Community Board 1 (CB1) has concocted a subtle stratagem for opposing (or at last delaying) a plan by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to erect a new, 40-story jail in Lower Manhattan: proposing to confer landmark status on the existing building, above which the new structure would be perched.
A resolution enacted at CB1’s October 23 meeting calls the Lefkowitz Office Building at 80 Centre Street, “a magnificent municipal building on Worth Street, at the northern end of Foley Square, which opened in 1928,” and notes that the buildings, “was specifically constructed under a height restriction to maintain the symmetry of Foley Square and not cause shadows in the area.” (This is a reference to the structure’s current modest size, of nine stories.) The resolution also extols 80 Centre Street’s, “glorious and celebrated lobby and notable granite façade.”
The building, designed by in the Art Deco style by architect William Haugaard, occupies the full block bounded by Centre, Worth, Baxter, and Leonard Streets. The preliminary plan announced over the summer by the de Blasio administration would preserve the facade of the existing structure, while gutting its interior, and adding a 40-story jail tower to its roof. This is part of a broader plan to close the City’s scandal-plagued central jail complex, on Rikers Island, and disperse its inmate population to a newly built archipelgo of four, smaller facilities, located in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.
The courthouses of Foley Square
The Conservancy went on to quote, Robert Pigott, author of “New York’s Legal Landmarks,” as observing that, “uplifting civic architecture serves the vital function of inspiring respect for, and confidence in, the institutions of government. The construction of a 40-story tower would deprive New Yorkers of one of Gotham’s rare public spaces commensurate with its standing as one of the great cities of the world.”