SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK COUNTY OF NEW YORK - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x In the Matter of the Application of ERIC W.
ALLISON, KEVIN J. FARRELLY, THEODORE GRUNEWALD, TED NARDIN, and CITIZENS EMERGENCY COMMITTEE TO PRESERVE PRESERVATION, Petitioners/Plaintiffs, For a Judgment Pursuant to Article 78 and Sections 3001 and 6301 of the Civil Practice Law & Rules -againstTHE NEW YORK CITY LANDMARKS PRESERVATION COMMISSION, VORNADO REALTY TRUST, 510 FIFTH AVENUE LLC, 510 FIFTH EAT LLC, VORNADO REALTY, LP, and VNO 510 FIFTH LLC, Respondents/Defendants - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x AFFIDAVIT OF THEODORE GRUNEWALD Index No. ____________
State of New York
) ) SS: County of New York ) THEODORE GRUNEWALD, being duly sworn, deposes and says: 1. I am a Petitioner/Plaintiff in this proceeding. I make this affidavit in
support of Petitioners’ motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction and for related relief. 2. I am by profession an archivist and curator of art and design. Since 1998 I
have been employed as chief archivist for a major fine arts publishing and media corporation in Manhattan. I was trained in architecture at Parsons School of Design, and worked for five years at the firm of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates in New York. Along the way, I became a landmarks preservation advocate, and established “The Urban Archaeologist,” a research consulting firm in architectural history. 3. Around October 2010, I learned of the removal of the famous Harry
Bertoia sculptures (the cloud mobile and arbor-like enameled metal screen) from the interior of the former Manufacturers Trust Company building. That prompted me to spearhead a campaign to obtain official landmark designation of the interior of this superb modernist building. I assembled a coalition of organizations under the name, Coalition to Save MHT, and with those partners, successfully advocated for the landmark designation of the interior which was awarded to the building in February, 2011. 4. The Manufacturers Trust Company building is well known to me as being
among the world’s most-recognized masterpieces of mid-century American corporate modernism, one of the greatest mid-century achievements of the International Style, and a key monument in the world’s shared cultural and artistic heritage. It is also a civic
treasure; a supremely important building to New York City and is a familiar and beloved part of the Midtown streetscape, sharing a relatively short stretch of Fifth Avenue with such other designated landmarks as the Empire State Building, the former Tiffany & Co. Building at 37th St., the Central Research Division of New York Public Library, the former Scribner’s Bookstore, Rockefeller Center, and the Plaza Hotel. 5. When the designer Charles Evans Hughes III won the intra-office
competition at Skidmore Owings and Merrill and, under Gordon Bunshaft’s direction, created an x-ray of a Renaissance banker’s stone palazzo in clear plate glass gridded (and girded) by polished aluminum mullions --complete with a visible escalator instead of a secretive grand stair to whisk you up to the lavishly appointed piano nobile, Bunshaft and Hughes accomplished a revolution; creating a highly symbolic and richly expressive architectural design, while nonetheless using the austere minimalist vocabulary of International Style modernism. 6. The lightness of the building’s expressed structure and the transparency of
its glass walls are a tangible symbolic expression of the new-found openness and fluidity of 20th century investment capitalism; bringing what was hidden and put away from the world out into the light of day under the artificial daylight sky of the building’s famous luminous ceilings. The safe is the most tangible expression of this idea; being a cubic volume clad entirely in black granite; like an old-fashioned, freestanding steel banker’s safe, brought out from its traditional location in the cellar and carefully placed above ground with its opening facing Fifth Avenue. 7. The unobstructed sweep of space of the building’s former banking halls on
both the upper and lower levels is further expressive of this openness and expansive sense
of space which is as integral to and inseparable from the building’s unified design as its transparency. The expansive, open interiors are a perfectly executed example of Mies van der Rohe’s concept of “free space” realized by modern structural innovations such as exceptionally thin reinforced concrete slabs, high strength steel, and long cantilevers, bounded by a glass and aluminum façade that is literally suspended from the edges of the slabs, and in the case of the second floor mezzanine, bounded by a liminal 40 foot, double-height space open to the first floor below; further blurring the edges between inside and outside; between real and implied space. 8. Also inseparable from the building’ overall integral design is the visitor’s
