There are literally tens of thousands of buildings in New York City that have landmarks protection, either as individual landmarks or part of a historic district. However, there are fewer than 200 designated interiors. That number could soon go up.
On Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to calendar the designation of the Ambassador Grill and lobby at 1 United Nations Plaza and 2 United Nations Plaza. The complex also uses the addresses 783-793 First Avenue, 335-343 East 44th Street, 323-333 East 44th Street, and 322-334 East 45th Street.
Both were designed by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, better known simply as Roche-Dinkeloo. The grill’s interior was built between 1969 and 1976 and the lobby was built between 1979 and 1983. The site is still permanent missions to the United Nations, and the ONE UN New York hotel, part of the Millennium Hotels chain.
It is not common for the interior of an undesignated building to receive designation. It is not unprecedented, as that is the situation for one of the items from the LPC’s backlog – the Edgar J. Kauffman Conference Rooms at 809 United Nations Plaza. The way designation would work is that any other part of the building could be changed, or even removed, as long as the designated interior remained in place.
As for the matter at hand, LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan said designating interiors “can be very exciting” because not every space can withstand changes in decorating. She described the grill and lobby as on a design “cusp” and said “the commission’s work keeps evolving.” She added that this designation, if approved, will reaffirm the role of the commission and of preservation.
Usually, at the vote to calendar, the chair says even less than that and only she speaks. This time, Commissioner Frederick Bland chimed in to both applaud the decision to put the spaces on the commission’s calendar and the fact that the buildings’ owner actually supports designation, which is quite rare.
The vote to calendar was unanimous, and a public hearing will be held on October 25.