Wednesday, February 29, 2012

UPDATE: A look at architectural renderings for new Tavern on the Green glass pavilion

Last week, LW! reported on the Landmarks Preservation Commission's (LPC) public hearing to consider both restoration work and a new addition at the iconic Tavern on the Green building, in Central Park.  

Following our post, we received from the project architects a copy of the final project rendering (see below; turns out the image sourced from was an early massing study).  

The project was approved by the LPC.  According to Dept. of Parks & Recreation staff who've presented at various public meetings and forums on this issue, the LPC-approved restoration work and glass pavilion are expected to be completed by mid-2013.

Rendering of final design for glass addition proposed (and approved)
for the Tavern on the Green building.
Photo: Swanke Hayden Connell Architects

Close-up view of area enclosed in yellow box, above.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

LW! Blog Reader Weighs In: "An excellent piece of Upper West Side heritage"

We sounded the call; Bonny K. answered!

Below, a neighbor's letter to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, echoing our call for the LPC to deny the application by a new restaurateur to demolish an existing mural that speaks to our neighborhood's layered history:

Dear Chair Robert Tierney and Landmarks Preservation Commission,

I wish to comment on the application to remove the mural at 71st and Columbus which is on the former site of Victor's Cafe.

I agree with the Landmark West request to keep the mural intact for all of the reasons they mentioned, plus a few more.

I love this mural and have enjoyed it and the flowers that were until recently planted in front of it. Looking at the pastoral scene of the cows eating the flowers while the young boy watched over them has been a lovely reason to walk by this corner for many years ...

Photo courtesy of Bonny K.

Most of what makes the Upper West Side so interesting is being dismantled piece by piece. The mural is not an eyesore at all (as Mr. Hunt states) but a lovely piece of art which many of the locals I've talked to love.

If Mr. Hunt and his partners want a hip night club ... he should have picked a site that already matched his style instead of dismantling this mural. The neighborhood has been better off with an empty storefront than a new neighbor who doesn't understand the neighborhood!

I understand that we can't preserve every artwork from the past but this strikes me as an excellent piece of the Upper West Side heritage.

Please join me in fighting the removal of this mural.

Thank you for expressing your concerns, Bonny.  And for sharing them with LW! and our blog readers!  We hope to post more personal testimonials -- just like this one! -- over the coming days.  Stay tuned for updates, and don't hesitate to add your own voice to this important discussion!

A Letter to Landmarks: Preserve the mural at former Victor's Cafe

Your neighborhood needs you!

As reported in our recent blog post, a new restaurant operator has applied to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to demolish the sculpted mural at 240 Columbus Avenue (formerly home to Victor's Cafe). This cultural artifact -- a reminder of the area's once-thriving Cuban population -- tells the important story of our neighborhood's layered history.

Victor del Corral, owner of Victor's Cafe (left) with
sculptor Arturo Martin (right), via NYTimes.
After learning about this issue in our most recent email, a concerned neighbor decided to register his support with the LPC, submitting the following via email (with a "cc" to LW!):

Please preserve the mural of the soon-ish to be opened CafĂ© Tallulah. As a long-time Upper West Side resident not only do I have fond memories of Victor's, but I believe the mural is part of the neighborhood's architectural heritage and a reminder of a moment in Upper West Side history, when Victor's Cafe was a popular destination for countless New Yorkers. 
                   ~ Sam S. 

The LPC has not yet voted.  Before it does, the 11-member Commission needs to know that we, the community, value the Victor's Cafe mural as a historical marker.  Follow Sam's lead; send in your email today!

Emails to the LPC can be directed to the attention of Chair Robert Tierney at  Tell the Chair what you think of the mural, share an anecdote about the heyday of Cuban culture at Victor's, or echo the comments we made in our testimony (available here).  Please be sure to "cc" LW! at

You can also learn about the mural via recent articles by the New York Times' City Room blog and DNA Info's Leslie Albrecht.

The LPC did not vote on the proposal last Tuesday for two reasons: (1) there was not a quorum of six Commissioners present, the required minimum number to permit a vote, and (2) the Commissioners in attendance directed the applicant and the LPC staff to dig deeper into the history of the mural.  

LW! is on the case, too!  Stay tuned for more updates.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Beyond Borders of the Upper West Side, Preservationists Sound the Call to Arms

Save Chelsea is calling on you -- on all of us! -- to join them in their efforts to protect Chelsea Market from inappropriate rezoning.  As they write in their online petition: 

The Chelsea Market complex, built in stages from the late 19th through the early 20th centuries as a factory for Nabisco, is a stunningly successful example of adaptive re-use, which respected the history of these buildings while giving them new life. This new plan would undo that respectful relationship, as these huge new additions would literally loom over the historic buildings as well as the nearby High Line park.

Learn more and add your name to the growing list of those we want to save Chelsea by clicking here!

UPDATE: As historic Tavern on the Green re-emerges, new addition threatens to obscure once more

Earlier this month, we reported on plans moving forward for the iconic Tavern on the Green restaurant in Central Park.  Since then, the action has moved from the field to the hearing room.

