Can Ciprianis Convince City To Landmark Rainbow Room?

A postscript to our story in this week’s print edition on how the Ciprianis, who run the art deco-themed Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center, are trying to give the Tishman Speyer-owned space a restrictive landmark status, rounding up public and political support for the move.

Ultimately, the decision rests entirely with the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (which has been the recent target of an apparent crusade by The New York Times, which trashed the agency in an editorial then ran a series that focused on its shortcomings).

So what will the agency have to say about the 1934-built nightclub?

It’s unclear for now—an agency spokeswoman said staff members are looking at the changes made to the room—but if the agency’s past decisions on the space are any guide, it may be an uphill battle.

A previous request to landmark the space came more than a decade ago, and in a 1998 letter to the applicant, the agency shot down the idea [see a picture of the letter here]:

[T]he property does not appear to meet the criteria for designation in regard to age as set forth in Title 25, Chapter 3 of the Administrative code of New York. According to Section 25-302 (n), a Landmark is ‘any improvement, any part of which is thirty years old or older, …’ While the Rainbow Room as a restaurant at 30 Rockefeller Plaza for many years, the current interior space was largely created by architect Hugh Hardy in 1987, interpreting the Art Deco sprit in contemporary form. Thus, it will not be recommended to the Commission’s Designation Committee for further consideration as an New York City interior landmark.

Cipriani, in its application and in a pamphlet intended for a community board meeting last night, argues that the space, while renovated, is “largely intact,” the “significant features have survived” including an iconic domed ceiling.

From the pamphlet:

Nowhere is the importance of architecture as a social art more telling than in the Rainbow Room which, for generations, has been inseparable from the New York experience and a dramatic stage for the city’s rich social and cultural history.

Landmark designation—at least of the main section of the Rainbow Room on the 65th Floor of 30 Rock—has the support of some key preservation groups and local elected officials. The move would hamstring the Speyer family, which controls the space but has not yet taken a public position on the landmarking.

Can Ciprianis Convince City To Landmark Rainbow Room?