Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Update: Progress in Communities' Effort to Preserve Preservation

Important steps were made towards reform of the NYC landmarks process at yesterday's City Council hearing on the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). Testimony touched on a range of concerns about the LPC's commitment to protect the city's historic places, including 2 Columbus Circle, Harlem's St. Thomas the Apostle Church, and the Far Rockaways' 1830s Mott House (recently demolished, without a hearing). For coverage in today's Daily News, click here. The Gotham Gazette is also running a feature story on "2 Columbus Circle and the Need to Preserve Preservation" by LANDMARK WEST! Executive Director Kate Wood (to read this, go here).

At the end of the 3-hour hearing, attended by close to 100 individuals and representatives of civic organizations citywide, Council Member Simcha Felder (Chair of the Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses) concluded that:

1) The landmarks process would benefit from an annual hearing to obtain communities' feedback;

2) The LPC's unequal treatment of applicants and community participants in public hearings is unacceptable and must be rectified immediately;

3) The staffing of the LPC is clearly inadequate.

Council Member Felder's comments recognize and affirm vital points raised in the report, Problems Experienced by Community Groups Working with the Landmarks Preservation Commission (coordinated by the Women's City Club and co-authored by 7 groups including LANDMARK WEST!), which was articulately presented to the Council by former Landmarks Commissioner Anthony M. Tung . To read the report, click here.

Council Member Bill Perkins also keenly observed that the LPC seems to be acting as a real estate development agency rather than a preservation agency.


Recognition of problems is always (but only) the first step towards solutions. You can help move the process forward by a) sending Council Member Felder a note of thanks for holding this important hearing (felder@council.nyc.ny.us , or fax 718-853-3858), and b) assisting us in gathering additional support for the Report . Already, less than 2 weeks after the report's release, 25 organizations from historic neighborhoods throughout the city have signed on to endorse its findings. If you represent or can suggest groups that would like to sign on, please email or call us (landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org , 212-496-8110).

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Alert for November 29th City Council Oversight Hearing


FROM: The Women's City Club of New York (Arts and Landmarks Committee)

PARTICIPATING GROUPS: Defenders of the Historic Upper East Side, Hamilton Heights-West Harlem Preservation Community Organization, Historic Districts Council, Landmark West!, Morningside Heights Historic District Committee, and the Society for the Architecture of the City.


When: Monday, November 29, 10:00 A.M.

Where: City Hall, large Council Chamber on second floor

In response to overwhelming public interest and concern, the City Council's Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses has scheduled a continuation of the October 20th oversight hearing on the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC).

Please plan to attend and testify on November 29! For those many of you who were prevented from participating in the first hearing due to insufficient accommodations, this is your chance to make your voice heard. Even if you were among the small number of people who were able to testify or submit written testimony on October 20, please come to show your continued support for meaningful improvements to the landmarks process.


There is a 2- to 3-minute time limit for testimony·

Please bring at least 10 copies of your written testimony to distribute to the Committee members

Topics may include a) the need for increased funding for the LPC; b) the need for greater transparency, responsiveness and opportunity for public input in the LPC's designation and regulatory processes; c) the importance of sustaining high standards in preserving our landmark buildings and neighborhoods; and/or other matters related to the administrative practices of the agency.

Please confirm that you will attend and send a copy of your testimony to mpfaelzer@wccny.org or 212-228-4665 (fax). With any questions, please call or email LANDMARK WEST!, 212-496-8110, landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org.


Laura Ludwig and Annette Rosen, Co-ChairsThe Arts and Landmarks Committee of the Women's City Club33 W. 60 th Street, New York, N.Y. 10023

Monday, November 8, 2004

2 Columbus Circle on Nation's Newsstand

Preservation Magazine Cover Story

Nation's Eye on 2 Columbus Circle...Still

For the cover story of its nationally circulated magazine, Preservation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation* asked four experts to discuss the value of preserving Edward Durell Stone's original 1964 design for 2 Columbus Circle.

