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The Starrett-Lehigh Building

September 2018: And yes…we do windows!
At BGA we have designed a wide variety of projects for our clients for more than 40 years, but did you know that we also do windows?


In this issue of BGA’s newsletter, we are delighted to present our work on one of New York City’s most remarkable projects, the replacement of 5,000 historic windows at the Starrett-Lehigh Building. That’s almost eight linear miles of glass!


Set within Manhattan’s West Chelsea Historic District, this full-block landmarked structure, owned by RXR Realty, required a massive window facelift that would be energy efficient and refresh the look of the building while maintaining its iconic character.


This complex project demonstrates the key elements that lead to a successful project outcome: an experienced and talented project team; a cooperative spirit among all the participants, who had a clear goal from the outset; and persistence, creativity and ingenuity.


When all these elements are present, the outcome is predetermined… SUCCESS! Enjoy this issue!  


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Michele Boddewyn, AIA
Starrett Lehigh Building
Meet a Member of our Staff
Boddewyn Gaynor Architects understands that your needs evolve steadily, and we make certain we can adapt to them. By continually educating ourselves about the latest trends and changes, we can hit the ground running to integrate new, value-added features to our work and to your spaces. We’re continually finding fresh ways to meet the challenges you face. At all times, we keep your objectives, budgets and timelines uppermost in our minds.
“We’re all proud of what the team has achieved at 601 West 26th Street. 
It took us a long time to 
get here, but what a 
change it has made. 
I want to thank the BGA team for all their hard work and commitment. 
We could not have been successful without them.”
Marcelo Renzi,
SVP Design and
Construction at RXR Realty
WBE/DBE certified
Starrett Lehigh Building, New York, NY
When it opened in November 1931 in New York City, The New York Times described the iconic Starrett-Lehigh Building as the largest of its kind in the country and with good reason. The 19-story structure, occupying an entire square block bounded by 11th and 12th Avenues and West 26th and 27th Streets, loomed large on the western edge of Manhattan.
But it wasn’t only its size that made the Starrett-Lehigh Building so dramatic, it was the continuous horizontal windows, which curve at the inside and outside corners of the building, that were truly striking. As The New York Times noted, “…the exterior walls of the building feature setback, supporting columns that permit running bands of glass, instead of conventional windows, giving increased light and an unconventional exterior appearance.” The Starrett-Lehigh Building was designated an Individual Landmark on October 7, 1986.


Acquired by RXR Realty in 2011, the 2.3 million-square-foot structure, which sits adjacent to the Hudson Yards site in the West Chelsea Historic District, is making news again – completing one of the largest window replacement programs in New York City’s history. BGA was brought on board to lead the architectural investigation of this massive project, which entails replacing the continuous “ribbon style” windows with energy-efficient aluminum-framed units.


A subtle feature of the original window design was the operable vent window, which has an alternating vertical placement from window to window, yielding a “bouncing ball” effect across each floor and façade. The phased installation work was preceded by several years of planning and preparation by the RXR and BGA teams.


BGA was tapped to define the parameters of the project; review the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission guidelines for replacement windows; evaluate manufacturers, materials and performance requirements for these historic windows; and survey the existing conditions, including vents and louvers. BGA assisted with the manufacturer selection process based on matching the distinctive operable vent design of the original steel windows to ensure that all work complied with the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission’s guidelines.
BGA’s Senior Project Manager Michael Ankuda, AIA, with 35+ years of experience across a wide spectrum of projects, led the project. Michael researched several window manufacturers to see if they could match the existing steel window profiles and sight lines with aluminum, thermally-broken frames incorporating insulated glass. RXR Realty selected Graham Architectural Products of York, PA for the assignment. 


The next step in the process was obtaining the approval of Community Board 4 and the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) with the help of the consultants Higgins Quasebarth & Partners. At the LPC hearings, New York City’s Historic Districts had already referred to the project as “the window job of the year, if not the century,” adding, “if any windows deserve an above-and-beyond restoration or specially made replacements, it is these.”
Achieving slender muntins, while supporting the operable vent and the increased weight of the insulated glass, was a design and technical challenge. The LPC commissioners rejected the original Graham 6700 series window submission due to inconsistent muntin sizes and the heavy framing supporting the operable window vent.
Graham seized on the opportunity to customize their product line to satisfy the LPC feedback. They unveiled a re-engineered window, the breakthrough Graham SR6700 series. This newly designed window with the sightlines and floating operable vent, which alternates vertically around the building, are the signature of this window-centric building. And in 2014 the commissioners of the LPC approved the windows for this project.


The replacement of the windows enhances the value and the tenant experience at the Starrett-Lehigh Building. The new, energy-efficient windows, which are part of an overall property upgrade, maintain its iconic exterior, while significantly reducing heating and cooling costs. They also improve the comfort and acoustics in the tenant spaces. To minimize disruption to the building’s high-visibility tenants, including Johnson & Johnson, Martha Stewart Living and Polo Ralph Lauren, windows were replaced at night over the course of two years.


BGA values our longstanding relationship with RXR Realty and are proud of our work on this historic window replacement project. We are privileged to collaborate with the RXR Realty team of professionals for this ambitious and worthwhile undertaking.
Michael Ankuda, A.I.A
Senior Project Manager
Michael Ankuda
The sheer scale and magnitude of the Starrett-Lehigh historic window replacement project not only required, but demanded, the most experienced and skilled team of professionals and craftsmen. In addition, as a designated Individual New York Historic Landmark property, detailed knowledge of the NYC Landmarks Commission process was a necessity. From BGA’s standpoint, Michael Ankuda, A.I.A., was the ideal candidate to spearhead this complex and significant project.


Michael is an accomplished professional with encyclopedic knowledge gained from 35+ years of experience working on a broad spectrum of projects, including new buildings, conversions and additions. He has also worked on educational, medical and residential properties, as well as public agency, institutional and athletic facilities. Michael’s extensive experience developing technical solutions at historic properties is impressive and includes among others the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.


The planning phase for the Starrett-Lehigh window replacement project began in 2011. This multi-faceted project required a tremendous amount of detailed preparation. In addition to overseeing product selection, Michael navigated through the complex NYC Landmarks Commission approval process. He also supported the RXR team with the detailed logistics of lead times, on-site storage and the phased installation over a two-year period in occupied tenant spaces.


Replacing 5,000 windows in a historic Landmark property is not for the faint of heart. The successful outcome of this ambitious project is a testament to Michael’s exemplary project management skills and the commitment by all of the RXR team members to work through design, technical and logistical challenges and find practical solutions.


“We’re all proud of what the team has achieved at 601 West 26th Street,” says Marcelo Renzi, SVP Design and Construction at RXR Realty, owner of the 2,300,000-square-foot property. “It took us a long time to get here, but what a change it has made. I want to thank the BGA team for all their hard work and commitment. We could not have been successful without them.”
120 Broadway, Suite 3654
New York, NY 10271
© Copyright 2018, Boddewyn Gaynor Architects d.p.c.
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