Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Amsterdam Houses Exhibit

Come celebrate with us!

We are pleased to announce a special exhibition and reception saluting the history of Amsterdam Houses and featuring the work of John Jay College of Criminal Justice students. This event is the product of a six-month collaboration with John Jay, the Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center, the LaGuardia Archives at LaGuardia Community College and Landmark West.

Date: Thursday, December 21, 2006

Time: Noon to 1:30 p.m.

Location: Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center, 250 West 65th Street (between Amsterdam and West End Avenues)

As part of our continued advocacy for landmark designation, Landmark West has worked with John Jay College to raise greater awareness for the cultural, historical and architectural significance of Amsterdam Houses. We look forward to updating you on this project in 2007.

Amsterdam Houses is a significant example of public housing built immediately following World War II according to plans by prominent New York City architects Grosvenor Atterbury, Harvey Wiley Corbett and Arthur C. Holden, together with landscape architects Gilmore D. Clarke and Michael Rapuano. Originally home to many returning World War II veterans, Amsterdam Houses was unique from the start for its ethnic diversity. Today, it stands as one of the last publicly funded housing developments “to define open space along Classically inspired lines and to exhibit brickwork that was carefully detailed to create simple ornament,” according to New York City historian Robert A.M. Stern (New York 1960, p677).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

104th Street Automat Listed With amNewYork's Top Ten NYC Endangered Buildings

In its December 18, 2006 issue, amNewYork selected the 104th Street Horn and Hardart Automat as one of its Ten Endangered Buildings in New York City. This follow-up story from December 19 includes an account of the December 12, 2006 Landmarks Preservation Commission public hearing. LPC has not scheduled a vote to determine the building's landmark status.

Fans try to save Automat
Special to amNewYork
December 19, 2006

Some of Susan Dessel's favorite childhood memories are of day trips into New York, when, between museum visits, she would lunch with her parents at a Horn & Hardart Automat.

"It was so exciting to put a coin in the slot and get food, it was so different from anything else," said Dessel, an artist who was about 7 years old at the time. "They were absolutely wonderful in every way."

Dessel, 60, was among a procession of people who lined up last week to urge the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to landmark one of New York's last Horn & Hardart buildings on Broadway and 104th Street, two blocks from where Dessel has lived for 30 years. The building's Art Deco design, still undamaged under the Rite Aid Pharmacy sign that now covers it, is a remnant of New York culture in the 1920s and 1930s, advocates said.

"I think it is important to look at this building as a major example of the vernacular popular architecture of this time," said Andrew Dolkart, a Columbia University professor of historic preservation, at the Landmarks Preservation hearing on Dec. 12.

The automat at 104th Street was built in 1930, at the peak of Horn & Hardart's popularity. Automats were the city's first fast food joints, where customers slipped change into slots to get their meals. Their numbers reached into the 50s in the 1930s and 1940s, and the last one closed in 1991, said Marianne Hardart, co-author of "The Automat" and great-granddaughter of Horn & Hardart co-founder Frank Hardart.

Many of the automats have since been built over or altered beyond recognition, said Kate Wood, executive director of Landmark West!, which advocates preservation on the Upper West Side. The 104th Street automat's multi-color terra-cotta decorations and large front windows remain intact, she said. Landmark West! added the structure to its designation wish list in 1985.

Rite Aid now occupies the building's ground level and two nonprofits rent the upstairs floors.But not everyone who spoke at the hearing did so in favor of landmark status.

Norma Teitler, 83, bought the building with her husband about 50 years ago, after the automat had closed and the Teitlers had opened a Foodarama supermarket in it.

"Making it a landmark it will devalue it, and I don't think it's fair," said Teitler, who worries about bearing the cost of maintaining a historic site. "If you look at that building, you will see it is no longer an automat, nor do you see a supermarket."

Owners of landmark sites must get the commission's approval on any work they plan to do and are required to keep the structure in good condition.

The commission has not yet voted on whether to make the automat a landmark. With the current development of the Upper West Side and new condominium buildings going up, many at the meeting hope the building is protected.