Not surprisingly, each offered a multitude of insights on why 2 Columbus Circle should--or should not--be saved, underscoring the woeful delinquency of New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission for not having a public hearing to air these issues.

Here's what the experts had to say (for the introductory text, go here):

Philip Lopate, essayist: "When 2 Columbus Circle first opened, it stood across from another, more imposing white element, the New York Coliseum....Now that the Coliseum has been torn down, replaced by the Time-Warner complex, a 21 st -century glass-tower extravaganza, the context has changed significantly. The little white gallery has lost its big white sibling and looks bereft next to all that jazzy, opportunistic glass."

Robert A.M. Stern, architect: "Some critics say that New York is short on world-class buildings by world-class architects. Well, here is one that is full of ideas about site, image, history, and the freedom that comes with modernity. Transforming the building into the new home of the Museum of Arts & Design need not be done at the expense of Stone's design. Can we not live in the present and work with the past?"

Theodore H.M. Prudon, architect: "Perception is as important as reality, and few buildings have suffered from a history of misunderstanding more than 2 Columbus Circle....Many organizations are working very hard not only to save the building but also to help change the perception that many modern or modernist buildings are not important enough to save."

Witold Rybczynski, architectural historian and critic: "...it would be such a shame if 2 Columbus Circle were given a terra-cotta wrapping, or any other up-to-date alteration. Stone's building, though not a masterpiece, is something equally valuable--a rarity, representing an unusual and interesting moment in the history of architecture. It would be sad to lose it."

And even sadder to lose it because the agency responsible for protecting New York's irreplaceable architecture decided not to listen.

*The National Trust for Historic Preservation placed 2 Columbus Circle on its 2004 list of America's "11 Most Endangered Historic Places"

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Back to Local Politics: 2 Columbus Circle

Baby Boomers "Taking Revenge" on 1960's Architecture

In last Sunday's New York Times, writer Fred Bernstein honed in on a central paradox of society's present love-hate relationship with buildings like Edward Durell Stone's 2 Columbus Circle:

"In a society otherwise enamored of the styles of the 1960's, the architecture of that decade is rarely loved and frequently reviled. All over the country, 60's buildings are being torn down while much older buildings survive." For the full article, go here.

Buildings that may have value to future generations are falling victim to fleeting tastes, Bernstein suggests. "The charge to eliminate 60's buildings is, in many cases, being led by baby boomers who came of age in the 1960's [and want the opposite of what they knew]... Yet while wealthy institutions are erasing 60's buildings, architecture professionals and 20-somethings consider them hip."

But, as the fact that the NY Landmarks Preservation Commission still has not held a public hearing to even consider the value of preserving 2 Columbus Circle so clearly demonstrates, architecture professionals and 20-somethings do not hold the keys to the city's halls of power. Apparently not even Robert A.M. Stern, author of New York 1960, who argues that 2 Columbus Circle is "a landmark in the history of architectural taste." Not even those like former Landmarks Commissioners Gene A. Norman, Beverly Moss Spatt and Anthony M. Tung, who acknowledge disparate opinions on the building's merits, but believe the LPC has been derelict by not holding a public hearing.Will the powers that be succeed in obliterating the legacy of mid-century Modernism just as it stands on the cusp of re-evaluation and (heaven help us!) appreciation? The final chapter of this story remains to be written. Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 28, 2004

A Call for Volunteers

The West Side Newsrack Safety Committee is being formed to promote clean, safe and beautiful streetscapes by addressing the issue of the hazardous conditions posed by improperly placed and poorly maintained newsracks (newsboxes) in our neighborhood. The committee will seek to correct the dangers caused by newsracks impeding pedestrian sidewalk access and other problems created when they are improperly cleaned and maintained. The committee will initially take a census of newsracks in our community, while noting any noncompliance with relevant city regulations. If you are interested in volunteering with this group, please contact Landmark West! at 212-496-8110 or landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org with your contact information and availability.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Update: City Council Hearing on Landmarks Commission

City Council Hearing on Landmarks Evokes Passion and Substance

(For Daily News coverage, click here.)

