Friday, November 7, 2014

A History of New York in 101 Objects: An Illustrated Talk and Book Signing with Sam Roberts


A History of New York in 101 Objects
An Illustrated Talk and Book Signing with Sam Roberts

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 at 6:30PM
Macaulay Honors College, 35 West 67th Street

Black and White Cookies courtesy of Lori Zabar!

 Tuesday, November 11, 2014 6:30 PM 
 Macaulay Honors College, 35 West 67 Street

A faded green ticket for Abraham Lincoln's watershed campaign speech at Cooper Union on February 27th, 1860. A checker taxicab and a conductor's baton. Author Sam Roberts chose fifty objects that embody the narrative of New York for a feature article in The New York Times. He has since expanded that article into the book A History of NYC in 101 Objects. Join the author as he chronicles the material history of NYC through items ranging from the Flushing Remonstrance, a 1657 petition for religious freedom that eventually led to the First Amendment, to icons like the bagel, the subway token, and the I Love NY logo.

Sam Roberts is urban affairs correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author or editor of eight other books, including Only in New York: An Exploration of the World's Most Fascinating, Frustrating and Irrepressible City (2009, co-written with Pete Hamill).

Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for LW! members, and $15 for non-members;
To inquire about your membership status and/or to purchase tickets
email, or call (212) 496-8110
You may also buy tickets online via Eventbrite.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Frick Today, New-York Historical Society Tomorrow ...

The campaign to protect the landmarked Frick Collection on the Upper East Side is not bound by geography. Though the museum is located on the Upper East Side, advocates and allies from across the five boroughs, the nation and internationally recognize the significance of the Frick (it is designated a landmark at the City,State and National levels). 

LANDMARK WEST! joins with organizations such as the Garden Club of America, the HistoricDistricts Council, the Libraryof American Landscape History, and the Defenders of the Historic Upper East Side. Because if it happens there, it can happen here. It can happen anywhere.

Everywhere you look, the delusion that “bigger-is-better” is sweeping our city’s neighborhoods. It is unfortunate that New York City’s finest cultural institutions, of all things, regularly surrender to this temptation, seeking to expand their physical footprints to the detriment of their landmark buildings and historic settings.

Look at what may be in store for East 70th Street, where the Frick Collection plans to destroy its garden and construct a mammoth annex that towers over the block (see the recent coverage by New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman, “The Case Against a Mammoth Frick Collection Addition,” July 30, 2014). We can’t help but think of all the Upper West Side institutions keenly monitoring this case and its implications for their own development plans.

N-YHS Proposed Plan, 1984

N-YHS Proposed Plan, 2006

For example, the New-York Historical Society (Central Park West between 76th & 77th Streets):

  • The Society’s Individual Landmark building and the iconic Central Park West skyline have been threatened—not once, not twice, but three times by the Society.
  • Now, in 2014, the Society plans another attempt at tower development. LANDMARK WEST! will be watching this carefully, and when (not if) the time comes to evaluate a proposal for further building on the Society’s landmark site, we’ll be ready.

To save the New-York Historical Society, we must get involved with what’s happening at the Frick. And to save the Frick, the time for mobilization is now.

LANDMARK WEST! strongly opposes the Frick’s expansion plan. We offer our support to those who are rallying around this important issue, including the Historic Districts Council, FRIENDS of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, The Garden Conservancy, the Garden Club of America, Defenders of the Historic Upper East Side, The Cultural Landscape Foundation, and Uniteto Save the Frick. Visit the Unite website to learn more about what’s at stake if the Frick’s destructive plan is not stopped.

