Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

From "Empress of West 67th Street," New York Magazine (November 5, 1984).
From "West Side Warrior Hands Over Reins," Wall Street Journal (January 16, 2015).

Simon's full valedictory speech before the Landmarks Preservation Commission, delivered December 9, 2014:

My name is Arlene Simon. I appear today on behalf of LANDMARK WEST! in opposition to the application for a Certificate of Appropriateness to radically alter 1 West 96th St., an individually designated landmark (Carrรจre & Hastings, 1899-1903).

The substantive basis for the opposition of LANDMARK WEST!, and its Certificate of Appropriateness Committee will be addressed by Max Yeston.

LANDMARK WEST!’s C of A Committee is a group of volunteer architects, preservationists, City planners, lawyers and West Siders that reviews each and every Upper West Side application that comes before the Commissioners. Applicants and their architects make presentations to the Committee, there are site visits, detailed plan and drawing reviews, and the neighborhood is canvassed for their views – a thoroughly open process.

On a separate tack, I would like to take this opportunity to formally advise the Commissioners that as of January 1, 2015, Kate Wood will assume the role of President and CEO of LANDMARK WEST! I will continue as a non-executive Chairman of the Board, but Kate will run the  show. You will soon see and hear her, again, at this podium – often, and persuasively.  At out 25th Anniversary, Robert A.M. Stern had this to say: “LANDMARK WEST! is just at the beginning. The first 25 years are the teething years. Now we need early childhood, then go on to teenage and later stages. We need LANDMARK WEST! I can’t say it more clearly. Preservation is a continuing saga.” If Stern was right, and I believe firmly that he is, Kate will have her hands full.

Compare Bob Stern’s comment with that of a Commissioner, then sitting but no longer, who complained of LANDMARK WEST! as “the Taliban,” in an email unearthed in a FOIL request in connection with one of the Commission’s most glaring failures – Edward Durrell Stone’s 2 Columbus Circle. The Taliban we are not. Determined advocates, we are.

Now, a personal note. After 30 years of appearing before this Commission, through the Chairmanships of Kent Barwick, Gene Norman, David Todd, Laurie Beckelman, Jennifer Raab, Sherida Paulsen and Robert Tierney, I think I am qualified to offer substantive observations on the direction the Commission is taking regarding public participation and meaningful input to the Commissioners’ deliberations.

The attempted de-calendaring of 100 buildings and historic districts, which had seen thousands of hours of research; were calendared, and heard by the Commissioners over the years, is but one example.

The increasing use of non-public so-called “public meetings,” to decide important applications – rather than the legally required “public hearing” process, is another. 

The increasing use of staff reviews – and approvals – rather than full hearings before the Commission is yet another. The technique of holding a public hearing, then referring the application to staff for revisions, then reconsidering the application without public participation at a Public meeting, is a shameless scam. 

The overall direction is clear – push down as much as you can, as far as you can, from public view and comment, and even Commissioner view and comment and decision-making.

In an age otherwise characterized by transparency, public access, a significant role for the public, the Commission is taking a 180° turn in the opposite direction.

Over the past 30 years, I have been aware of the inevitable political aspect of the Commission’s work. It is not easy to stand up to REBNY, or Con Edison, or the Archdiocese – not every Mayor (perhaps no Mayor) can – but you can – and you must. Every Mayor has had his stamp on every Chairman’s tenure. You must use your public-directed stamp as well.

The aggressive anti-public stamp of Mayor de Blasio and the current chair, is unmistakable – and regrettable. This Commission – and its Chairman-directed staff – should not act, and should not be seen – as an adjunct to the real estate community. Your function is not to provide one-stop service to accommodate owners and developers who want to avoid landmark designation or enforcement. You are, at heart, a regulatory agency, an exercise of police power. The public, not the applicant or owner, is your client.

A final word to the pro-bono Commissioners. Thank you for your service. Yes, the Chair is powerful and has its leadership prerogatives. But no, you are not potted plants. The warm glow and professional status and satisfaction you derive from your position does not mean you have to check your professional judgment and independent voice at the door. How often, over the years, have you – and your predecessors – lamented privately at directives and decisions by the Chair? Suffering in silence is not part of your job. A number of you knew that the de-calendaring gambit was wrong. We know that. You know we know that.

