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Aby Rosen Butts Heads with Landmarks Conservancy Over Changes to the Four Seasons

The New York Landmarks Conservancy is fighting to keep Philip Johnson's modernist architecture, as is.

Daniel Krieger

Real estate tycoon Aby Rosen just can't seem to get on the good side of the New York Landmarks Conservancy when it comes to the Four Seasons. He, like many other developers, signed an easement agreement with the preservation organization, which gave him a huge tax break on the space, but also limits the changes he can make to the historic restaurant space. He first butted heads with the Conservancy of the removal of a of a Picasso tapestry (which he eventually did) and now faces more roadblocks as he tries to renovate restaurant's iconic, Philip Johnson-designed space.

When he filed an application to conduct renovations with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Rosen apparently failed to inform the Landmarks Conservancy about his planned changes, as he is required to do. Because of that, the Commission is now delaying discussion of the application from April 21 to May 19, so that Rosen can show the plan to the Conservancy. Planned changes include remaking the bronze roofs to the entrances in a transparent material, turning the walnut panels in the pool room into windows, removing a glass wall in the bar room, and turning the glass-covered wine cellar into two bathrooms.

Cearly, conservationists and architecture buffs are not on board with this many changes. Architect Robert A.M. Stern told the Wall Street Journal "It is an ill-advised renovation that will affect the quality of the room." But RFR Holding LLC, Rosen's company, responds "Though we respect and value their opinions, New York Landmarks Conservancy input is limited to certain exterior elements."

Don't expect this process to be a smooth one. And in the meantime, the fate of the restaurant itself is still uncertain. Its lease is up in 2016 and the owners are strongly  considering a move to a new space.

The Four Seasons Restaurant

280 Park Ave., New York, NY 10017 212 754 9494