entire entry processional. The path through the building from the 43rd St. sidewalk through entry doors and vestibule into an exaggeratedly long, low, luminous-ceiled ground floor banking hall with the drama of the open hatch cut into the ceiling above— and its gang-plank form of escalators beckoning the visitor to ascend into the high main banking hall above—while rising parallel to and remaining visually part of the crowds on the Fifth Avenue sidewalk —is defined and punctuated by these discreet, carefully positioned sculptural and architectural elements along the way —the 43rd St. doors, the polished aluminum vestibule, white marble clad columns, the freestanding polished stainless steel escalator —culminating in Harry Bertoia’s now-removed mobile visibly hovering far overhead in the distance from the bottom of the escalator at the start of the journey; then punctuating and marking your arrival at the top. 9. There, at the top of the escalator flight, as the visitor turned right to
disembark, the eye filled with the grand spectacle of American Abstract Expressionism at a scale as monumental as the mural-sized canvases of Jackson Pollock or Ad Rinehart;
Harry Bertoia’s spectacular 70 foot long by 30 foot high sculptural wall. Not merely a decorative accent; or “plop-art”; the two-foot deep now-removed sculptural wall was conceived and realized as an integral part of the interior architecture; dividing the main hall into two clear, functionally defined rooms; one for public transactions, the other for semi-private ones. 10. As the visitor turned from the spectacle of the Bertoia wall, the full
breadth of the glass curtain-walled main banking hall is revealed. The spaciousness of the hall dramatized by the two street-side edges of the room with their cantilevered edges extending the illusion of limitless space delineated only by the long low planters at the edges containing soil and living plants to further blur the edges of the perceived space. 11. Presentation of the proposed radical alterations to Manufacturers Trust
building as being no different in spirit from the original is incorrect; this will not be the same building at all —neither in spirit, nor in substance; rather it will be a radically different one —reconfigured unrecognizably both inside and out, and unrecognizable as a landmark-designated architectural masterpiece. 12. Though assembled from machined parts and constructed in standardized,
replicable parts the Manufacturers Trust Company building is anything but a large Erector set, pieces of which can be moved about at will without radically changing the carefully composed composition of the whole. The landmark-designated interior spaces and exterior, as designed and built, are the essence of this building. 13. Because the entire 2nd floor mezzanine is slated for demolition and
rebuilding, with the exception of the inside of the glass curtain walls, the renovations will actually destroy the entirety of the authentic designated interior, and replace it with a
facsimile in brand-new materials. Unlike Lever House, where the glass curtain wall had to be replaced in newly replicated materials because the historic curtain wall was failing and water was starting to penetrate and damage the building’s underlying superstructure, there is no known similarly compelling structural or economic reason for these drastic interior alterations. 14. The insertion of a demising wall on the lower level – bifurcating and
diminishing the sweeping openness of the ground floor is the spark that sets off a chain reaction of interrelatedly disastrous adjustments —from the short-circuiting of the building’s beautiful circulation path by the removal of the escalators parallel to Fifth Avenue, coupled with the sealing up of the historic 43rd entry; to the monumental act of vandalism implicit in punching new entry doorways into Bunshaft’s serene, monolithic Fifth Avenue façade —utterly destroying the architectural composition of the Fifth Avenue façade; a façade as carefully balanced and composed as the façade of any existing traditionally constructed and composed landmark-designated building –such as the carved stone façade of the State Supreme Court building on Foley Sq. for example. 15. These radical alterations —if unchallenged--will set a glaringly dangerous
precedent for designated interior landmarks no matter what architectural style, historic period, or where they are located—be it in Midtown, the Upper West Side, Greenwich Village, or the Upper East Side. 16. The conventions governing the protection of landmark-designated
interiors and exteriors assume some consistency between protection of the contributing elements of a landmark as outlined in a designation report and their prospective alteration in a permit for a certificate of appropriateness; the convention is that the alteration should
“do no harm,” or, if it must, that the necessity for the harm be amply justified on a reasoned basis. 17. The following table shows, in greater detail, the comprehensiveness of the
clash between the February designation and the April decision to permit extensively incompatible destruction and alteration.
DE = Designation Report re exterior DI = Designation Report re interior C of A = Certificate of Appropriateness dated May 19, 2011 Observations of members of the group supporting this effort, with which I concur, appear in italics.