Please SIGN THE PETITION and be sure to spread the word to your networks.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How Architecture Works: A Humanist's Toolkit - An Illustrated Talk and Book Signing with Witold Rybczynski

How Architecture Works: A Humanist's Toolkit
An Illustrated Talk and Book Signing with Witold Rybczynski
With an introduction by Jacob Weisberg*

welcoming remarks by Kate Wood

 Tuesday, October 28, 2014 6:30 PM 
 Macaulay Honors College, 35 West 67 Street
How Architecture Works is a humanist's toolkit for thinking about the built environment and seeing it afresh. In his book, Rybczynski says, "Most architecture, a backdrop for our everyday lives, is experienced in bits and pieces - the glimpsed view of a distant spire, the intricacy of a wrought-iron railing, the soaring space of a railroad station waiting room. Sometimes it's just a detail, a well-shaped door handle, a window framing a perfect little view, a rosette carved into a chapel pew. And we say to ourselves, 'How nice. Someone actually thought of that.'"
Modern architecture runs the gamut from fantasy to engineering to retro. This book introduces readers to the rich and varied world of contemporary design, and takes them behind the scenes, showing how architects as varied as Philip Johnson, Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano and Robert A. M. Stern work their magic. From a war memorial in London to an opera house in St. Petersburg, from the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, to an architect's private retreat in downtown Princeton, Rybczynski explains the central elements that constitute good building design.

"...ever the engaging and thoughtful writer, [Rybczynski] offers a wide-ranging tour of the glories and curiosities, old and new, in the field."  -  Washington Post
"[This] expert, holistic, down-to-earth guide awakens us to architecture's profound humanness."  -  Booklist

*Jacob Weisberg is the Chairman of The Slate Group. He is a writer, editor, and political commentator, whose work has been featured in Vanity Fair, The New York Times Magazine and Newsweek. He is also the author of The Bush Tragedy, a 2008 New York Times bestseller.

Tickets are $20 for LW! members; $25 for non-members;
To inquire about your membership status and/or to purchase tickets
email, or call (212) 496-8110
You may also buy tickets online via Eventbrite.

Friday, August 15, 2014

URGENT: LPC Approves Apthorp Penthouse Addition



LPC Approves Rooftop Penthouse Additions on Apthorp

Landmark West is issuing a call to action to all its members.  It is time to email, snail mail, twitter or phone anyone and every one in City government. Tell them that freezing out the Public is unacceptable.

  • On Tuesday, August 12, 2014, the “11 member” Landmark Preservation Commission appointed by the Mayor voted 6 to Zero to permit the developer to, among other things, permanently deface the rooftop pergolas of the Apthorp Apartments, an architectural gem by Clinton & Russell.
  • When told of this decision of the LPC, Andrew Dolkart, Director of Historic Preservation Program, Columbia University GSAPP, opined: "I continue to feel that this proposal will have a negative impact on a major landmark building. The open pergolas are a major part of the design and their character will be seriously compromised for no other reason than to give the owner additional income.” (August 13, 2014)
  • The Apthorp was designated an individual landmark by a more preservation friendly LPC in 1969, just 4 years after the LPC was established.
  • The pergolas are a key component of this unique structure.  The plan approved by the current LPC would allow the developer to fill in the pergolas and connect them with shed like structures to add additional units thus destroying the open design.  (See image below)

  • This decision of the LPC is particularly shocking in view of the damage that it allows to be done to this architectural gem in the fact of  wide spread opposition from architects, preservation advocates and neighborhood residents and residents of the Apthorp.  It is not the first such decision nor will it be the last to benefit developers while destroying the City's cultural and architectural heritage.
  • The offensive procedural short cut the LPC used to freeze out the public and shut down opposition to the plan that was ultimately approved is part of a systemic attack on the right of the public to have an opportunity to provide effective and timely input on land use decisions that will affect their neighborhoods.  It is time we all stand up and object.  Tell the LPC, the Mayor and the City Council that locking the public out is unacceptable.
  • The protection afforded to landmarks in the City by the Landmark Law can no longer be taken for granted.  It is being eroded by the very agency empowered to provide it.
  • The time to object to this procedure is now, not when it has resulted in the destruction of the integrity of yet another architectural icon.  It is time for you to contact everyone in City government, write the mayor, call your council member, email a member of the LPC or tweet them.  Tell them it is time to stop excluding the public from land use decisions.  It is time to stop treating citizen input as an obstacle.  It is time for our elected and appointed officials to listen to us!  Do it NOW!
Below, take a look at our discussion of this process that puts every landmarked building and historic district at risk:

