By Carol Sims
NEW YORK CITY- The Seventh Regiment Armory at Park Avenue and 67th Street is heavily used by the art and antiques trade, providing an indispensable venue in the heart of Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The armory building, which dates back to 1880, is in need of restoration and updating. Anyone who has ever been to the public restrooms in the building could tell you that no matter how much scrubbing takes place, they are in need of a major overhaul. Air conditioning for the building would be nice too. Recently, art dealers sweated through an unusual May heat wave during the first two days of The International Fine Art Fair.
In the summer of 2000, the State of New York issued requests for proposals for ”a developer for the reuse of the historic Seventh Regiment Armory.” At present, the building is managed by the state’s Division of Military and Naval Affairs. (The State of New York owns the building and the City of New York owns the land).
Eric Mangan, spokesman for the Empire State Development Corporation said, ”We never considered selling it. The armory boasts landmark status at the city, state and federal level. Our plan is to establish a public/private partnership to restore and rehabilitate this architectural gem.”
The state’s proposal deadline was November 15, 2000. The only group to submit a proposal by the deadline was the Seventh Regiment Conservancy, a not-for-profit organization that was specifically formed to preserve and restore the armory and to manage its operations in the future. They are still awaiting official designation by the state. If the Conservancy is approved by the state, they will begin fundraising for the restoration.
It is the Conservancy’s plan to keep the armory available to the art and antiques trade.
”Our programming proposal certainly includes major art and antiques shows. As a not-for-profit we are very aware of how the many other not-for-profit groups benefit from the shows held at the Armory,” said Kirsten Moffett, project director for the Conservancy. It is interesting to note that Arie Kopelman is a trustee of the East Side House Settlement (which benefits from the Winter Antiques Show) and is also on the board of directors for the Conservancy. According to Moffett, he helped work on Conservancy’s proposal to the state.
One show promoter, who prefers not to be named, uses the armory every year. The promoter expects that there will eventually be some restoration of the facility with intermittent construction during the summertime off-seasons. ”It will probably take about ten years to complete.”