The Puffin Club membership card, issued by Penguin Books - 1967
Bookstore May Have to Flee the Wrecking Ball, Again
Twenty-nine years ago, Rizzoli Bookstore, whose Old World charm, hand-wrought chandeliers and big storefront windows make it a favorite of noted authors, book lovers and tourists, fled Fifth Avenue two steps ahead of the wrecking ball.
It may now have to take flight again.
The owners of the building at 31 West 57th Street near Fifth Avenue that houses Rizzoli — the LeFrak real estate family and Vornado Realty Trust — recently gave the bookstore the bad news: They plan to demolish the six-story, 109-year-old building, as well as two small, adjoining buildings.
The owners declined to describe their plans on 57th Street, where a string of extremely tall and slender ultraluxury towers are under construction.
“I can’t comment on those buildings,” Harrison T. LeFrak said. “If you have any questions, speak to my partner.”
A spokesman for Vornado did not return calls requesting comment.
But one executive who has been briefed on the plans said the owners hoped to find Rizzoli a new home. The executive said the developers had not decided whether to build a commercial or residential tower.
The developers may not be talking. But many authors, publishers and preservationists were distraught over the possible fate of one of Manhattan’s most revered bookstores and the former mansion it has called home for nearly three decades.
“We’re losing yet another literary landmark in Midtown,” said Michael Signorelli, senior editor at the publisher Henry Holt. “Rizzoli has three magnificent floors of books.”
Seven years ago, another favorite, the Gotham Book Mart on East 46th Street, closed. The grand Doubleday and Scribner’s bookstores that once lined Fifth Avenue are long gone. Many others have also shut.
“It’s sad if we also lose those three limestone mansions, which were converted to commercial uses decades ago,” said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. “There will be very little left on 57th Street that shows how it used to be.
“I think bookstores in New York City need to be protected at all costs,” she added.
Pam Sommers, a spokeswoman for Rizzoli New York, said the company was still gathering information.
Fifty-seventh Street, which had fallen on hard times, became home to a collection of theme restaurants like Planet Hollywood during the 1990s. Today, the developer Gary Barnett is nearing completion of a 1,004-foot apartment tower near Seventh Avenue, where the penthouse is under contract for $90 million. The developer Harry B. Macklowe is building an even taller tower near 57th Street and Fifth Avenue, where the penthouse went for $95 million. The developer Steve Witkoff bought the nearby Park Lane Hotel, where he, too, plans to build an ultraluxury tower.
For Rizzoli, this is the second time it has had to contend with a real estate boom gobbling available space for more profitable projects.
Rizzoli Bookstore first opened in 1964 in a five-story, 19th-century building at 712 Fifth Avenue, next to the Coty Building and near both the Doubleday and Scribner’s bookstores.
During a building boom in the 1980s, a developer set off a firestorm among preservationists when he sought to demolish the Rizzoli and Coty buildings to make way for an office tower.
As a battle ensued, preservationists discovered that the noted glass designer René Lalique had designed the windows at the base of one of the buildings at the beginning of the 20th century. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission then designated the two buildings as landmarks,temporarily thwarting the project.
Developers ultimately incorporated the facades of the Rizzoli and Coty buildings into a 50-story tower at 712 Fifth Avenue, home to hedge funds, investment firms and an Henri Bendel store.
By then, Rizzoli had moved around the corner, to 57th Street, where a 32-foot arch forms the entrance. The architect Hugh Hardy was brought in to restore the onetime mansion to its original glory. From the old store, Rizzoli brought over four chandeliers, the hand-carved marble door frame and portions of the cherry wood paneling.
The opening night party for the new Rizzoli Bookstore was crowded with diplomats, literary agents, Italian business executives and the writers Joan Didion, Theodore H. White and John Gregory Dunne; the photographer Francesco Scavullo; and the artist Stephen Edlich.
Source: The New York Times
Old Library, St. John’s College, Cambridge.
Bad Book News: Libraries Burned in Lebanon, Dismantled in Canada
byon January 8, 2014
Arsonists torched a historic and beloved Lebanese library over the weekend, burning two-thirds of a collection of 80,000 books and manuscripts. Opened in 1972, the Al-Saeh library is owned by Greek Orthodox Priest Father Ebrahim Surouj and located in the northern city of Tripoli.
The motivation for the attack is unclear. Reports speculate that it may have been caused by the discovery of a pamphlet insulting Islam inside one of the library’s volumes, or by rumors that Surouj had written and published an article online that insulted Islam. But the truth of both claims remains in doubt. Surouj told the Daily Star that they “were all ‘lies,’ and that their instigators were just keen to ‘inciting strife’ in Tripoli”; the Lebanese newspaper also spoke with a number of politicians who agreed, saying that the arson was meant to incite sectarian tensions between the Muslims and Christians in the city, which has faced runoff conflicts from the ongoing Syrian War.
In the wake of the fire, activists marched in support of Father Surouj and gathered to help restore the library, which moved to its current location 10 years ago. The priest announced publicly that he forgives the attackers, and that he’s focused on rebuilding rather than retribution. Meanwhile, the Lebanese police have launched an investigation, although Tripoli Member of Parliament Robert Fadel said at a press conference that “The security agencies know the perpetrator and should arrest him … there will be no political cover for anyone.”
At least in Lebanon the authorities are condemning the destruction of cultural heritage; in Canada, they’re perpetrating it. The Tyee has an extensive and extremely troubling report on the closure of a number of the country’s science libraries. The governmental Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) decided to consolidate its nine research libraries down to two, but did so in a process that was hasty and chaotic, scientists say. Books and research were thrown into dumpsters and landfills, scavenged, and burned; some have gone so far as to call it a “libricide.”
“Not only has the Canadian public lost critical environmental and cultural baseline data more than 100 years old, but scientists have lost the symbolic heart of their research operations,” writes Andrew Nikiforuk in The Tyee.
Almost everyone the magazine spoke with sees the decision as political, the attempt ofStephen Harper’s conservative government to both shrink its size and reduce the role of environmental science in policy and decision making. (Harper’s natural resources and environment ministers have called reports on global warming “exaggerated” and “debatable,” respectively.)
The DFO contends that the library consolidation will somehow make research easier for patrons, and that most of the material has been or will be digitized. Scientists refute both claims.
“It is always unnerving from a research and scientist perspective to watch a government undermine basic research,” Dalhousie University biologist Jeff Hutchings told The Tyee. ”Losing libraries is not a neutral act.”