Former Tammany Hall HQ at 44 Union Square Gets a New Lease on Life


The infamous former seat of Tammany Hall politics on Union Square East has finally completed its transition to a retail and office building. Commercial Observer has the exclusive first look inside its turtle shell-inspired glass dome, which is constructed out of a steel frame and fitted with 800 pieces of German-made glass. 

The 90-year-old landmarked structure at 44 Union Square East has undergone a dramatic renovation and expansion that has added 15,000 square feet of commercial space to the top of the existing four-story building. Of course, the most exciting update is the two new elliptical-shaped floors capped by that glass dome, which slopes backward from the building’s parapet. The 1927 neo-Georgian facade has been restored, and its original window openings remain, even when they conflict slightly with the new floors. 

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On the fourth floor, for example, there is a new concrete slab along with several new concrete pillars to support the two new floors above. The slab slightly cuts off a unique half-moon window set into the parapet, which is visible from the base of the dome. The tortoise shell-shaped structure completely encloses the fifth and sixth floors and extends down to part of the fourth floor. It lets in huge amounts of sunlight—so much so that the developers and architects conducted studies to ensure it could be cooled effectively—and offers sweeping views of Union Square. And the recessed top floor has the feeling of a balcony, allowing visitors—or employees—to survey what’s going on downstairs. 

While the building’s historic interior has been gutted, some unique aspects remain, like a small Juliet balcony on the second floor that allowed Tammany leaders to speak to crowds in Union Square. The lower levels previously held the Tammany Society’s large auditorium, which developer Reading International operated as an Off-Broadway Theater for nearly two decades before the renovation. 

BKSK handled the design, which is meant to pay homage to the floating turtle’s role in the Lenni Lenape creation myth. The Tammany Society was named for Lenape Chief Tamanend, and it paid tribute to him with a small detail on the building: a pair of crossed arrows on the balcony. 

The greenhouse-like addition is tailored for a restaurant or a retail store, but an office tenant may end up occupying it instead. Newmark Knight Frank has been trying to lease up the 73,000-square-foot property since February, when the scaffolding came down around the facade. 

Asking rents hover around $125 a square foot for the office floors, and $450 a square foot for the ground and lower level retail spaces. In addition to a typical tenant improvement package, the landlord is offering tenants allowances for HVAC and security systems. Tech, advertising and media companies have been interested in the building, which could go to a single office or retail tenant. Overseas department store chains and entertainment brands have also looked at the space, according to NKF retail broker Jeffrey Roseman. 

“We think this commands a premium [rent] because of what’s being offered,” said NKF’s Peter Shimkin, who is handling the office leasing. “There’s nothing like this in New York.”