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51 West 52nd Street (5th Avenue and 6th Avenue), (CBS Headquarters), application for installation of a barrier free access (ADA) ramp at the building's plaza south side at 52nd Street

WHEREAS, 51 West 52nd Street, the CBS Building, also known as "Black Rock," constructed between 1961 and 1964, has been an individual NYC Landmark since October 21,1997; and

WHEREAS, The building was the only NYC skyscraper designed by the renowned Finnish architect, Eero Saarinen, who was commissioned by the then CBS Chairman, William S. Paley, with additional design work done by the eminent architects, Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo, after Saarinen's death; and

WHEREAS, The CBS headquarters is a freestanding 38-story, 800,000 sq. ft. tower sheathed in flame-textured Canadian black granite and glass and stands in a sunken plaza that occupies the entire western end of the block bounded by Fifth and Sixth Avenues and West 52nd and 53rd Streets; and

WHEREAS, The plaza is paved in a gray granite slightly lighter in color than the granite used in the building's piers and is sunken below street level by approximately two feet forming a retaining wall with parapets and vertical slits on the inside faces; and

WHEREAS, The owner has applied to LPC for a Certificate of Appropriateness for installation of a barrier free access ramp (ADA) at the building's southern plaza on 52nd Street; and

WHEREAS, Saarinen is quoted in the 1997 LPC Designation Report:

"We tried to place the building on the site so that we could have a plaza and still not destroy the street line. A tower should not be tied in with lower street buildings. It should stand alone with air and light around it. A plaza is a very necessary thing in a city. It lets people sit in the sun and look at the sky. A plaza allows a building to be seen. Our buildings should be seen, because they are monuments of our time. But ... we have to remember the street line and we have to remember the space between is as important as the towers. These arrangements should be orderly and beautiful" - Eero Saarinen - On His Work

WHEREAS, The proposal by the owner claims that although there is a barrier free ramp on the East side of the plaza that was original to the building, it isn't used because it is remote and people with disabilities were using the delivery ramp which had a non-ADA compliant slope; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five recognizes that this is best practice design to provide an access closer to the primary office building entrance; and

WHEREAS, The Application includes  "L"-shaped 1:12 minimum sloping ramp located between the southern granite stairs down to the sunken plaza and eastern granite knee wall, and will include granite pavers to match the plaza and a square bronze finished aluminum handrail to match what currently exists; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five deems the installation of the barrier free access (ADA) ramp appropriate and harmonious with the building's design and the architect's intentions; therefore be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends approval of the Application for 51 West 52nd Street (bet. 5th Avenue and Avenue of the Americas), (CBS Headquarters), for installation of a barrier free access ramp (ADA) at the south side of the building's 52nd Street plaza.

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