OHNY 2006 — Part II

Sunday, October 8th, 2006 | All Things, Events, NYC History

More openhousenewyork weekend fun. In front of the Scandinavia House, headquarters of The American-Scandinavian Foundation, an American non-profit organization that works to build cultural and educational ties between the United States and the five Nordic countries. (Psst… the fifth is Iceland.) Out front: a hilarious LEGO Viking, wielding a drumstick! (Maybe from a street fair.)

No time for the open house tour today, though… or to check out AQ Café, the sleekly modern cafeteria run by Aquavit and its star chef, Marcus Samuelsson. Swedish meatballs and smörgåsbord plates — tack ! (Note: Open Monday through Friday only.)

Lego Viking

We arrived just in time for our reservation at the lobby of The Carlton Hotel. Didn’t matter, really, as OHNY wasn’t turning people away, despite the arrival of several more than the printed limit of 25 people for the architect’s tour.

The Carlton on Madison Avenue was restored by renowned architect, David Rockwell of the Rockwell Group. Other historic New York City hotel projects have included the W New York and the W Union Square.) This graceful 1904 Beaux-Arts landmark hotel had grown considerably shabby over the years. During the course of the extensive five-year $60 million dollar renovation and restoration program, workers uncovered this extraordinary 30-foot 1911 Tiffany-style glass dome and original terrazzo mosaic tiled floors — both almost entirely intact, but remarkably hidden under years of soot and grime, accumulated during the space’s prior incarnations.

Dining Room

Tiffany Dome

Added during the renovation: large-scale water wall in the three-story lobby. Distinctively modern frosted glass walkways were installed by Rockwell, around the perimeter above.


The view from the chef’s table into the open kitchen of Chef Geoffrey Zarkarian upstairs restaurant, Country Restaurant and Café:

Open Kitchen

On to OHNY 2006 stop #4: P.S. 260, which, despite its name, is not a public school, but a penthouse film-editing studio. The site was primarily notable for its roof deck and striking views.

Here, the dramatic glass walled entry: that is, of course, the Empire State Building, looming large, on the left.

Loft Window

Up on the roof on this brilliant early Autumn afternoon. This deck was recently used in the filming of both “Spiderman 2” and “13 Going on 30,” for which Sony built a full set with bandstand and dance floor to create the prom scene. (Didn’t see the movie; I read that on the studio site.)


The view down Fifth Avenue to the triangular Fuller Building, better known as the Flatiron Building.

Down Fifth Ave

A short walk from P.S. 260, our fifth stop: The Prince George Ballroom, located inside the storied landmarked Prince George Hotel, part of the Madison Square North Historic District.

The 14-story Prince George was built by architect Howard Greenley in 1904 as an exclusive residential and tourist hotel. By the mid-1980’s, it was the country’s largest homeless shelter for families. After decades of decline, the site degenerated into one of New York City’s most squalid, crack-infested welfare hotels. After a 1987 court ruling, the city closed down many welfare hotels, including the Prince George in 1990. The site remained abandoned until 1997, when it was purchased by pioneering housing and community development organization Common Ground Community. The Manhattan nonprofit took over the space to create and manage permanent, affordable housing for low-income and formerly homeless adults.The renovation was spearheaded by Beyer Blinder Belle, the same architectural firm that did the Grand Central Station terminal renovation and The Rubin Museum of Art conversion. The project took over three years and cost $48 million, half of which came from low-interest loans funded by the state and the city. The hotel rooms were reconfigured into 416 studio apartments; over half of the residents are living with a special need, such as mental illness, HIV/AIDS and/or a history of substance abuse. With an average annual operations cost of about $12,000 per apartment, the Prince George is the most cost effective form of supportive housing (e.g., shelters, jails, hospitals, psychiatric wards) in New York City.

In 2004, Common Ground set about restoring some of the building’s former common areas. Working with four other non-profit groups, the organization arranged for at-risk youth, high school students interested in restoration arts, architectural students, and individuals with HIV and AIDS to work on the renovation, offering both job-training and jobs.

Students from Parsons designed and built the entry foyer and gallery space in what had been the Prince George Hotel’s “Hunt Room.” The result: the modern and airy World Monuments Fund Gallery at the Prince George, currently exhibiting “In Katrina’s Wake: Restoring a Sense of Place. Photographs by Stephen Wilkes.” The Gallery’s sleekly minimalist design highlights the building’s architectural past — and in fact: one upper section was purposely left raw and unfinished, as a reminder of the lobby’s original state.


Before Renovation

The jewel of the restoration is the 5,000 square foot Prince George Ballroom. Rich with intricate neo-Renaissance gilded plasterwork, elaborately muraled and ornamented 18-foot coffered ceilings, herringbone oak floors, and a striking black marble mantle.

Staff from the Alpha Workshops, which provides training and employment in the decorative arts for people with HIV and AIDS, restored the original water-damaged plasterwork and paint, and provided hands-on training to groups of students from the Brooklyn High School of the Arts, YouthBuild USA and The Christopher, Common Ground’s facility for young adults.


Still more…

There's 1 comment so far ... OHNY 2006 — Part II

October 15, 2006

I like the progression of the photos.
How you slowly reveal both the Tiffany dome and the ESB.

Go for it ...