Hundreds of preservationists attempted to participate in yesterday's City Council oversight hearing on the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), which was held in a small room on the 16th floor of an office building (rather than at City Hall). People lined the walls, spilled out the door, were herded into a cafeteria next to the hearing room (where they could neither see nor hear the proceedings), and waited for admission on a line that snaked through the building's lobby. Many who came to deliver testimony were turned away at the front desk.

Those who did make it into the hearing room witnessed an outpouring of both passion and substance. The hearing began more than half an hour late at 3:30 PM and was (inexplicably) adjourned at 5:30 PM, leaving time for only brief public testimony. But one speaker in particular, Former LPC Commissioner Anthony M. Tung , spoke for the majority when he cited "serious failures in the performance of [the LPC]." "These are long-standing problems, some growing worse in recent years, and to which neither the commission nor the mayor's office has responded." (To read his testimony, click here.)

Other speakers included Tom Wolfe, former LPC Chair Beverly Moss Spatt, former Council Member Ronnie Eldridge, and former Art Commission President Whitney North Seymour, Jr. , all of whom reiterated that something is clearly wrong with the Landmarks process as it is implemented. Unfortunately, current LPC Chair Robert B. Tierney was not present to hear public testimony - he departed after delivering his own statement.

The Chair of the Council's Landmarks Subcommittee, Council Member Simcha Felder, who scheduled the hearing, expressed surprise that so many people took an interest in the administrative procedures of the LPC. He promised to hold a second hearing to take additional public testimony. But time is of the essence! Please write to Chair Felder ( felder@council.nyc.ny.us) - especially if you tried to attend, but were not admitted - and let him know of your interest in participating in a second hearing. Also, please copy landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org so that we know you were there! We'll keep you posted on future dates...

Monday, October 18, 2004

REMINDER: Wed., 10/20, Special City Council Oversight Hearing on the Landmarks Preservation Commission


On Wednesday, October 20th at 3:00 PM, the NY City Council will hold a special oversight hearing on the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The hearing will be held in the 14th Floor Hearing Room at 250 Broadway which is across the street from City Hall Park. Your presence and support is vital!

Author Tom Wolfe will testify, almost exactly a year after his scathing two-part NY Times Op-Ed piece offering his take on why the LPC has failed to schedule a public hearing for 2 Columbus Circle :"[E]verytime the question of a hearing on 2 Columbus Circle came up, the landmarks commissioners, as I see it, dove under their desks, clapped their hands over their ears, cried out to their secretaries to shove history and the concept of landmarks preservation itself through the shredder, and hid."

Mr. Wolfe will also join us for a press conference starting at 1:30 PM on the steps of City Hall to highlight 2 Columbus Circle as a prime example of the LPC's murky process for deciding which buildings deserve hearings. NY City Council Member Bill Perkins will address this issue as it relates to still largely unprotected historic resources in Harlem, including St. Thomas, The Apostle Church. Please let us know if you are able to attend! Remember, in unity (and numbers!) there's strength.

Lapses like 2 Columbus Circle and St. Thomas Church don't happen in a vacuum. They are symptomatic of much deeper, systemic problems that, unchecked, will continue to undermine our Landmarks process. While this oversight hearing is no substitute for a true designation hearing for 2 Columbus Circle (or St. Thomas, or the proposed Douglaston Hill Historic District in Queens...the list goes on), YOU can help ensure that our message gets out loud and clear - NEW YORKERS DESERVE AN OPEN, DEMOCRATIC, AND RESPONSIVE LANDMARKS PROCESS! If you cannot attend this hearing, please send copies of your testimony to us at landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org or 212-875-0209 (fax). We will make sure that it's delivered into the right hands.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Make Your Voice Heard: Tell the City Council that Landmarks Matter!

