Friday, December 12, 2008

Mayor Bloomberg's Landmarks Problem

As 2008 winds to a close, it's time to take stock of a banner season in New York City landmarks preservation history.

THE HIGHS: A 6-month examination of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) by the New York Times. Four investigative articles. Two hard-hitting editorials. A breakthrough legal victory.

THE LOWS: A Mayor and Landmarks Chair who fail to recognize and address New York's landmarks crisis. Too many buildings and neighborhoods destroyed or hanging in the balance.

NEXT STEPS: To really know what we're up against, make sure you've read the Times pieces and decisive court decision, which the City plans to appeal. Then write immediately to Mayor Bloomberg. Use language from the latest Times editorial ("Improving the Landmarks Process," 12/6/08) to send him the message loud and clear, "Instead of appealing, fix the LPC!"

If we are ever to turn back the destructive tide, it must be now. And it must be YOU and US and ANYONE who ever gave a thought about the heritage of our city and the character of our communities. Together, we've made our voice heard, and we may be closer than ever to real change. But the biggest challenges are still ahead.

Required Reading for the Revolution

The Landmarks Preservation Commission should be a vital part of the planning process in New York City. Instead, it has become a bureaucratic black hole, the place where requests for evaluation — the formal nominations of buildings or districts to be landmarked — go to get filed and forgotten.
“The Missing Landmarks Commission,” NY Times editorial, 10/18/08

The judge called the agency’s inaction “arbitrary and capricious” and ordered it to start making timely decisions on every designation request. To allow such proposal’s “to languish is to defeat the very purpose of the L.P.C. and invite the loss of irreplaceable landmarks.”
“An Opaque and Lengthy Road to Landmark Building Status,” NY Times, 11/26/08

Preservationists say the phenomenon [of pre-emptive demolitions] is only one sign of problems with the city’s mechanism for protecting historic buildings … In the case of the Dakota Stables, some preservationists have accused the landmarks commission of deliberately dragging its heels.
“Preservationists See Bulldozers Charging Through a Loophole,” NY Times, 11/29/08

..many preservationists and at least one commission member argue that the landmarks commission has not been aggressive enough in protecting churches from the overheated real estate market of the last few years.
“Houses of Worship Choosing to Avoid Landmark Status,” NY Times, 12/1/08

…preservationists and politicians assert that, under a mayoral administration that has emphasized new construction – from behemoth stadiums to architecturally bold condo towers – big developers have too often been allowed to lead on the dance floor. Some accuse the landmarks commission, charged with guarding the city’s architectural heritage, of backing off too readily when important developers’ interests are at stake.
“Preservation and Development in a Dynamic Give and Take,” NY Times, 12/2/08

We urge Mayor Michael Bloomberg to give preservation more weight in city planning. The next landmarks chairman should come from preservation circles. The commissioners need more independence and authority. There needs to be better communication with the Buildings Department to prevent the confusion that has sometimes resulted in the destruction of a building slated for landmark consideration. ... Landmark decisions should be made expeditiously and transparently with a clear public record of the commission’s decision-making. "Improving the Landmarks Process," NY Times editorial, 12/6/08

New York State Supreme Court decision, Justice Marilyn Schafer, ordering the Landmarks Commission to "promulgate procedures whereby: (1) all RFE’s are submitted to the RFE Committee within 120 days of receipt thereof; and (2) all Committee’s recommendations, whether positive or negative, be reported, on the record, to the full LPC." Click here for the original petition.

Send letters to:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007
Email: http://www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mayor.html

The New York Times
Email: letters@nytimes.com

Please send copies to landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org.



Monday, November 17, 2008

Andrew S. Dolkart Featured in New York Times

LANDMARK WEST!'s friend and board member Andrew S. Dolkart wrote an article for the November 16, 2008 issue of New York Times about how preservation fares in the midst of an economic downturn. Click here to read the article.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lost New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission Missing Inaction

From the New York Times editorial page, Saturday, October 20, 2008, “The Missing Landmarks Preservation Commission”: “The Landmarks Preservation Commission should be a vital part of the planning process in New York City. Instead, it has become a bureaucratic black hole, the place where requests for evaluation — the formal nominations of buildings or districts to be landmarked — go to get filed and forgotten.” For a full version of the editorial, see below.

Change is a fact of life in New York City. But, for the last 45 years, since the shocking demolition of the old Pennsylvania Station in the 1960s finally prompted a response from City Hall, we’ve had an authority to referee change as it affects the treasures of our past—the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). Except that today the LPC appears to have let developers—and our development-friendly Mayor—overrun the field.

