After landmarking inquiry, owner demolishes Wright interior

by Walter Olson on June 23, 2013

The former Mercedes showroom on Park Avenue in Manhattan was one of only three Frank Lloyd Wright projects built in New York City, along with the Guggenheim Museum and a Usonian house on Staten Island. “On March 22, the Landmarks Preservation Commission called the owners of 430 Park Ave. to tell them the city was considering designating the Wright showroom … as the city’s 115th interior landmark. … on March 28, the building’s owners, Midwood Investment & Management and Oestreicher Properties, reached out to another city agency, the Department of Buildings, requesting a demolition permit for the Wright showroom. The permit was approved the same day, sealing the showroom’s fate.” [Matt Chaban/Crain's New York Business, New York Times, Metropolis] That’s only the latest in a series of incidents in which the prospect of city intervention under Gotham’s famously cumbersome preservation laws has precipitated teardown instead [New York] More thoughts: Scott Greenfield.

{ 7 comments }

1 Bob Lipton 06.23.13 at 8:15 am

I live in a block in Manhattan whose brownstone facades are all landmarked. We’ve just arranged to have the front windows replaced and because of the landmark status restrictions, we had to use particular wooden windows instead of, perhaps more practical vinyl casements that look exactly the same, wear better and are much cheaper.

We do get some tax breaks because of that status, but …

Bob

Bob

2 John Burgess 06.23.13 at 9:49 am

@Bob Lipton: You get tax breaks?! Lucky you!!

In DC, the Historic Preservation Society (unelected) rules by fiat. Windows, paint, exterior doors… even the glass in the windows are all delimited. And all at the owner’s expense.

3 Mannie 06.23.13 at 1:03 pm

I was involved in a development project in a Chicagoland town that should remain nameless. The developer applied for Council permission to subdivide and develop a wooded parcel. The City denied permission, saying that it would destroy too many trees. They forgot they didn’t have a tree cutting ordinance.

The next day, the developer clear cut the property, bulldozed all the trees to the edge of the road, and set fire to them.

At the next council meeting, he resubmitted his plans with the comment, “We will be destroying no trees.”

He was approved.

4 marco73 06.24.13 at 6:53 am

In downtown Tampa, an old YMCA and an old Maas Brother’s department store sat empty for decades while various development plans came and went. Each time the preservationists insisted that various parts of the existing structures had to be incorporated in any new development. This greatly restricted the use of the properties, so that private developers just stayed away.
Both buildings became meccas for homeless during colder weather. Eventually, both buildings were completely gutted by accidental fires, so that nothing was preserved, and at great risk to the firefighters who had to put out the blazes. I still recall sitting in my office, watching a couple police cars get washed down the street when the YMCA pool collapsed from all the water.

5 mojo 06.24.13 at 11:54 am

It probably leaked, most of Wright’s stuff did. Pretty, but a sieve.

6 No Name Guy 06.24.13 at 12:49 pm

Meh…..its a logical response from the property owner in this case.

Incentives matter…..something I wish preservationists would understand. Structure those incentives (or disincentives, as it were) to insure a rational actor will behave as desired. If you want to preserve something, make sure that doing so is the most profitable (or at least isn’t an unprofitable) thing to do. Such a simple concept that is overlooked by so many.

7 kimsch 06.24.13 at 11:50 pm

Manny, sounds like Highland Park or Lake Forest. Mr. T got in trouble for clearing trees from his property in Lake Forest. He cleared them because of allergies. A friend’s father got in trouble for clearing some trees in Highland Park.

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