View Full Version : Who currently owns the IRT Powerhouse (W59th Street)?

December 8th, 2006, 03:27 PM
I know Con Ed got control of it from the TA. Did they spin it off during the power deregulation process?

I Googled, but all I got was alot of subway history.

December 8th, 2006, 04:51 PM
Not deregulation.

ConEd has been running the plant since 1959, but I think ownership remained with the Transit Authority (now MTA).

July 10th, 2009, 04:43 AM
July 9, 2009

A Push to Make a Con Ed Steam Plant a Landmark

By Libby Nelson (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/author/libby-nelson/)


The former IRT powerhouse first caught Jimmy Finn’s eye as he jogged along the West Side Highway.

The Beaux-Arts building at 58th Street and 11th Avenue had begun to look increasingly out of place as more steel and glass structures rose up along the Hudson River, Mr. Finn, who had recently graduated from the University of North Carolina with a master’s degree in urban planning, began to wonder if the ornate building, one of Con Edison’s three active steam plants in Manhattan, was a landmark.

It wasn’t. So during the summer of 2007, he started a push to make it one, founding the Hudson River Powerhouse Group with Paul Kelterborn, another urban planner. A Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing on the group’s proposal to designate the building as a landmark will be held Tuesday.

The steam plant, completed in 1904 and built to power IRT subways, was designed by McKim, Mead & White, the renowned architectural firm that also designed the old Pennsylvania Station, the Municipal Building and the Morgan Library.

Supporters of the effort say the building is an architectural gem that could be torn down or changed beyond recognition if it is not protected. Con Ed argues that the plant is still in use and operations could be constrained if it gained landmark status.

“It’s just an amazing, ornate building,” Mr. Finn said. “If this was Cleveland or Detroit, we could have had this building landmarked 10 times over. In New York, anything worth doing is going to take a lot longer.”

The Hudson River Powerhouse Group’s proposal has gained support from predictable corners, including the New York Landmarks Conservancy and the Friends of the High Line, a group that has helped with the powerhouse preservation effort since it began. It also has the backing of two Manhattan community boards, State Senator Thomas K. Duane and City Councilwoman Gale A. Brewer.

The steam plant, which takes up a full city block, powered the subway system until 1959, when it was sold to Con Ed. Two decades later, the first attempt was made to designate the building as a landmark. That effort failed, as did a second in 1990, both opposed by Con Ed.

Chris Olert, a spokesman for Con Ed, said steam produced at the plant and at two others on the island is used for heating, air-conditioning and sterilization in large buildings, including the Empire State Building, the United Nations and Stuyvesant Town.

“It’s an active steam plant, and we want it to continue to be that,” Mr. Olert said. “Due to the equipment that’s housed there, it’s inappropriate to landmark, as that could limit the operations of the active plant.”

Construction and repairs are permitted on buildings that have been designated as landmarks, but they require permits that must be approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Such a process could delay maintenance, Mr. Olert said.

Both the exterior and interior of the building are in good condition, though the terra-cotta exterior needs washing, Mr. Finn said. The steam plant has been altered over the years: Con Ed has removed the six original smokestacks and the cornice.

If designating the steam plant as a landmark is successful, some advocates have ideas of how it could be used, citing examples as diverse as the Tate Modern gallery in London, the San Francisco Ferry Building and Gotham Hall in New York.

But Mr. Finn adds that he does not want to get ahead of the process.
“We’re focused on landmarking right now,” he said.


July 10th, 2009, 08:38 AM
The fact that this and the AIG building aren't landmarked makes me wonder what the hell is the LPC doing. I also wonder how many gems remain un-landmarked.

Apparently owners and politicians play a larger role in the landmarking process than I thought. It seems that if a building is underbuilt or its use is obsolete, they won't landmark it since it'll cause the owners "hardships." They need to consider the hardships of residents living around cookie-cutter condos.

I'm still upset the Con-Ed power station in S. WIlliamsburg was demolished. The city should have came up with a way to attain and rehabilitate it. We are the second richest city on the planet (behind Tokyo) with the most billionaires (74) and it's sad that noone seems to care. Where are the Rockefellers and Carnegies of today?

July 11th, 2009, 09:52 AM
Where are the Rockefellers and Carnegies of today?
Well, Bernie Madoff is in the pen, and the others gave him their money.