Writes the Times: “Moving as slowly as it does — and nearly always without public hearings — the landmarking process is routinely outflanked by developers. What is clearly missing is the political will needed for the landmarks commission to do its job. For that, it must have the full backing of the mayor, who appoints the commissioners.”

Where is the LPC? And, more to the point, where is Mayor Bloomberg when it comes to protecting our city’s historic Landmarks? Or responding to the hundreds of public requests for buildings to become new Landmarks and Historic Districts? If the problems identified by the Times—the “bureaucratic black hole,” the maddening silence preceding the bulldozer—resonate all too well with you, then speak up! Send a letter to the editors (letters@nytimes.com), telling them about the buildings in your community that have been overlooked, threatened and lost as a result of LPC inaction (visit http://www.landmarkwest.org/advocacy/cecpp/landmarksatrisk.htm for examples citywide). Then, send a copy of your letter to Mayor Bloomberg! Print out your email and fax it to 212-788-2460. Also post your letter in the "Comments" section of this blog. Make the most of this opportunity—maybe your only opportunity—to be heard.

October 18, 2008

New York Times Editorial

The Missing Landmarks Commission

Late last month, the Museum of Arts and Design reopened in its new home at 2 Columbus Circle. That home is the controversial reworking of Edward Durell Stone’s eccentric building — much loved and much hated by New Yorkers ever since it was finished in 1964.

The Times’s architecture critic, Ada Louise Huxtable, dubbed Stone’s original building “a die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollipops.” To us, it looked almost Moroccan, as if the casbah had gone high-rise.

Brad Cloepfil’s bland redesign — which somehow suggests the technological polish of a desktop computer — will stir no such emotions, except as a potent symbol of the failure of the preservation process in this city.

Despite a public debate over the fate of Stone’s building, the Landmarks Preservation Commission never held a public hearing. The commission’s chair — with the encouragement of the Bloomberg administration — had the matter shelved. In June 2005, the city issued a permit to destroy the old facade and rework the building.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission should be a vital part of the planning process in New York City. Instead, it has become a bureaucratic black hole, the place where requests for evaluation — the formal nominations of buildings or districts to be landmarked — go to get filed and forgotten.

There are hundreds of requests from all across the city waiting to be acted upon. Some have been held up for years. Moving as slowly as it does — and nearly always without public hearings — the landmarking process is routinely outflanked by developers. What is clearly missing is the political will needed for the landmarks commission to do its job. For that, it must have the full backing of the mayor, who appoints the commissioners.

No one wants to see the city frozen by overly rigid landmarking. But New York is such an extraordinary place because of both its past and its future. The commission — in full consultation with the public — should play a critical role in balancing the two.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sign the Petition to Preserve West End Avenue!

Sign the Petition to Preserve West End Avenue!

Please join your fellow New Yorkers, the West End Preservation Society and LANDMARK WEST! in calling on the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to create an official historic district encompassing the full length of West End Avenue between 70th to 107th Streets.

This area vividly tells the story of the development of the Upper West Side from the 1880s to the 1930s. Distinguished by its strikingly consistent streetwall of uniform cornice heights, harmonious materials and creative interpretations of historical styles, including Arts & Crafts, Beaux Arts and Art Deco, West End Avenue showcases the work of many late-19th and early-20th-century architects who defined New York City as we know it today. For more information on this district and other ways to show your support, please visit http://www.landmarkwest.org/advocacy/Wish%20List%20Items/WEAHD.htm.


Two minutes is all you need to show your support for protecting one of our city’s loveliest residential boulevards. CLICK here and sign the petition now (see text below). Then, pass this on to your friends and neighbors—keep the support coming!

To: NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

We, the Undersigned, write to strongly urge you to designate Manhattan's West End Avenue, between 70th Street and 107th Street a Historic District. West End Avenue is one of the most distinctive residential avenues in New York City and it deserves and meets the criteria for Historic District status. Already designated are blocks between 75th Street and 78th Street and those between 87th and 95th Streets. We urge the Commission to extend and expand the Historic Districts to include the blocks down to West 70th Street and up to West 107th Street.

West End Avenue is lined primarily with Pre-War apartment buildings of unified height; most are approximately twelve to fifteen stories. These buildings were erected in the 1910's and 1920's by a small group of acclaimed architects specializing in apartment-house construction in that era. Spread intermittently between some of these unified apartment buildings are historic townhouses that predate the construction of 1910-1920.

As described in a recent New York Times article discussing the movement to preserve the avenue, "[s]ince the 1920's, West End has presented the same sleepy procession of ornamented brick and limestone 15-story apartment buildings, with an occasional townhouse from the 1890's." NY Times, May 18, 2008 ("A Bid to Shield a Row of Sturdy Soldiers" by Alex Mindlin).

