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Not pretty in pink

Jewelry store worker Jonathan Rodriguez doesn’t think that his shop’s garish pink partitions are a violation of city landmark law, which protect the former Gage and Tollner space from alteration.
Photo by Bess Adler

Illegal changes at the old Gage and Tollner building in Downtown have the Landmarks Preservation Commission seeing red — and hot pink.

The owners of a garish costume jewelry store operating inside the former home of the legendary gaslight-lit restaurant must tear down their newly installed Pepto Bismol-hued wall panels, commissioners voted unanimously on Jan. 22.

The Fulton Mall trinket shop Ladies and Gents dramatically changed the landmarked interior of the shop between Jay Street and Red Hook Lane without presenting a plan for the alterations, blocking iconic cherrywood trim and mirrors with bright pink hanging panels in the process.

But all that glitters isn’t gold, according to commission vice chair Pablo E. Vengoechea.

“Hiding something behind something is not a preservation strategy,” he said. “We designated this [space] in order to be able to see it.”

Repentant Ladies and Gents architect Rand Rosenbaum apologized on behalf of the jewelry store, calling the shop’s offerings “schlock stuff” and the design an “interior desecration.” But he said alterations including a self-supporting display and lighting system didn’t actually damage the walls — they just covered them up.

He also noted that some of the store’s famous gas lamps remain in place, while its mirrors and entrance arch are safe in storage. But that wasn’t enough to appease Landmarks’ commissioners.

“There is no excuse at all for this being the way this is, period,” said commissioner Michael Goldblum.

The changes were made without permission from the city, but Landmarks spokeswoman Lisi de Bourbon said the shop won’t be fined for the transgression. Instead, it must submit a new plan that shows greater respect for the historic interior.

“We are trying to correct the illegal conditions,” she said.

The owners and tenant of the building did not respond to a request for comment by press time, but Rosenbaum told this paper that changes are afoot.

“The client and landlord are looking at their options,” he said.

The old home of Gage and Tollner fell on rough times after restaurateur Joe Chirico closed up the steak and chops joint in 2004.

A T.G.I. Fridays lasted until 2007, and an Arby’s briefly set up shop in 2010.

History buffs are sad to say they miss the purveyor of roast beef sandwiches, which never ran afoul with preservation officials.

“Who thought then that we might one day be wistful for the days of Arby’s?” the Historic Districts Council said in a statement.

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at jlutz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.

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