But, again, that’s just one example. You must stand up and speak up for what you believe is right. You will feel better for it. The public will benefit from it. The law requires it.


Once you are gone from the Commission, and from this earth, your actions, and failures to act, here, will endure forever. Make your service count, in the long run.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Over 100 Buildings Heard, But Not Designated by LPC, Originally Scheduled to be De-Calendared on Tuesday, December 9, 2014. LPC has since withdrawn the de-calendaring proposal. New date to be determined.

All Five Boroughs
 
Building Name, Address, Year Calendared by LPC


Upper West Side, Manhattan
IRT Powerhouse, 11th Ave at West 58th-59th Sts, 1979
St. Michael's Episcopal Church Complex, 227 West 99th St, 1980
Manhattan
Loew's 175th Street Theater, Broadway at 175th St, 1970
Yuengling Brewery Complex (6 items), Amsterdam Ave at West 127th & 128th Sts, 1991
St. Joseph's Church, 401 West 125th St, 1966
YMCA, Harlem Branch, 181 West 135th St, 1991
St. Paul's Church & School, 121 East 117th St1966
St. Paul's Rectory, 113 East 117th St, 1966
412 East 85th Street House, 1966
Bergdorf Goodman Building, 754 Fifth Ave, 1970
Sire Building, 211 West 58th St, 2009
Mission of the Immaculate Virgin, 448 West 56th St, 2009
Osborne Apartments Interior, 205 West 57th St, 1980
Broadway Theaters (5 exteriors, 5 interiors), 1982
Kaufman Conference Rooms Interior, 809 UN Plaza, 2001
Hotel Renaissance/Columbia Club, 4 West 43rd St, 2000
150 East 38th Street House, 1966
President Chester A. Arthur House, 123 Lexington Ave, 1966
Union Square Park, 1977
138 Second Avenue House, 2009
James McCreery & Co., 801-807 Broadway1966
57 Sullivan Street House, 1970
315 Broadway, 1990
143 Chambers Street, 1989
Excelsior Power Company Building, 33-43 Gold St, 1977
2 Oliver Street House, 1966

Bronx
Samuel D. Babcock House, 5525 Independence Ave, 1970
6 Ploughman's Bush Building, 2004
First Presbyterian Church of Williamsbridge and Rectory, 730-736 East 225th St, 1980
65 Schofield Street House, 2009
Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church Complex, East 150th St at Melrose Ave1980

Brooklyn
Greenwood Cemetery, 5th Ave and 25th St1981
Coney Island Pumping Station, 2301-2327 Neptune Ave, 1980
Holy Trinity Cathedral/ Ukranian Church in Exile, 177-181 South 5th St, 1966
St. Augustine's R.C. Church and Rectory, 116-130 6th Ave, 1966
183-195 Broadway Building, 1986
St. Barbara's Roman Catholic Church, 299-307 Central Ave, 1980
Lady Moody-Van Sicklen House, 27 Gravesend Neck Rd, 1966

Queens
Pepsi-Cola Sign, 1988
Spanish Towers (10 Items), 34-30 to 34-52 75th St, 1990
Old Calvary Cemetery Gatehouse, Gale & Greenpoint Aves, 1973
Douglaston Historic District Extension, 2008
Fairway Apartments, 76-09 34th Ave, 1990
First Reformed Church and Sunday School of College Point, 118-09 14th Ave, 1980
Bowne Street Community Church, 38-01 Bowne St, 2003
Ahles House, 39-24 to 39-26 213rd St, 2009

