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 has 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 to alert us! Please scroll down to see some of our most recent preservation campaigns.

Public School 48

In July 2020 ADSNY learned that the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) was holding a public hearing to consider the landmark designation of Public School 48 in Jamaica, Queens. This hearing, held over Zoom due to COVID-19, gave LPC the opportunity to recognize the architectural merit of this building, as well as the building's cultural significance to the South Jamaica community since first opening its Art Deco doors.

After considering ADSNY'S testimony and the support from community leaders and organizations, the LPC announced, on September 22, 2020, that the Commission "Designates Public School 48 in South Jamaica, Queens as an Individual Landmark."

 

To learn more about this building and to watch Meghan Weatherby, ADSNY's Executive Director, present testimony on behalf of ADSNY, which begins at minute 15:42, you can watch the public hearing below: 

The official press release from LPC:

Testimony presented on behalf of ADSNY:

I’m Meghan Weatherby, the Executive Director of the Art Deco Society of New York. I want to share ADSNY’s enthusiastic support for designation of Public School 48 in Jamaica Queens as a New York City landmark.

 

P.S. 48 is a striking example of an Art Deco styled New York City public school. In prior decades school design reflected the general taste for revivals of older European styles. By 1928, however––the year that Walter C. Martin became Superintendent of Buildings for the Board of Education––the modernism we now call Art Deco had arrived in New York, and over the next two decades would change the face of the city, affecting every building type from skyscrapers to bus terminals, to apartment buildings, diners, night clubs, churches, synagogues––you get the point. During his decade of service, Superintendent Martin made use of the traditional revival styles, but he also brought the new modernistic approach to the city's public schools.

 

Martin's first and perhaps best-known school building is the Art Deco-styled Herman Ridder Junior High School in the Bronx, which as you know is a designated landmark. Its new approach to design attracted the notice of the New York Times, which wrote "Modernism in architecture has reached the schools."

 

Though not completed until 1936, P.S. 48 was proposed in 1931, the year of Ridder's completion. A somewhat smaller building––a local elementary school rather than a regional junior high school––P.S. 48 nevertheless shares Ridder's sense of modernistic monumentality––thanks to the wide corner towers on its street front, articulated with overlapping geometric edges. Though only three-stories tall, the building exudes the verticality typical of the period's Art Deco skyscrapers, thanks to recessed windows set between unbroken ground-to-roof piers. And, stylized brick, terra cotta, and stone ornament punctuate this modernistic design.

 

The village of Jamaica developed through the 18th and 19th centuries, but South Jamaica, home to P.S. 48, retained a rural flavor until the turn of the 20th century, becoming fully developed only by the end of World War II. The original P.S. 48 was a one-story wooden schoolhouse of 1886 that served as Jamaica's "colored school." Its far more substantial replacement became a community landmark almost as soon as it was completed, and has served as a visual focus of the neighborhood ever since.

 

The LPC has designated many significant modern buildings. To date, however, Herman Ridder is the only individually-designated Art Deco public school building. With the designation of P.S. 48, that number will effectively double, and the Art Deco Society of New York hopes that number will continue to grow.

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, presented by Executive Director, Meghan Weatherby, 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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