Landmarks Poised to Weight Public Library Interiors - Manhattan Express | Manhattan Express

Landmarks Poised to Weight Public Library Interiors

The Rose Main Reading Room in the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building has now been calendared for landmarks consideration. | JACKSON CHEN

BY JACKSON CHEN | The Landmarks Preservation Commission has calendared the Rose Main Reading Room and the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room in the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building for consideration as city landmarks.

The exterior of the Schwarzman Building, the library’s main branch on Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street, has been landmarked since 1967, and its first floor Astor Hall, third floor McGraw Rotunda, and the staircases that connect them were designated as interior landmarks in 1974.

But, the iconic Rose Main Reading Room and the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room that leads into it have to date been left without landmark protection.

According to LPC staffer Matt Postal, the main reading room is one of the grandest interiors in the city, rivaling those found in Grand Central Terminal. Landmarking the two spaces, he said, would lend more cohesion to the existing interior landmarks.

“The proposed calendaring of the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room and the Rose Main Reading Room… completes the ceremonial route to the primary public space within the library and the heart of its public, civic, and institutional mission,” Postal said at the June 6 LPC meeting.

To attract attention to the landmarking cause, the Committee to Save the New York Public Library launched a petition on January 10 that has since gained more than 2,000 signatures. Charles Warren, the president of the committee, said it was rewarding to have its goals realized in a calendaring, but that there are more rooms for which the group hopes to win interior designations.

“We’re a little disappointed that all the other important rooms haven’t been included on the calendar,” Warren told Manhattan Express. “We will continue to work and advocate for the inclusion of all of the significant and beautiful rooms.”

Beyond the Rose Reading and Bill Blass rooms, the committee is hoping for several more rooms to be included in the designation:

• The D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall

• The DeWitt Wallace Periodicals Room

• The Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division Room

• The Celeste Bartos Forum

• The Edna Barnes Salomon Room

• The Brooke Russell Astor Reading Room for Rare Books and Manuscripts

• The Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Gallery

• The North-South Gallery

• The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art and Architecture Room

The committee’s efforts have gained backing from State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger, who sent a joint letter to the LPC on May 15 that urged for the landmarking of both rooms.

The DeWitt Wallace Periodicals Room is not currently slated for landmarks consideration, though library preservation advocates are seeking to have the LPC calendar it and eight other additional rooms in the Schwarzman Building. | NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY

Landmark West!, a preservation group based on the Upper West Side, also lent its support in a June 5 letter, which pushed as well for the inclusion of the group of rooms for which the Committee to Save the New York Public Library is seeking landmarking.

For now, however, the LPC’s focus is limited to the Rose Main Reading Room and the Bill Blass Public Catalog Room, with a public hearing expected over the next several months, according to Commission Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan.

“I’m thrilled that our research staff has brought this before the commission,” Srinivasan said of the two library interiors. “I think we can all agree these are some of the most deserving rooms in New York City.”

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