476 Fifth Avenue, The New York Public Library: A Certificate of Appropriateness for alterations to the 5th Avenue Terrace and Loading Dock area, as well as an addition of a new 40th Street Terrace.
WHEREAS, The New York Public Library (NYPL) is located at 476 Fifth Avenue between West 40th and West 42nd Streets adjacent to Bryant Park in Midtown; and
WHEREAS, It was built between 1900 and 1911 by architectural firm Carrère & Hastings in what’s considered to be one of the city’s finest examples of Beaux Arts construction, and was designated an individual Landmark in January 11, 1967; and
WHEREAS, The applicant proposes alterations that are largely confined to three main areas:
1. 5th Avenue Terrace: The applicant proposes alterations that include re-grading of the stone pavers to remove an existing step on the 42nd Street side of the terrace, which will include lifting and re-laying of existing stone pavers, replacement of drainage grille covers that are the same dimensions as the existing grille covers, and installation of new pole lighting previously approved by LPC; and
2. 40th Street Terrace: The applicant proposes alterations to an existing structure that houses mechanicals along the 40th Street façade to create a new roof terrace with new lighting, a new entrance into the southern façade of the NYPL, new seating, new pavers and new plantings. An opening in the western wall of the 5th Avenue Terrace will be created to access the new terrace by removing an original bench with set of piers and relocating them to the west wall of the proposed 40th Street Terrace. The addition of a new building entrance in the location of an existing window is planned by removing original material and installing decorative bronze double-doors to access a new public corridor proposed for the interior. The proposed terrace will include new under-lit benches, new pole and up-lighting, new replicated stone piers, a new signage plaque at the proposed entry, new engraved signage along the base of proposed planters at the entry of this terrace, and the installation of Danby Marble over the newly-exposed original brick façade on the south wall of the NYPL to match existing Danby Marble of the Landmark’s exterior; and
3. Loading Dock: Currently there is one opening in the property wall to access a loading dock area which features two loading dock bays. The applicant proposes to create a second opening in the exterior granite property wall to accommodate easier access to the western loading dock which requires removal of original material, followed by the installation of a new painted-metal motorized gate. The western loading dock will feature a new painted decorative metal door, and a new painted metal canopy in the place of an existing canopy. The applicant also proposes widening the eastern existing main loading dock entry to accommodate modern-day truck deliveries requiring removal of existing original marble, some of which is to be re-used in the proposed design for the new entry. This enlarged entry is also proposed to have a new painted decorative metal door. The existing original granite wall on the western portion of the loading dock is proposed to be pushed west and re-positioned. This newly-exposed original brick façade on the south wall of the NYPL will have matching Danby Marble installed. New pole lighting is also proposed for this area.; and
WHEREAS, The proposed changes to the 5th Avenue Terrace are deemed to be non-intrusive and appropriate to the current design, as well as an improvement for public access to the Terrace; and
WHEREAS, The proposed changes to the Loading Dock area are deemed necessary due to the existing extensive damage from delivery trucks to the historic marble entry way’s present narrow width, and the applicant is strongly urged to re-purpose or store on-site the original granite material being removed from the property wall to accommodate a new opening for the western loading dock, as well as any original Danby Marble not repurposed around the expanded eastern loading dock opening; and
WHEREAS, While the proposed creation of a roof terrace on top of an existing mechanical structure, along with a proposed new entry into the NYPL is deemed appropriate in design and material, the applicant proposes several additional design components that are too contrasting and out of context with the Landmark; and
WHEREAS, These include contemporary bench designs, under-bench linear lighting, distracting and oversized signage along the planting bed, newly installed Danby Marble that lacks profile and detail of existing façade marble, and small granite pavers that do not match the size/shape/color of the pavers of the adjacent original terrace designs; and
WHEREAS, Harmoniousness and contextuality are anchored in the notions of similarity and deference and while pastiche and mere imitation are not desirable, a design that veers away from the original historic intent should never be deemed appropriate or harmonious; therefore be it
RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends denial of this application from the New York Public Library for a certificate of appropriateness unless a more contextual 40th Street Terrace proposal is designed with appropriate seating design, lighting scheme, and discreet signage; and further be it RESOLVED, Community Board Five strongly urges the NYPL continue to engage with the public regarding the full Master Plan for future alterations both inside and outside of the landmarked areas.