Old Penn Station, the Birth of Historic Preservation in New York

Historic buildings tell the story of our nation’s great cities. But in New York City it is the absence of one structure that specifically highlights the importance of historic preservation – the old Pennsylvania Station. The 1964 demolition of the original 1910 Penn Station sparked the city’s preservation legislation, signed into law on April 19, 1965. Out of the dust of that grand old station emerged the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, the largest municipal preservation agency in the nation responsible for protecting New York’s significant buildings and sites. This year, New York City is celebrating the 50 years of preservation successes made possible by the legislation.

Regional Administrator Denise L.Pease joined GSA Project Manager Clem Migliano accepting  the Lucy Moses Award.
Regional Administrator Denise L.Pease joined GSA Project Manager Clem Migliano accepting the Lucy Moses Award.

It was a great honor for GSA’s Northeast and Caribbean Region to be recognized by the New York Landmarks Conservancy on the eve of this year’s National Preservation Month for a recent preservation effort. The Conservancy, a preservation advocacy organization formed in 1973, presented GSA with one of its annual Lucy Moses Awards – one of the highest honors offered for preservation work in New York.  The Conservancy recognized GSA and its private sector partners for the exterior preservation project at the Conrad B. Duberstein U.S. Bankruptcy Courthouse in Brooklyn, NY.

The Duberstein courthouse project was the largest terra cotta restoration in the country, with approximately 75,000 square feet of the granite and terra cotta facade being replaced or restored, along with 25,000 square feet of the slate roof and restoration of 1,200 wood windows — all while the building continued to be open for business. The result has improved exterior stability and ensured a long service life for the former Brooklyn Post Office, a historic Romanesque Revival structure dating back to 1892. Regional Administrator Denise L.Pease joined GSA Project Manager Clem Migliano in accepting the award on behalf of the agency at the April 30th ceremony.

With several of its federal facilities holding New York City Landmark status and in the National Register of Historic Places, GSA’s Northeast and Caribbean Region is actively supporting other NYC Landmarks50 Alliance anniversary events this year highlighting the grand historic buildings the agency holds in public trust.

Working with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, and under the auspices of the Alliance, GSA was a partner in presenting A Panel Discussion to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Passage of the NYC Landmarks Law. This recent event in the historic Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse featured several notable individuals in the NYC preservation community discussing the importance of the law, its challenges, and impact on the city’s landscape.

GSA also partnered on The Gilbert Trail, a special one-of-a-kind tour through several buildings located in lower Manhattan that were designed by the renowned American architect Cass Gilbert. Two federal properties, the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House and the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse were on the tour, along with the privately owned Woolworth Building.