Tag Archives: turtle bay

767 Third Avenue

767 Third Avenue represents the personality of developer Melvyn Kaufman more than it stands for an architect or style of architecture.

FxFowle Architects designed a beautiful building, to be sure. Subtle brick detailing outlines the ribbon windows; corners are sinuously rounded; the whole tower is raised on pilotis, revealing a lobby sheathed in oak-framed glass (instead of metal or stone). The more playful details are on E 48th Street, in the courtyard behind the building. A three-story chessboard adorns the wall of 212 E 48th Street; huge steel footprints are welded to the sidewalk utility grates; a stage coach and a 1929 Ford truck are parked in the plaza.

The New York Times’ obituary for Melvyn Kaufman noted, “Though he was not an architect, his buildings were generally acknowledged to have sprung as much from his own vision as from the architect of record’s — a vision Mr. Kaufman realized with the aid of designers like Pamela Waters and Rudolph de Harak.”

The Times continued, “Mr. Kaufman had a lifelong fascination with office buildings as public spaces with which tenants and passers-by could engage. If one was going to erect a leviathan, his design philosophy seemed to go, at least make it leviathan with levity.

“He deplored lobbies, the sine qua non of office buildings since the dawn of recorded history. ‘Marble and travertine mausoleums are bad for the living and terrific for the dead,’ Mr. Kaufman told The Times in 1971.”

Kaufman seemed fond of this stretch of Third Avenue: He built other office buildings at 711, 747, and 777.

767 Third Avenue Vital Statistics
767 Third Avenue Recommended Reading

Google Map

Beekman Tower Hotel

Originally known as Panhellenic Tower, the 28-story Beekman Tower Hotel was conceived by the New York Chapter of the Panhellenic Association in 1921 as a 14-story residence for female college grads. The association of Greek-letter college sororities wanted to provide affordable housing for women who were just entering the workforce in the years after World War I.

The building was completed in 1929 – delayed until the association raised enough money (through stock and mortgage) to buy land and build. The architect, John Mead Howells, also designed Pratt’s Memorial Hall and Columbia’s St. Paul’s Chapel. However, Howells was the Panhellenic Association’s second choice: Their original architect, Donn Barber, died before the land was purchased.

The building’s name changed to Beekman Tower Hotel and its clientele changed to include men during the 1930s, to stay viable through the Depression.

The lighter-colored bricks seen today are the result of repairs in 1996-97; originally the tower had a uniform orange-tan color. The deeply recessed columns of windows give the building its strong vertical lines. The glassed-in “Top of the Tower” enclosure was added in 1959.

While cited as an example of Art Deco architecture, the building’s decoration is relatively sparse (compared to other NY examples such as Rockefeller Center, Chanin Building and Chrysler Building). Greek-letter tiles on the ground floor reveal the hotel’s sorority lineage.

Beekman Tower Hotel Vital Statistics
  • Location: 3 Mitchell Place at First Avenue
  • Year completed: 1929
  • Architect: John Mead Howells
  • Floors: 28
  • Style: Art Deco
  • New York City Landmark: 1998
Beekman Tower Hotel Suggested Reading

Google Map

U.S. Mission to the United Nations

The fortress-like Ronald H. Brown U.S. Mission to the United Nations replaces a 12-story glass-and-cast-stone slab on the same site. The stark white tower contrasts with the taller blue-green glass of UN Plaza, which wraps around the mission and adjacent Uganda House. Ronald H. Brown served as Secretary of Commerce under President Bill Clinton, and died in a plane crash while on a trade mission to Croatia.

While the need for more space dictated a new building, the need for security dictated the concrete construction, unflatteringly likened to a bunker. Inside the tower, staff and visitors even have separate elevators.

U.S. Mission to the United Nations Vital Statistics
U.S. Mission to the United Nations Recommended Reading

Google Map

Beekman Regent

Beekman Regent is the private development of a New York City-owned property, P.S. 135 (originally Primary School No. 35) in the Turtle Bay section of Manhattan.

The original buff-colored five-story Romanesque building of 1893 was used as a school until the 1970s, when the Board of Education decided to sell it. The prospective developer intended to demolish the building, but neighborhood groups fought to save the school.

Preservationists succeeded in getting the building listed in the National Register of Historic Places – but not NYC Landmark status. Nonetheless, the city relented and required preservation of the school facade as a condition of the school’s sale. A decade later, the city found a developer that would observe those terms.

Within the first five floors – the original building height – are retail space (currently a Duane Reade drugstore) and four floors of loft apartments with 14-foot ceilings and 10-foot windows. Above that are duplex, standard and penthouse condominium apartments – homes, in developer-speak.

The apartment tower and historic base are different colors and architectural styles. The effect isn’t as drastic as the glass and steel tower that erupts from the Hearst Building (Eighth Avenue at W 57th Street), but it is odd, like the NYU dorm built behind a fragment of St. Ann’s Shrine Armenian Catholic Cathedral on E 12th Street.

Beekman Regent Vital Statistics
Beekman Regent Recommended Reading

Google Map


Le Mondrian – now Anglicized to The Mondrian – wears a colorful grid that lives up to its name despite the rounded corner. The tower is certainly among New York’s most colorful pieces of architecture.

The name came years after the glass-enclosed condo was finished, however. The 1992 structure was originally Le Palais – an unluckily timed condo that sat vacant for two years. New owners held a naming contest, and Le Mondrian was the winner. “Music Box” might be an equally appropriate name, for the way that balconies intersect the tower’s curved northeast corner.

But by any other name, this eye candy would look as sweet in a neighborhood known for its polished geometric icons: Lipstick Building, CitiGroup Center, and 599 Lexington Avenue are just down the block.

Mondrian Vital Statistics
Mondrian Recommended Reading

Google Map

324 E 51st Street

324 E 51st Street is not your typical townhouse. It’s startling, even for New York architecture. But there is reason behind the perforated skin.

The building may remind you of Cassa NY, though on a smaller scale. The architect explains the facade as a way to reference rather than mimic its neighbors: The perforations are the size and shape of bricks.


Behind the street wall there are no traditional rooms to hold traditional windows. The stair and elevator core was moved to the front, to consolidate space and create a “vertical loft.” See the project video – it makes sense.

Thinking outside the box, even if it looks like a box.

324 E 51st Street Vital Statistics
324 E 51st Street Recommended Reading

Google Map

Beekman Mansions

Beekman Mansions is a charming neo-Renaissance cooperative apartment building nestled among diplomatic missions and residences, three blocks north of the United Nations.

The upper floors are rather plain, but the four-story brick-and-stone base is enchanting, with the third-story arcade flanked by pseudo towers. The five Gothic-arched entryways reveal the building’s inventiveness: The center doors lead to a conventional elevator lobby; the flanking doors lead to maisonettes – duplex apartments with private entries from the street. (sample floor plan here)

Van Wart & Wein designed the similarly styled Campanile almost directly behind Beekman Mansions. Set at the end (450) of E 52nd Street, on a bluff overlooking FDR Drive, the 14-story building has unimpeded views of the East River, Roosevelt Island and the 59th Street Bridge.

Beekman Mansions Vital Statistics
Beekman Mansions Recommended Reading

Google Map