Designation/Report Transparency and openness1 The Building “is arguably Manhattan’s most transparent structure, revealing two elegantly spacious banking floors that were carefully planned to be as prominent to passing pedestrians as the glass-andaluminum exterior.” (DI 15; and see DE 1). “[T]his building and its minimalist banking floors were designed as a unified architectural statement . . . .” (DI 15). “[T]he design’s transparency and the articulation of the underlying skeletal
Certificate of Appropriateness
The remodeling is to include “installing a new demising wall at the 1st floor, featuring a continuous partial-height partition wall with glass clerestory running east-west and set back from the 5th Avenue façade with a clear glass demising panel, subdividing the floor into two tenant spaces.” (C of A pg. 2). The heights of the opaque and clear portions of the wall are not specified in the Certificate. The escalators are to be relocated and installed “along the new 1st floor demising
“Transparency” is meant to include such related attributes as airiness, apparent openness of the interior to the exterior and visual integration of the interior and exterior.
structure of the building led the Architectural Forum to praise Manufacturers Trust as ‘the first big building truly to fulfill the architects’ immaculate drafting board idea of glass as an invisible material’. . . .” (DE 12). “The . . . building is a transparent, luminous clear glass box which architectural critic Louis Mumford likened to a lantern.” (DE 6; and see DI 8). Quoting architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable, “In a direct reversal of the traditional idea of architecture, which places its emphasis on the nature of heavy, containing masonry, the interiors become the substance of the building itself, once light and glass have effectively dematerialized the outer walls.” (DI 2). Vault door and wall enclosing vault “[D]istinctive elements [that remain include] the celebrated circular stainless steel vault door designed by Henry Dreyfuss in collaboration with engineers at the Mosler Safe Company. . . .” (DI 15). “[T]he building’s use is indicated by the gleaming polished steel vault visible through the clear plate glass windows.” (DE 8). “The exterior of the vault was faced with Canadian black granite. This polished stone provided an elegant backdrop for the shiny door, as well as for the luminous ceiling and white marble columns in the first floor banking hall.” (DI 9).
wall . . . .” (C of A pg. 2). There will be installed “new nonpermanent merchandising displays, shelves and pay counters, and new partial height partitions for back of house operations, at select locations at the 1st and 2nd floors within the designated interior [i.e. the portion of the interior designated as an interior landmark].” (C of A pg. 2). The locations, heights and other dimensions of these installations are not further specified. Two new entrances will be installed along the Fifth Avenue façade. (C of A pg. 2). All of this will inevitably adversely affect visibility from outside into inside, the scope of that visibility, and the open character of the architecture, all essential architectural features of this Building.
“[T]he granite wall and vault door facing Fifth Avenue at the ground floor will be retained, along with a small portion of the vault wall return aligning with the adjacent column, and although the remainder of the vault wall will be removed, the original granite facing from that wall will be salvaged and reused against the southern wall of the space and the original footprint and volume of the historic vault room will be identified with the introduction of metal and stone strips at the floor and a subtle change in the ceiling grid above. . . .” (C of A pp. 2-3). The razing of all but a stub portion of the east-west portion of the granite wall eliminates essential context. As designed
(The black granite wall itself is designated as part of the interior landmark, as appears from the plan on page 17 of the Interior Designation Report.)
and conceived, the vault door, together with the monumental strength and solidity of the granite wall, serve as the residual – and essential – symbols of trustworthiness that a bank must inspire even when a lightfilled airy vocabulary replaces the traditional outer fortress of stone. What the Commission allows to remain is the equivalent of a museum display of a cathedral altar. It may be a beautiful object in itself, but it is unable to communicate all of the awesomeness and glory of its cathedral context. In this case, the vault door, lacking the room it is intended to protect, becomes a meaningless portal to nowhere. It is unclear what, if any, consideration the Commission gave to a reuse solution which would creatively use the vault space for a commercial purpose (e.g. a jewelry department, a café, etc.) with only such apertures through the granite wall as are necessary to facilitate passage.
Luminous ceiling “[D]istinctive elements [include] . . . the luminous ceilings that were intended to minimize glare and shadow; that this may be the earliest example of this lighting technology to survive in New York City and was among SOM’s first and most ambitious interiors to use it . . . .” (DI 15). “Because Manufacturers Trust was partially shielded from direct light by taller, surrounding buildings, Bunshaft used clear rather than tinted glass [as was then more common to protect the interior from the sun]; this, coupled with the controlled
The luminous ceiling is to be pierced and interrupted by various spot lights, sprinklers and air diffusers of unspecified size and frequency. The Certificate of Appropriateness does not specify any light level to be maintained by means of the luminous ceilings. (C of A pg. 2). These provisions leave substantial uncertainty as to the future integrity of the luminous ceilings. The absence of light intensity standards means that the transparency provided by internal light – an essential characteristic of the
lighting of the interior allowed him to achieve an ideal envisioned by Mies [van der Rohe] in the early 1920s, the transparent building. * * * Thus, the Architectural Forum considered Manufacturers Trust, ‘the first big building truly to fulfill architects’ immaculate drafting board idea of glass as an invisible material’ . . . .” (DE 4). “[T]he illumination produced by thousands of cathode tubes concealed behind thin plastic panels dematerializes the surface of the ceiling, contributing to the sense that the [floor] slabs are weightless and floating. This high level of illumination was intended to counteract the natural reflectivity of the clear glass walls. As the Architectural Forum noted it is ‘an old merchandizing trick’ to put more illumination inside a store window than outside the clear glass to ensure that the contents can be seen, ‘But doing so to a five-story building is new and surprising, a true landmark in the delineation of space. It makes a glass wall into something it has not been before, an invisible control instead of a mysterious barrier.’” (DE 6). “Because the banking floors emitted an even glow, reflections were significantly reduced on the exterior and the glass seemed to vanish during daylight hours.” (DI 7). White marble piers “[D]istinctive elements [include] . . . the white marble piers . . . .” (DI 15). “Because the piers are faced with white
architectural design – is not being assured. Reproduction in new materials of the Building’s original distinctive elements compromises the integrity of the Building’s intact historic fabric and devalues its authenticity as a work of art.