Make Your Voice Heard: Tell The City Council That Landmarks Matter!

Three former Landmarks Commissioners (including two former Chairs) have written to Mayor Bloomberg and current Landmarks Chair Robert B. Tierney to urge a public hearing for 2 Columbus Circle. The response: SILENCE.

The time has come to hold the Mayor and Landmarks Commission accountable for their failure to act on 2 Columbus Circle and other worthy sites that need their protection. On Wednesday, October 20th at 3:00 PM , thanks to the leadership of Council Members Simcha Felder and Bill Perkins, the NY City Council will hold a specialoversight hearing on the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The hearing will be held in the 14th Floor Hearing Room at 250 Broadway which is across the street from City Hall Park. Your presence and support is vital!

We need your help to tell the Council that:

* 2 Columbus Circle deserves a public hearing before the LPC. In the words of NYT architecture critic Herbert Muschamp, the failure of the LPC to hold a hearing "raises the scary question of what other buildings the commission might choose to overlook in the future."

*The LPC needs increased funding and more staff to do its job. The agency's budget (now a miniscule $3.2 million) has been repeatedly diminished even as its workload has increased exponentially, undermining its ability to identify and protect historic resources.

*The LPC process must be transparent, open and responsive to public participation. Communities deserve full and equal stature in shapingthe future of their neighborhoods.

The last Council oversight hearing on the landmarks process was in the 1990s. There has never been a public landmarks hearing for 2 Columbus Circle. Now is our chance! A strong showing of support is critical. We must have a full room, with voices from all boroughs to drive home the point that preservation matters to all New Yorkers. Please consider testifying or simply attending the hearing. Your presence speaks volumes. Please inform us if you plan to attend!

Keep in mind that there is a three-minute time limit for individual testimony and plan to bring at least 10 copies of your written testimony. While there is no substitute for your presence at the public hearing, if you absolutely cannot attend, please send copies of your testimony to us at landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org.

We will make sure that it's delivered into the right hands.

See you Wednesday! Contact us with any questions: 212-496-8110 or landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org .

Friday, October 8, 2004

Former Landmarks Chair Urges Hearing for 2 Columbus Circle


"Don't let the 'Owners Opposition' issue become a standard in determining when to hold a Designation Hearing," wrote Gene A. Norman, architect andformerChair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), in a September 30, 2004, letter to current LPC Chair Robert B. Tierney. (A full copy of Mr. Norman's letter is attached.)

Citing hispersonal policy of not speaking out on Landmarks issues unless "prompted by a desire to prevent the Commission...from bringing harm to itself or to the Landmarks Law," Mr. Norman reminded Tierney that a public hearing would not compel the Commission to actually designate the building. In his words, "A Designation Hearing is a means of collecting information, it allows interested or knowledgeable members of the public an opportunity to speak for or against designation, it allows an owner to voice their concerns and most of all, it permits the full Commission membership, assisted by the LPC staff with preliminary research, to weigh the merits of the building after hearing all sides, and then reach a decision."

"A hearing may still result in demolition, but the Commission will have done a great service to the entire landmark designation process by its examination and by acting on the merits..." Hear, hear!


Mr. Norman sent his message to Tierney (with a copy to Mayor Bloomberg) in the same week as the NY Times published an article in which architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff linked the LPC's refusal to hold a public hearing with the Bloomberg administration's $2 million incentive to the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD)to complete its 2 Columbus Circle overhaul by 2007.

