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City pondering development proposals for Edward Durell Stone’s P.S. 199

April 23, 2013

Earlier this year the New York City Board of Education issued a “request of expressions of interest” for the redevelopment of two school sites on the Upper West Side, one of which is the renegade Modernist Edward Durell Stone’s P.S. 199 at 270 West 70th Street. The Board is seeking a developer to purchase the site, demolish the existing building and build a mixed-use high-rise tower with a new school facility in its base. Local residents and advocacy groups are actively petitioning for public input on these plans. Completed in 1963, P.S. 199 is a stand-alone, three-story rectangular building distinguished by thin white brick piers on all four sides and a flat roof with a 6-foot overhang. Between the 18-inch-deep piers are mullioned windows separated by black brick spandrels. Concentric squares inscribed on the underside of the roof overhang suggest classical patterning. Inside, classrooms line the perimeter on the first two floors while the windowless core is programmed as assembly spaces. Both the interior and exterior have retained a significant amount of original detailing with minor modifications to meet changing school needs. Architectural critic and writer Fred Bernstein suggests that P.S. 199 may be New York’s best example of Stone’s Parthenon-like architecture for which he is well known, including the American Embassy in New Delhi (1954) and Kennedy Center in Washington (1971). This classically-inspired Modernist approach is clearly evident in P.S. 199.

Still stinging from the loss of another Stone-designed building––the very nearby Huntington Hartford Gallery at 2 Columbus Circle––the neighborhood preservation group LandmarkWest! is leading the effort to have the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) calendar a public hearing for P.S. 199. Landmark West! has created an easy electronic postcard addressed to LPC Chairman Robert Tierney that you can use to support the request for a hearing.  Hicks Stone, an architect and son of E.D. Stone, is aiding the appeal. See our earlier post to read his commentary that places P.S. 199 in context with his father’s oeuvre and describes the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright on Stone’s brand of classical Modernism. 

“A School by Edward Durell Stone,” by Fred Bernstein, Oculus magazine, December 2006

“Saving Schools by Giving Up the Land They Sit On,” by Joseph Berger and Al Baker, NYTimes, March 17, 2013

“New York City’s Public School 199 and Edward Durell Stone,” Hicks Stone, April 22, 2013 

A community blog about P.S. 199 and the Board of Education plans can be found here

P.S. 199, 270 W 70th Street, Edward Durell Stone, 1960-1963. Photo: Ezra Stoller © ESTO
P.S. 199, Street view, North facade, April 2013. photo: D. Villaran-Rokovich
P.S. 199, facade detail, April 2013. photo: D. Villaran-Rokovich