Although the C of A requires reconstruction of the second floor marble columns to match the originals, it does not (at least explicitly) do the same for the first
Vermont marble, when viewed from outside they almost dematerialize against the brightly-lit ceilings.” (DI 5). Uninterrupted Fifth Avenue glass wall “Treated as an uninterrupted expanse of clear glass, the Fifth Avenue façade originally was designed with no entrance or signage, but rather the building’s use was to be indicated solely by the gleaming polished steel vault visible through the plate glass window. The entrance to the banking space is on West 43rd Street; it originally was marked only by a discrete aluminum sign with white lettering.” (DE 6; and see DE 8).
floor columns. (C of A pg. 1).
Two new entrances will be installed along the Fifth Avenue façade. (C of A pg. 2). The installation of such entrances, no matter how subtly done, destroys the essential architectural concept of a totally transparent building that, at least seemingly, has no barrier to visual entry. If there are doors, with the requisite door hardware, and people opening and closing the doors, then the illusion of unimpeded visual entry is lost. Although no mention is made now of a storm vestibule, it seems unlikely that practicality will not require one, making the matter only worse.
Floor slabs “The concrete [floor] slabs were deliberately kept thin both to meet the building height limitation2 and to create an impression of extreme lightness. This aesthetic of lightness is enhanced by the thinness of the external metal skeleton which the construction superintendent for the project described ‘as more like jewelry than building.’” (DE 6). Escalators The “twin escalators, which were originally The work will involve “replacing the The C of A does state that the “external dimensions” of the mezzanine will be retained following reconstruction of the mezzanine to allow greater floor load. (C of A. 1) It is not clear whether the “external dimensions” include thickness. It is essential that the mezzanine not be made thicker.
A restrictive covenant limited height because a zoning lot merger had allowed transfer of bulk to the neighboring building at 500 Fifth Avenue, allowing the latter to be built higher than zoning restrictions would otherwise have permitted. (DE 2).
free-standing,” are identified as a “notable historical feature.” (DI 1). Linking the two banking floors, “they were convenient for customers entering from 43rd Street and were positioned to maximize visibility from Fifth Avenue. Rising on a diagonal in open space, without any apparent means of support, passing pedestrians could easily observe the constant the [sic] flow of customers, while inside, riders could enjoy changing views of the of the interiors.” (DI 6). The escalators, according to a bank newsletter, “strengthen[…] the feeling of unity between the first and second floors.” (DI 7).
historic parallel escalators in kind, rotating the new escalators 90 degrees running eastwest, and relocating and installing the escalators along the new 1st floor demising wall . . . .” (C of A 2). This removes the second major compositional and iconographic element from the Fifth Avenue façade. Sculpturally, it added a complementary diagonal element to the vault door’s circle in what is otherwise a purely rectilinear composition. Iconographically, it very subtly, but definitively, pointed the way to the entrance door hidden on the side street; and it also all but replaced the need for a sign: hung between the industrial, highly machined, lines of the vault door and the escalators was the subliminal message that this is, indeed, the Manufacturers Trust Company. As in the case of the banalization of the vault door, distancing the escalators from their visually prominent original location just 15 feet away from and parallel to the Fifth Avenue sidewalk and repositioning them deep within the floor plate more than 30 feet from Fifth Avenue and parallel to the 43rd Street façade will render them completely invisible (particularly when obscured by store displays) and turn their rich communicative power into, well, just escalators.
I am aware that the Department of Buildings issued permits for demolition
and construction on June 1, 2011, and demolition work was begun within a few days after that.
____________________________________ Theodore Grunewald Sworn to before me this day of July, 2011