October 30th, 2009, 07:07 PM
'Preservation Elite' Gather to Save Powerhouse, Wear Shoes

October 30, 2009, by Joey


(pictures from the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-henry-adams/the-preservation-elite-me_b_337807.html) article)

As Friends of the High Line learned very early in the game, it pays to have celebrities (Ed Norton!) and well-heeled sophisticates (Barry Diller!) on your side when it comes to against-all-odds preservation efforts. And so, the burgeoning campaign (http://curbed.com/tags/irt-powerhouse) to landmark the gigantic and very awesome McKim, Mead & White IRT Powerhouse (the full-block Hell's Kitchen beauty between 58th and 59th Streets along Eleventh Avenue) held a swingin' soirée this week to create some buzz and raise funds. Said the invite, "The SoHo loft studio of an internationally renowned architect...food from the coveted Monkey Bar restaurant...Moet & Chandon bubbly...Your reservation is waiting!" Fancy! The party was in the home of Basil Walter (http://www.basilwalter.com/), and Michael Henry Adams filed a lengthy report on the evening for the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-henry-adams/the-preservation-elite-me_b_337807.html). The slightly bonkers account is Landmarks Preservation Commission meets New York Social Diary (http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/), complete with a rundown of "bright young things" in attendance and many, many photos of footwear. Click through for a glimpse at how the other half lives. Er, preserves.

The Preservation Elite Meet: At a Party Downtown, for a Good Cause (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-henry-adams/the-preservation-elite-me_b_337807.html) [HuffPo]
IRT Powerhouse coverage (http://curbed.com/tags/irt-powerhouse) [Curbed]
Hudson River Powerhouse Group (http://www.hudsonriverpowerhouse.com/) [Official Site]

http://curbed.com/archives/2009/10/30/preservation_elite_gather_to_save_powerhouse_wear_ shoes.php

October 30th, 2009, 08:52 PM
Sign the Petition (http://www.hudsonriverpowerhouse.com/index.html) to Preserve the IRT Powerhouse.

They are aiming for 1,000 + signatures. So far 726 people have signed.

WNY could take it over the top.

April 2nd, 2010, 12:06 AM
Hudson River Powerhouse Seeks Protectors

Marta Hallowell

March 30, 2010

The far West Side of Manhattan is growing by leaps and bounds and everybody wants to shape it for the better. In addition to community efforts to prune the Extell expansion called Riverside Center (http://www.riversidecenternyc.com/), there is a movement afoot to landmark the IRT Powerhouse, directly across the street from Extell's project.

http://images.huffingtonpost.com/2010-03-30-IRTPH-thumb.jpg (http://images.huffingtonpost.com/2010-03-30-IRTPH.jpg)

The building is a beauty, elegant and a block long, blond brick embellished with all the Beaux-Arts finery befitting a palace of high-tech, which it was in its day. There are terra cotta wreaths and swags above the pilasters and the long rows of huge arched windows, making it resemble a grand public library or museum more than a hum-drum industrial plant. Author Clifton Hood called the building "a classical temple that paid homage to modern industry."

The industrial product in question was New York's brand new subway system. Its opening was celebrated with civic events, town-wide parties, church-bells ringing and sirens sounding. Over a million people swarmed the newly opened subway to take a ride. Many were turned away. The IRT Powerhouse fueled New York's transportation lifeline, using its massive boilers and engines, and had seven bunkers capable of holding up to 18,000 tons of coal.

Now groups such as Hudson River Powerhouse (http://www.hudsonriverpowerhouse.com/) want to protect the building with landmark status, and are beginning to re-imagine it as a museum, a concert hall, a market or an event place. They have started a petition drive to do so.

The Powerhouse adds grandeur and history to the far West Side, which doesn't have to be, as it turns out, merely a repository for auto dealerships, parking lots and robber baron developers trying to smother nature and neighborhood with overwhelming density.

Here is more background (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marta-hallowell/extell-breaks-its-deal-wi_b_367669.html) on containing Extell's expansion.


April 2nd, 2010, 12:50 AM
Landmarks had a hearing (http://mas.org/landmarks-hearing-for-irt-powerhouse-planned-for-bastille-day/) last summer regarding designation of the Powerhouse.

It is now "Calendered (http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/PropertyProfileOverviewServlet?boro=1&houseno=855&street=eleventh+avenue&requestid=0&s=A03C41B885B461E4F46BD08866A7430E)" for designation, giving it quasi-protected status.

There's been no further public action from LPC since the hearing.

April 2nd, 2010, 12:53 AM
Anyone who hasn't yet done so, PLEASE ...

Sign the Petition (http://www.hudsonriverpowerhouse.com/index.html) to Preserve the IRT Powerhouse.

