980 Madison Tower

Aby Rosen, co-founder of RFR Realty, unveiled plans to construct a 30-story residential tower at 980 Madison Avenue on property acquired in 2004 for $126 million from the Peter Sharp Foundation. Designed by Lord Norman Foster, the modern glass structure comprised of interlocking elliptical forms will rise out of the old five-story limestone-clad Parke-Bernet Gallery building, now a spare office building between 76th and 77th Streets. The tower would contain about 18 full-floor units and duplexes spread spaciously on 22 floors.

Supporters of the project cite its bold and progressive architectural design and community amenities including 24,000 square feet of contemporary exhibition space as well as a rooftop sculpture garden. Opponents of the project claim that the project is inappropriate to the protected character of the Upper East Side Historic District and that it would set a terrifying precedent for new development in historic districts citywide. On October 17, 2006 a Community Board 8 committee voted 6-3 to reject the project in its entirety, a decision that now goes before the full board. The board’s decision, though only advisory, will be taken into account by agencies, including the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Department of City Planning, that will ultimately decide on the plan.

On January 17, 2007, without formally voting, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) declined to approve the addition or support a zoning waiver, two steps that would have been essential for the project to go forward. The commission encouraged Mr. Rosen to come back with another proposal for an addition to the building but hinted that only a much smaller structure would be approved. An abbreviated proposal was presented to the LPC on January 13, 2009. Although the plan has been scaled down and some members of the LPC supported the innovative and unique design, the Commission has still asked Rosen and Foster to make changes to their plan.

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