Monday, May 25, 2009

Il bello Flatiron Building

Three years ago, an Italian company bought a small percentage of the Flatiron Building. Recently, they acquired more. They--the Sorgente Group--now own about half of the building. Thirty-year-old Veronica Mainetti heads the New York office of Sorgente, which was founded by her father, Valter Mainetti.

The Mainettis have an intensely personal attachment to New York: Veronica's great-grandfather, Luigi Binda, came to this city at the turn of the twentieth century, became an iron worker, helped build the New York Stock Exchange, and later, the Chrysler Building. In between he founded his own construction company in New Jersey, in 1928.

I met recently with Veronica Mainetti--we sat in Madison Square Park, with the Flatiron looming in the background--and she reminded me that New York is still the city where everybody wants to go. No other place, she said, has such energy, varied ethnicity, and possibilities. Mainetti comes from Rome, where her company is based, and we talk about what it is like to build and/or maintain properties in the Eternal City, with its impossibly complex layers of antiquity and bureaucracy, versus Here In New York, where we saw fit to enact a landmarks law only in the mid-sixties, but not before we'd destroyed so many wondrous buildings, the most famous example being the McKim Meade and White's Penn Station, which had been modeled after Rome's Baths of Caracalla.

I love that this Italian group now owns a piece of the building that New York adores. It feels so right. No question about it, just their presence will make the Flatiron more elegant. Because they have so much respect for the Flatiron, as much as for the ancient monuments that surround them in Rome. Mainetti recalls the first time she and her father walked past the Flatiron. They were awed, amazed, blown away.

They have plans devised by a cinematographer to illuminate the building at night, which they will soon present to Landmarks. What a sight that will be, the Flatiron blazing in the dark!

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