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 She said that two pledges in excess of $1 million had already been withdrawn.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?