Tag Archives: 1964

Maritime Buildings

Once upon a time the National Maritime Union was so big it had three “headquarters” buildings in New York: The actual headquarters on Seventh Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets (Joseph Curran Building, 1964); an annex between 16th and 17th Streets just off Ninth Avenue (Joseph Curran Annex, 1966); and then a plaza – an annex to the annex if you will – that ran along Ninth Avenue (Joseph Curran Plaza, 1968). All three of the so-called Maritime Buildings were architectural standouts, designed by Bronx-born but New Orleans-based architect Albert C. Ledner.

Alas, New York’s maritime jobs dried up and the union sold all three buildings.

St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers acquired the headquarters and renamed it the Edward & Theresa O’Toole Medical Services Building. St. Vincent’s later (2007) wanted to replace the O’Toole Building with a new 21-story hospital, but official NYC Landmark status (as part of the Greenwich Village Historic District) apparently saved it – temporarily. The Landmarks Commission later (2011) granted a “hardship” exemption allowing demolition. As of November, 2011, the plan is to keep the shell but demolish the interior and build a smaller facility: 140,000 square feet, down from 160,00 square feet. The conversion is to be completed by November, 2015.

Covenant House purchased the annex and plaza, after fighting off a challenge by then-Mayor Ed Koch, who wanted the buildings for a prison; later the plaza building was converted to the Maritime Hotel. The annex itself has been converted to the Dream Downtown Hotel. This is actually the second renovation of the annex. The building originally had 100 porthole windows in its sloping 12-story white tile facade; in later years the new owners built fake brick storefronts at ground level in an attempt to better blend in with the neighborhood (pictured on p. 179 of “Five Hundred Buildings of New York”). The Dream Downtown Hotel conversion has removed the fake storefronts and applied a metal skin. The windows are still round, but there are more of them on the 17th Street side and the overall effect is more like Swiss cheese rather than portholes. The 16th Street facade is now vertical, not sloping, and covered with a perforated dual-layer metal skin that frames 35 very large circular “windows” which are actually tiny balconies. The real (floor to ceiling) windows are behind.

The plaza building has changed the least. It was originally built as a dormitory for seamen; the nautical-themed hotel conversion was natural. And from the outside, “pizza box” is still an apt description.

Joseph Curran Building Vital Statistics
  • Location: 36 Seventh Avenue between W 12th and W 13th Streets
  • Year completed: 1964
  • Architect: Albert C. Ledner
  • Floors: 6
  • Style: Modern
  • New York City Landmark: 1969 (part of Greenwich Village Historic District)
Joseph Curran Annex Vital Statistics
  • Location: 355 W 16th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues
  • Year completed: 1966
  • Architect: Albert C. Ledner
  • Floors: 12
  • Style: Modern
Joseph Curran Plaza Vital Statistics
  • Location: 363 West 16th Street at 9th Avenue
  • Year completed: 1968
  • Architect: Albert C. Ledner
  • Floors: 12
  • Style: Modern
Maritime Buildings Suggested Reading

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Museum of Arts & Design

Museum of Arts & Design is, by almost all accounts, an improvement over the former Gallery of Modern Art – on the inside. But the exterior changes brought forth a firestorm of criticism and even charges that the museum tried to subvert the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Preservationists wanted to keep the Edward Stone-designed facade intact; the museum envisioned radical changes.

The issue was never formally considered by the Commission – no public hearings were ever held. The Department of Buildings issued the necessary permits, and reconstruction proceeded according to Allied Works/Brad Cloepfil plans.

One might consider the glass-slashed design bizarre – but there were also many who felt pretty strongly that the old design was also bizarre.

Personally, I was not a fan of the old design. Eight windowless floors of marble was too cold – like a tombstone or a Verizon switching center. I’m not too fond of the new design, either, but it strikes me as at least more dynamic and in keeping with the swirling traffic of Columbus Circle.

Meanwhile, back on the inside… Those slashes in the facade bring natural light into the galleries where before there was none. And the stairs were redone so they’re usable, not just emergency exits; it’s easier to get up, down and around the building. Those improvements appear to have been made without sacrificing wall or gallery space, so I’d count that as a net gain.

The “Recommended Reading” links explore the history and controversy in depth; the Steel Institute and Allied Works links reveal under-the-skin construction details. Enjoy!

Museum of Arts & Design Vital Statistics
Museum of Arts & Design Recommended Reading

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200 Central Park South

200 Central Park South disguises its height well; the curvy, balconied and glass-wrapped 21-story base takes all the attention away from the 35-story tower. On the other hand, those deep curving balconies give the impression of a beachfront resort instead of a luxury apartment building.

Apartments range from studios to three bedrooms. The three-bedroom units include a room labelled “den or maid’s room” – old-style luxury survives!

For tenants, of course, the prime attraction is that precious commodity – a protected view of Central Park.

200 Central Park South Vital Statistics
200 Central Park South Recommended Reading

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