Locals Demand Protections for 57th Street on Rizzoli Bookstore's Last Day
MIDTOWN — As deal-hunting customers streamed in and out of the Rizzoli Bookstore on its last day, neighborhood activists and politicians said they fear its closure could lead to a "canyon of glass and steel towers" along 57th Street.
Preservationists and politicians failed in their efforts to protect the bookstore's historic building at 31 W. 57th St., which will likely be demolished. Opponents worry the building's owners, the Lefrak Family and the Vornado Realty Trust, will replace it with a tower that will cast a long shadow over Central Park.
"These buildings will be demolished to make way for glass and steel towers," said Community Board 5 Landmarks Committee Chairwoman Layla Law-Gisiko at a Friday morning rally outside the bookstore organized by the board. "CB5 is very much in favor of development, but development has to be curated."
The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission decided the building did not qualify for protection last month, and on Thursday LPC rejected another application to landmark just the building's interior since it was renovated when the bookstore moved into the former piano showroom in 1985.
"Our review concluded that because there are few remaining elements from the piano showroom era, particularly in comparison with other intact interior landmark spaces like the Steinway Piano showroom on West 57th Street, the site no longer retains the integrity of its original design, and the ca. 1985 redesign of the space does not rise to the level of an interior designation," the commission said in a statement Thursday.
On Friday morning, Community Board 5 members, joined by state Sen. Liz Krueger, called for reforms to the landmarking process and zoning changes that would protect other buildings along 57th Street, including the neighboring Chickering Building, which is also owned by Lefrak and Vornado and likely faces demolition, and the Cavalry Baptist Church.
"There won't be anything left to love if we don't stop this kind of development," Krueger said. "It's a sad day because we've already lost this one."
LeFrak and Vornado have said they plan to demolish the Rizzoli Bookstore building but they have not disclosed their plans for the site.
The store was buzzing Friday morning with buyers hoping to scoop up books at 40 percent off. The bookstore is known for hard-to-find, oversized art and fashion tomes. The owners have said they will reopen at a yet-to-be-disclosed location.
"When I was a kid, I'd come in here every weekend and look at the art books," said Miles Ladin, 45, who attended the rally and wanted to take one last look at Rizzoli before it closed. "These books aren't really at Barnes & Noble — we're really losing something."