Official Push for Powerhouse Preservation Starts with Landmarks Filing

On Tuesday, a group of preservationists officially filed their request with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark the Hudson River Powerhouse.

In its letter to the LPC, the Hudson River Powerhouse Group cited the 105-year-old building’s historic significance, as the powerhouse that drove the city’s first subway lines, and its architectural merit, as a “faithful example of the City Beautiful movement,” with an exterior designed by the legendary McKim, Mead & White.

Powerhouse Group co-founders James Finn and Paul Kelterborn also described the massive powerhouse, which occupies the entire city block on 59th Street between 11th and 12th avenues, as something of a brick bulwark against the West Side’s increasingly modern look.  “[T]he Beaux Arts Powerhouse provides a welcome contrast to a neighborhood now dominated by glass and steel,” they wrote.

The letter is accompanied by a nine-page “Vision for the IRT Powerhouse,” which charts the building’s history and imagines a number of potential civic uses, and by letters of support from a long list of civic and arts group, along with elected officials.

Powerhouse owner Con Ed has yet to file a response to the request, but the company currently uses the building for steam production, and, in a statement last week, said landmark status “could impact the reliability of steam service.” In two previous hearings, the company argued that landmarking might prevent them from making emergency safety modifications.

As The Observer reported on Monday, the LPC has already said it will hold a public hearing on the issue later this year. The building remains calendared by the LPC, after hearings were held in 1979 and 1991 to consider landmark status.