Sale of Two Columbus Circle gets go ahead

Environmental study ruled proper; Landmarks not obligated to hold public hearing. Two Columbus Circle, the white marble-clad, nine-story modernist building fronting Columbus Circle, was at the center of two suits filed against the City. The building, commissioned in 1964 by the A & P Supermarket heir Huntington Hartford for the Gallery of Modern Art, was donated to the City in 1980 after the Gallery closed. In 2003, the Planning Commission approved its sale from the Economic Development Corporation to the Museum of Arts and Design, which planned a massive renovation to the building. The Museum proposed to remove the white marble cladding, re-clad the facade and increase the window and door openings for improved interior light and added views, which would break up the building’s characteristic closed facade.

Landmark West, with a supporting brief by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, filed suit to void the approval, claiming that the environmental review was flawed and adding that the Landmarks Preservation Commission was required to hold a public hearing on Two Columbus Circle once it received a request from the public to designate it a City landmark.

The First Department unanimously upheld the lower court ruling of Justice Walter B. Tolub to deny the petition. The court found that it was proper for Landmarks to be asked to comment on the environmental study even though Landmarks had refused in the past to designate the building a landmark. The court also ruled that Landmarks was not obligated to hold a public hearing prior to making an internal decision not to calendar a designation hearing on the infamous building.

In a related case, Landmark West lost its challenge to the Manhattan Borough Board’s approval of the sale. The suit claimed that the Borough Board’s August 24, 2004 hearing violated the State open meetings laws because the hearing took place when residents had left the city for summer vacation. Justice Harold B. Beeler denied the claim, ruling that Landmark West failed to identify any injury, since its executive director knew of, attended, and spoke in opposition at the hearing.

In re Landmark West!, 2005 NY Slip Op 01431, Feb. 24, 2005 (1st Dep’t) (Antonia Levine Bryson, Esq., for Landmark West!; Michael A. Cardozo, Susan Choi-Hausman, for NYC); Landmark West! v.Manhattan Boro. Bd., Index No. 116913/04, (Feb. 15, 2004) (N.Y.Cty.Sup.Ct.) (Beeler, J.) (David Rosenberg, Marcus Rosenberg & Diamond, LLP, for Landmark West!).

CPC: 2 Columbus Circle (C 030392 PPM) (July 2, 2003). CITYADMIN

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