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Rockefeller Center – Application to make changes in the: 1) Channel Gardens; 2) Sunken Plaza Stairs; 3) Sunken Plaza; 4) North and South Gardens; and, 5) Rockefeller Plaza Street Bed.

At the regularly scheduled monthly Community Board Five meeting on Thursday, November 14, 2019, the following resolution passed with a vote of 31 in favor; 0 opposed; 1 abstaining:

WHEREAS, Rockefeller Center (the “Center”) is an Art-Deco style commercial, office and entertainment complex of 19 commercial buildings covering 22 acres between West 48th and 52nd Streets in Manhattan, built by the Rockefeller family during the Great Depression; and

WHEREAS, In designating the Center a NYC Landmark in 1985, the Landmark Preservation Commission noted it had become a symbolic and physical center for New York, achieving a harmonious integration of art and architecture, planning and plantings; and

WHEREAS, The current application is for a Certificate of Appropriateness to make changes to the: 1) Channel Gardens; 2) Sunken Plaza Stairs; 3) Sunken Plaza; 4) North and South Gardens; and 5) Rockefeller Plaza street bed; and

WHEREAS, The Channel Gardens, which separate La Maison Francaise Building from the British Empire Building, currently include six pools surrounded by various plantings and historical markers that are either filled with water or used for displays depending on the season; and

WHEREAS, The pools were built originally with a silver mirror finish on the underside of glass blocks and the Applicant proposes to replace them with reflective but more translucent glass blocks to allow light to pass through to the concourse below the Gardens; and

WHEREAS, The cast bronze fountain heads and granite piers on the pools will not be modified, but two historical markers will be relocated in the Gardens and the “Credo” monument at the entrance to the Sunken Plaza will be relocated to the entrance of the Gardens near Fifth Avenue, with minimal changes to make a plaque on the monument more visible; and

WHEREAS, The current configuration of the Sunken Plaza Stairs from the street level at the west end of the Channel Gardens requires visitors to split north or south as they descend because a large granite parapet obstructs the path of travel, and much of the view, from the Channel Gardens to the Sunken Plaza; and

WHEREAS, The applicant proposes to reduce the size of the granite parapet and incorporate an underlit bronze-painted railing with added greenery; and

WHEREAS, The original stair configuration from the Channel Gardens to the Sunken Plaza was a ‘spilling’ design that the Applicant proposes to recreate during the summer season with temporary additions to the main staircase; and

WHEREAS, The temporary staircase will be made of wood and adjoin seamlessly to the existing staircase showcasing the same underlit bronze-painted railings; and

WHEREAS, Two large bronze statues, “Youth” and “Maiden,” will be relocated from the top of the Sunken Plaza Stairs and installed to flank the main Prometheus statue/fountain on the west side of the Sunken Plaza; and

WHEREAS, The current terrazzo flooring and the granite walls of the Sunken Plaza have deteriorated with age and the retail openings in the granite walls are uneven and not aligned; and

WHEREAS, The applicant proposes to replace the current terrazzo floor of the Sunken Plaza with a terrazzo fashioned to imitate the existing “crab orchard” style stone existing throughout the plaza in color and jointing; and

WHEREAS, The applicant proposes to reconfigure all openings in the Sunken Plaza to a uniform height of 11ft and to adjust the granite piers to be slightly taller to mimic the original design; and

WHEREAS, The Applicant proposes to increase the number of openings in the Sunken Plaza and reconfigure them with bronze-painted steel doors to allow for greater traffic flow in and out of the concourse; and

WHEREAS, The applicant proposes to replace the granite panel wall surrounding the Sunken Plaza with in-kind materials from the original granite quarry and install a plant trellis and lighting on them; and

WHEREAS, The North and South Gardens adjacent to the Sunken Plaza are mirror images of each other, consisting of multiple flag poles, plantings, stairs, and elevators at street-level; and

WHEREAS, To provide increased accessibility, the Applicant proposes to remove the non-original elevators in the North and South Gardens and replace them with new elevators to be installed slightly east of the original locations, designed to stop at the street, terrace, and concourse levels; and

WHEREAS, The new elevators will be modern hydraulic piston elevators made of glass and bronze-painted metal with a large overhanging roof and canopy; and

WHEREAS, The new elevators will be built with modern glass capable of displaying art imagery; and

WHEREAS, The Applicant proposes to lower the profile of the granite parapet in each garden and incorporate new under-lit bench seating; and

WHEREAS, The Applicant proposes to remove small decorative fountains and granite from each garden and install new stairs to connect the street level with the terrace level and the concourse below; and WHEREAS, The Applicant proposes to enclose each of the two new staircases in a glass enclosure equipped with under-lit bronze-painted railings with glass side-panels; and

WHEREAS, the Applicant proposes to create additional pedestrian space by slightly repositioning several flagpoles and to enhance their appearance by installing up-lighting on them; and

WHEREAS, In 2000 the original street-bed that ran in front of 30 Rockefeller Plaza was raised but left a 3-inch lip at the original granite curb that has been a serious pedestrian tripping hazard; and

WHEREAS, Bollards were installed to bring focus to the change in surface height; and

WHEREAS, The applicant proposes to lift the street-bed again to remove all unevenness and to remove the bollards but leave the original granite curbs in place to outline the original street path; and

WHEREAS, The Applicant will install bluestone and granite pavers on the Plaza in a pattern to complement the rest of the Plaza and install a French drain for water removal; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five overall found the proposed modifications to be thoughtful, respectful, and sensitive to the Center, although, with respect to the North and South Gardens, Community Board Five found that the proposed stairs incorporate glass side-panels that are modern and non-contextual with the landmark, and that the proposed elevators are too bulky, block views of the terrace, and incorporate an intrusive overhanging canopy that is not appropriate or contextual with the landmark; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends approval with modifications of the proposed alterations, strongly urging that the Applicant address concerns about the proposed elevators and staircases in the North and South Gardens, which are non-contextual and not harmonious and that should be designed to better integrate with the landmark.

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