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Manufacturers Trust Company building is heard at LPC

February 14, 2011

At a hearing at the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission on February 1, DOCOMOMO NY/Tri-State joined 13 other speakers testifying in favor of interior landmark designation for the first and second floors of the former Manufacturers Trust Company branch building (1954) located at Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street. No speakers opposed the designation.

Other organizations testifying included the Municipal Art Society, New York Landmarks Conservancy, Historic Districts Council, Recent Past Preservation Network, and Modern Architecture Working Group, as well as Theodore Grunewald representing the ad hoc Coalition to Save MHT. Individual supporters included noted tour guide Justin Ferate and community activist Ed Kirkland, who mentioned that he was one of the only speakers who “knew the building when it was built.”

Also testifying in favor of the interior designation was SOM, the building’s original architect, represented by partner T. J. Gottesdiener who recounted that in response to SOM’s acknowledgement that they had never designed a bank before, Manufacturers Trust advised that they wanted a bank unlike any before.

Most importantly, a representative of the building’s current owner, Vornado Realty Trust, testified that the owner supported interior landmark designation. She also reported that Vornado expects to return to the Commission to apply for a Certificate of Appropriateness for certain modifications to accommodate a proposed retail tenancy. She observed that the building was originally designed for convertibility of use, and stated that the proposed changes would be sympathetic, noting that Vornado is working with SOM on the design.

Frequently mentioned, in testimony and in side conversations, was the potential return of the famous Harry Bertoia-designed screen, owned by JP Morgan Chase who excluded it from the building’s sale and subsequently removed it from the premises.

The hearing was closed after the unanimously favorable testimony. The proposed landmark designation of the interior (or certain portions thereof) is on the agenda for a Public Meeting of the Commission on February 15.

Read DOCOMOMO NY/Tri-State’s testimony here (pdf)

photo: Ezra Stoller © Esto