Levon Jones claims he is the original designer of the First Federal Plaza building and wants to right a decades-old wrong.
The First Federal Plaza building is one of the most iconic in the region. In fact, it’s a major part of the city’s skyline but one man says he’s the actual original designer.
Levon Jones says he was a fourth-grade student in the Rochester City School District in 1973 when his school, Henry Lomb No. 20, hosted an art contest. The idea was to encourage students to help design it and when tasked with doing so, Jones knew he wanted to be unique.
“In the 1970s, everything was burger, burger, burger,” he said, explaining the round top. “I was inspired by that and I wanted something that would stand out.”
He says he was excited to enter his design. It later won, but that this was just the start of decades of frustration, Jones said:
“I never got any credit and it affected me as a person and an artist. I knew I designed but I was never compensated for it or even given credit. I’ve been seeing a therapist since I was 14.”
He says the lack of credit caused him to question his own talent for several years but now he’s working on a film to prove what happened and set the record straight once and for all. The film will debut in early 2020. Jones is also moving forward with legal action against the development team so he can recoup some of his financial losses, which he estimated in a recent legal brief, as roughly $75 million.
“That building has made the city, the developer team and so many other people so much money, but all I got was a trip to the Burger King midtown. I didn’t even get to eat [at the Changing Scenes Restaurant] so it’s important to me that I finally get the credit I deserve,” he explained.
Finally, Jones is also circulating a petition to raise awareness and drive public support for his cause. However, developers and the team behind the building maintain that the design was original and in the lobby, staff have posted images showing the inspiration for the building. Currently, RCSD has no evidence of an art contest but District spokesperson Carlos Garcia explained they don’t keep such records at Central Office, particularly because the contest in question was almost 50 years ago.
Jones maintains that he was the force behind the popular building’s design and says he will continue to fight until he receives the credit and financial compensation he deserves