The decision to issue a Certificate of Appropriateness to the Apthorp developers is substantively wrong and inconsistent with the charge of the LPC. The LPC doesn’t even have its full compliment of 11 members.   Only 8 members are currently serving. Two out of the 8 current members chose not to attend this meeting.  Again shocking but not unusual. Some of the majority who voted for the approval of this inappropriate plan, including the new Chair Meenaksi Srinivasan, hadn't even attended the one and only Public Hearing on the initial plans offered by the applicant. As result, the Chair had not heard any of the input from the public.   But the LPC chose not to hold another Public Hearing on the new plans. 

The procedure used by the LPC to issue the Certificate of Appropriateness to the Apthorp's developers can be summarized as follows.  In this procedure, applicants file their plans with the Commission. The Commission holds a Public Hearing on the initial plans. Those plans are commented upon by the Commission, Community Board, architects, and the public at the initial Public Hearing. After closing the hearing, the Commission discusses the plans and informally declines to grant the Certificate but does not formally reject the plans.  Rather, the Commission directs the applicant to come back with new plans and discuss them with the staff. Once the new plans are received, the Commission sets a Public Meeting. (As you know, a formal rejection would require the applicant to re-file and trigger the scheduling of a Public Hearing on the new plans.) The period between the Public Hearing on the initial plans and the Public Meeting on the new plans can be months or years.   The amendments to the initial plans can be substantial or the new plans presented to the staff can be nothing less than a totally new proposal that bears little resemblance to the initial plans that were the subject of the Public Hearing. There can be multiple redrafts of the plansmultiple private meetings between the applicant and the LPC staff and multiple Public Meetings at which only the applicant and its lawyers, architects and their other representatives speak to the Commission but no more Public Hearings. The public is frozen out.

Our research indicates that there is no rule or statute that provides for this procedure. In an informal conversation with a lawyer for the LPC, it was agreed that there is no such rule.  He observed however that allowing applicants to proceed in this way “moves the process along”. We have no doubt that “moving the process along” may occur; however, the key problem here is that a Public Hearing at which the public may speak has been jettisoned for the purpose of “streamlining” the procedure in favor of the applicant, not for the purpose of Preserving the Landmark Building.

In discussions with experienced preservation advocates, we have determined that this procedure just seemed to appear out of nowhere and that it is now being used with virtually every set of plans about which the Commission has any concerns. In short, the Commission rarely rejects any plan outright. It is our opinion that this procedure has been structured to allow applications to avoid public scrutiny and to quote from Andrew Dolkart's comment on the Apthorp decision "for no other reason that to give the owner additional income."  In our opinion, this "streamlined" procedure is in direct conflict with the language and the spirit of the LPC rules, the legislation that established the LPC as well as the Open Meeting Law.  Its continued use by the LPC puts each and every landmarked building and historic district at risk. The time to object to this procedure is now, not when it has resulted in the destruction of the integrity of yet another architectural icon. It is time for you to contact everyone you know in City government, write the mayor, call your council member, email a member of the LPC or tweet them.   Tell them it is time to stop excluding the Public from land use decisions. It is time to stop treating citizen input as an obstacle. It is time for our elected and appointed officials to listen to us!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Best of the West

