Addition to Tammany Hall Approved after Reduction in Size

A proposed rendering of the renovated Tammany Hall. Image credit: BKSK Architects

A proposed rendering of the renovated Tammany Hall. Image credit: BKSK Architects

Contemporary dome would sit atop restored neo-Georgian building facing Union Square. On March 10, 2015, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to approve the construction of an addition, as well as façade renovations, to the former Tammany Hall building at 44 Union Square East, an individual City landmark. Landmark first considered a proposal for the site in November of 2015.

At the November hearing, BKSK Architects’ Harry Kendall and Todd Poisson presented a plan for a 30-foot-tall glass-and-steel lipped dome, its form resembling the shell of a turtle.
The architects said the design would pay tribute to the importance of the tortoise in the spiritual system of the Lenape, who once occupied Manhattan and whose chief, Tamanend, Tammany Hall was named for. The proposal also entailed the restoration of the main façade and the regularization of the non-historic ground-floor storefronts. The upper floors are likely to be used as office space. The plan was opposed by preservationist organizations and supported by the Union Square Partnership.

Commissioners generally agreed that the landmark could sustain a rooftop addition, but many found the proposal either excessively large, or that its design distracts from the historic architecture.

When the applicants returned in March, they presented a design which architect Harry Kendall said would “better honor the existing building.” Kendall did reassert that the site could accommodate a structure of greater height than what existed, noting that a taller building on the corner stood there before the Tammany buildings, and the addition would contribute to the “resurgence of the north-east corner of Union Square.” Kendall also displayed several examples of neo-Georgian buildings with later domed rooftop additions. He said the public’s perception of the landmark was “much diminished” by the building’s currents state and the development would restore its stature.

The revised plan would have a hipped roof, replacing the existing slate roof, with terra-cotta sun shades. A steel-and-glass dome addition would rise behind the roof, though smaller and simpler than in the previous proposal. Kandall said the smaller dome rising behind the new roof led to a better “integration between old and new.”

The new roof and addition would be visible from street-level vantages, from 30 feet away and further. The dome would visible as a hemispherical entirety from sections of Union Square Park. He described the revised effect as “more classical” and “less organic” than the initial proposal. The addition would also be visible from some oblique views. The facade’s details would be illuminates by LED lights at night.
The new retail storefront would be contemporary in design with large glass windows and powder-coated metal piers, and possess a projecting canopy.

The revised proposal also included the reinstallation of two decorative stone panels on the façade facing the park, and the restoration of the historic facades.

Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan stated that the commission had received a letter in support of the project from the nearby W New York Union Square Hotel.

Chair Srinivasan found revisions responsive to the concerns voiced at the hearing, and was convinced by the applicants that a visible addition was appropriate for this individual landmark and site. She noted that the associated restoration of the building would serve “a significant preservation purpose,” and commended the quieter and more classical form of the dome. Commissioner Roberta Washington suggested that more work be done to the design’s ground floor to bring it closer in line to its original fabric and typology. Srinivasan agreed that the base should be clad in masonry, and contemporary interventions should be limited to the building’s top. Commissioner Michael Devonshire found the revised proposal appropriate, and requested that the applicants donate the slate from the demolished roof to the Historic House Trust. Commissioner Christopher Moore commended the project as “gift to the memory of the City of New York.”

Srinivasan asked the applicants to work with Landmarks staff in designing a ground floor incorporating more masonry before leading a unanimous vote for approval.

LPC: Tammany Hall, 44 Union Square East, Manhattan (16-3899) (March 10, 2015) (Architects: BKSK Architects).

UPDATE:  The original post gave the hearing date as March 3, 2015.  It was March 10.  The original post also inaccurately described the hipped roof as masonry.  We regret the error.

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