"This is one of the last undeveloped areas of New York," said Carol Goodfriend, found of the 104th Street Block Association. "To allow it to be torn down will dramatically alter the sense of light and space on the block."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Threats to Landmarked Buildings in DOB Database

Read on for a New York Times story about major errors in the Department of Buildings database. As you will see, seemingly minor errors can lead to major problems for landmarked buildings. LANDMARK WEST! would like to address this problem and is looking for a volunteer to take on the project. We would love to hear from you!

The New York Times
December 3, 2006
New York Up Close
For Want of an 'L' ...

IN the dossier of information for each property listed with the city's Department of Buildings, there are arcane references that might mystify themost seasoned New Yorkers. Is the building "Little E Restricted" or "UB Restricted"? Does it have a grandfathered sign or qualify for "Legal Adult Use"?

But some people pore through such documents avidly, among them Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. This fall, Mr. Berman's organization conducted a survey of allthe buildings within the 100-block Greenwich Village Historic District, created in 1969.

In doing so, members of the group discovered that of the 2,200 buildings inthe district, the records for 337 of them had not automatically been given the notation "L - Landmark," the indication that a building is a protected property. As a result, at least in theory, there was nothing to prevent them from being altered or even torn down."

We were shocked by this," Mr. Berman said. "Even in a 35-year-old historic district, about 15 percent of the buildings had never been marked as landmarks."

Officials of the group first noticed a problem after the nearby Gansevoort Market Historic District was established in 2003. While many properties inthe new district were immediately given the "L" notation in the city's Buildings Information System, some weren't; in one case, on Little West 12th Street, that resulted in the installation of a billboard on the side of a building.

Mr. Berman and his colleagues set out to see if the same was true in the larger Greenwich Village district. They discovered that among the buildings not properly identified as landmarks were a row of 1840s Greek Revival houses along Washington Square North. Along West 11th Street, 28 buildings were not identified as landmarks, nor were 18 of 25 stables-turned-residences on Washington Mews.

Two weeks ago, after receiving a list of the 337 properties, the LandmarksPreservation Commission said that all of them had since been properly designated. The Buildings Department also said that it was working to correct the problem."

Landmarks brought this to our attention," said Jennifer Givner, a Buildings Department spokeswoman, "and we're working to make sure that all designated buildings have that notation in our system."

Concerns about the issue are not limited to the Village. In the waterfront neighborhood of Douglaston, Queens, similar problems were noted as soon as part of the area became a historic district in 1997."

Every once in a while a property would come up," said Kevin Wolfe, vice president of the Douglaston/Little Neck Historical Society, "and the owner would see that it was not listed as a landmark and get permits, and off he'd go."

Random checks of historic districts in other parts of the city confirmed that the problem exists elsewhere. In Brooklyn, for example, on Garfield Place in the Park Slope district, 8 of the 91 properties that should have been logged as landmarks were not. The problem, said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, a nonprofit advocacy group, often lies with the Buildings Information System, which is not necessarily equipped to handle streets and addresses from centuries past.

"Once you get off the standard grid, which in many of the historic districts you do, it becomes increasingly possible to miss an address - or it was never entered correctly," Mr. Bankoff said.

An examination of the Department of Buildings records for the GreenwichVillage district last week showed that only two of the properties in question remained unmarked. Nevertheless, 17 properties that had previously been identified as landmarks did not bear that designation. Mr. Berman's response was simply to sigh. "

I'm almost speechless," he said. "This should be the easy part."

Holy Beauty!

Manhattan resident Hillary Ferguson responds to Arianne Cohen's New York Magazine article, "Joachim's Temptation" (New York Magazine, Nov 27 2006):

Published in New York Magazine, December 11, 2006

To the Editor:

REGARDING ARIANNE COHEN'S article on the possible future of the First Baptist Church on West 79th Street [Intelligencer: "Joachim's Temptation," November 27]: When I moved to the city two years ago, I spent two nights in a hotel near the church. After wandering around Central Park, I returned to my hotel in the late-summer dusk and was stopped in my tracks by the warm glow of the church's stained glass. This remains one of my favorite and most soothing views in the city. A church is not merely a beautiful fa├žade, and, as W. Lawrence Joachim, president of the church's board of trustees, noted, the building may not be "an end unto itself." However, in this busy city full of faceless buildings and crowded sidewalks, the church offers a pleasant reprieve to those passing by.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Free Music at Apple Bank

Come Enjoy Free Music in a Remarkable Landmarked Interior!