The City's multi-agency team and contracted architects have shopped their proposal for what is being termed the "shell and core" restoration of the building before Community Boards (including the West Side's own CB7 Preservation Committee, on February 9th) and, on Tuesday, the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).

Along with preservation colleagues like the Historic Districts Council (HDC) and Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts (connect with them here and here), LW! took to the podium before the LPC.  As we stated in testimony, "[t]he restoration of the Tavern on the Green to its former glory is an incredible contribution to the long history of this site." We're thrilled! Alas, "that restoration alone is not 'enough' and that an addition is also proposed is predictable" (copy our statement available here).

A glass pavilion has been proposed, to rise in the Tavern's Eastern courtyard, connecting to the historic building where once did the Crystal Room. provided a glimpse of the final design for said pavilion, posting it to their site at almost the exact time that the LPC review commenced.

Proposed addition for the Tavern on the Green, via
From LW's statement to the LPC:

LW! is not opposed to new design at the Tavern on the Green site in principle, but a legendary destination and a handsomely designed building such as this deserves something far more sympathetic; a quietly masterful note of our time. The pavilion proposed is a hefty glass-and-metal box that does nothing but hide what is most exciting about the building's primary facade: the East-facing central bay.

We're disappointed to report that the LPC ultimately approved the City's plan, glass box and all.

Read more from preservation advocates on this issue:
       - Statement of the Historic Districts Council (third project down, listed as "Item 9")
       - Statement of Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts

*Central Park, home to Tavern on the Green, was the City's first Scenic Landmark, designated by the LPC in 1974.  Learn more about the park and its history in the designation report. Up until now, and until work on the restoration begins, the Tavern on the Green building has served as a visitor's center (more here).

One Neighborhood; Many Histories: Protecting the layered history of 240 Columbus Avenue

240-242 Columbus Avenue, at the time of its inclusion in the designation of the
Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District (1990),
via the LW! Online Building Database
Where the tastes and culture of Cuba once reigned supreme, a French wine bar/bistro hopes to soon open its doors.  But at the expense of our neighborhood's rich, multi-faceted cultural history.

Both the past and future of 240 Columbus Avenue were the subject of significant debate at the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) on Tuesday.  Specifically: to preserve or to demolish a circa-1980 mural depicting a young man and oxen in a sugar cane field (pictured below in 1990 and today). 

Victor's Cafe, 1990. (Photo: Landmarks Preservation Commission
designation report for the UWS/CPW Historic District.

Left: 71st Street frontage; Right: Columbus Avenue frontage. Both present day.
(Photo: LW!)
The mural "is emblematic of a notable moment in this neighborhood's larger history. LW! believes strongly that it is the layered quality of our neighborhood that adds richness and character, and so preserving our layered history is important" (read LW's full statement here).  Victor's Cafe, former tenant of the restaurant space, commissioned the mural and is remembered by many as a pioneer among West Side dining establishments, as DNA Info's Leslie Albrecht reported.

Albrecht quoted author Peter Salwen: 

"He was the real pioneer in revitalizing Columbus Avenue, and for a long time the only one — before him there wasn't a single restaurant on the surrounding blocks, and in fact you would hesitate to walk on many of them after dark." 

Our colleagues at Historic Districts Council (HDC) also acknowledged Victor's Cafe's role in keeping "the Upper West Side a vibrant neighborhood during some of New York City’s toughest times."  For HDC's complete statement to the LPC, advocating to preserve the Victor's Cafe mural, click here (fourth project, listed as "Item 12"). 

Following testimony from LW!, HDC and other concerned members of the public, the LPC indicated that further research was needed on the history of the mural before they could render a decision.  The item will be brought back for discussion at a later public meeting; stay tuned for updates!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

MEMBER EXCLUSIVE: Behind the scenes tour of the American Folk Art Museum

Marino Auriti's "Encyclopedic Place of the World", via NYT
"Jubilation | Rumination" 
with Senior Curator 
Stacy C. Hollander 

Wednesday, Mar. 14
Reserve today!
Only 15 places available 

$35, Pre-Sale for LW! Members Only*

LANDMARK WEST! celebrates the relocation of the American Folk Art Museum, founded in 1961, to its new permanent home on the Upper West Side (2 Lincoln Square, Columbus Ave. at West 66th St.).

In the January 26, 2012 Arts section of The New York Times, Ken Johnson described "Jubilation | Rumination" as "a wonderful exhibition of works from the permanent collection" that "samples all varieties of artistic expression under the institution's purview, from traditional genres like portraits and quilts; sculptures made of bottle caps and similarly curious materials; and otherworldly fantasies drawn and painted by so-called Outsiders."

*LANDMARK WEST! members will get preference to purchase tickets until Monday, February 20, 2012 at close of business. Tickets will then become available to the general public. 

Email us ( or call us (212-496-8110) to reserve your place on the tour, check on your membership status, or to become a member today!

