Plot Twist

Extell has leaned on key unions, including the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council and the Building and Construction Trades Council, both of which have pull with the Bloomberg administration and on the Council, urging them to lobby against the landmarking and for the tower. The unions have each submitted testimony to the LPC in support of the compromise plan, as did the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The powerful Real Estate Board of New York opposes landmark designation for either building.

 

THE MOST NOTABLE SUBMISSION to the LPC, however, came from four council members: Dan Garodnick, the local representative; Jessica Lappin, chairwoman of the landmarks committee; Melinda Katz, chairwoman of the land-use committee; and Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Their submission, a letter dated Aug. 28, explicitly urged landmark designation of 1780 Broadway while suggesting that the signatories oppose—or in the very least, are leaning against—so designating 225 West 57th Street. The letter picked up on many of Extell’s themes, including the fact that the buildings have previously been considered, and subsequently passed over, for designation.

“[A] balance must be found between preserving the city’s architectural heritage and allowing for new development on sites where buildings stand today,” the letter said. It goes on to note that 225 West 57th Street was “never occupied” by B. F. Goodrich, that “it is not clear how prominent the automobile industry was at this location, giving this building lesser historical significance” and that “there are other earlier-built and better-preserved examples” of similar schools of architecture in New York.

The letter has enraged preservation groups—though few were willing to publicly denounce the elected officials, citing their typically strong relationships with Ms. Lappin and Mr. Garodnick—as they said the action was unprecedented.

Landmarking supporters contend that the site’s economic development potential is irrelevant, as the question before the LPC is over the landmark quality of the buildings. Further, the main preservation groups that have weighed in say the buildings are effectively one structure, calling for both to be designated. “If we let developers tear down landmark-quality buildings because they want to put up something new and more income-producing, we would not have any landmarks left,” said Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, who supports landmarking both buildings.

Asked about the discord between his position and that of the four council members, Mr. Gottfried noted that neighboring Manhattan officials are typically unified on landmarks issues. “It’s unusual that we would be divided, or that we would have differing opinions,” he said.