the Board of Estimate at the behest of then-Borough President Donald Manes. Manes didn’t believe in preservation at all.
In 1980, I formed the Committee to Save the RKO Keith’s of Flushing. Donald Manes’s old buddy, former Deputy Borough President Lawrence T. Gresser, Jr. was trying to build a shopping mall on the site of the theatre, all on the public dime. The City of New York Public Development Corporation (PDC) was pushing very hard for Gresser’s mall (to be called Flushing Plaza), and applied for an Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) in Gresser’s behalf. In 1984, after years of meetings, hearings and petitions, the LPC finally designated the theatre’s lobby, grand foyer, men’s and women’s lounge’s, mezzanine promenade and auditorium. Essentially all the major public spaces in the building. The designation only happened after Gresser’s mall project fell through. While claiming to have Venezuelan investors, no private money was ever shown, and Gresser’s application for a UDAG was denied.
Manes then offered the LPC a compromise (to rescind the auditorium’s designation), which was rejected. The LPC preferred instead to rescind the entire designation, but the Board of Estimate, again at Manes’s behest, pushed through an amended designation which excluded not only the auditorium but the mezzanine promenade and the lounges as well. That was Manes’s way of showing the LPC who was boss and that next time they had better work with him.
Well, Donald Manes’s evil eventually caught up with him, but after going through such disappointments, I stayed away from preservation projects for a long time. However, the Hotel Pennsylvania situation, and my own recent retirement, has renewed my dedication to fight again. I am just appalled and outraged over the LPC’s inaction. If their reason is that too much of the hotel’s original interior has been lost, well, I remember when interior landmarks didn’t even exist. Designations originally only applied to a building’s exterior. The Pennsylvania is one of the last hotels from a golden age. The Astor, Savoy-Plaza, the Commodore and many others are gone forever. (Do you have Nathan Silver’s book, Lost New York?) The Hotel Pennsylvania’s history and close association with the original Penn Station alone should make the hotel worthy of preservation.
Well, we who would like to save the Hotel Pennsylvania seem to have been given a second chance due to the “stay of execution.” But we mustn’t squander this opportunity. We can’t let the grass grow under our feet. If it’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the right people must be timely reached. The LPC needs to be pushed into making designations which they would prefer to avoid. I saw how their deliberate inaction resulted in the gutting of the Biltmore. Where do the Municipal Art Society and the New York Landmarks Conservancy stand on this issue? Has anyone contacted met with them yet? I’ve worked with them before, over the RKO Keith’s.
Thank you Robert, for your tireless effort, and support of NYC history!
Multiple news outlets have reported that Steven Roth, (CEO of Vornado Realty Trust) has been named one of 13 people to lead up Trump’s Economic Advisors.
Owner of former Childs Restaurant in Astoria says his architect has “interesting ideas” to preserve terra cotta
After Astoria residents expressed concerns over alterations to a historic building that is now a Deals & Discounts store, owner Morris Dweck has said his architect has proposed some “interesting ideas” on how to preserve the terra cotta.
The building, located at 36-11 Broadway, was the site of a former Childs Restaurant.
One of the first chain restaurants in the U.S., the exterior facade of these chains were known for their intricate terra cotta facades, which usually depicted nautical scenes like Neptune, the god of the sea, seahorses and other fish.
Earlier last month, residents and business owners noticed that scaffolding was erected near the building and became worried that Deals & Discounts would replicate its blue exterior after Deals & Discounts expanded into the former Rite Aid.
Dweck, the owner of Deals & Discounts, told QNS on Wednesday that his architect is making progress on the new plans and is working to preserve the exterior.
“He has been able to achieve some interesting ideas on how to preserve the terra cotta,” Dweck said in an email. “Nothing yet is finalized. Hopefully we will yield a positive solution where everyone will be happy.”
Dweck, who is currently out of the country, said he will have further updates in the next several days.
According to Bob Singleton, the executive director of the Greater Astoria Historical Society (GAHS), the chain revolutionized the restaurant industry with its focus on cleanliness and food safety. Brothers Samuel S. Childs and William Childs opened the Astoria location in 1928, according to city records.
Singleton wrote to the Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) when he found out about the planned alterations and asked them to look at the building for possible landmark status. A former Childs Restaurant at West 21st Street on the Coney Island Boardwalk was landmarked in 2004.
He also created a petition, which has garnered 155 signatures as of Thursday, asking Councilman Costa Constantinides to help preserve the structure. Friends of Terra Cotta, a nonprofit aimed at preserving terra cotta, has also asked the LPC to consider landmarking the Astoria building along with a Childs Restaurant at 64-19 Roosevelt Ave. in Woodside.
“Astoria has undergone massive gentrification in recent years, but that is no reason to destroy one of the few architectural gems we have in this neighborhood,” the petition read.
Constantinides also sent a letter to the LPC and has discussed preserving the terra cotta with the owner. But the alterations are compliant with current zoning and his influence is limited in this case, he said in a letter to an Astoria resident posted on the GAHS Facebook page.
There are seven former Childs Restaurant buildings remaining in Queens today and all of them are used as commercial spaces.
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The New York City landmark will convert many guest rooms into condos.The Waldorf Astoria New York, the first hotel to offer round-the-clock room service and the birthplace of such brunch mainstays as the Waldorf salad and Eggs Benedict, will close in early 2017 for a top-to-bottom renovation that will convert more than three-quarters of the hotel’s 1,413 rooms into luxury condominiums, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.The storied Art Deco institution, which Chinese holdings company Anbang Insurance Group Co. purchased from Hilton’s parent group in 2015 for a record-setting sum of $1.95 billion, has hosted a number of famous guests since its opening in midtown Manhattan in 1931, including President Herbert Hoover (and every president thereafter), and has more permanently housed the likes of Frank Sinatra, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and the Duke of Windsor, following his abdication from the British throne.The renovation, which could last for up to three years and is expected to come at a cost of nearly $1 billion, will transform about 1,100 of the hotel’s rooms into private apartments, with the remaining 300 to 500 rooms upgraded to luxury suites. The proposal will likely mean a severe slash to the hotel’s 1,500-person staff, which currently includes housekeepers, bellhops, and room service attendants. In a statement to the press, a U.S. spokesman for Anbang noted that the insurer is “currently developing conceptual plans and will share additional details once those plans are finalized.”The announcement comes after years of a slow-but-steady decline at the glitzy Park Avenue property, which has suffered from recent reports of being “expensive and outdated” with rooms that can cost upwards of $400 per night during the summer high season.Anbang CEO Wu Xiaohui reportedly made brief mention of the arrangements during a speech to Harvard students in early 2015, saying: “We plan to renovate the two towers into luxury residential apartments with world-class amenities and finishes to reflect its culture and social status. […] At the same time, we will build the hotel section into a super five-star hotel, delivering unparalleled customer experience inspired by Anbang’s customer-orientation culture.” The hotel-to-housing flip isn’t the city’s first: In 2007-8, Israeli-owned real estate company Elad Properties performed a partial hotel-to-condo conversion at the historic Plaza Hotel, hoping to make big bucks off the pedigree of the legendary property.It remains to be seen if the Anbang group can turn a profit on the Waldorf name alone, or if it will someday struggle to fill its storied suites. It’s also not clear if they have an “Eloise from hell” of their own who will eventually need to be evicted.