667 MADISON AVENUE

(Southwest corner at 61st Street)

Developer: Leonard Stern

Architect: David Paul Halpern

Erected: 1989

By Carter B. Horsley

667 Madison AvenueThe building that formerly occupied this site was one of the few distinguished apartment buildings on Madison Avenue, a limestone structure graced by some very attractive female caratydids on the third floor.

Not surprisingly, given New York City's less than pristine politics and preservation standards, the building was not included in the Upper Madison Avenue Historic District by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission. The district, which extends design review to all buildings within its boundaries, stopped across 61st Street from this site. The beautiful stone damsels eventually graced the architect's lawn in the Hamptons and he and the developer never considered putting the fine sculptures in the building's lobby.

The lobby, which is on the sidestreet, is very attractive with high ceilings and a large Renaissance tapestry and nice light fixtures. The "girls" would have been right at home in the handsome lobby and perhaps some day developer Leonard Stern and architect David Paul Halpern will do the honorable thing and return the ladies to New York where they belong.

This is, nevertheless, quite a good building with a very unusual and fine window treatment in which a black column is offset to one side in front of the large windows, giving the limestone facade an interesting texture. The large lunette windows at the second story are too cute and clash with the sharp rectilinearity of this 25-story setback building of almost 250,000 square feet of office space. The windows, of course, were a good attempt to provide a distinctive and attractive ambiance to the second-story retail space and would otherwise be quite praiseworthy, but here they miss. Leonard Stern is the chief executive of Hartz Mountain Corp., a pet food manufacturer and major developer in the Meadowlands in New Jersey. He is also the publisher of The Village Voice. This was his first building project in Manhattan and, apart from the removal of the caratydids, a good start. Indeed, a very attractive and complimentary building was erected a few years later across the avenue for Barney's, the store, and this area is one of the most chic in the city with many nice bistros and major boutiques.

Stern, of course, is not the first developer to miss a great opportunity to reinstall the best part of the heritage they sometimes destroy. Donald Trump did not save the great Art Deco roundels that graced the facade of the former Bonwit Teller and former A. T. Stewart store on the site of Trump Tower.

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