They've only gathered 50 additional signatures since that post ^ last October; another 227 signatures are needed to reach the goal of 1,000.

April 30th, 2010, 11:50 PM
this forum is so slow...

Con Ed recently trashed two beautiful beaux arts powerhouses (the one near the Navy Yard and the 41st Street one) in the last 5 years, yet the one someone wants to transform into a museum is the one they'd like to keep as a powerhouse...the hell.


Graydon Goes All Beaux-Arts: Condé Editor Eyes Con Ed Building

By Eliot Brown
April 27, 2010 | 9:57 p.m

Graydon Carter has a penchant for a onetime power plant on the far West Side. The Vanity Fair editor is trying to gather support to renovate the IRT Powerhouse, built in 1904 on the block bounded by West 58th and West 59th at 11th and 12th avenues, and bring a photography museum to its ornate interior, according to multiple people familiar with Mr. Carter’s aspirations for the building.

Read the rest here:

April 4th, 2012, 07:04 AM
Stern, Durst, Brewer Sing Praises of IRT Powerhouse, Pray for Its Preservation

By Michael Ewing

In light of the recent news that the former New York IRT Powerhouse has joined the “Seven to Save” preservation list (http://www.observer.com/2012/03/230024/), notable builders and community members have spoken out about the historic value of the building.

Robert A. M. Stern, the Yale architecture dean, dean of classicist architects and godhead of luxury throwback apartments noted:

By virtue of its vast interior spaces, its location, and its compelling industrial beauty, the powerhouse has the potential to serve us in many ways. Should Con Edison move on, it’s easy to imagine the building entering a new phase of life as an amenity for the entire city—a museum, a mixed-use center—who can predict? But one thing is certain: it needs to be preserved.

The Durst Organization, those daring developers working on an unusual apartment pyramid just next door (http://www.commercialobserver.com/2011/02/durst-opens-new-era-with-big-apartment-pyramid-video/), commented:

The IRT Powerhouse is beautiful, compelling and historically significant building that deserves preservation and protection.

Local Councilwoman Gale Brewer, lady of the Upper West Side, only had the highest regards and joy to hear that the building was selected:

I am delighted that the Preservation League of New York State has chosen the Powerhouse as one of it’s 2012 Seven to Save buildings. This masterpiece of Beaux Arts design by Stanford White is a landmark by every measure; an icon of modernity and industrial history, architecturally superb, pleasing to the eye, and it stands at a prominent site on the Hudson shore. We should no more destroy it than we would Grand Central, and we cannot afford to lose it as we Penn Station. Once preserved for adaptive use, it will become as iconic a symbol of New York as the Muss d’Orsay is of Paris and Tate Powerhouse of London. Let’s get serious about preserving the very best of our heritage, and save the powerhouse as a legacy for generations to come.

The full list of supportive quotes can be found on the Save the IRT Powerhouse blog (http://saveirtpowerhouse.blogspot.com/p/powerful-allies.html).


April 12th, 2012, 06:05 AM
New York’s ‘Temple of Power’: the 59th Street Powerstation

by maria gorshin

http://newyork.untappedcities.com/files/2012/04/59th-IRT-Street-Powerstation-2.jpg (http://newyork.untappedcities.com/files/2012/04/59th-IRT-Street-Powerstation-2.jpg)

Standing on the shore of the Hudson River it seems to declare, “Industry!” “Ambition!” It is a majestic symbol of the City-Beautiful era and modernity. Its compelling industrial beauty has inspired its most inspired definition yet:

“The building, a marriage of convenience, a modern metal shed with the face of an aging actress, the utilitarian made beautiful, is our city’s Temple of Power.” - Mosette Broderick, professor at New York University, author of Triumvirate: McKim, Mead & White: Art, Architecture, Scandal, and Class in America’s Gilded Age.

For all of these reasons and more the Preservation League of New York State has named Manhattan’s former Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) Powerhouse to its list of the Empire State’s most threatened historic resources, Seven to Save. The prestigious designation bodes well for the future of the Beaux Arts masterpiece.

“Since 1999, Seven to Save has mobilized community leaders and decision-makers to take action when historic resources are threatened,” said Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League.

The threat to the IRT Powerhouse has been substantial in recent years: four of New York’s oldest surviving power stations were demolished between 2005 and 2008. In 2009, Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc., the current owner of the IRT Powerhouse, removed the last remaining of six original smoke stacks at the IRT Powerhouse.

