Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Stable Row Update


The good news is that the room was packed to the gills (and into the hall) for today's public hearings at the Landmarks Preservation Commission on the former Dakota Stable and New York Cab Company Stable. Thanks to everyone who made a special effort (and we know that's everyone) to attend and testify. The quality and passion of your testimony was truly exceptional.

The somewhat anticlimactic news is that the Commissioners neither discussed nor voted on either of the designations. The hearing was closed at the completion of public testimony. According to Landmarks Chair Robert B. Tierney, the Commission will make its decision in a "timely fashion". A neighbor's attempt to obtain a clearer definition of "timely" yielded no more definite response. But, as Tierney made plain in his preamble to the hearing, the Commission confesses that it is powerless to stop the ongoing demolition work at the Dakota Stable. To quote Landmark West's testimony from this morning: "No power + no action = lost buildings." (A copy of our full testimony is copied below.)

To our knowledge, the record remains open. So, if you were not able to attend today's hearing, you can still submit testimony to
comments@lpc.nyc.gov. We will let you know as soon as we have more information to share.

Testimony of LANDMARK WEST!
Before the Landmarks Preservation Commission
Former New York Cab Company Stable (318-324 Amsterdam Avenue)
and Former Dakota Stable (348-354 Amsterdam Avenue)
October 17, 2006

LANDMARK WEST! is a not-for-profit community organization committed to the preservation of the architectural heritage of the Upper West Side.

Today’s hearing should be a celebration. Two buildings – the former New York Cab Company and the former Dakota Stable – that have been on preservationists’ radar screen for many years are finally getting their day in court. Twenty years ago, working with such architectural experts as former Landmarks Commissioner Sarah Bradford Landau and Columbia professor Andrew Scott Dolkart, LW! put these buildings on our landmark “wish list,” which we submitted to the Commission in 1986 and repeatedly since. In the past six months, public support has crescendoed as neighbors, elected officials, Community Board 7 and citywide preservation groups called for a hearing for both buildings. As of this morning, nearly 200 individuals have signed an online petition urging designation.

When I was thinking about this testimony last week, I had been prepared to wax poetic about the buildings’ graceful, round-arched windows, creative use of brick as ornament, and the lovely play of light off the richly textured, rose- and earth-colored façades.

But, as we all know from painful experience, in preservation timing is everything. And delay can be deadly. On the evening of September 20, days before the Commission voted to calendar these buildings, workers arrived at the Dakota Stable and removed some of its original, delicately arched, wood windows – a sad but not fatal blow to the façade. More severe damage was inflicted when, just this past Friday, more workers began dismantling the building’s beautiful, corbelled-brick cornice and decorative brick window surrounds. More destruction took place today, although it’s hard to tell where things stand because the building is shrouded in scaffolding, a permit for which was approved by the Department of Buildings four days ago, on October 13.

That both buildings more than meet the standard for landmark designation is, by now, beyond question. Therefore, today’s hearing will result in one of two outcomes:

1. The Commission will decide that it is too late for the Dakota Stable, the elements of the building that made it landmark-worthy have already been destroyed, and that nothing can be done but designate the Cab Company on its own – an excellent building but only part of a much more compelling ensemble;


2. The Commission will designate both the New York Cab Company and the Dakota Stable – and use every power it has to ensure that the architectural elements that have been destroyed on the very eve of designation are restored.

We are assured by counsel that the Commission has no authority to require restoration since the process is applicant – or owner – driven. Nor can the Commission override building permits issued prior to calendaring. Apparently, the Commission cannot even stop the Department of Buildings from issuing a scaffolding permit days before a scheduled public designation hearing.

So, does that leave us only with Option 1 – to designate the New York Cab Company alone and let the Dakota Stable go? We fervently hope not. Because that would serve as the final proof that the process is indeed owner-driven, not community- or public- or citizen-driven. And if an owner wants to avoid landmark designation, all he needs to do is pull a permit as a pre-emptive measure, whether or not he has good reason to use it.

Option 2 leaves us with something still far from ideal. At best, we get the shadow of an 1890s building, needlessly stripped in 2006, restored who knows when. Or perhaps it never gets restored. And that is perhaps the most fitting result of all – a scarred façade to serve as a daily reminder of what we have lost, a Landmarks Commission able to respond quickly and decisively to preserve buildings that clearly merit designation.

No power + no action = lost buildings. It’s as simple as that. So, let us all have the honesty and integrity to admit that the landmarks process is fatally flawed; that the Commission by its deliberate inaction in the face of strong designation evidence and support, has been complicit in the destruction of this landmark. And the Crawford Clothes building. And the Dorothy Day cottages. And P.S. 64. And how many more?

If this Commission, under this Mayor, really wants to salvage anything from the Dakota Stables, it will do one of two things:

Promptly calendar every building that you and your trusted experts reasonably believe warrants serious consideration for designation;

Promote legislation that will prevent owners from obtaining and acting on building permits intended solely to obstruct the landmarks process.

Both options would take valuable time and effort on the part of the Commission and its staff, but time and effort much better spent than on more hearings like today’s.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Demo Work at Dakota Stable


Brace yourself for ominous sights and sounds if you walk past the Dakota Stable building at 77th Street and Amsterdam today. Workers arrived this morning and, to neighbors' horror, began jackhammering off the building's beautiful, corbelled-brick cornice and decorative elements around the windows, as captured in the photographs below.