Staten Island
Sailors' Snug Harbor Historic District, 1984
Curtis House, 234 Bard Ave, 1966
St. Mary's Church, Rectory and Parish Hall, 347 Davis Ave, 1966
Woodbrook/Goodhuse House, 304 Prospect Ave, 1966
Muller House, 200 Clinton Ave, 1966
Garner Mansion, 355 Bard Ave, 1966
Sunny Brae House, 27 Colonial Ct, 1966
92 Harrison Street House, 1980
Cunard Hall, Wagner College, 631 Howard Ave, 1966
Fountain Family Graveyard, Richmond & Clove Rds, 1966
St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church and Rectory, 1107 Bay St, 1966
School District No. 3 Building, 4108 Victory Blvd, 1966
St. John's P.E. Rectory, 1331 Bay St, 1966
Richmond County Country Club, 135 Flagg Place, 1966
Vanderbilt Mausoleum, Moravian Cemetery, 1980
Lakeman House, 2286 Richmond Rd, 1966
Crocheron House, Historic Richmond Town, 1966
Nicholas Killmeyer Store and Residence, 4321 Arthur Kill Rd, 1991
122 Androvette Street House, 1991
3833 Amboy Road House, 2007
Brougham Cottage, 4746 Amboy Rd, 2000
Dorothy Day Historic Site, 457 Poillon Ave, 2001
St. Paul's M.E. Church, 7558 Amboy Rd, 1991
6136 Amboy Road House, 2007
Princess Bay Lighthouse and Keeper's House, 1966
5466 Arthur Kill Road House, 2007

* The information above is taken from maps prepared by LPC, dated November 19, 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014

NYS Senator Tony Avella Finds LPC's Plan Outrageous! Read on!

New York State Senator Tony Avella writes to Mayor de Blasio and Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan of the Landmarks Preservation Commission "in regards to the LPC decision to remove a large number [96] of potential landmark locations from the calendar as of December 9th.  I FIND THIS ACTION OUTRAGEOUS!"

"Many of the applications have been calendared for years and to now just remove them is disgraceful.  I am calling on you to put an immediate stop to this action and to give the public a chance to provide their input on these long standing landmark applications."

De-calendaring these items places them "in immediate danger with little or no time for the community to act...Do not become part of the problem.  I call upon [the Commission] to set a different tone."

LANDMARK WEST! calls upon our elected officials to echo Senator Avella's words in your own letters to Mayor de Blasio and LPC chair Srinivasan (comments@lpc.nyc.gov).  We urge you to write your letter, which we will post on our blog as well.

To read about buildings that are threatened in Senator Avella's district in Queens, read the latest blog post on QueensCrap.

Thank you Senator Avella!

To contact LANDMARK WEST! call (212) 496-8110 or email landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

LANDMARKS AT RISK - LPC SHUTS OUT PUBLIC VOICE AND THREATENS 40+ YEARS OF PRESERVATION ADVOCACY

 
LANDMARKS COMMISSION
PLANS MASSIVE
DE-CALENDARING!!!
 
OF INDIVIDUAL BUILDINGS AND HISTORIC DISTRICTS
HEARD, BUT NOT DESIGNATED

Tuesday, December 9, 2014
 
EARLY WARNING!

Dear Friend of Preservation,

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is planning to discard over one hundred heard items  in an unprecedented massive "decalendaring," to take place on Tuesday, December 9, 2014.  The effect will be to wipe the slate clean - that is, to erase over a hundred proposed landmarks and historic districts that have been extensively researched, documented, and formally heard by the Landmarks Preservation Commissioners over the years.

Even worse, the LPC seems poised to decalendar these items - essentially sentencing them to death by bulldozer - without a public hearing.  This must not happen!  Concerned New Yorkers must rise up uniformly and in outrage against this purge.  Whose interests is the LPC serving by throwing out thousands of hours of professional work by commissioners, staff, national and local experts, community advocates, neighbors and residents?  And why the lack of public notice? 

Call the LPC (main number: (212) 669-7700) and email Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan at comments@lpc.nyc.gov to demand that she fully disclose her plans and schedule public hearings on any decalendering of proposed individual landmarks and proposed historic districts.  Tell her that you want to know what she is planning to "decalendar" and when.

P.S. Call LPC and ask for the time of the decalendaring on Tues, Dec 9, 2014!

Friday, November 7, 2014

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

Displaying



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 landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org, 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 landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org, or call (212) 496-8110
You may also buy tickets online via Eventbrite.
 
 

Friday, August 15, 2014

URGENT: LPC Approves Apthorp Penthouse Addition

 

A CALL TO ACTION!


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!