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The legendary Roosevelt Hotel in midtown Manhattan has witnessed key events in American history over its 97-year existence. But now there’s a debate boiling about whether the hotel, which closed for business in 2020, should be designated as a landmark.

The Roosevelt Hotel has been closed since December 2020. Photo: Phil O’Brien

“A lot of people have fond memories of the Roosevelt Hotel,” said Andrea Goldwyn, the director of public policy at the New York Landmarks Conservancy. “The hotel has been a part of New York’s history for almost a century.” 

The Roosevelt Hotel, named after President Theodore Roosevelt, opened on September 22, 1924, on E45th Street between Madison Avenue and Vanderbilt Avenue in Midtown. It closed on December 18, 2020 — a victim of the pandemic’s impact on the travel industry. 

The hotel’s elegant interior design and 1920s architecture are part of the historic Terminal City, which originated during the reconstruction of Grand Central Terminal, from 1903 to 1913, when the city moved the station above ground to create commercial and office developments. Buildings like the Roosevelt rose during that time to provide accommodation for the developments.

The hotel served as an election headquarters Governor Thomas Dewey when he defeated Harry Truman and was the venue for a meeting with A. Philip Randolph to start planning the 1963 March on Washington. It also featured in movies such as Boiler Room, Man On A Ledge, Wall Street, Quiz Show, Malcolm X, Men in Black 3, Maid in Manhattan, and Netflix’s The Irishman.

Now The Municipal Art Society, Historic District Council, The New York Landmarks Conservancy, and The City Club of New York are fighting to keep the Roosevelt in the spotlight, co-signing a letter to the NYC Landmark Preservation Commission requesting that the Roosevelt Hotel be recognized as a New York City landmark. 

Francoise Bollack, an architect since 1982 and chair of The City Club of New York Preservation Committee, argues that since the hotel has now closed and is empty due to the pandemic, it is at greater risk of being demolished. 

She said: “All the other significant hotels that were part of Terminal City, The Biltmore, The Commodore…have all been demolished. [The Roosevelt Hotel] is one of the last ones, and so it’s very important to preserve it…We feel it’s really at risk and we need to do something about it.” 

The city has not designated any of the buildings that were part of Terminal City on the East Side of Grand Central as landmarks and there have already been multiple attempts to landmark the hotel over the past four decades. 

The Roosevelt Hotel has been a landmark on the corner of Madison Avenue and E45th Street. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Bollack believes that “politics is why it is taking so long” for the hotel to become a monument, and now that the hotel is closed and empty due to the COVID-19 pandemic it continues to be at great risk of being demolished. 

According to the Landmark Preservation Commission, for a building to be a landmark, it must “be at least 30 years old” and “have a special character or special historical or aesthetic interest or value as part of the development, heritage, or cultural characteristics of the city, state, or nation.”

During the Manhattan Community Board’s 5 Landmarks Committee Meeting in November 2021, the Landmarks Committee chair, Layla Law-Gisiko suggested that giving the Roosevelt Hotel landmark status could bring business to the community. 

“Big tech craves historic buildings. Google is in a historic building. Amazon is in a historic building. Facebook is in a historic building, and Apple just signed a lease in another historic building, this is where they want to be. So very clearly there is a very, very robust market for [landmarked] kinds of properties,” she said. 

In a letter read during the meeting, Dr Najeeb Samie, the President of the Roosevelt Hotel Corporation Operating Company, opposed the Roosevelt Hotel becoming a landmark.

 “[The Roosevelt Hotel Corporation Operating Company] strongly oppose it…. The hotel has been forced to close its doors during these testing times when the pandemic still has not ended and the future is uncertain; the city must help its businesses with all kinds of support. The RHC needs to be able to evaluate all business options without the restrictions attendant to [a landmark] designation,” the letter said.

The Roosevelt Hotel in its full glory. Photo: The Roosevelt Hotel

However “the New York City Landmarks Law does not require owner consent for the Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate. This was affirmed by the Supreme Court,” explained Francoise Bollack. 

She argued: “[the city] can do a lot of things with these buildings. They can build on top. They can renovate them. There’s no reason to demolish a whole twenty story building to build three floors on top of it. It doesn’t make any sense.” 

Dr. Sammy declined the request for further comment.

The Committee voted 13 to 1 to present the motion that the Roosevelt Hotel should be considered for the designation of landmark status to the full community board on January 13, 2022.

The next step — if the full board moves to approve the motion to consider the Roosevelt Hotel for landmark status — is that a research group at the NYC Landmark Preservation will present to the full commission, and then the commission will vote at a public meeting on whether to approve the hotel for landmark status.

