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301 Park Avenue, Waldorf Astoria, application for extensive exterior and interior restoration and alteration of landmark areas

WHEREAS, The owners of The Waldorf Astoria at 301 Park Avenue are seeking approval for an application for a certificate of appropriateness for (a) exterior work including restoration and alterations to marquees, retail facades, reconfiguration of the porte-cochère and loading docks, the enlargement of selected windows, a rooftop addition along with new elevator bulkheads, and (b) for alterations to designated interior spaces including restoration, new lighting, flooring, and carpeting and the enlargement of the Lexington Avenue interior lobby; and

WHEREAS, The Art Deco twin-towered building was completed in 1931 with 47 stories by architectural firm Schultze & Weaver and was the tallest hotel in the world at that time; and

WHEREAS, The 1,413-room Hotel was recently purchased by Anbang Insurance Group and is currently closed for a partial conversion to a residential condominium; and

WHEREAS, The Waldorf Astoria's exterior was landmarked in 1993 and several interior spaces were landmarked in 2017, all of which will be affected by the proposed large-scale restoration and a partial alteration of components of both the exterior and interior of the building's landmark designated areas; and

WHEREAS, The applicant proposes full window replacement of mostly non-original windows to painted aluminum windows that will maintain the original details and specifics of the original design, and also proposes enlarging window openings by one-foot in height from floors 28-35 and 38-39; and

WHEREAS, The applicant also proposes alteration and removal of non-original material to the street-level facades to accommodate new loading docks and new porte-cochère entry driveways on the side streets, and new retail spaces with restored or replicated decorative elements to all facades; and

WHEREAS, The applicant also proposes alteration of existing marquees on Park Ave, Lexington Ave, East 49th St and East 50th St to include restored under-lighting and the addition of a modern-lit glass frame with hotel name, as well as the addition of a newly designed and differently proportioned marquee on Park Avenue for the condominium residences to the north of the existing main hotel marquee entrance; and

WHEREAS, The applicant also proposes removal of exposed roof mechanicals, the removal of non-original set-back additions, the removal of non-original façade air vents, restoration of decorative elements, increased presence of decorative grilles above the Lexington Avenue marquee and along the side-streets to match original decoration, a full exterior building cleaning, and modification of tower grilles to non-original material with a similar look; and

WHEREAS, The applicant also proposes addition of a penthouse level as well as two bulk-heads to the top of the building with minimal visibility, as well as the addition of non-visible terrace doors, dividers and railings on multiple setbacks; and

WHEREAS, The restoration of the interior spaces includes designated areas of the Park Avenue Foyer, Colonnade, Peacock Alley, East Arcade, the West Elevator Hall, the Main Lobby, the Main Lobby Hall, and the Lexington Avenue Foyer, as well as well as designated areas on Level 3 that include the Grand Ballroom, the Basildon Room, the Jade Room, the Astor Room, the Silver Corridor and various Foyers; and

WHEREAS, The applicant proposes removal of non-original materials from all of the above-mentioned spaces to be replaced with like-kind materials to match original materials, including light fixtures, plaster, paint color, vases, urns, doors and decorative panels that will be re-aligned for symmetry; re-installment of original cove lighting detail; general lighting reconfiguration; and replacement to modern spot-lighting that is less intrusive, as well as decorative lighting, carpet replacement, marble flooring installation; and

WHEREAS, The applicant proposed to reconfigure the Lexington Avenue Entry and Stair Hall to provide a more dramatic entry that may have been the original intended vision, which includes removal of non-original escalators and a ceiling slab to allow for more light; and

WHEREAS, The applicant also proposes to reconfigure the Main Lobby to include removal of non-original material, removal of the Peacock Alley cafe, and the extension of reception area into the non-designated current South Lounge while installing historically sensitive carpet and lighting, as well as restoring the rooms original symmetry; and

WHEREAS, The applicant proposes to restore the Grand Ballroom with removal of non-original material including the center chandelier, removal of many layers of non-original additional lighting, and restoration of the balconies and ceiling cove-lighting; and

WHEREAS, The applicant, Anbang Insurance Group, and the architect, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, have unequivocally supported the LPC's interior Landmark designation, and made every effort to use appropriate and noble designs and materials; therefore be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends approval with conditions of The Waldorf Astoria's application for a Certificate of Appropriateness for both the exterior and interior restorations and alterations as outlined in their comprehensive and detailed presentation made to Community Board Five, with the conditions being:

  1. The interior lighting of the restored and altered public spaces will be measured and soft, in keeping with the elegance and beauty of those spaces; and
  2. The applicant considers the employment of less modern marquee glass additions, in keeping with the original intent and design of those marquees within the historical context of the building; and
  3. The Applicant considers the importance of a symmetrical treatment of the Art Deco Park Avenue facade, including the relationship with and between the marquees for both the proposed residential entrance and the adjacent main hotel entrance; and
  4. The applicant strives to salvage and restore the historic fabric of The Waldorf Astoria's non Landmark-designated rooms and spaces, and that any original material being removed be re-purposed elsewhere in the Hotel or placed in protected storage; and
  5. The applicant acknowledges that all new materials used to match the historic materials will then be deemed original and part of the original landmark fabric of the Waldorf Astoria.

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