How very cozy. It appears Bloomberg and MAD want to limit participation in the future of 2 Columbus Circle to only a select few. Is this democracy? Not in our book. What it is, is irresponsible. It will damage the building and the Landmarks Law. It does a disservice to the people of New York. New Yorkers and their landmarks deserve better.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

NY Times Architecture Critic Weighs in on 2 Columbus Circle

2 Columbus Circle: New NY Times Architecture Critic Faults Mayor Bloomberg and MAD Design

"It seems that private interests are once again being favored above the broader public realm. [Edward Durell] Stone's design, and the people of this city, deserve more respect than this," writes NY Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff (see link to 10/4/04 NYT article below), connecting the dots between the Landmarks Commission's refusal to hold a public hearing for 2 Columbus Circle and the Bloomberg administration's development agenda.The Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) proposal to reclad the building doesn't pass muster on aesthetic grounds either. "The real aim of this design is to cleanse the site of uncomfortable historical memories and thereby make it more palatable for powerful real estate interests. And this is a dangerous sign for the future."

Dangerous signs, indeed.LANDMARK WEST! saw the sign last November, when we and colleague organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the City's waywardness on 2 Columbus Circle. Yesterday afternoon, we filed an appeal, signaling our commitment to ensuring that 2 CC receives the due process it deserves. Help us make sure Mayor Bloomberg gets the message: New Yorkers want to know, how many more buildings will he allow to be lost because of politics? Send letters in response to today's article to letters@nytimes.com, then go to http://nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mayor.html and send Bloomberg a copy of your letter. As always, please make sure we also get a copy at landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org.

Head's up: in late October, the NY City Council plans to hold a public hearing to address concerns about the functioning of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Your participation is vital! Stay tuned for specifics...

A link to the NY Times article by Nicolai Ouroussoff is here.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Former Landmarks says LPC "Turned Its Back" on 2 Columbus Circle

Former Landmarks Commissioner Outraged that LPC "Turned Its Back" on 2 Columbus Circle

Anthony M. Tung , a member of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) from 1979 to 1988, recently fired off a letter to current LPC Chair Robert B. Tierney, stating:

"Simply, in the 26 years of my involvement in preservation matters, beginning with my appointment as a commissioner by Mayor Edward I. Koch in 1979, I have never seen the commission turn its back on such a widely supported and substantive argument for a hearing."

Mr. Tung, an international preservation scholar and author of Preserving the World's Great Cities: The Destruction and Renewal of the Historic Metropolis , also pointed out that " the collective scholarly knowledge of those who defend Two Columbus Circle is far in excess of any equitable test for calendaring. In fact, a sizable percentage of the protected structures of New York, several thousand buildings, fail to have had been as thoroughly validated upon designation." (To read a full copy of his letter, click here.)

Are these architects, historians, planners, professors, critics, and engineers all blind, he muses, or is the LPC being arbitrary and capricious?

Mr. Tung has received no response as yet to his August 30, 2004, letter. Further evidence that the LPC intends to continue ignoring the public in order to facilitate a multi-million dollar institutional development that will destroy the very heritage our Landmarks Law was designed to protect. Is this democracy? Not in our book. Your elected officials need to hear from YOU - again! Urge them to take immediate action to make sure 2 Columbus Circle receives a public hearing before the LPC!

NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg,http://nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mayor.html, 212-788-2460 (fax)

NYC Council Member Gale A. Brewer,gale.brewer@council.nyc.ny.us, 212-513-7717 (fax)

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer,http://schumer.senate.gov/webform.html, 212-486-7693 (fax)

U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton,http://clinton.senate.gov/email_form.html, 202-228-0282 (fax)

U.S. Congressman Jerrold Nadler,http://www.house.gov/nadler/emailform.shtml, 212-367-7356 (fax)

NYS Senator Liz Krueger,liz@lizkrueger.com, 518-426-6874 (fax)

NYS Assemblyman Richard Gottfried,gottfrr@assembly.state.ny.us, 212-243-2035 (fax)


NYC Council William Perkins,perkins@council.nyc.ny.us, 212-442-2732 (fax)

U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel,http://www.house.gov/writerep/, 202-225-0816 (fax)

NYS Senator Tom Duane,DUANE@senate.state.ny.us, 212-564-1003 (fax)

