New York Landmarks Conservancy honors leaders in restoration of classic sites

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams honored for leadership in Erasmus Hall restoration

The New York Landmarks Conservancy filled Midtown’s venerable Metropolitan Club to honor the Schubert Organization, Walter B. Melvin Architects, President of Hunter College Jennifer Raab and Brooklyn’s own Borough President Eric Adams for their contributions to preserving, restoring and protecting some of New York’s classic architecture.

“The conservancy had been working to have Erasmus Hall restored since Marty Markowitz’s administration,” said NYLC President Peg Breen. “But when Eric Adams came into office, he understood the value of Erasmus Hall immediately. In addition to cutting through red tape, he put in more than $1 million to restore the exteriors of Erasmus Hall. It’s thanks to him that preservation of Erasmus Hall is now a reality.”

Founded in 1787 by Rev. John Livingston and Sen. John Vanderbilt, Erasmus Hall became the first secondary school chartered by the New York State Board of Regents. The school became co-educational in 1801. Expanded to meet Brooklyn’s tremendous growth in 1904, a series of new buildings were built, leaving the original in the center of the campus’s quadrangle. Due to poor academic scores, the city closed Erasmus Hall High School, transforming the site into the Erasmus Hall Educational Campus that contains five separate smaller schools within.

Among the more notable Erasmus Hall alumni are Barbara Stanwyck, Mae West, Lainie Kazan, Clara Bow, Barbra Streisand, Susan Hayward and Bobby Fischer.

“Architecture expresses a people’s collective memory,” said Adams, accepting his award. Adams went on to recall a time when his doorbell rang; standing outside was a young woman who told him she had grown up in the house that was now his. She asked to come in for just a moment.

“Naturally, as a police officer, I was suspicious,” he said. But he let her in to look around. “Clearly she was telling the truth. And I was glad, because seeing the place where she had grown up meant a great deal to her. And that is true for all of us on a larger scale as well.”

Raab was honored for her leadership in the $24.5 million restoration of Hunter’s Roosevelt House on East 65th Street. The double townhouse, once home to Sara Delano Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt, now serves as home for the Roosevelt Institute, which focuses on public policy, human rights and faculty research.

Melvin founded Walter B. Melvin Architects, leading it to become a force in New York City restoration.

“[Melvin’s] motto,” said Breen, “was ‘Do it once, do it right, don’t come back to it.’ His firm has won 15 of our Lucy Moses awards … they’ve done a great job of protecting the city’s stories.”

The Schubert Organization was honored for keeping the Theater District a prime economic engine for the city, as well as a key tourist destination and cultural heart of New York City.  Additionally, the Schubert Organization is the largest funder of nonprofit theater in the country.

“All of these theaters,” said Breen, “hold memories of great artists and award-winning performances through the decades. Their physical beauty adds to the awe that live theater inspires.”

“The respect for landmarks deepens due to the conservancy’s work,” said Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer.

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