"The Central Savings Bank (now The Apple Savings Bank), built in 1926-28, is one of the most impressive and dominant features of upper Broadway."

The Apple Bank for Savings is presenting a series of free recitals to be held within their landmarked Banking Hall, located at 2100 Broadway at 73rd Street. The recitals are open to the public and limited open seating is available. The next recital will be on Friday, December 15th, from 2:00-3:00. Additional performances will be held on Wednesdays and Fridays from 2:00pm - 3:00pm.

Recitals will feature young talent from Mannes College, which is part of The New School. For more information about Mannes concerts, visit

The bank's exterior was designated a landmark in 1975 and its interior was designated in 1993.

Read on to learn more about the impressive interior and exterior of The Apple Bank building at 2100 Broadway!

"The Central Savings Bank, built in 1926-28 (designed by York & Sawyer), is one of the most impressive and dominant features of upper Broadway. The building is six stories high, including the monumental story of the banking room, and it is faced with exceptionally handsome blocks of rusticated limestone. As a freestanding building, it is visible from all four sides, and three sides are accented by the tall arched windows which light the main banking room."

"This bank interior is one of the most impressive in the corpus of bank buildings from the York & Sawyer firm and an outstanding example of the best of the academic classical architectural tradition."

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Dec. 12 LPC Hearing for 104th St. Automat

If you care about the future of the 104th Street Automat, there are four
easy things you can do:

1. Mark your calendar:

Save the date for public hearing for the former H&H Automat, 2710 Broadway at West 104th Street. The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has scheduled the hearing for Tuesday, December 12 at 10 a.m. Check the LPC website for the most up-to-date information: (Hearing location: 1 Centre St., 9th Floor)

A strong turnout at the hearing will show the LPC how deeply the neighborhood values this building and its place in New York culture and history.

2. Send letters of support to LPC:

Hon. Robert B. Tierney, Chair

NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

1 Centre Street, 9th Floor, NYC 10007


Fax: 212-669-7955

Phone: 212-669-7888

For sample letters, please visit our website:

Read the LPC statement of significance (below) for additional ideas.

3. Sign the online petition:

Visit our website or Email the link to others who care about the Automat's future.

4. Stay tuned for "Automat-ic Pie"

We are as pleased as punch that grassroots musical activist, singer-songwriter and neighbor Mark Foley was inspired to write "Automat-ic Pie" about the 104th Street H&H Automat. The lyrics are below, and we will add an MP3 recording of this musical treat to our website later this week.

Automat-ic Pie


Cherry pie, you and I

It was automat-ic

When I walked by

With a stack of nickels

And a piece of time

I had my pie

And I made you mine

But some good things

Don't seem to last

And our love went the way

Of that Automat



Hopper might have painted it as Boggie walked by

They probably got some pictures in the MOMA archive

Streamlined stainless, chromed so cool

It looked so sounded good too

'Cause the slide of those nickels opened your door

And brought me the lovin' that I lived for(at the Automat)


Let me tell you sugar, it was a time so sweet

With your flaky crust on that cherry treat

You're always in the mood to meet my needs

But when I bit on you, you got the hold on me

And if you'd come back, you'd find it's true

I'd build an Automat for me & you(for me and you)


The automat's gone and a drug store's there

But it don't have a potion to ease my cares

There's even talk to tear the whole place down

That would make it worse since you're not 'round

My just desserts turned to vinaigrette

But I'll always cherish the place we met(that's the Automat)

Copyright 2006 Mark Foley 917.776.8948

Landmarks Preservation Commission Statement of Significance for 2710-2714 Broadway