Stacy C. Hollander is Senior Curator and Director of Exhibitions at the American Folk Art Museum. She was most recently project coordinator for "Infinite Variety: Three Hundred Years of Red and White Quilts" presented by the American Folk Art Museum at the Park Avenue Armory (2011). Hollander lectures and publishes widely and is a frequent contributor to scholarly magazines in the field. She was a presenter in the international conference "Folk Art and the Art Museum" organized by Tate Britain, Claverton Manor (Bath) and Compton Verney (2010). Hollander received her B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University, and her M.A. in American folk art studies from New York University.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On the Upper West Side, Love is in the Air

Cupid, you have competition this Valentine's Day!

Don your angel wings. Ready your quiver and bow. Grab your camera. This is your chance to tell everyone, "I Love this Landmark!" 

Starting today, LW! is asking you to join us in playing cupid as we identify the landmarks that make the Upper West Side so lovable! All it takes is a digital camera and your own inspiration.

Joining in on the Love Your Landmarks fun is easy -- get step-by-step instructions in our latest email. Check back here throughout the remainder of February to see what Upper West Side landmarks friends just can't get enough of.  Use the "LYL" label here on the blog to look back at submissions from 2011 and 2010, like the one from the Cafe 82 "Breakfast Club", or the outstanding Ansonia Hotel.  

Email your photo(s) to landmarkwest@landmarkwest.orgNow get out there and show us your love!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

For LW's Director of Education, It's "Back to School"!

Educating the Educator
A report from the field by Debi Germann, LW's Director of Education

4th grade students from P.S. 163 observing and sketching local architecture.
As the Dir. of Education for LANDMARK WEST!, I lead Keeping the Past for the Future, our youth education program that works with Upper West Side elementary schools to help young students discover the architecture and history of their own neighborhood.

On three Thursdays in January, I participated in a course at the Frick Collection, "On An Experience Of A Work Of Art," led by Rika Burnham, Head of Education at the Frick and noted leader in the field of museum education. 

Guided by philosopher John Dewey's theory of "an experience," where one feels a sense of fulfillment after observing, discussing, and learning about a work of art, Ms. Burnham led over twenty educators and art enthusiasts through after-hours workshops at the Frick Collection. 

Self-portrait of the artist Rembrandt,
via Art History.
At each of our evening sessions, we spent one hour observing and discussing a single painting, from a Rembrandt self-portrait to one of Degas' famed depictions of a ballet studio. We then analyzed the process that we used to gain a greater understanding of the piece

Although studying art is mostly an interpretive process, and looking at architecture is more black-and-white, the two can be taught in a remarkably similar manner. Observation, discussion, and the distribution of information are three important elements to having "an experience." This process is one that we use to bring the study of preservation to students through Keeping the Past for the Future.  

By observing, sketching, and getting information about local architecture, students come away with a better sense of their own neighborhood. They can look at the Ansonia the same way they look at a Rembrandt!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

In Central Park, Tavern on the Green to rise anew

Tavern on the Green, Central Park*
Tavern on the Green, the legendary dining destination inside Central Park at West 67th Street, will soon rise again.  But unlike the famously glitzy, high-priced restaurant of days gone by, the new Tavern on the Green (the name stays!) is set to be a casual, park-centric eatery that celebrates the historic architecture of the building and it's landmark landscape setting.

This past Tuesday, February 1st, the Dept. of Parks and Recreation (DPR), along with the Central Park Conservancy, the Department of Design and Construction, reps from Swanke Hayden Connell Architects, and others behind the project convened a site visit for all those interested in applying for the one-of-a-kind opportunity of operating a restaurant/bar at the Tavern on the Green site (currently serving as a visitors center).

From our office just down the way on West 67th Street, LW! scooted over to the Tavern site to hear and see for ourselves what the multi-agency vision for the new restaurant is.  And we weren't the only ones.  Dozens (50? 60?) of people flooded the terrace, where this summer food trucks reigned supreme.  In introductory comments, the DPR informed the crowd that the footprint of the former Tavern on the Green is to be reduced.  Earlier additions are to be demolished (the Crystal Room is already long gone) so that the U-shaped building at the core of the Tavern is all that remains.  With this in mind, we were taken in small groups to tour the building.

A stickered remnant of days gone by at the Tavern on the Green site in Central Park.*

Mirrored corridor inside the Tavern on the Green building.*
Following the short walk-through, a question-and-answer session took place.  As the morning's intended/primary audience was that of possible restaurant operators, rather than preservation advocates or design consultants, the majority of queries concerned HVAC allowances, storage availability, delivery access, and the like.  Though questions concerning intended landscape modifications did arise, they were not fully addressed.  They are expected to be a focus, rather, of the upcoming Community Board 7 Preservation Committee meeting, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 9th at 6:30PM (item No. 1).  This will be the West Side's first look at how the DPR and the Conservancy's vision of a reborn Tavern on the Green translates into landmark (both architecture and landscape) restoration and preservation.  Mark this important public meeting on your calendar!

The Feb. 1st site visit prompted quite a bit of press buzz; see and read for yourself:

*These photos familiar? Hopefully you saw them on our Twitter feed. For more from-the-field preservation updates, be sure to follow us!  See snaps like the one below, of graduate intern Ali K. doing site documentation of the Tavern.