MIDTOWN EAST — The city will consider giving landmark status to the interior of a shuttered Midtown East hotel restaurant after preservationists rallied to protect it, according to a spokeswoman for the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The LPC on Tuesday voted unanimously to hold a hearing for the Ambassador Grill, a restaurant inside the ONE UN New York hotel at East 44th Street and United Nations Plaza whose interior preservationists say represents a key moment in the city’s architectural history.
The hearing is scheduled for Nov. 22, according to an LPC spokeswoman.
The owner of the hotel closed the restaurant for renovations last November, and preservationists were up in arms after one activist, Theodore Grunewald, said he snuck into the restaurant and saw what looked like haphazard construction that could cause damage to the distinctive walls and ceilings.
“I was able to get inside during the winter, and I saw some work being done that indicated to me at the time that the hotel was not interested in keeping the interior intact,” he said.
A representative of the hotel did not respond to a request for comment.
The restaurant, which features flashy, angled mirrors on its walls and ceilings, was designed by architect Kevin Roche and is a relic of a moment in time at which architects were turning away from the staid, minimalist modernism of the 1950s and 1960s and moving toward the more eccentric postmodern era, according to Grunewald, a preservationist and trained architect.
“It’s about time we have landmark status for building interiors that are representative of the past 30 or so years,” he said. “It’s also just a spectacular space.”
After raising the alarm, Grunewald joined forces with Docomomo — short for Documentation of Buildings, Sites and Neighborhoods of the Modernist Movement — and in January the group filed a request for evaluation with the Landmarks Preservation Commission requesting an expedited hearing to designate the Ambassador Grill as a landmark.
Because interiors tend to see more alteration over time than building exteriors, they often face a more uphill battle to get designation. But the Ambassador Grill retains nearly all the original elements of the initial design completed in 1975, and represents a tribute to late-modernist and early post-modern architecture, Grunewald said.
“I think we’re going to be able to make a really good case for the official designation of this interior,” he said.