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Newly Renovated NYPL Reading Hall Deserves to Be Landmarked, Electeds Say

By Shaye Weaver | May 19, 2017 5:49pm | Updated on May 22, 2017 7:06am
 The Rose Reading Room and Bill Blass Public Catalog Room underwent two years of renovations.
Rose Room and Blass Room
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MIDTOWN EAST — The ornate halls and grand staircases within the New York Public Library's main branch have been landmarked for decades, but two recently renovated study rooms, used by literary greats like Norman Mailer, E.L. Doctorow and Elizabeth Bishop, still don't have that designation.

That's why State Sens. Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger are requesting that the Landmarks Preservation Commission designate the two rooms — the library main branch's Rose Reading Room and the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue — as interior landmarks, which would afford them the same protection going forward.

The senators sent a letter to the LPC on May 15 with their request.

"With restorations of these two major interior spaces complete and public use of the library’s interiors at an all-time high, we must now recognize the Rose Main Reading Room and the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room as the historic interior spaces that our city has come to treasure in our beloved library," the letter reads.

In a statement to DNAinfo New York, Senator Kreuger said "now is the perfect time to protect these spaces in perpetuity and continue the process that began decades ago with the landmarking of the building’s exterior.”

“Anyone who has stood in the Rose Reading Room knows that it is not only one of New York City’s cultural gems, it is one of the world’s great interior spaces," she said.

The NYPL says its been a good steward of the rooms and that it welcomes expanded landmark status.

"These spaces have always been treated with the dignity, respect, and care that they deserve, and in that spirit, we look forward to the public landmarking process and continuing conversations with the Landmarks Preservation Commission," officials said in a statement.

The LPC is currently reviewing the rooms for designation, according to spokeswoman Damaris Olivo.

The library itself, named the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, was landmarked in 1967 and two of its rooms, Astor Hall and the grand staircases, were designated as interior landmarks in 1974, officials said.

The rooms up for possible designation were closed for more than two years for $15 million in renovations that included the restoration of a massive ceiling mural depicting fluffy clouds, the ceilings in general and upgrades to lighting fixtures. 

The project began shortly after a plaster rosette fixed to the Rose Room's ceiling dropped 52 feet to the floor below in May 2014. Workers restored all of the rosettes and their steel cables and all of the chandeliers in the room.

Now the rooms are open to the public daily.

This isn't the first time the landmark designation has been requested for the Rose Reading Room. Back in 2013, Community Board 5 had requested the LPC's evaluation and Hoylman, who is a member of the Senate Select Committee on Libraries, asked the LPC to put it on the calendar for a hearing.

"The space itself is unique both in its superlative beauty and its monumental size," Hoylman wrote then. "Visitors from around the world and native New Yorkers alike are struck by the ceiling's recessed murals and gilded plaster ornamentation, the red Welsh quarry tile floor, and the 22-foot American white oak tabletops resting on marble bases."

Because interiors tend to see more alteration over time than building exteriors, and because they are typically less accessible to the public than building exteriors, they often face a more uphill battle to get landmark status.

There are currently 119 interior landmarks, according to the LPC.

In the past year several interiors, including the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and the interior of the Ambassador Grill at One UN New York Hotel, have gotten the nod from the LPC.

► READ: NYPL Reading Hall With 100-Year-Old Mural to Reopen After 2-Year Renovation

►READ: Rose Reading Room Reopens at New York Public Library