NYS Assemblyman Scott Stringer,Scott@scottStringer.com, 212-873-6520(fax)

Make sure to send a copy of your letter to LANDMARK WEST! landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org, F: 212-875-0209.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

City Approves Sale of 2 Columbus Circle

Dog-Day Decision Debacle: Manhattan Borough Board Votes to Sell 2 Columbus Circle

Let's start with the good news. Back in June, we set a summer goal to reach 1,000 names on the list of people urging the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to schedule a public hearing for 2 Columbus Circle. Last week, we surpassed that goal! Notably, Council Member Bill Perkins* signed on in support of a Landmarks hearing, and his representative at yesterday's Manhattan Borough Board meeting tried to persuade the Board to postpone its vote on the sale of the building until such a hearing could be scheduled, or at least until after Labor Day, when more New Yorkers could participate in the Board's decision-making process.

Now, let's face the bad news. The Manhattan Borough Board voted to approve the sale of 2 Columbus Circle to the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), meaning that plans to destroy the building are closer than ever to becoming a reality.

Even worse, Borough President C. Virginia Fields's refusal to postpone the Board's vote suggests the low value placed on public participation in the review process. Disregarding the objections of over 100 individuals who signed on to a letter protesting the scheduling of this meeting in the dog days of summer, days before the arrival of the Republican National Convention, when many New Yorkers have longstanding plans to be away, the Board plowed ahead...so recklessly that it appears they failed to comply with the State Open Meetings Law. Most Board members sent staff proxies - indeed, Fields herself was not even there - with marching orders to follow the lead of Council Member Gale Brewer, in whose district 2 Columbus Circle is located and who announced her support for the Museum's destructive plans earlier this month. A pre-formulated resolution in favor of the sale was passed with no amendments. It was, sadly, business as usual.

Is the Lollipop Building licked? Not on your life. There has been no final decision on the lawsuit LW! and others filed to halt the sale, and the City has committed enough missteps to justify more legal action. Stay tuned...

*Other elected officials who signed on to support a public Landmarks hearing include: NYS Senator Tom Duane, NYS Assemblyman Scott Stringer, and former NYC Council Member Ronnie Eldridge. Only Council Member Perkins has a vote on the Manhattan Borough Board.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

2 Columbus Circle: City Poised to Approve Sale

August Dog Days Sneak Attack: City Set to Decide on Sale of 2 Columbus Circle

After a year of unexplained delays, the City is poised to give final approval to the sale of 2 Columbus Circle. On August 24, at 8:30 AM, the Manhattan Borough Board will convene to authorize a plan that will utterly destroy Edward Durell Stone's original 1964 design, which leading preservationists at the city, state, and national levels all agree deserves at least an open, public hearing to determine its merits for landmark status. To date, over 1000 individuals and organizations have signed on to urge the NYC Landmarks Commission to schedule this hearing. Our pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

2 Columbus Circle deserves the chance for survival that a fair and due process is supposed to provide. The message we've received - loud and clear - has been, "Due process be damned!"

If this sounds extreme, just remember - common NYC political wisdom has it that scheduling a hearing on a major public issue during the last week of August is a deliberate effort to avoid meaningful public participation. Many community supporters of preserving 2 Columbus Circle are not able to attend Tuesday's meeting (the second to last week before Labor Day, the week before the Republican Convention takes over NYC). Those of us who are in town feel strongly that we should not dignify this farcical meeting with our presence. Therefore, we plan to send down a single spokesperson to read the statement below. As one of the 1000 advocates for 2 Columbus Circle to receive the due process it deserves, please email us and let us know that you would like to co-sign this statement.

