January 16, 2014

Building that holds famed Rizzoli Bookstore may be demolished

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Rizzoli-BookstoreAs first noted by New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman, the building that houses the famed Rizzoli Bookstore on 57th Street in Manhattan is in danger of being demolished.

A full New York Times report by Charles V. Bagli details that the owner of the building, the LeFrak and Vornado Realty Trust, is planning to demolish the building as well as two adjacent buildings to make way for a high-rise tower.

A former mansion, the Rizzoli Bookstore is one of the last remnants of early twentieth century architecture on 57th Street, much of which has been gobbled by high-rise developments. The outcry, as reported by the Times, includes:

[M]any authors, publishers and preservationists … distraught over the possible fate of one of Manhattan’s most revered bookstores and the former mansion it has called home for nearly three decades.

“We’re losing yet another literary landmark in Midtown,” said Michael Signorelli, senior editor at the publisher Henry Holt. “Rizzoli has three magnificent floors of books.”

Seven years ago, another favorite, the Gotham Book Mart on East 46th Street, closed. The grand Doubleday and Scribner’s bookstores that once lined Fifth Avenue are long gone. Many others have also shut.

“It’s sad if we also lose those three limestone mansions, which were converted to commercial uses decades ago,” said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. “There will be very little left on 57th Street that shows how it used to be.

The developer, who declined to comment for the record, is apparently offering to find a new space for the bookstore.

In December, Kimmelman noted a number of controversial high-rises going up on 57th Street, calling the new buildings “the expensive playthings of Russian oligarchs and Chinese tycoons” and noting community opposition. The new projects include the Nordstrom Tower, a 1,424 foot building that will be taller than the World Trade Center.

Kelly Burdick is the former executive editor of Melville House.

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