It deeply saddens us to report that a last minute effort to save portions of the iconic Rizzoli ceiling has failed. At some point next week, the ceiling will be destroyed. Working downward from the third floor, Vornado’s contractors will jackhammer into the ceiling from above, reducing what was once a sublime neo-classical confection to dust and rubble.
Early last month, the Save Rizzoli Committee began a concerted effort to preserve the Rizzoli Bookstore ceiling. Operating independently from Rizzoli International Publications, our team of experts worked tirelessly to formulate an emergency salvage plan to safely extract portions of the ceiling’s bas-relief ornamentation for future conservation and public display.
As documented on Curbed, many of the interior elements had already been extracted. However, as of last week, the original plaster ceiling (c. 1919) still remained intact. With the help of ICS Builders, we had planned to begin work on Friday, June 27th and finish no later than Monday, June 30th in a race against the clock undertaking that wouldn’t have interfered with ongoing demolition work.
In the days preceding the ceiling extraction, we had been in communication with Vornado Realty Trust to acquire their permission and insurance requirements for our highly experienced crew to enter the site and remove large portions of the ceiling. By all accounts, they initially supported the endeavor, and everyone appeared to be on board. Our team only awaited the approval of Vornado CEO Steven Roth.
But then on Thursday, as our preservationists prepared to conduct a probe of the ceiling’s material condition, we learned our access to the site had been denied. At the last minute, Steven Roth intervened and thwarted our attempt to preserve the building’s architectural details for posterity.
To date, we have not received an explanation from Vornado for Steven Roth’s decision. Lacking a rational basis for his refusal, Mr. Roth’s actions can only be construed as an attempt to punish those who sought to save the building.
Not since the demolition of the New York Aquarium by Robert Moses has such petty vindictiveness resulted in the senseless loss of a cherished public space. We deplore the demolition of landmark-worthy buildings and those who seek to profit from their destruction.
The Save Rizzoli Committee would like to thank everyone who has supported our cause throughout the last few months. We are greatly indebted to the support of Community Board Five, the Historic Districts Council, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Preservation, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and State Senator Liz Krueger. We would especially like to thank Lisa Renz for her tireless assistance and dedication in our efforts to try to save the historic Rizzoli ceiling.