In unity, there's strength! Please contact us immediately: landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org or 212-496-8110.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

2 Columbus Circle: And Still the Fight Goes On

Court Denies City's Attempt to Rush Judgment on 2 Columbus Circle

Late last week, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court preliminarily rejected efforts by the City to rush the legal process that could decide the future of 2 Columbus Circle. Under court rules,Landmark West! and colleagues, who filed suit last November contesting the building's sale because an inadequate environmental review neglected to identify it as a significant historic resource, have until early 2005 to file our appeal. As of now, that schedule still holds. And we fully intend to file.

The City's Friday morning sneak attack is the merely the latest in a series of maneuvers to derail the swelling campaign to preserve Edward Durell Stone's famous 1964 design. Last week, the Economic Development Corporation notified the Manhattan Borough President's office that it would seek an August 19 hearing before the Borough Board, a last step in transferring ownership of the site to the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD). Mid-August hearings are a classic political gambit to squeeze through decisions that would otherwise engender huge public debate. An attorney representing MAD told a state judge that the Museum had been stymied in its efforts to raise funds due to the possibility of LW's obtaining a reversal in its suit. She said that two pledges in excess of $1 million had already been withdrawn.

Meanwhile, support for ensuring that 2 Columbus Circle receives the public Landmarks hearing it deserves is stronger than ever. The National Trust for Historic Preservation , the Preservation League of New York State , the Historic Districts Council , DOCOMOMO , the Municipal Art Society, the New York Landmarks Conservancy , Robert A.M. Stern, Tom Wolfe, Senator Tom Duane, Chuck Close, Frank Stella, Jonathan Adler, Barry Bergdoll, Jeffrey Bilhuber, Michael Bruno, Andrew Cogan, Frank De Biasi, Joan K. Davidson, Todd Eberle, Michael Formica, Françoise Gilot-Salk, Milton Glaser, Bob Hiemstra, Mary Anne Hunting, Barbara Jakobson, Reed & Delphine Krakoff, Gene Meyer, the Very Rev. James Parks Morton, Carlos Mota, Liz O'Brien, James Zemaitis, Alan Rosenberg, Jill Rudnick, Michael Sorkin, Ken Smith, Alan Wanzenberg, Hicks Stone and Edward Durell Stone, Jr. The list goes on. Way on.

MAD and the City would like for this whole issue to just go away, but it won't. The eyes of the nation are on them.

And if you've read this far, you might as well keep reading. Don't miss this week's issue of the West Side Spirit and Christopher Moore's front page coverage of the continuing battle for the future of 2 Columbus Circle. To read it, click here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

2 Columbus Circle: In Style

Preservationists in Style, Museums in the Doghouse

Some of you may have caught the New York Times' coverage of the June 29 cocktail party and auction to benefit the Save 2 Columbus Circle Fund . This swank affair, which raised over $50,000 to support our ongoing campaign to preserve Edward Durell Stone's unique 1964 building, inspired three separate features in the July 4edition. Between Anemona Hartocollis's "tongue-in-chic" piece, "Preservationist Chic: What Would Tom Wolfe Do?," which captured the front page of the City Section, to Bill Cunningham's photographs of party-goersin the Sunday Styles section, we were covered from head to toe.

Meanwhile, we continue to build a roster of names - the Silent Majority - of people who support a public hearing before the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. ***If you believe that 2 Columbus Circle deserves at least a hearing to decide whether it merits protection as an official NYC Landmark, simply reply "YES!" to this e-mail.*** We will publish the names soon but, for now, trust us when we say that you'll be in excellent company. (If you would like a copy of the list in formation, please let us know!)

But enough of the boldface spin. Michael Kimmelman's July 11 Times article, "New York's Bizarre Museum Moment," is required reading for anyone who cares about the future of 2 Columbus Circle, or indeed our city's cultural institutions.If you missed it, it is still available here.

