Want to Live on the McGraw-Hill Building’s 32nd Floor?

Good morning. It’s Tuesday. We’ll look at a new plan that would bring apartments to a landmark Art Deco office building in Midtown Manhattan. We’ll also look at how a typographical error is complicating the road toward life after prison for some felons in New York.

The lobby of the McGraw-Hill Building in June 2019.Credit…Lynn Farrell

The young man was fired the day he blew bubbles out the window of the McGraw-Hill building on West 42nd Street, where he worked. They “glowed in the afternoon sunlight like the satellites of Jupiter” as a breeze had carried them high over Eighth Avenue, where “they remained suspended for what seemed interminable moments.”

It was a delicious moment near the beginning of William Styron’s novel “Sophie’s Choice.”

Today, the Landmarks Preservation Commission will focus on McGraw-Hill, an Art Deco landmark, and its street-level look. On the agenda for a hearing is a plan from the current owner, Deco Tower Associates, that seeks to change one presented two years ago. (McGraw-Hill, the publisher, moved out in the 1970s.)

This time, with some office buildings in Midtown Manhattan all but empty as employees continue remote-work patterns begun during the pandemic, Deco Tower wants to switch from office space to a mixed-use format, with market-rent apartments on the 12th to the 32nd floors and offices on the lower floors.

Deco Tower is also seeking approval for two separate entrances to the building from 42nd Street, one for the offices, the other for the apartments. A spokesman said this comes after a $40 million restoration of the exterior that included removing some “nonhistorical windows” as well as installing new doors on terraces and loading docks and upgrading the elevators.

The building was the work of Raymond Hood, who designed the Tribune Tower in Chicago and the Daily News Building in New York. For McGraw-Hill, he designed a green tower with bands of industrial-style windows. It was exuberant, even theatrical: The architect Vincent Scully called it “proto-jukebox modern.”

It was designated a New York City landmark in 1979, and the building and the lobby were added to the National Register of Historic Places and designated a national historic landmark in the 1980s.

Preservationists who tried but failed to block the 2021 plan seem satisfied with the new approach, except for a marquee over the main entrance. They say it is inconsistent with the look of the building, although the Deco Tower presentation submitted to the landmarks panel cited other buildings where marquees have been approved, including the Woolworth Building in Lower Manhattan and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Midtown.

“We are extremely supportive of the other elements of this design,” said Theodore Grunewald, who in 2021 founded a group called the Alliance to Save the McGraw-Hill Lobby. He said the lettering that Deco Tower wants to install over the new residential entrance is “basically reconstructing original 1932 lettering on the building. Who would have expected that?”

It is essentially the same lettering that spells out “McGraw-Hill” on the crown of the building. In 2021, Deco Tower Associates wanted to replace “McGraw-Hill” with “330 W 42nd St,” an abbreviated form of the building’s address on West 42nd Street. Deco Tower withdrew that idea after the Land Use Committee of Committee Board 4 opposed it.

Grunewald’s attention has been on the lobby, which was not covered by the city’s landmark designation. The landmarks commission staff authorized the demolition of the lobby in September 2020. In February 2021, Grunewald’s group filed suit to preserve it.

The case was dismissed in State Supreme Court, and Deco Tower went ahead with the demolition but held on to ceiling panels, lighting fixtures, mirrors and other items. And while the lobby is not part of the application before the landmarks commission this morning, Grunewald plans to bring it up in his testimony, arguing that “an excellent case can be made for a nearly complete, authentic restoration of McGraw-Hill’s exotic and remarkably abstract lobby.”

A spokesman for Deco Tower noted elements of Hood’s original lobby had been damaged or covered over in a 1980s renovation.

But the spokesman said Deco Tower was committed to preserving “as many materials from the original Raymond Hood lobby as possible” and that they had been “carefully stored as we continue to explore how some of them can be reintegrated into the building.”


Enjoy a sunny day near the low 50s. Temps will drop to the low 40s at night.


In effect until Monday (Washington’s Birthday).

The latest New York news

Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times
  • U-Haul truck hits pedestrians: At least eight people were injured when a man drove a U-haul box truck erratically through Bay Ridge, careening onto sidewalks and hitting pedestrians, the authorities said.

  • Santos’s mysterious expenditures: Deep within Representative George Santos’s campaign filings, there is $365,399.08 in unexplained spending, with no record of where it went or for what purpose.

  • Reluctant subway riders: Long wary on public transit, some women found other ways to get around New York during the pandemic. It could prove hard for the M.T.A. to win them back.

A ‘typo’ keeps his felony conviction in place

When New York legalized recreational marijuana two years ago, lawmakers promised clean slates to people who had been convicted of possession.

Somehow, though, a single digit was left out of the legalization legislation — the Roman numeral i. And that has made it difficult for some felons to have their charges reduced.

Among them was Frederick Volkman, who was sent to a maximum-security prison after violating the terms of his probation on a felony marijuana charge in 2019. He was released on Monday, his parents said, after finishing his sentence in a boot camp-style lockup. State records indicate that there is only one marijuana offender now incarcerated solely on marijuana charges in New York.

The 2021 law expunged more than 107,000 convictions, and a 2019 law that decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana wiped out 202,000 more. But those convictions were mostly for lower-level offenses. For people with felony convictions involving larger amounts of cannabis, the path toward a clean record after prison has been more difficult.

The missing Roman numeral precluded them from filing a straightforward form for a conviction reduction. Emma Goodman, a Legal Aid Society attorney, called the error “literally a typo.”

“Everyone in Albany understands it’s just a mistake, and there’s not an easy way to fix it,” she said.

The result is that felons must have a motion drafted and submitted to the court in the county where they were convicted. The district attorney’s office that handled the original prosecution can weigh in before the motion goes to the judge who originally presided over the case.

My colleague Corey Kilgannon, writing with Wesley Parnell, says that such motions have largely sailed through in places like the five boroughs of New York City.

But in other parts of the state, some are being opposed — as Volkman discovered when a judge in Warren County turned down a motion to clear his conviction. He said in a telephone interview from prison that it was incongruous to be incarcerated for cannabis after it had been legalized.

He was arrested in 2019 with seven pounds of marijuana and $65,000 at his home in Glens Falls, N.Y. Under a plea agreement, he served five months in the county jail. But he violated his probation by failing drug tests for marijuana, which he said he had smoked since he was 13 to settle his mood and anxiety.

He was also arrested and charged with driving under the influence and was resentenced on the original cannabis charge even as the state was promising to give priority to marijuana offenders when officials awarded licenses for new retail dispensaries. Volkman said he hoped to eventually work in the legal cannabis industry.


Like a movie star

Dear Diary:

It was fall 1994, and I was working at a family medical clinic across the street from the Bronx Criminal Court on 161st Street.

One day, I stopped at a fast-food place for my coffee as I had regularly for the past five years. A young woman was on her knees cleaning the front of the counter. She looked up at me as I placed my order.

“You look like a movie star,” she said emphatically.

Flattered, I smiled and nodded politely so as not let her down.

“Wait,” she said as I stood there silently, “let me think.”

I remained silent as she rummaged through her memory.

“Don’t tell me,” she said, waving her hand as if to swat away anything I might say and snapping her fingers to summon the actor’s name.

“Hold on, hold on,” she continued, her eyes now closed as she gestured with her hands.

“OK,” she said, opening her eyes after a few seconds. “That’s it. I got it.”

I prepared myself to hear the name of a handsome, prominent, Oscar-winning actor.

“You look like the dead guy in ‘Weekend at Bernie’s,’” she said.

— Luis H. Zayas

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.

Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at nytoday@nytimes.com.


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