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Recommendation by Community Board Five for landmark designation of the Demarest Building at 339 Fifth Avenue, located on the NE corner of 33rd Street

At the regularly scheduled monthly Community Board Five meeting on Thursday, October 10, 2019, the following resolution passed with a vote of 33 in favor; 0 opposed; 1 abstaining:

WHEREAS, 339 Fifth Avenue, also known as the Demarest Building, was erected in 1890 and designed by the well noted firm of Renwick, Aspinwall & Russell; and

WHEREAS, The lead architect, James Renwick, worked on such esteemed landmarks as St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Grace Church and the Smithsonian Institute; and

WHEREAS, The iron-framed building, located on the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street and built for Aaron T. Demarest, a carriage manufacturer, is four stories high; and

WHEREAS, The Demarest building has retained the majority of its original features including the unique and striking three story arched masonry window openings, separated by shallow brick pilasters and flanked by terracotta medallions that were specifically designed to highlight the carriages manufactured and showcased inside; and

WHEREAS, The building also features decorative terracotta medallions and panels; and

WHEREAS, The building is an exquisite example of the Beaux-Arts style; and

WHEREAS, The building’s facade articulation and scale are reminiscent of Carnegie Hall, another masterpiece designed by Renwick; and

WHEREAS, The Demarest building was home to the first electric elevator ever installed in NYC and;

WHEREAS, The original window glazing has been replaced and the retail level infills have been altered over the years; and

WHEREAS, Despite this replacement, all of the upper floors of the building have retained original features and fabric, including the original stonework, decorative terracotta panels, arched masonry openings and pilasters, as well as buff colored iron spot brick work; and

WHEREAS, The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has stated that it is not considering this significant structure because of alterations to 50% of the building; and

WHEREAS, LPC’s calculation was made by accounting for glazing that has been replaced over the years, and because said glazing is remarkably large; and

WHEREAS, The window glazing was replaced in kind and therefore, although not dating back to its construction, is entirely similar to what was designed and built by Renwick; and

WHEREAS, LPC’s calculation and rationale are very dangerous as most windows in New York have been replaced over time and therefore, if this principle were to become a rule, it would provide rationale to refuse designation of most proposed buildings or even remove designation of existing landmarks; and

WHEREAS, The building, with its low scale, delicate stone and brick work and monumental glazing, makes an important contribution to the majestic Fifth Avenue corridor; and

WHEREAS, The Demarest building also represents the technological advance made in elevators, which allowed for the vertical development of Manhattan; and

WHEREAS, The building’s arched windows, bricks and stone ornamentations remain to provide historic integrity to this portion of lower midtown; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five has consistently advocated for the extension of the Madison Square North Historic district, in the vicinity of which the Demarest building stands; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five has been ever-vigilant and increasingly concerned with the future of preservation in Community Board Five and recognizes that there are many buildings that contribute to the rich history of our district that have yet to be designated by LPC; and

WHEREAS, Community Board Five strongly believes that the Demarest building rises to the level of individual landmark, deserves to be protected as such and its loss would be detrimental to our district; therefore be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five urges LPC to designate the Demarest Building, located at 339 Fifth Avenue, as an individual landmark.

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