Tuesday, February 10, 2015

UPDATE: First Church of Christ, Scientist (361 CPW)

On Tuesday, February 10, 2015 the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a Public Meeting on 361 Central Park West where architects presented their plans for multiple alterations to the exterior of this Individual Landmark, designed by Carrere & Hastings.

Please find a copies of LANDMARK WEST! President Kate Wood 's letter to Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan as well as other support letters from architects Charles Warren , Page Cowley and Robert A. M. Stern.

Also, please read LANDMARK WEST! Founder and former President Arlene Simon's Valedictory Speech to the LPC on December 9, 2014.

First, the bad news about the First Church of Christ, Scientist.  If you thought the proposal to redesign the Classical stone façade, stained-glass windows and roof of this Individual Landmark designed by Carrere & Hastings couldn’t get any worse…think again. 

At this morning’s Landmarks Preservation Commission “Public Meeting," it was evident that the application to convert this Landmark to condo use has strayed far from the principles of appropriateness established by the public testimony and the Commissioners’ own comments at the December 9, 2014, Public Hearing. 

This was no time for “business as usual.”  When Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan made a statement opening the “Hearing” to allow the applicant to speak (remember today’s session was billed as a “Public Meeting,” where no testimony would be taken), Landmark West! President Kate Wood seized the opportunity – the right, as a member of the public – to be heard.  Over Chair Srinivasan’s objections, she urged the Commissioners to stand up for this Individual Landmark and not allow a shoehorned residential use (also requiring a slew of code variances) to compromise it irreversibly.  Opponents of the project then stood up and left the room.

Essentially, the development team wants to plow ahead with plans to cut dozens of new windows, including six in the massive stone piers that define the Central Park West façade, and alter the original stained-glass windows.  Some other aspects of the design have been modified as well.

Now for the more positive news.  The Commissioners (a bare quorum of six) did not take a vote. Most of those present indicated a general willingness to approve the application, but specifically objected to the six new windows cut into the Central Park West façade, unconvinced that they were absolutely required to accommodate a new use.  So, it’s back to the drawing board…and back to the waiting game.

BIG THANKS to everyone who came down, wrote emails/letters, and made the effort to participate. Speaking up can make a difference! 

Please continue to tell Chair Srinivasan (comments@lpc.nyc.gov, cc:landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org):

·        Preserve, don’t destroy this Carrere & Hastings Landmark
·        Bring any future amendments to this application to a Public Hearing, not a so-called “Public Meeting” – if the applicant can speak, so must the public
·        Vote “no” to changes that serve only short-term development goals, not the long-term integrity of this Landmark

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tom Wolfe's 2005 Piece on 2 Columbus Circle

Check out Tom Wolfe's article in New York Magazine (July 4-11, 2005) about the battle for to save 2 Columbus Circle:

Tom Wolfe quotes former landmarks commissioner Richard Olcott, who in an email to then LPC chair Bob Tierney, said: “The design community needs to speak up and stop this madness put out by the Taliban.” A Talibanista in [Olcott's] book: Landmark West."

The Taliban we are not.  Determined advocates, we are.

The 2 Columbus Circle Game

Tom Wolfe
July 4-11, 2005

Was the Landmarks commissioner a little too close to the side that wants it destroyed? A would-be savior of Edward Durell Stone’s building looks at the latest, most dramatic twist in the city’s preservation drama.
At 9:49 A.M., Bob e-mails Laurie: “How do we get ourselves out of this craziness?”
At 9:50, Laurie e-mails Bob: “I don’t have an answer. I am speechless when it comes to Herbert . . . and to think that he is the Chief Critic for the Times!”

Loose-lipped we and ourselves lines like these from the “Bob and Laurie Letters,” just outed via the Freedom of Information Act, have suddenly converted the fate of 2 Columbus Circle, designed in 1964 by Edward Durell Stone as Huntington Hartford’s late Gallery of Modern Art, from a foregone conclusion—it’s a dead duck—into the hottest landmark battle since Jackie Onassis rode a train dubbed “The Landmark Express” to Washington and saved Grand Central in 1978. Last week things came to a boil. The building’s likely new owners (they’re in contract) had already applied for a permit to remove the marble façade. Then the World Monuments Fund put the building on its watch list of the world’s most endangered buildings, making it one of only nine Modernist structures so designated—while the Bob and Laurie letters appeared to catch the chief judge in the case, Bob, in flagrante cahoots with the new owners’ point woman, Laurie.

