Landmark the former Union Carbide Building!

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The Union Carbide Building at 270 Park Avenue in New York City is a masterpiece of modern architecture. At a time when only 2% of architects in the United States were women, Natalie de Blois of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill designed a skyscraper that played a pivotal role in ushering in the Mad Men era of mid-century modernism.

With its sleek, glass curtain wall exterior and luminous ceiling interiors, Union Carbide ranks alongside such landmarks as the Seagram Building, Lever House, and Pepsi-Cola Building as one of the canonical modern buildings that forever altered the course of architectural history and transformed Park Avenue into a corridor of glass office buildings known as "Miracle Mile."

Last week, JPMorgan Chase announced plans to demolish 270 Park Avenue and replace it with a new skyscraper that is 40% larger and will house 15,000 employees. It would be the tallest building voluntary demolished since the loss of Ernest Flagg’s Singer Building fifty years ago.

Unaware of its significance, Mayor Bill De Blasio has given his blessing to its needless destruction. “This is our plan for East Midtown in action,” he exclaims.

But the East Midtown Rezoning was premised on replacing outdated office buildings. 270 Park Avenue is anything but. In 2012, the owners completed renovations making it one of the most energy-efficient office buildings in Midtown.

Viable alternatives exist. In 2013, the Municipal Art Society published a report outlining their recommendations for Midtown East that would preserve its historic buildings and allow for a "vibrant mix" of new development. To achieve this vision, we need smarter planning and better cooperation between private partners, elected officials, and government agencies.

Prior to the rezoning, preservationists had requested 270 Park Avenue be designated an individual landmark. But the Landmarks Preservation Commission has so far failed to act. The Mayor and LPC Commissioner Srinivasan must intervene to preserve our post-war heritage while promoting public realm improvements. A building of such seismic significance ought to be cherished by the city rather than discarded. 

East Midtown deserves a better future. Let's save the Union Carbide Building!


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