Doomed Modernist Landmark Apparently Not So Doomed Anymore

Photo: Dillon DeWaters

Thanks to the good folks over at the Architect’s Newspaper blog, we just learned that Albert C. Ledner’s 1964 O’Toole building–which, after a lengthy preservation battle, appeared certain to meet the wrecking ball–may not be torn down after all.

Last May, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Committee (LPC) voted to approve St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center’s so-called hardship application–which essentially stated that St. Vincent’s would have to close unless it could circumvent typical landmarks restrictions and raze the O’Toole building to make way for a new hospital tower (designed by Pei Cobb Freed). Now a consortium of rival preservation organizations, led by the Municipal Art Society (MAS), has filed a brief challenging the nature of this hardship application.

The legal basis for this latest brief is somewhat complicated, but, basically, it centers on the LPC’s “campus-based rationale” for approving St. Vincent’s request. MAS writes in a summary of its brief:

The LPC reasoned that where a non-profit owner of “campus” properties has demonstrated to the agency’s satisfaction that certain of those properties warrant hardship relief, and that it is impracticable to demolish them, other “campus” properties may be demolished to alleviate the hardship without an analysis of whether the buildings to be demolished themselves meet the criteria for relief (the “campus-transfer” rationale).

MAS and company are challenging this rationale, saying that it does not satisfy hardship law and, furthermore, that it creates a dangerous precedent for future cases involving campus properties in historic districts. It’s not clear yet whether this will be enough to block St. Vincent’s demolition plans–but, as longtime fans of Ledner’s quirky “Overbite Building,” we’ll certainly be keeping our fingers crossed.

Related: Last February we looked at another distinctive hospital building in danger of demolition–Bertrand Goldberg’s 1974 Prentice Hospital, in Chicago–in “The Goldberg Remedy.”

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