Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Welcome Back, Overbite

A rare piece of good news from the modernist preservation wars: the Overbite lives! As Matt Chaban wrote in the New York Observer this week:

Many a preservationist lamented the demise of the Village’s O’Toole Building, the old National Maritime Union headquarters more commonly known as the Overbite Building for its unusual facade. After a three-year fight at the landmarks and city planning commissions, St. Vincent’s won begrudging approval to tear down the modernist structure and replace it with a new 21-story hospital tower.

When St. Vincent’s went bankrupt (the story was not a happy ending for everyone), its development partner, Rudin Management, turned to North Shore/LIJ to keep its multimillion dollar condo plan on the former hospital campus alive. Instead of building a new hospital—which never would have passed landmarks—North Shore/LIJ came up with a plan to repurpose the O’Toole Building, which won unanimous approval from the commission today.

In other words, even though the developer and previous hospital partner argued they couldn’t do anything with the building, faced with the current economic climate and opposition from the city and community, they found that, incredibly, they could. Remember this the next time a developer cries about how inability to change a landmark renders their investment moot. Why did you buy it, then?