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51 West 52nd Street, CBS Building, application for the installation of a free-standing planter and signage elements in the 6th Avenue Plaza.

WHEREAS, 51 West 52nd Street, the CBS Building, also known as "Black Rock," constructed between 1961 and 1964, has been an individual NYC Landmark since 1997; and

WHEREAS, The building was the only NYC skyscraper designed by the renowned Finnish architect, Eero Saarinen, who was commissioned by the then CBS Chairman, William S. Paley, with additional design work done by the eminent architects, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo, after Saarinen's death; and

WHEREAS, Paley was determined to build a new company headquarters that could compete in architectural prestige with NBC's headquarters at Rockefeller Center and it would have to be of the highest aesthetic quality; and

WHEREAS, The CBS Building became New York's first postwar reinforced concrete skyscraper and one of the first to use an exterior bearing wall at a time when the glass curtain wall of the International Style was in vogue; and

WHEREAS, The CBS headquarters is a freestanding 38-story, 800,000 sq. ft. tower sheathed in flame-textured Canadian black granite and glass and stands in a sunken plaza that occupies the entire western end of the block bounded by Fifth and Sixth Avenues and West 52nd and 53rd Streets; and

WHEREAS, The plaza is paved in a gray granite slightly lighter in color than the granite used in the building's piers and is sunken below street level by approximately two feet forming a retaining wall with parapets and vertical slits on the inside faces; and

WHEREAS, The western portion of the ground floor was originally leased to a branch of the Bank of New York and afterwards as offices for Cushman Wakefield Real Estate Management and the eastern portion of the lobby housed the Ground Floor Restaurant, which was meant to rival Seagram Building's The Four Seasons, but today houses The China Grill; and

WHEREAS, The new tenant for the westerly ground level retail space, Charles Schwab, has applied for a Certificate of Appropriateness for the installation of two vertical granite vertical "totems" to be placed in front of the building and a long, horizontal granite free-standing planter, all containing the Charles Schwab trademarked signage, to be located in the 6th Avenue Plaza; and

WHEREAS, These three new plaza elements, clad with the same variety of granite matching the building exterior, were designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and are intended to be harmonious with the character and materials of the Landmark and can be removed in the future, if necessary; and

WHEREAS, The two rectangular "totems" will be 12 1/2 ft. high, 2 ft. deep and wide, and will have the Charles Schwab name in letters pin-mounted vertically 7ft. 3 in., on all four sides; the planter will be 15 ft. long, 2 ft. 6 in. high and 2 ft. 10 in. deep, with triangulated-shaped ends; all three will be illuminated by in-ground light fixtures; in addition, there will be 3 ft. by 2 ft. computerized vinyl signs set on the outside windows of the Schwab premises plus signage above both entrance doors, all with the Charles Schwab trademarked name; and

WHEREAS, The proposed signage above the horizontal granite planter appears to be too overwhelming and out of scale with all the other plaza and building signage; and

Totem (two signs)

Planter (one sign)

RESOLVED, Community Board Five denies the CBS Building, 51 West 52nd Street, C of A application for the installation of two vertical "totems" a free-standing horizontal planter with signage elements in the 6th Avenue Plaza unless the following conditions are met:

1.      The proposed signage above the horizontal planter should be eliminated and replaced by smaller signage on the face of the planter

2.      These three new plaza elements are approved for duration of the Charles Schwab lease of 15 years plus a five year renewal period if the lease is extended.

The above resolution passed by a vote of 29 in favor; 6 opposed; 1 abstaining; 1 present not entitled to vote.

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