“The masonry stacks that were part of the original building were removed after the equipment they serviced was retired,” said Allan Drury, Public Affairs Manager for Consolidated Edison. “The stacks were no longer needed and would have required continuous repairs to keep them from deteriorating.”

http://newyork.untappedcities.com/files/2012/04/59th-IRT-Street-Powerstation.jpg (http://newyork.untappedcities.com/files/2012/04/59th-IRT-Street-Powerstation.jpg)

The former IRT Powerhouse was designed by Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White, New York’s first “starchitect” and designer of the city’s most significant Gilded Era facades, among them the Astor, Vanderbilt, and Tiffany mansions, the Century and Metropolitan Clubs and the original Pennsylvania Station. The IRT Powerhouse was constructed in 1904 to provide electricity for New York’s first subway system.

Occupying an entire city block that stretches from 58th and 59th Streets and Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues, the mammoth structure became the largest powerhouse in the world upon its completion, representing the highest level of technical sophistication in the production of electrical power at that time. The building heralded a new era of electrical urban transportation, illustrating the power of technology to improve urban life.

The Hudson River Powerhouse Group, a non-profit group championing the effort to see the structure landmarked, has called the Powerhouse “an architectural treasure” and “the physical embodiment of…pride in one of the world’s greatest subway systems.” It powered the city’s subways for more than 50 years. In 1959, the subway system required less electricity to run effectively so the Powerhouse was sold to Consolidated Edison and became a steam-generating plant.

http://newyork.untappedcities.com/files/2012/04/59th-St-IRT.jpg (http://newyork.untappedcities.com/files/2012/04/59th-St-IRT.jpg)

Today, the building stands worn and in disrepair after five decades of what appears to be neglect and what Landmark West! has described as “insensitive alterations to the historic building.”

Landmark West! is an award-winning non-profit that works to achieve landmark status for individual buildings and historic districts on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

While the building does appear to meet the criteria for landmark status, architects have gone before the Landmarks Preservation Commission to express Consolidated Edison’s opinion that the building is no longer a candidate for designation – it has undergone too many significant changes over the years.

According to details provided on The Hudson River Powerhouse web site, Consolidated Edison has contributed to the deterioration of the IRT Powerhouse: the company has “cut holes in the exterior walls, demolished the cornice and smokestacks, and punched out windows.” If the structure were to be designated a landmark Consolidated Edison would be required to maintain and preserve the IRT Powerhouse, without altering the façade and structure of the building, “for generations to come.” The investor-owned company would also be expected to reduce its existing footprint substantially within the building and/or move its operations to a more sustainable location.

Consolidated Edison, first established as the New York Steam Company in 1882, provides energy to more than 12 million residents and businesses in the New York metropolitan area. “The 59th Street station is a critical component of our steam system, which is the largest in the United States and one of the largest in the world,” said Drury. “We plan to continue to use the station for energy purposes well into the future.”

“Although the Powerhouse is currently still in use as a source of steam power for Manhattan,” said Robert Hammond, Co-Founder, Friends of the High Line, “it offers a long-term opportunity just as great, as energy technology advances, requires a smaller footprint, and opens up new possibilities for the building’s future use.”

The effort to landmark the former IRT Powerhouse has been in process since 1979 when the first public hearing in the case was held at the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Since then Consolidated Edison has countered that landmark designation would make it more difficult and expensive for the company to operate and modify the station. “That would mean additional costs for steam customers and jeopardize the reliability of our steam system,” said the Consolidated Edison spokesperson. The company lists the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, the United Nations, hospitals and schools among its customers.

http://newyork.untappedcities.com/files/2012/04/59th-IRT-Street-Powerstation-3.jpg (http://newyork.untappedcities.com/files/2012/04/59th-IRT-Street-Powerstation-3.jpg)

While the future of the former IRT Powerhouse is unsure its potential is certain. The building’s grand scale, pivotal location and glorious architecture have already captured the imagination of developers and investors. Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, envisions a photography museum in the building. Robert Quinlan of the Quinlan Development Group, dreams of re-adapting the building’s enormous interiors into “a vintage auto museum with rotating exhibits and complimentary uses ensuring a constant flow of local and foreign visitors…” Others have suggested the space be used for performances, public events, general recreation and the exhibition of treasures currently warehoused in existing museums.

The possibilities seem endless for one of Gotham’s grandest buildings. Today, landmark designation for the building enjoys wide support, including that of Mayor Michael Bloomberg who sees its potential as a cultural center for the city. The recent addition of the former IRT Powerhouse to New York’s list of endangered treasures means the building is that much closer to claiming its place at the center of city life.