While there’s no official word yet on whether or not there has been any “K-I-S-S-I-N-G,” it seems like some pouty lips are being puckered by both parties on the matter of Vornado’s ongoing renovations of 510 Fifth Avenue, the former Manufacturer’s Hanover Trust building.
As reported in The Times last week, a series of email correspondence has come to light that details a line of communication so open that it not only verges on “hand holding,” it actually includes the phrase itself. the story has been picked up by Curbed and Architect’s Newspaper, and it seems likely to get even more attention.
Former Landmarks Preservation Commission chairwoman Meredith Kane was retained by Vornado boss Steve Roth in advance of his acquisition of 510 Fifth last January. In her role as counsel to Vornado, Ms. Kane wrote an email to her successor, Bob Tierney, in which she implored the current chair to aid Mr. Roth’s potential acquisition of the then-available 510 Fifth.
“What I think he’d most like is a little bit of hand-holding directly from you—he won’t believe it when it comes from me!” Ms. Kane wrote to Mr. Tierney, according to The Times. “That even though we have a lot of detail to work through, and you will need staff and the commissioners to be satisfied with the proposals, that we are going to ‘get through’ this project.”
Ms. Kane’s unsubtle use of the phrase “hand-holding” is actually characteristic of the bold language used in a number of the emails, republished online by Curbed, but what makes the seemingly clear collusion most discomfiting to lovers of New York architecture is how controversial Vornado’s plans for the building have become.
The Observer detailed the issues surrounding the renovation back in February, and the minutiae of the variously rejected plans have become even more entangled and hotly debated as the issue continues to go unresolved. And while 510 Fifth isn’t the only building in the borough having troubles getting signed off on by Landmarks (as evidenced by the LPC’s denial of plans to renovate the Puck Building), it now seems that it might be the only one that got behind-the-scenes pre-approval from the city agency.
So the question must now be asked if the LPC whispered sweet nothings into Mr. Roth’s ear while he bid on 510 Fifth, does he have a right to be upset that the same commission is now not living up to its non-promises?