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 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 ( - 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 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 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

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

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

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, then go to and send Bloomberg a copy of your letter. As always, please make sure we also get a copy at

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.