Kimmelman's chilling indictment of NYC museums and their "identity crises" suggests a diagnosis for the malady afflicting the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD),the would-be occupant of 2 Columbus Circle,driving them to eradicate rather than restore an irreplaceable work of mid-century Modernism. According to Kimmelman, "many of the most important museums in New York...are grappling with identity, and some of them have clearly begun to lose track of their priorities," heedlessly disposing of valuable artworks and using fashionable architects du jour to expand their buildings. Museums, he writes, "still set standards of aesthetic quality... To do so, however they must attend to one profound obligation: to cherish and preserve culture for posterity."

Both MAD and the Landmarks Commission fall short by Kimmelman's way of reckoning, and ours. What about Mayor Bloomberg?

Friday, June 11, 2004

Two Columbus Circle: Do the Wright Thing

According to yesterday's New York Times ("Guggenheim Reviving Its Main Asset: Itself" by Carol Vogel - see it here), architect Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic, once-controversial design forthe Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (Fifth Avenue at 88th Street) is about to get a "facelift."

Don't panic! Unlike Edward Durell Stone's 2 Columbus Circle , the Guggenheim is a designated NYC Landmark. Moreover, Guggenheim director Thomas Krens says, "The care and preservation of the Frank Lloyd Wright building has been a priority for us." A board member calls the structure "the most important piece of art in the collection."

Like 2 Columbus Circle, the Guggenheim attracted huge crowds and much controversy over its design when it opened in 1959. Like 2 Columbus Circle, the Guggenheim needs a little TLC (as do most half-century-old buildings). Like 2 Columbus Circle, the Guggenheim is a provocative building designed by a mid-century Modern master specifically to house a museum - therefore, like 2 Columbus Circle, the structure is almost windowless.

In a statement calling for the preservation of 2 Columbus Circle, architect and historian Robert A.M. Stern wrote: "No one will disagree that Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum is a masterpiece, though a highly idiosyncratic one to say the least....[T]here was a strong, mutually acknowledged kinship between Frank Lloyd Wright and Edward Durell Stone, whom many thought was the master's leading disciple. Ed Stone was a very important architect and that the Gallery of Modern Art is one of his masterworks. The value of Stone's work is only now coming to be re-appreciated."

***Go to www.save2columbus.org and click on "Get Involved" to send Mayor Bloomberg, the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the Museum of Arts and Design email "postcards" telling them to do the Wright thing ! Where there's a will, there's a way!

Friday, June 4, 2004

Two Columbus Circle - The Next Ladies Mile?

More headlines for the Lollipop Building (a.k.a. 2 Columbus Circle)!

In her article in yesterday's New York Times (see below), columnist Joyce Purnick took her second shot at architect Edward DurellStone's plucky, portholed building . She portrays the structure's would-be destroyer, the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), as the victim of lawsuits and public outcry that may ultimately scare them away. Preservationists, she suggests, would have blood on their hands.

MAD's lack of vision for 2 Columbus Circlehas always beendisturbing. Even more astonishing is Purnick's short - or selective - memory. Does she forget the 1986 New York Times editorial that championed the preservation efforts of a small group called the Drive to Protect the Ladies' Mile, calling them "the best friends a neighborhood can have"? Back then, the Real Estate Board of NY responded swiftly with a letter to the Timeseditor claiming that creating the Ladies' Mile Historic District would have a "chilling effect" on renovations in the area. Today, Ladies' Mile is one of the city's most vibrant shopping districts - its historic architecture still happily intact, proving that time and rational consideration are often the friends of preservation and revitalization.

In short,Ladies' Milehas come full circle. Mayor Bloomberg and his landmarks commission would do New York a huge service by giving 2 Columbus Circle the chance to follow suit.

Don't let Purnick have the last word! We're writing letters to the Times editor, and so should you! Give them a piece of your mind by e-mailing letters@nytimes.com . Then, visit www.save2columbus.org and also send your message to Mayor Bloomberg, Landmarks chair Robert B. Tierney, and MAD director Holly Hotchner. Only asmall number of New Yorkers care about saving 2 Columbus Circle? Prove them wrong!

To read the Joyce Purnick article, click here.