NEWS AND ISSUES
May 6, 2009
Robert Tierney, Chair
New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission
One Centre Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10007
Dear Mr. Tierney:
I am writing to reiterate my request, originally made in August 2002, that you designate as a landmark the former Tammany Hall building, an edifice of great aesthetic value and historical importance.
As I and others have said before, the Tammany Hall building at 100-102 East 17th Street on Union Square East has great architectural value. The building was designed by Thompson, Holmes & Converse and Charles B. Meyers, and is a handsome example of Colonial Revival architecture. Built of fine red Harvard brick with limestone trim, the building is both imposing and aesthetically pleasing. It was reportedly modeled after the original Federal Hall, where George Washington was inaugurated and the Bill of Rights was passed by Congress. That Federal Hall no longer stands, and the new iteration bears little resemblance to its predecessor – thus, the old Tammany Hall is one of the best visual links we have to our cityfs cherished place in the early days of our country. Moreover, in the context of the nearby classical-style Union Square Pavilion and the Academic Classic former Union Square Savings Bank, the Tammany buildingfs red-brick facade provides an aesthetic counterpoint to the other buildingsf granite porticoes.
The historical legacy of the Tammany Hall building is well-known. Once the headquarters of New York Cityfs Democratic Party political machine, Tammany Hallfs place in New York Cityfs history cannot be overstated. After the Democratic Party vacated the building and sold it to the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, it served as a meeting space for union activities. Such history gives the building a strong sense of place at its site across the street from Union Square, where the labor movement was born and where countless labor protests and Labor Day celebrations have been held. In recent years, the buildingfs auditorium has housed one of off-Broadwayfs most successful dramatic venues, the Union Square Theatre, and it is now home to the New York Film Academy.
I am joined in calling for this designation by Gramercy Neighborhood Associates, the Union Square Community Coalition, the Historic Districts Council, the Municipal Art Society, Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, and City Councilmember Rosie Mendez. Nearly seven years after my original request, time is of the essence – we must not lose this historically and architecturally priceless building. Allowing this building to go unprotected is a risk that does a disservice to New Yorkfs record of safeguarding its architectural past.
I appreciate your commitment to preserving New York Cityfs heritage and look forward to your prompt consideration of this request.
Thomas K. Duane
New York State Senate