By Christian Rowe 

During my summer internship at LANDMARK WEST! I set out on many journeys to explore what has now become a familiar neighborhood to me – the Upper West Side. I have explored from 110th Street to Columbus Circle and from Central Park to Riverside Park. In between these boundaries I have seen many historic districts and landmarked buildings.
Everyone at LW! made my internship very enjoyable. Over the past six weeks, I assisted in preparing a survey of 184 buildings between 96th Street, 110th Street, Central Park West, and Riverside Drive for review by the LPC for landmark consideration; I helped prepare for next school year’s Keeping the Past for the Future education program by cutting out paper stoops and bay windows for brownstone collages; and I cataloged books recently donated to the LW! library – among many other tasks. The staff helped me when I asked and taught me what I did not know. I will walk away from this internship with a whole arsenal of skills I didn't have when I started in June. I am now able to type faster. I have become very computer literate. But the best thing I learned here is to slow down and observe. Sometimes you move too fast and you miss beautiful buildings and landscapes.
            My favorite experience was being given the task of exploring the Upper West Side for different architectural sites and then writing blog posts about what I found. The adventure I enjoyed the most was my first assignment when I was told to observe, study, and photograph the bridges in Central Park. I already had a personal connection to Central Park because my dad took me there as a child and I can remember running over the bridges there. Also, my first assignment in architecture class at the Williamsburg High School of Architecture and Design (where I go to school) was to design my own bridge. And so, on my journey I used my knowledge of bridges to identify key elements that help bridges stay together and also observed how historic features of the Central Park bridges have been preserved over time – as I saw on the Balcony Bridge.
This was my first job, and I’m very happy I had this experience at LANDMARK WEST!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Religious Buildings of the Upper West Side

by Christian Rowe

This past week I’ve been exploring the religious buildings of the Upper West Side and comparing them to my church, Pilgrim Father Church under Archbishop Roy E. Brown in Brooklyn, which was built in 1961. I noticed that my church has a big tower pointing toward the sky like I’ve seen on many Catholic churches. This didn't surprise me since I already knew that the Catholic Church has helped to define architectural traditions in Christianity for a very long time. However, different faiths have different building traditions. Islamic buildings, for example, often have a dome on the top of a polygon building. Buddhist buildings often have more than one roof stacked on top of each other. On my journey through the Upper West Side, I tried to visit places of worship for several different faiths.

I started my journey at St. Michael’s Church on West 99th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. This building has been around since 1890 – over a century! Since then this church has been known on the Upper West Side for its beautiful Tiffany stained glass windows. When I entered the chapel it was dark inside, but with the sun popping through the Tiffany windows I was stunned in amazement. I just stood still and stared at them.

After this visit I moved on to the Islamic culture to study one of their buildings. I chose to visit the Masjid Malcolm Shabazz Mosque on the corner of 166th Street and Lennox Avenue. This building is known for the big green dome on top. Formerly the Lennox Casino, this building was turned into a mosque for the nation of Islam and was known as Temple 7.  Famously, this is the mosque where Malcolm X preached to his people. 

Even before its use as a religious center, the building featured commercial store fronts for small businesses in the neighborhood. Today, these businesses include a pharmacy, a shoe repair, and a barber shop. The businesses continued to be a part of the building through its conversion to a mosque for the reason being that during this time Malcolm encouraged his congregation of black Muslims to stick together in one tight community. After his assassination this building was renamed Masjid Malcolm Shabazz Mosque in his honor. Today the building is still being used as a mosque and for commercial businesses.
These journeys have widened my perspective of buildings in New York as I’ve learned how to see how each building (religious or not) has its own architectural identity. The Upper West Side has a bunch of hidden jewel buildings and thanks to LANDMARK WEST! I've discovered the religious jewels.
Pictures (from top to bottom)
1. Pilgrim Father Church, Bushwick, Brooklyn
2. St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, Detroit, Michigan
3. Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, Israel
4.T┼Źdai-ji, Nara, Japan
5. St Michael's Church, Upper West Side, Manhattan
7. Malcolm X
8. Masjid Malcolm Shabazz Mosque, Harlem, Manhattan

