Prominent Art Deco skyscraper designated

Image: Courtesy LPC

Architects of 59-story 500 Fifth Avenue building also designed Empire State Building. On December 14, 2010, Landmarks designated the 500 Fifth Avenue Building as an individual City landmark. The building’s architects, Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, also designed the Empire State Building, and both buildings share similar Art Deco motifs. Built in 1931 on a small 100 by 208 feet lot on the corner of Fifth Avenue and West 42nd Street, the 59- story skyscraper was built out to the maximum height and bulk available under the 1916 zoning resolution. It is clad in limestone, terra cotta, and brick, and features a limestone and granite entrance with reliefs by Edmond Amateis. The building is asymmetrically massed, with varying setbacks on its 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue frontages, because the lot was located in two zoning districts with different setback requirements.

At a hearing in October 2010, a representative of Assembly Member Richard Gottfried described the building as “a beacon of architectural ingenuity.” The Historic Districts Council’s Daniel Donovan stated that the building had been overlooked “as an icon of 20th century cityscapes simply because it fits in so well.” Cozen O’Connor attorney Howard B. Hornstein, representing the building owner, said the impact of individual landmarking on property values was difficult to quantify and asked that Landmarks refrain from voting for at least 60 days, pending a review of the designation’s economic impact on the building. Also representing the owner, attorney Paul J. Proulx said the owner had not yet taken a stance on designation, but argued that 500 Fifth Avenue did not rise to the level of the Empire State Building.

When Landmarks reconvened in December 2010, Hornstein thanked Landmarks for participating in a “dialogue” since the first hearing and said the owner looked forward to working with Landmarks’ staff after designation. Commissioner Fred Bland called the building a “grand work of art” and said he was surprised to learn that the building was not already an official landmark. Vice Chair Pablo Vengoechea stated that the skyscraper was a testament to the significance of the 1916 zoning resolution, which “did so much to shape the City.”

Landmarks unanimously voted to designate the structure.

LPC: 500 Fifth Avenue Building, 500 Fifth Ave., Manhattan (LP-2427) (Dec. 14, 2010).

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