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Landmarks Commission Declines to Protect Rizzoli Bookstore From Demolition

By Mathew Katz | March 26, 2014 3:03pm
 The Rizzoli Bookstore faces imminent demolition.
The Rizzoli Bookstore faces imminent demolition.
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Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images

MIDTOWN — The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission will not give last-minute protection to the Rizzoli Bookstore, a spokeswoman said Wednesday, all but guaranteeing that the century-old building will be demolished.

The LPC's decision came after widespread community outrage about the planned demolition of the six-story 57th Street building, which owners the Lefrak family and the Vornado Realty Trust plan to tear down along with two neighboring structures.

"After a careful review, the Commission determined the building does not meet the criteria for individual landmark designation," LPC spokeswoman Damaris Olivo wrote in an email. 

The decision came a day after Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer wrote a letter urging the commission to hold a public hearing as soon as possible to consider landmarking the building's interior and exterior in the hopes of protecting it from the wrecking ball. Brewer's office had filed a formal request to have the building landmarked on March 21. 

The Lefraks did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and a spokeswoman for Vornado declined to comment.

The developers have not yet received a demolition permit from the Department of Buildings, according to online records.

Rizzoli has anchored the 109-year-old building at 31 W. 57th St. for 29 years, ever since it moved from a spot on Fifth Avenue in the 1980s. The bookstore is in the building's base, with offices for the Rizzoli publishing company above.

"West 57th Street is renowned for its architectural richness and diversity, and the Rizzoli Bookstore adds to this flavor," Brewer wrote in her letter to LPC on Tuesday.

The bookstore was originally a showroom for the Sohmer Piano Company and was designed in the French Classical style by architect Randolph Amiroty. The LPC has already recognized another building on the so-called Piano Row of current and former piano showrooms, giving protection to the nearby Steinway Hall in 2001. 

This is not the first time that officials have pushed to give the spot landmark status. In 2007, Community Board 5 requested that it receive protection, but received no response from LPC.

After news broke in January that the building faced destruction, locals moved to pressure the city to save it. An online petition on Change.org urging the commission to landmark it had amassed more than 15,300 signatures as of Wednesday morning. 

While the Lefrak family and Vornado have not said what they plan to do with the land if the bookstore is demolished, many believe they will build another 57th Street skyscraper, like One57.

"The addition of another individual landmark would firmly establish for the future Piano Row's place in New York City history, while the loss of this fabric for another tower will degrade what is so wonderful about West 57th Street," Brewer wrote. 

The bookstore, which is still open, declined to comment.