Such destruction, only days before the Landmarks Preservation Commission's scheduled public hearing to consider protecting the building as an official landmark, is a direct challenge to the landmarks process. It is all the more important to have an incredible turnout at the Tuesday, October 17, hearing, starting at 9:30 AM! The fate of the Dakota Stable and its neighbor, the former NY Cab Company, is in the Landmarks Commission's hands. They need to hear from you! Please also go to http://www.landmarkwest.org/stables.html and, if you haven't already, sign the online petition to show your support for landmark designation of both the Dakota Stable and the NY Cab Company! Please also express your support and concern to the Landmarks Commission and NYC Council Member Gale Brewer (please cc.

Hon. Robert B. Tierney, Chair
NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
Fax: 212-669-7955
Phone: 212-669-7888

Hon. Gale A. Brewer, City Council
Fax: 212-873-0279
Phone: 212-873-0282

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Change in Oct. 17 Landmarks Schedule


You marked your calendars - and probably bent over backwards - to attend the public hearings at the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) on Tuesday, October 17, 2006. Now, for reasons beyond Landmark West's knowledge or control, and LPC has changed its schedule for that morning (per the email below). PLEASE UPDATE YOUR CALENDARS AS FOLLOWS:

Former Dakota Stable and NY Cab Company buildings - Now scheduled to begin at 9:30 AM (not 11 AM as previously anticipated) on October 17. Location stays the same: Municipal Building, 1 Centre Street, 9th Floor (photo ID required).

Former Horn & Hardart Automat - Postponed! Mark it in for December 12 (using pencil, not ink) and stay tuned for more updates.

Last-minute changes like this put an unfortunate crimp in the public's ability to participate in the landmarks process. We hope you will still make every effort to attend on Tuesday and make your voice heard!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Petitions for Stables and Automat

Countdown to October 17 Landmarks Hearing on Stables and Automat

The big day is fast approaching. On Tuesday, October 17, 2006, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) will hold public hearings on three potential Upper West Side landmarks. The Automat hearing will begin at 9:30 a.m., and the stables hearings will begin at approximately 11 a.m. Please make sure your calendar is marked. In the meantime, here's what you can do to show the LPC your support (and through the wonders of technology, it couldn't be easier)...

Click on the links below to go to Landmark West's website, where you can SIGN ONLINE PETITIONS urging the LPC to approve the designation of:

  • The Former Dakota Stable and Former New York Cab Company Stable (http://www.landmarkwest.org/advocacy/stables.html) - These rare examples of “high-rise” commercial stables played a crucial role in New York’s history. New York's wealthiest residents often erected small, private stables for their horses and carriages. Middle-class people, on the other hand, used commercial stables for their livery, much the same way city residents use parking garages today. The former New York Cab Company Stable (C. Abbott French, 1888-89), at West 75th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, is a bold Romanesque Revival brick building. The more subtle Dakota Stable, at West 77th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, was designed by Bradford Gilbert, the architect of the Tower Building (1888), one of New York's most important early skyscrapers.

  • The Former Horn & Hardart Automat (http://www.landmarkwest.org/advocacy/automat.html) - Located on Broadway and West 104th Street in Manhattan, this joyous Art-Deco survivor was designed by F.P. Platt & Brother and built in 1930. Telltale signs of its former use include the façade’s monumental, arched show window (the better to reveal the technological marvels within) and ravishing polychrome terra-cotta ornamentation, which remain largely intact despite later storefront remodelings.

  • Please add your signature today!

    Tuesday, October 3, 2006

    Oct. 17 Hearings at LPC

    October 17, 2006: Big Day for Upper West Side Landmarks

    This is your chance! If you feel as though it's been a long time since you've testified at a public hearing on a potential Upper West Side landmark designation, then mark your calendar for Tuesday, October 17, 2006 (time tba). The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has scheduled no less than three designation hearings for that day, all on West Side items (see below). Your voice is needed at each one. Numbers and volume matter - a big turnout speaks for itself, so please attend, even if you don't plan to speak. Letters, faxes and emails count, too. Please show your support by contacting LPC Chair Robert B. Tierney,
    comments@lpc.nyc.gov, 212-669-7955 (fax). The hearings will take place at the Commission's headquarters, 1 Centre Street, 9th Floor (near City Hall, and you'll need photo ID). Wasn't it Woody Allen who said 85% of life is showing up?

    Up for potential designation...

    Former Dakota Stable, West 77th Street and Amsterdam Avenue (Bradford Lee Gilbert, 1894) and Former New York Cab Company Stable, West 75th Street and Amsterdam Avenue (C. Abbott French, 1888-89) - These rare examples of “high-rise” commercial stables played a crucial role in New York’s history. New York's wealthiest residents often erected small, private stables for their horses and carriages. Middle-class people, however, could not afford their own stables. Instead, they boarded their horses in commercial stables. Together, these two striking, Romanesque Revival-style buildings recall a time when the Upper West Side was just starting its transformation from farmland to urban neighborhood. They are anchors of 19th-century beauty that provide visual texture and historical continuity in our community. To see pictures and a sample letter, please go to

    Former Horn & Hardart Automat, West 104th Street and Broadway (F.P. Platt & Brother, 1930) - This is hearing #2 for one of the last surviving automat structures in New York City. Automats hold a special place in the cultural memory of New Yorkers. This joyous Art-Deco building features a monumental, arched show window and ravishing polychrome terra-cotta ornamentation. To see pictures and a sample letter, please go to

    It isn't every day that the LPC considers designating landmarks on the Upper West Side. In fact, it's been six years since PS 166, the CBJ Snyder-designed school on West 89th Street, became our neighborhood's 2606th landmark in 2000 (up from a mere 337 in 1985, can you believe it?!). Show your West pride! YOU can help ensure a good showing at the Oct. 17 hearings by circulating the attached flyers to friends and neighbors. Email them around (or send us a list of people you think would want to hear about this issue)! Print these flyers out to post in your building and local businesses! Help get the word out! See you on the 17th!