Last-Minute Landmarking Bid Could Save Rizzoli Bookstore Building

By Mathew Katz on April 7, 2014 12:10pm 

 Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer urged the city to protect the Rizzoli Bookstore and other nearby buildings on April 4 2014.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer urged the city to protect the Rizzoli Bookstore and other nearby buildings on April 4 2014.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

MIDTOWN — The historic Rizzoli Bookstore is closing its doors Friday after nearly 30 years on West 57th Street — but its longtime home has one last chance to be saved.

The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission is considering protecting the interior of the bookstore, which has been at 31 W. 57th St. since 1985. The building's owners, the Vornado Realty Trust and the Lefrak family, have announced plan to demolish the six-story structure, prompting an outcry from residents, preservationists and politicians.

The LPC previously declined to protect the building's exterior, but is now considering an application to save the historic interior, officials said.

“After a careful review of 31 West 57th Street, the Commission determined that the building does not meet the criteria for individual landmark designation," said a spokeswoman for the commission in a statement.

"However, a request for evaluation has been submitted for the property as an interior landmark, and it is currently under review by the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Research Department. It is important to note that if a building or interior is landmarked, the Commission does not regulate use. Therefore, a business — like a bookstore — can relocate at any time based on their specific lease agreements."

Rizzoli Bookstore is already planning to move to a yet-to-be-announced location, staff said.

As the fight over the bookstore's future continues, a petition urging the LPC to protect 109-year-old building, designed in the French Classical style by architect Randolph Amiroty, has gathered more 16,000 signatures.

Advocates fear that the bookseller's displacement would not only rid the city of a beloved building, but could also lead to the demolition of more historic structures, especially as developers eye the prospect of more skyscrapers along 57th Street.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer held a press conference outside the bookstore on Friday afternoon to demand changes to the way the city considers new landmarks.

 The building that houses Rizzoli Bookstore faces imminent demolition.
The building that houses Rizzoli Bookstore faces imminent demolition.
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Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images

“The landmarks process requires reform — we must avoid more Rizzoli-like ambushes on our history," Brewer said.

"We are here today to ask that the LPC immediately study those remaining buildings on West 57th Street to identify and landmark those that represent the best of their eras, and I will introduce legislation which will require the LPC to follow transparent and consistent time frames in responding to future designation requests."

The agency has yet to hold a public hearing on requests to landmark the bookstore, even though Community Board 5 urged it to hold one back in 2007.

Vornado declined to comment and LeFrak did not respond to requests for comment. The owners have yet to file for permits allowing them to demolish the building, though advocates fear that with the bookstore moving out, that could come any day.

In the meantime, the Rizzoli bookstore is holding a moving sale, offering 40 percent off all books until it shuts down on April 11.

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