Friday, July 25, 2014

Upper West Side Building Ornaments

 By Christian Rowe
For the last couple of days I have been exploring and studying the rowhouses and building ornaments on the Upper West Side. Row houses and apartment buildings were made mainly to house people in the middle class. Architects used materials like brownstone, limestone, brick and sometimes terracotta to construct these houses. They also used detailed designs of faces, plants and animals carved into the buildings’ facades (called ornaments) to decorate them. Most of the buildings I visited were constructed around the 1880s.
Some of the ornaments were not in the best condition and needed restoration work while others were in great condition.
The left ornaments are broken, the right ones are in one piece.
 The first house I saw at 200 West 98th Street had Greek-looking faces on the facade of the building. The faces along the left side of the rowhouse were broken and need to be restored but the faces on the right side were in one piece and just in need of a cleaning. Another ornament I saw at 46 West 90th Street really stood out to me. The designs on that building are little birds on a branch eating berries off a tree. I found this interesting because walking through Central Park I saw a similar bird eating berries the same way. I wonder if the architect drew inspiration from Central Park because the scene and the design looked very similar.

Inspired by nature

A detailed Bucranium (Latin for "Bull's Skull")
 The most unique design I saw on my journey was the Cliff Dwelling. This apartment building features ornaments of cow skulls and Aztec masks. This building gives me a sort of Mexican vibe. Also the building is in a triangular cut. The architects apparently used a Pueblo Deco style of architecture.
Aztec mask

Aztec mask protected by wild cats

 In an old LANDMARK WEST! newsletter published in 1996, architectural historian Kathleen Randall makes a very good point on the inspiration for these designs on the buildings. After reading her article in the newsletter I came to the understanding that she feels the faces on many of the ornaments reflect the anxiety of the decades following the Civil War. I agree with Ms. Randall because during this time there was sort of a gloomy mood going around because of all the corruption going on in the city. This journey was really a learning experience for me to find out more history about one specific building type in this great and lovely neighborhood -the Upper West Side.
Why so serious?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Night on the John J. Harvey

By Christian Rowe

On July 16, 2014, LANDMARK WEST! hosted a summer evening trip down the Hudson River on the retired historic Fireboat John J.Harvey. Built in 1931, the John J. Harvey was the first large modern fireboat built in America. Every fireboat before her was powered by steam. The Harvey has five 600 HP diesel engines. The boat has the power of 20 fire trucks and is capable of pumping 18,000 gallons of water per minute! Although the boat was retired in 1994, on September 11th, 2001, it was put to service evacuating lower Manhattan and pumping water to put out fires. Today, the boat cruises the Hudson doing tours for school kids and showing off her beauty.
Tharrrrrr She Blows!!!
During the ride on this awesome boat I was given a tour of the engine room, which was very cluttered because of all the equipment. The five diesel engines were completely visible, and the room felt like a furnace. The water for the fire hoses was pumped from the river into huge vacuum cylinders. When I went up to the captain's cabin I saw the radar and the GPS. The radar shows you moving boats and the surrounding land. The GPS tells you the water’s depth. This was an amazing experience because before my internship at LANDMARK WEST! I never heard of this boat and thanks to them I took a ride on it. To all my fellow New Yorkers go visit the Double J. Harvey! You will love it!

