The fight is on to preserve the art deco lobby of the landmarked McGraw-Hill building at 330 W42nd Street. In a letter from Manhattan Community Board 4 (MCB4) to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (NYCLPC), the executive committee says: “The McGraw-Hill Lobby cries out for protection as soon as possible. Not doing so might result in a monumental loss for one of New York City’s architectural treasures.”
The letter adds further weight to preservationists and locals fighting to save the lobby of the landmarked Art Deco Tower. The matter has become increasingly urgent — as demolition documents filed with the Department of Buildings and approved by the Commission on September 24, 2020, indicate removal of the heart of the lobby, almost all of the main corridor between the vestibule and crossing elevator corridor.
This afternoon, New York State Senator Brad Hoylman put out an urgent request to stop the demolition. Speaking from the lobby he said in a tweet that the lobby was like “stepping into the gates of the Emerald City.” He appealed for the NYCLPC to “step in, stop the destruction of this historic resource, and to allow future generations of New Yorkers to enjoy this amazing space.”
The Art Deco Society of New York has launched a petition. Meghan Weatherby, the organization’s Executive Director, said: “We consider the McGraw-Hill building a major monument of early modernism. Although the building is not a designated interior landmark, and although its ceiling has been altered, its walls bear an unmistakable resemblance to the building’s iconic exterior; the alternating blue and green steel band separated by the silver and gold-colored metal tubes at the main entrance are seamlessly carried into the lobby. We hope NYCLPC will encourage the applicants to devote the same level of care into preserving the lobby’s exceptional art deco detailing — so clearly a continuation of the building’s outside — as the owner has shown in the proposal for the exterior.”
The McGraw-Hill building is a National Historic Landmark, but it’s the NYCLPC that can protect the lobby from demolition or alteration. The first request for this designation and protection was made in 1978.
At a public hearing at the NYCLPC earlier this month, their commissioners appeared to be in support of saving the lobby. Commissioner Goldblum stated “the lobby is remarkably intact and I think that it certainly is of the level that would merit designation.” Commissioner Chapin stated, “I agree that interior designation would be appropriate.” Commissioner Holford-Smith said, “I certainly would encourage the owner to preserve as much of the interior as possible so that we can landmark this lobby, which is an incredible, incredible, one-of-a-kind space.”
In the MCB4 letter to NYCLPC chair Sarah Carroll, the executive called for landmark designation of the lobby. They said: “It is our understanding that several Requests for Evaluation (RFE) proposing designation of the lobby as an interior landmark have recently been received by the Commission. We write in support of LPC investigating those RFEs expeditiously and, based on the findings, urge the lobby of the McGraw-Hill building to be calendared for a public hearing as soon as possible.”
There is concern that work will start on demolition before the NYCLPC get around to calendaring a hearing — which would put a stop to any work in the lobby at 330 W42nd Street.
Yesterday (Thursday), workmen could be seen on temporary scaffolding in the lobby. Today (Friday) a Stop Work Notice was on the front door of the building — but it appeared to be concerning “Building Facade Restoration/Repairs”.
The petition to save the lobby can be signed at https://www.gopetition.com/petitions/save-the-art-deco-lobby-of-the-mcgraw-hill-building.html