The 3-story, limestone-clad Horn & Hardart Automat-Cafeteria Building located at 2710-2714 Broadway (at West 104th Street) is one of the most distinctive small-scale commercial buildings in New York City executed in the Art Deco style, and is, in particular, one of the best surviving examples of the popular chain restaurants that proliferated in the city during the first three decades of the 20th century. In 1927, the Horn & Hardart Co. became the leaseholder of this site, which was owned by George W. Walker. The structure, originally two stories plus mezzanine, was constructed in 1930 to the design of the firm of F[rederick]. P[utnam]. Platt & Brother [Charles Carsten Platt], specialists in building alterations who executed numerous New York commissions for the Horn & Hardart Co. from about 1916 to 1932. By 1927, F.P. Platt & Bro. had developed a design prototype for purpose-built Horn & Hardart automat-cafeteria buildings that assisted the restaurant chain in achieving a consistent commercial image. The Horn & Hardart Co., established in 1911, was the New York subsidiary of the Horn & Hardart Baking Co. of Philadelphia, Pa., which had been incorporated in 1898 by Joseph V. Horn and Frank A. Hardart, lunchroom proprietors since 1888. In 1902, Horn & Hardart opened their first waiterless Philadelphia restaurant, or "automat," in which customers could retrieve food directly from windows after depositing nickels in European-made equipment. The first New York automat opened in 1912, with American machinery, at No. 1557 Broadway in Times Square.

Automats, known for uniformly good food at low cost, became wildly popular and one of the city's cherished democratic institutions, appealing to a wide clientele.

This Horn & Hardart Automat-Cafeteria Building is made notable by its glazed polychrome Art Deco style terra-cotta ornament on the third story. Executed in hues of green, blue, tan, and gold luster by the Atlantic Terra Cotta Co., it is located on sills, panels above the windows, stylized pilaster capitals, and the building's terminating band. The highly sophisticated panels feature stylized floral motifs and zigzag patterns; the modeler of these panels is not yet identified, but the work is strikingly similar to that of preeminent architectural sculptor Rene P. Chambellan.

Horn & Hardart remained a tenant on the ground story and mezzanine of this building until 1953. The mezzanine level interior was remodeled as a full story in 1955. There have been a wide variety of commercial and organizational tenants over the years. While the current groundfloor storefront covers historic elements, visible above this are the upper portion of the original central segmental arched opening (with a fluted molded granite surround with a keystone) and the top of the bronze entrance portal and molded bronze spandrel.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Tom Wolfe's Op-Ed Provokes a Rebuttal from Landmarks Commission Chair Robert B. Tierney

Tom Wolfe's New York Times op-ed piece (a two-page spread in the Sunday, November 27, edition) clearly struck its target. And a few nerves. See Tierney's letter to the Times editor below. Nothing that Tierney has to say about the Landmarks Preservation Commission's accomplishments takes away from Wolfe's main point: that the Commission is on a downward spiral, and the "country's strongest landmarks law" is getting weaker by the moment. We truly hope that Tierney's projection of 1,000 additional landmarks in the next year is accurate. The Commission certainly has a lot of work to catch up on. Fewer than 1,000 buildings have been designated during the entire 5-year Bloomberg Administration to date (and only 46 in Fiscal Year 2005!).

December 2, 2006

Landmarks Commission (1 Letter)
To the Editor:
Re "The (Naked) City and the Undead," by Tom Wolfe (Op-Ed, Nov. 26):

Backed by the country's strongest landmarks law, the Landmarks Preservation Commission has protected more than 7,000 historically, architecturally and culturally significant buildings and structures in the last 20 years alone.

The notion that the commission has been "defunct" for two decades simply doesn't hold up.

In total, there are 23,000 designated landmarks in New York City. The commission is slated to designate over 1,000 more in the coming year, including the Crown Heights North section of Brooklyn, a historic district that is poised to become the city's largest designation in more than a

The commission works throughout the five boroughs and in close consultation with communities and other city agencies. This comprehensive approach ensures that we preserve what's distinctive about our great city for future generations, even at a time of tremendous growth.

Robert B. Tierney
Chairman, N.Y.C. Landmarks Preservation Commission
New York, Nov. 27, 2006