The captain's cabin on the John J. Harvey

Friday, July 18, 2014

Exploring the Landmark Bridges of Central Park

by Christian Rowe
On my Central Park exploration today, I noticed things that I would not have paid much attention to before beginning my summer internship with LANDMARK WEST! The first thing I noticed was that when you enter the park at 77th Street you walk over a beautiful double arch bridge – and you don't even realize it. The designers of the park strategically used nature to disguise man-made structures throughout the park. I also discovered that the more you walk through the park the more the scenery changes. The way Central Park was designed, every few steps reveal something new to see while other features disappear or reappear in different positions. To test this idea, I stood still and take it all in and then took five steps in any direction to see what happened – the scene definitely changed.
When you enter the park at 77th Street you walk over a beautiful double arch bridge – and you don't even realize it!
The location for Central Park was chosen by the city because its natural topography was too rocky to build houses on. One of the reasons why the city decided to build a park may have been  because we had something to prove to Europeans who thought we only cared for our individual selves instead of the greater public. The park was originally going to be smaller, but the land was too rocky to end the park at 106th Street so they extended it to 110th Street. The designers of the park were Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux who won a contest with their design. They had the winning design because theirs was the most naturalistic and asymmetrical, which was the style of landscape design that everyone wanted in the 1850s.
The Ramble Arch has gaps on the sides so it looks like some rocks fell off over time, but at the same time the gaps give you a clear view when you look over the edge.
After crossing the bridge at 77th Street we walked to the Ramble, which is a part of Central Park where the forestation gets really thick – it’s easy to get lost in there. Once again the Ramble Arch was completely hidden until we were standing on top of it. From the top the Ramble Arch looks like a natural rock bridge (besides its concrete floor). It has gaps on the sides so it looks like some rocks fell off over time, but at the same time the gaps give you a clear view when you look over the edge. Looking at the Ramble Arch straight on, it sort of looks like you are entering an ancient ruin in the jungle.
Looking at the Ramble Arch straight on, it sort of looks like you are entering an ancient ruin in the jungle.
My favorite bridge in the park that I visited today was the Balcony Bridge because it looks so peaceful. Aside from the skyline and the people rowing boats you get the feel of being on a rock looking out at a flowing river separating two parts of the jungle. Here at Landmark West! we enjoy the privilege of having Central Park in our city   – you should too!
My favorite bridge in the park that I visited today was the Balcony Bridge because it looks so peaceful.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thank YOU for speaking out against Bloomberg's Midtown East Rezoning!

On September 6, the New York Times published a letter to the editor written by LW! President Arlene Simon responding to Professor Kenneth T. Jackson's op-ed "Gotham's ToweringAmbitions" published on August 30th. Arlene's letter to the New York Times calls out Jackson's offense in mixing "the zoning issues at stake in East Midtown with a different set of issues involved in landmark preservation." The next day, LW! invited your reactions to Jackson's response to the Midtown East rezoning, and your letters gave emphasis to our disappointment in his commentary and his calling out LW! for seeking to designate additional landmark buildings and historic districts. As one of the world's leading historians, Professor Jackson's opposition to historic preservation is inapt and his support for rezoning the area around Grand Central Terminal is perplexing.

Yesterday, November 12th, it was announced that Councilman DanGarodnick and Council speaker Christine Quinn would not vote for Mayor MichaelBloomberg's rezoning plan, leading to the administration's withdrawal of a proposal that would have allowed for taller buildings on approximately 73 blocks throughout Midtown East. For the past two years, the contentious proposal endured an extensive public review process that began when the real estate industry and the Bloomberg administration argued that the office space in the area "is outdated and increasingly unappealing to modern tenants." Proponents believe rezoning for more modern office skyscrapers is the answer to preserving New York City's rank as a world-class city.

In a statement sent to reporters, councilmembers Garodnick and Quinn said, "a good idea alone is not enough to justify action today. We should rezone East Midtown, but only when we can do so properly." They will set out to "achieve all of the goals set out by the Bloomberg Administration and do so in a way that respects the interests and perspectives of all the stakeholders - the community; the workers who will populate and serve the new and expanded buildings in East Midtown; the landmarks in the area and the developers who support the current proposal."

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio commended the councilmembers, "for pressing the pause button in order to ensure these concerns are adequately addressed." He stated that he is committing to "presenting a revised rezoning plan for the area by the end of 2014.                                                                                       

Shortly after the news was publicized, Mayor Bloomberg stated his administration would withdraw its application to rezone Midtown East. After frantically attempting to collect votes for support in the Council and to persuade opponents of the proposal's value, efforts ultimately came up short, marking an indefinite pause for elevating New York City's skyline.

We thank you for sending in your letters to your Council members and working hard to preserve the landmarks of Midtown East. You can be sure LANDMARK WEST! will continue to fiercely advocate for the preservation of the Upper West Side and the City of New York as the new administration unfolds.