Yale Club of New York fights for landmark status

The historic Yale Club of New York is the largest private clubhouse in the world.
The historic Yale Club of New York is the largest private clubhouse in the world. Photo by Grace Patuwo.

The Yale Club of New York may be the next landmark to line east Midtown’s skyline.

Last fall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a rezoning outline that would allow for the construction of taller skyscrapers in New York’s East Side, specifically the area from 39th Street to 57th Street, where activity is centered around Grand Central Terminal. The New York Times reported in December 2012 that Bloomberg’s desired “upzoning,” which involves demolishing old architecture to make room for new buildings, threatens the preservation of some of the neighborhood’s historic mainstays. While the public process of certifying the rezoning proposal is not set to be completed until March, two conservation groups — the New York Landmarks Conservancy and the Municipal Arts Society — have submitted landmark designation requests to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission in the hopes of protecting buildings that could be torn down, including the Yale Club.

“We’re trying to think about an alternate vision for 21st century east Midtown,” said Ronda Wist, vice president of preservation and government relations at the Municipal Arts Society. “That involves taking into consideration planning and preservation issues.”

Among the buildings in the rezoning area, the group’s proposals cited 17, the Yale Club included, that “convey historic, architectural and cultural significance.” The list also names hotels such as The Lexington and the Marriot East Side, as well as the Center for Fiction, which was formerly the 1820s-era Mercantile Library.

Among the region’s 587 buildings — of which 32 are already designated landmarks — the Yale Club is one of 38 that have been demarcated as “soft sites,” structures vulnerable to replacement because of new construction. Wist said that due to the club’s large lot size and central location, it fulfills the city’s criteria for development.

“Designed by James Gamble Rogers 1889, the Yale Club is one of only eight buildings remaining from Grand Central’s original Terminal City district,” Wise noted. “That’s significant.”

Andrea Goldwyn, director of public policy at the Landmarks Conservancy, said the building drew the group’s attention because it is a “fine example of neo-classical style that hearkens back to the City Beautiful Movement [in North American architecture].”

In the Landmark Conservancy’s testimony to the New York City Planning Commission, Goldwyn cited Rogers as a prominent architect. Responsible for creating Yale’s trademark gothic revival style, he also designed Sterling Memorial Library, Harkness Tower and the original eight residential colleges.

Wist said she has no estimate for how long the commission will take to process the Municipal Art Society’s proposal. While the Planning Commission’s website states that the review process typically lasts 20 to 30 working days, Director of Communications Elisabeth de Bourbon said there is no set timeline for decisions on proposals related to the rezoning study. De Bourbon declined to comment on the status of the application, adding that the commission has yet to decide whether to consider the 17 buildings individually or as a group.

Founded in 1897, the Yale Club of New York moved to its current location on 30 West 44th St. in 1915 following an increase in membership.

Clarification: Jan. 30 

Due to an editing error, a previous headline for this article mistakenly suggested that the Yale Club has been slated for demolition.

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