The Roosevelt Hotel has been shuttered since December 2020. Photo: Phil O’Brien

The time frame “depends on several factors, including the amount of research required, whether is a single structure or a district, community involvement, etc,” said Meghan DeVito, public information associate at The NYC Landmark Preservation Commission.


UPDATE — January 21, 2022. The New York City Landmarks Preservations Director of Communications, Zodet Negrón, told us: “LPC has evaluated the Roosevelt Hotel in the past and it is included in LPC’s survey inventory for potential landmarks, but further consideration is possible only within the context of agency priorities in all five boroughs.”

She added: “The Community Board can suggest a landmark to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) (via a motion or a letter), and LPC may or may not move forward with it. While the public may suggest a landmark, it is the Landmarks Preservation Commission who identifies and prioritizes buildings, structures, neighborhoods, interiors or scenic areas that could potentially merit consideration as landmarks. The Roosevelt Hotel is not under consideration by the LPC at this time.”


Briana Ellis-Gibbs is the student council president at Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism with a concentration in arts and culture and visual journalism. She is a freelance writer and is pursuing a career as a photo editor.

Join the Conversation

19 Comments

  1. The owners have never looked out for the best interests of such a wonderful property. They have and are still doing everything in their power to destroy the legacy of the hotel. They have never cared for or given the hotel the love it truly requires to blossom as one of New York’s greatest properties. Thank goodness their input is not required for this decision. Becoming a landmark would be the greatest thing to happen to the Roosevelt as it would be protected from further damage by its greedy international owners. #teamlandmark

  2. The Roosevelt Hotel has the nicest lobby in New York city.
    Lots of American history, it should be landmark.

  3. I worked at the Roosevelt Hotel for 20 years the most amazing times and memories.The owners are a disgrace and should sell the building.

  4. Dewey lost to Harry Truman! Yes, landmark the beloved Roosevelt. Trump tore down the beautiful old Commodore, a favorite of Holden Caulfield’s. Now a second monstrosity has replaced the other – can’t even remember its name. And bear in mind that the bartenders at the Roosevelt’s bar made perfect martinis….

  5. If a building needs history to be labeled as a landmark, the Roosevelt has so much history going back to the Guy Lombardo days. Plus so many historical events after that. I worked there for 12 years and it was the best times. Meeting the greatest people from around the world and of course the people that worked right beside me. I always tell my nieces and nephews to pick an occupation that you love so it doesn’t feel like you’re working and God blessed me with that for 12 years at the Roosevelt.

  6. The Roosevelt Hotel needs to be a landmark we can’t lose anymore of New York City’s historic places. And have it replaced with useless buildings that have no history to them. Please let’s save this building for us and the children of the future. 💯%

  7. The Roosevelt deserves to be landmarked. It’s an amazing hotel with an incredible lobby and location. I was lucky to stay there on many of my trips to New York, and it was one of my favorites. You can feel the history when you walk through the doors. What a shame it would be to lose the architecture, craftsmanship, and history for future generations. Leaving our legacy to foreign investors is to our great detriment.

  8. That Elegant Beautiful Hotel that I stayed in every time I visited New York and had great memories on it and it’s friendly staff is surely Landmark of the Big Apple.

  9. You should save the Roosevelt hotel. To much history’s being lost.and will never get it back.

  10. I stayed there in 2018 and fell in love with the hotel. You could feel the history as you walked in. I was sad to see that it was closed when I started to look for hotels, I really wanted to stay their again. It should definitely become a landmark

  11. This was one of the nicest hotels in the City. My then six year old nephew became separated from me in the crowded lobby of the hotel, during the holidays. Within a few panicked minutes, I found him sitting on a table wearing a PIA Captain’s cap and being doted on by flight attendants and hotel staff.

    I attended political affairs there, brought dates there for drinks or coffee, enjoyed the bar while waiting for meetings. I t was a safe, clean, accommodating place in the bustle of Manhattan. I hope that at least the lobby and bar areas are landmarks, if not the whole building.

    If it is not economically viable to operate as a hotel, at least let become a hybrid condo and hotel, like the Waldorf-Astoria or The Plaza. We lost the Pennsylvania Hotel and the old Penn Station, let’s keep grand dame of the Gatsby age.

  12. The area is going through change.
    A new modern 100 stories building is the best answer to stay in the international competition.
    Progress should not be hindered. We can’t afford to make Manhattan stay out of competition.
    New landmarks are needed in this competitive World when we have to compete with China.

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