“Bob” is Robert Tierney, a veteran political appointee who was once counsel to Koch and is now chairman of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. A Landmarks hearing on Stone’s building has never been held; without one, it can’t be saved.

“Laurie” is Laurie Beckelman, a pretty blonde networker nonpareil hired by the American Craft Museum in 2002 to run its campaign to buy 2 Columbus Circle from the city and completely alter its appearance as a brand-new “Museum of Arts and Design.” When it comes to landmarking or, as in this case, avoiding landmarking, Laurie knows the City Hall fraternity grip. She was once chairman of the Landmarks Commission herself.
The “craziness” Bob was bemoaning was the ever-mounting opposition. The specific case in point that had driven Bob crazy and left Laurie speechless at 9:50 A.M. back on January 5, 2004, was this passage from New York Times critic Herbert Muschamp’s year-end architectural roundup: “The refusal of the New York City Landmarks Commission to hold hearings on the future of 2 Columbus Circle is a shocking dereliction of public duty. Unacceptable in itself, this abdication also raises the scary question of what other buildings the commission might choose to overlook in the future.”

Bob e-mails Laurie with a sardonic “ ‘shocking dereliction’ . . . ‘unacceptable’ . . . ‘abdication.’ Other than that, I thought his comments were fine.”

Over the past twenty months, the ranks of the building’s would-be saviors have swollen from a seeming handful of “cranks”—such as Tom Wolfe, viewed as a serial troublemaker with unfortunately easy access to people who buy ink by the barrel—to the biggest landmarks coalition since Grand Central days. The most authoritative of 2 Columbus Circle’s early defenders was architect Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture. Bob and Laurie and their allies rolled their eyes, as if to say, “Well, you know Bob Stern and his . . . notions.” But soon the numbers and the reputations (more deans of architecture and urbanism, Robert Venturi, Chuck Close, Frank Stella, and virtually every major preservationist organization) became too big for knowing eye-rolls. The pressure became yet more intense last month when another Times critic, Nicolai Ouroussoff, called the building “essential to the city’s historical fabric” and flogged the Landmarks Commission some more.

Bob himself has not said a word about 2 Columbus Circle as chairman other than to reiterate the Commission’s official position: It hasn’t held a hearing because the building doesn’t rate one. His only other comments now on the record are the Bob and Laurie letters, obtained in a Freedom of Information request by preservation group Landmark West. Aside from his lamentation about the gathering insanity, he has mainly offered Laurie tactical help. In May 2003, under the heading “2 Columbus Circle—The Ox is in the Ditch,” Bob e-mails Laurie a Landmark West appeal to the troops to lobby a community board before it votes on the fate of the building: “Just so you know what they’re up to.” Later Laurie e-mails Bob letting him know her side won, “but I see trouble ahead.”

Bob replies, “Let me know how I can help on the trouble ahead.”

Landmark West has filed a lawsuit charging that Bob has colluded with Laurie and asking that he recuse himself from all future consideration of 2 Columbus Circle.

Ah, the craziness . . .

As recently as six months ago, a member of the Landmarks Commission, Richard Olcott, an architect, had e-mailed Bob about a Museum of Arts and Design symposium to be attended by prominent architects. “I think you should call up Laurie Beckelman and get her to strongarm every invitee on this list to write a letter about it. The design community needs to speak up and stop this madness put out by the Taliban.” A Talibanista in his book: Landmark West.

The craziness . . . and now madness on top of craziness . . .

Asked for a response to the lawsuit and the World Monuments Fund’s concern about 2 Columbus Circle, Bob replied via an e-mail from a spokesman, “Three landmark chairs, under two administrations, have carefully considered this issue and determined not to proceed with the designation process. The World Monuments Fund listing contains no information that would change this decision.”

He declined to elaborate upon the Letters, since “this matter is under active litigation.” Laurie was not available for comment.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same

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 (Carrère & 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
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

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

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

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



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

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


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.