A key catalyst to the formation of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission was the demolition of the original Pennsylvania Station in 1963. The new body made it its mission to protect New York City’s architecturally, historically, and culturally significant buildings and sites by granting them landmark or historic district status, and regulating them once they were designated.
The past year has been a controversial one for landmarking, coincidentally on the 50th anniversary of the passing of the landmarks law, from a move to de-calendar landmarks to a bill that would have removed landmarks from consideration without being heard.
Looking back in history, here are ten controversial redeveloped landmark or historical buildings in New York City, as a reminder of the constant push and pull between landmarking and development.
10. Central Park Tower
When the Central Park Tower (formerly known as the Nordstrom Tower) is completed in 2019, it will be one of the tallest buildings in New York City. This skyscraper will be anchored by a seven floor Nordstrom department store and a hotel, with the rest of building occupied by private residential units. Unlike most new skyscraper developments in New York City, the Central Park Tower did not replace a previously landmarked building but it borders the landmarked Art Students League of New York building which has existed in the same state for over 130 years.
No structural augmentations will be made to the physical historic site but the developers of Central Park Tower bought all the air rights above the Art Students League Building, a process that was approved by a large margin of league members. Developers will also cantilever a portion of the tower over the art building. Though the two buildings won’t touch, the visual overlap has led many critics to speak out about the imposition on the landmarked building.