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1 Central Park South, Plaza Hotel, application for restorative work on the façade and legalization of the interior courtyards.

At the regularly scheduled monthly Community Board Five meeting on Thursday, July 14, 2022, the following resolution passed with a vote of 34 in favor; 0 opposed; 1 abstaining:

WHEREAS, The Plaza Hotel (“Applicant”), located at 1 Central Park South, is a French Renaissance Revival château-style building designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, opened to the public on October 1, 1907, and designated as an individual landmark in 1969 by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC); and

WHEREAS, The 18-story white brick and marble structure is bound by West 59th Street on the north, the Fifth Avenue and the Grand Army Plaza on the east, and West 58th Street on the south and underwent extensive renovations in 2011; and

WHEREAS, The Applicant is proposing restorative work on the façade to address deterioration and legalization of the interior courtyards; and

WHEREAS, The existing 15th floor balcony on the façade along Central Park South, along Fifth Avenue, and a portion of the West 58th Street façade, was constructed of terracotta and has been subjected to many various repair phases in attempts to maintain the integrity of the balcony over its lifetime; and

WHEREAS, The majority of the terracotta at the balcony has been exposed to the elements for over a hundred years and has been found in recent and extensive investigations to have cracks, chipping, and flaking; and

WHEREAS, Many sections that have previously failed and spalled have been previously replaced or patched; and

WHEREAS, In addition to the spalling, the rusting of the balcony’s steel support structure has produced movement (expansion) within the balcony causing additional terra cotta failures and water infiltration; and

WHEREAS, The deterioration of the steel supporting members at the balcony have been observed as advanced with netting and a sidewalk shed installed for public safety; and

WHEREAS, The deterioration of the connection points back to the steel columns is not known and further exposure into the building will likely damage additional historical elements of the building; and

WHEREAS, The existing balcony structure C-channel and outriggers show signs of structural deterioration with complete detachment in some sections; and

WHEREAS, There are detached metal tie rods and cracked terracotta with many of the terracotta corbels having been replaced with decorative fiberglass scrolls, with many of the original terracotta pieces retained for casting; and

WHEREAS, The typical condition across the balcony is of cracked and spalled terracotta in need of restoration to its original design; and

WHEREAS, The Applicant, following careful analysis, cannot recommend the re-use of terracotta for restoration of balcony even though it is historically appropriate; and

WHEREAS, One of the major concerns in regard to selecting the material for use at the balcony is its durability in the New York climate, with 40-45 freeze thaw cycles per year, on average, as one of the leading causes of material failures that greatly contributed the to the terracotta failures at the balcony; and

WHEREAS, The Applicant evaluated precast concrete, microcotta (polymer resin composite), and glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) for replacement of the terracotta, reviewing their material and finish durability, production schedule, appropriateness, and installation methods; and

WHEREAS, Precast concrete while robust in its composition and able to match the historical look and texture of the building is too heavy for the balcony; and

WHEREAS, Microcotta is another light weight option for consideration in terracotta replacement at this balcony, with the color and texture matching requiring close monitoring and control checks; and

WHEREAS, Microcotta is non-weight bearing and will require special attention to detailing around the balusters and the concrete deck interface, and has a limited product history; and

WHEREAS, GFRC is a lightweight material option that can match the color and texture of the original terracotta; and

WHEREAS, With diligent production control, the Applicant views GFRC as an acceptable option for use at non-load bearing areas of the building such as the 15th floor balcony; and

WHEREAS, The Applicant proposes to expose the steel connections as required for repair with as limited disturbance to the surrounding elements as possible and lightening the load of the balcony to reduce the stress transferred to the original steel framing while minimizing damage done to original historic elements adjacent to the balcony and existing terracotta; and

WHEREAS, In addition to repairs and restoration of the balcony, the Applicant has proposed work for the courtyard of the landmark to repair cracked brick, perform masonry replacement, and to address an open LPC violation on a corner screen panel; and

WHEREAS, That work required for the courtyard includes façade repairs, saw cut and repointing of brickwork, parapet rebuild, and masonry replacement along with a substantial chimney repair; and

WHEREAS, While not all areas are visible from the street, the Applicant seeks to accomplish work to the highest standard with materials to match as much as possible, using an alternative to terracotta that is more sustainably and with higher tolerance for strain; and

WHEREAS, The overall schedule for the large project of phased restoration will be expedited wherever possible with a planned completion in Fall 2024; and

WHEREAS, The Applicant requests approval for use of alternative materials for terracotta at the balcony and other elements at height, with no substitute materials below the third floor; and

WHEREAS, The restoration will lighten the load on beam supporting the balcony to avoid any possible damage to the interior if the landmarked building; and

WHEREAS, The Applicant has engaged in thoughtful research and analysis for restoration to enhance durability while maintaining the character and aesthetics of the landmark, and will work to match coloration, texture, and size (through exact molds from original elements) using robust materials that are lighter, stronger, and more weatherable; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends conditional approval of the application by the Plaza Hotel at 1 Central Park south for restorative work on the façade and legalization of the interior courtyard with the condition that the Applicant prioritizes use of GFRC with glazed finish for a uniform look, as the favored alternative material for terracotta.

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