Preservation

ADSNY was created at a time when New York City's Art Deco architecture was under threat of demolition. Our founding mission was to protect and celebrate these treasures so that they could be appreciated for generations to come. Though our mission as expanded over the years, preservation is still at the heart of ADSNY's missions and we are always ready to advocate for Deco in danger. If you know of an Art Deco building that needs our help, please email Info@ArtDeco.org and alert us! Please scroll down to see some of our most recent preservation campaigns.

The Madison-Belmont Building

In spring 2019 ADSNY presented testimony at the Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing when it learned that the Madison-Belmont building and its famed Art Deco ironwork by master craftsman Edgar Brandt, were under threat. Though the building was designated a landmark in 2011, and the metalwork is protected under that status, the owner sought permission from the commission to alter the building’s façade by punching holes in the famed metalwork to add three additional doors.

 

Due to ADSNY’s testimony, and the testimony of like-minded preservation groups, the LPC not only declined the proposal, commissioners went further and questioned whether or alterations like this would ever be allowed to take place. ADSNY’s testimony at the hearing:

Dear Commissioners,

 

As the Executive Director for the Art Deco Society of New York and a historian of interwar design as well as early 20th century cultural, I have a vested interest in the preservation of the Madison-Belmont Building.

 

Though the overall façade of this 1924-25 structure is not as overtly Art Deco as some of New York’s later examples, its design includes important ideas from the developing European Modernism movement. The most visually striking, early modern element of this building is the architectural ornamentation by master Art Deco iron smith Edgar Brandt––which has been cited as one of the first instances of Art Deco architectural design in the United States. Though his work is recognized by Art Deco enthusiasts around the world, there are very few surviving examples of his premier architectural ornament that can be seen by the public today. It can be said, there is simply nothing else like the decorative detailing of the Madison-Belmont Building anywhere in New York and perhaps even in the country.

 

Brandt designed––among many other notable things––the entrance gates to the 1925 Paris Exposition, from which the Art Deco style takes its name. Those are long gone, but Brandt’s work on this building––including one-of-a-kind entrance gates and unusual iron grilles with geometric motifs beneath the large first floor windows––survive as one of the earliest examples of Art Deco architectural design in New York. If new commercial entrances must be introduced to this important façade, that should be done in such a way as to avoid removing the iron panels from the storefronts.

 

The Art Deco Society of New York urges the Landmarks Preservation Commission to treat Edgar Brandt’s ironwork as the unusual treasure that it is and not allow this alteration to take place as currently proposed.

The Waldorf Astoria Hotel

In 2016 ADSNY launched a global campaign to save the interiors of New York’s iconic Waldorf Astoria Hotel when its new owner, Anbang, threatened to "gut the interiors" of the hotel during its conversion into condos. Enlisting the support of Deco societies around the world and though its mobilization of ADSNY members and joining other New York Preservation organizations, such as the Historic Districts Council, ADSNY mounted a multi-faced campaign to save the lobby, entrances, the Louis Rigal murals, and other great public spaces, such as the Grand Ballroom, from destruction. Happily, after months of vigorous effort, the Waldorf Astoria interiors that were proposed for Landmark designation and were unanimously approved by the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission.

In her statement, the chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Meenakshi Srinivasan, said, "The Waldorf Astoria Hotel has some of the most internationally renowned rooms in all of New York City. Today’s action not only protects the rich and beautifully detailed art-deco features of the hotel’s interior public spaces, it also preserves the unique experience of moving through the hotel’s varied interiors, which countless New Yorkers and visitors have enjoyed for more than eight decades." 

Coney Island Pumping Station

ADSNY launched a campaign in 2015 to raise awareness of the cultural importance and stylistic merits of the Coney Island Pumping Station, designed by Irwin Chanin. Although Chanin is best known for his monumental works, including Manhattan’s Century and Majestic apartment houses and the Chanin Building, the Pumping station marked his change in style from Art Deco skyscrapers to low rise functional buildings that offered a creative alternative to the typically classical designs of other municipal buildings. The Pumping Station appreciates the mechanization of the 1930s, reflecting the attitudes of the Machine Age. Deeming this unique building worthy of preservation, ADSNY mobilized its members, Coney Island Community leaders and other preservation organizations to present testimony to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (L.P.C.) 

 

Although the L.P.C. did not landmark the Pumping Station, L.P.C. chairwoman, Meenakshi Srinivasan, noted that they did “receive a lot of support in terms of designating this building […and] that’s the reason why we are not voting on it being taken off the calendar on the basis of merit. Maybe at some point in time it could be restored…” The Commission encouraged the community to find adaptive reuse of the building. As a result of ADSNY’s campaign to successfully engage many segments of the preservation and Coney Island communities, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services and the city Economic Development Corp. are studying the feasibility of adaptive reuse for the pumping station. Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron recognized that “It is a building that’s worthy of designation."

© 2020 Copyright Art Deco Society of New York, Inc. 

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