Even when West End Avenue was first being developed, the Avenue seemed unique. In 1888, an organization called the West End Association declared that "West End Avenue, alone of all city avenues, has a chance of remaining a site of private residences exclusively and permanently." (Robert Stern, Thomas Mellins and David Fishman: "New York 1880-Architecture and Urbanism in the Gilded Age"; Monacelli Press, New York 1999; p. 759).

Indeed, the beautiful and unique buildings on West End Avenue come together in a cohesive way to create a distinct sense of place. These buildings are important reminders of the history of early construction on the Upper West Side. According to historians, West End Avenue was developed "in a short period of time by developers with a shared vision. . ." (Id.) This shared vision resulted in a "unification" that was due to both "building type" as well as the builders' ". . . shared sense of that area's image of urban domesticity, comparable to that of London's West End." (Id.) As such, West End Avenue ". . . exuded an aura of overall aesthetic intentionality that was unrivaled in Gilded Age New York." (Id.) While walking along West End Avenue, one sees that this aura of Gilded Age cohesiveness continues to exist to this day-over 120 years later!

For these reasons, we, the Undersigned support the application to designate West End Avenue a historic district. We urge the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to find West End Avenue worthy of a landmarks preservation designation of a Historic District.

2 Columbus Circle: For the Record












2 Columbus Circle: For the Record

In two powerful articles timed in sync with last week's opening of the "new" Museum of Arts and Design at 2 Columbus Circle, New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff condemned the destruction of the original 1964 Edward Durrell Stone building, reiterating points that he raised years ago, before it was too late. This time, let's hope, his words won't fall on deaf ears.

In the first article of his one-two punch, Ouroussoff writes that, whereas Stone’s building “occupied a crucial niche in the city’s architectural memory,” MAD’s project “is a victory only for people who favor the safe and inoffensive and have always been squeamish about the frictions that give this city its vitality…We’re left with an image of New York that has been scrubbed of any real meaning.” Click here for the full article, dated 9/26/08.

Then, the very next day, Ouroussoff followed up with a stinging piece called, “New York City, Tear Down These Walls,” in which he put the newly scrubbed version of 2 Columbus Circle in the same category as Madison Square Garden, Trump Place and the Javitz Center—buildings that Ouroussoff thinks ought to be knocked down because they “not only fail to bring us joy, but actually bring us down.” The paragraphs on 2 Columbus Circle are copied below. For the full article, click here.

LANDMARK WEST! led this 10-year preservation battle at its climax with an advocacy campaign that pulled out all the stops. Working with colleagues throughout the city, state, nation and the world, we used every conceivable tool in the preservation arsenal (press, petitions, protests, lawsuits) and even invented some new ones (online panel discussion, “ShameCam” web coverage of the demolition). We did everything in our power to convince the Bloomberg administration to do the right thing, let the Landmarks Preservation Commission give 2 Columbus Circle the public hearing it deserved, and preserve the integrity of New York City’s process for protecting the places that matter most to its citizens. For more on the history of the campaign, and some thoughts on lessons to be learned, go to http://www.landmarkwest.org/savelpc.html.

Now the price of letting politics subvert the mission of the Landmarks Preservation Commission is clear. We need leadership that says, “Never again,” and empowers the Landmarks Commission to act when our city’s heritage is at stake. Otherwise, 2 Columbus Circle and all of the other treasured places that have been sent to the landfills in recent years will have been lost in vain.

Excerpted from “New York City, Tear Down These Walls” by Nicolai Ouroussoff, September 28, 2008

2 COLUMBUS CIRCLE Edward Durell Stone’s building, which opened as the Gallery of Modern Art in 1964, incited one of the most bitter preservation battles in recent memory. Its defenders, who ranged from the writer Tom Wolfe to youthful preservation groups like Landmarks West, hailed its faux Venetian exterior as a slap against the prevailing standards of mainstream Modernism. Detractors, who would have been happy to see it leveled, mostly held up their noses, denouncing its swanky d├ęcor and cramped galleries as an urban eyesore.

The result? Everybody lost. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission was too cowardly to render a verdict and never reviewed the case. The building was turned over to the Museum of Arts and Design, which gutted it to make room for new galleries and stripped away its white marble exterior.

If the city had chosen to preserve it, a key historical landmark would still be intact. If the building had been torn down, a talented architect might have had the opportunity to create a new masterpiece on one of the choicest sites in the city. Instead we get the kind of wishy-washy design solution that is apt to please no one: a mild, overly polite renovation that obliterates the old while offering us nothing breathtakingly new.




Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Celebrate Fall in New York with Landmark West! and openhousenewyork Weekend*


LANDMARK WEST! is hosting the following FREE events on Sunday, October 5:


Horse Trails to Subway Rails, 11:00am

Walking tour for kids and families – RESERVATIONS REQUIRED

Recommended for ages 7-12

Learn about the Upper West Side’s transformation from farmland to cityscape, and how the subway’s construction played a part. Space is limited.


Farmhouses to Townhouses, 12:30pm

Walking tour for kids and families – RESERVATIONS REQUIRED

Recommended for ages 7-12

Discover how the Upper West Side formed one hundred years ago, from horse trails and mansions to the construction of the subway and more! Space is limited.


Broadway Corridor Walking Tour, 1:00pm

All ages – RESERVATIONS REQUIRED - Space is limited.

Led by Peter Salwen, a longtime Upper West Sider who has been leading tours around New York's neighborhoods and personalities since the 1970s. He is the author of the popular "Upper West Side Story: A History and Guide" (Abbeville Press, 1989, 1994) which is now available online at www.upperwestsidestory.net.

Discover the rich history and architectural significance of the Upper West Side through four fascinating early 20th century buildings representing a small sample of significant but as yet unprotected historic treasures in the area deserving city landmark designation.


First Church of Christ, Scientist. 1:00pm – 5:00pm

OPEN HOUSE

2:00pm Talk with George Chin, Architect of the restoration

10 West 68th Street at Central Park West

Rediscover this 1901 Beaux-Arts church designed by Frederick R. Comstock, just emerging from a spectacular multi-year restoration, championed by a dedicated congregation.


For ALL walking tours, please reserve a space in advance by calling LW! at 212-496-8110 or emailing landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org.


*openhousenewyork Weekend, America's largest architecture and design event, opens doors throughout New York City each October. Discover new neighborhoods, explore with friends and family, and experience NYC's architecture and design in all five boroughs through special talks, tours, performances and family-friendly workshops – all free of charge! This 6th annual weekend falls on October 4 and 5 in 2008.

For more information, visit http://www.ohny.org

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Celebration of West End Avenue:
Tickets Still Available
for the Penthouse Reception!
Walking Tours Sold Out!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 7:30pm

West End Avenue events have proved to be immensely popular, a testament to their significance and timeliness! After Professor Andrew Dolkart’s walking tour sold out in record time, we expanded the evening to include another walking tour led by Professor Mosette Broderick and a post-tour wine reception. Tickets for the second tour flew off the virtual shelves in less than 24 hours, but don’t despair – a limited number of tickets are still available for the post-tour reception!


Whether or not you are joining us for the walking tours, you are invited to a post-tour wine reception from approximately 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM in a penthouse apartment featuring panoramic views of the Upper West Side and the Hudson River, located in a 1937 Boak and Paris building. Andrew Dolkart and Mosette Broderick will celebrate with us, and Andrew will speak briefly about West End Avenue. Tickets for the reception only are $50 and must be purchased in advance. Space is extremely limited and is selling out at a record pace! Call 212-496-8110 or email landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org to reserve your place today. Please know that all reservations are considered tentative until payment is received. All proceeds from the reception will be used by LW! to support the West End Preservation Society (WEPS) and efforts to create a new West End Avenue Historic District.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

For Sale: Nonprofit Sites = Air Rights

Today, the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) gave a green light to Congregation Shearith Israel (CSI)—and to all nonprofit and religious institutions seeking to turn the air above their sites into luxury condo revenue streams, even where laws designed to protect neighborhood character and property values explicitly restrict it. CSI’s planned development project is located in the R8B-zoned, low-scale, brownstone midblock of West 70th Street, adjacent to the Individual Landmark Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue, in the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District.

With its unanimous approval of 7 zoning height and setback variances, the BSA bowed to CSI’s argument that denial of its application to construct 5 floors of luxury condominiums on top of a new 4-story community house would interfere with its charitable mission and impose an economic hardship on this congregation (one of the wealthiest in the city, counting among its members Jack Rudin, the developer for the St. Vincent’s Hospital project in Greenwich Village). In other words, CSI says, “Back off, City, we’re a nonprofit and nonprofits can do whatever they want.” The (mayor-appointed) BSA rolled over, despite CSI’s repeated failure over many months of public hearings to demonstrate hardship or any link between its mission and the condos (to be sold on the open market for millions).

Contextual zoning is a ceiling developers have been pushing against for decades. And now, 5 floors or 50 floors, the sky’s the limit for nonprofits with properties in traditional, low-rise communities in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan.

We know all this commotion over a 9-story, 114-foot-tall building sounds alarmist (even though it is double the size of the 4- and 5-story brownstones that define 95% of the historic West 70th Street midblock). But, even as we speak, the BSA is also poised to approve Mount Sinai Medical Center’s proposed development including a 542-foot-tall (the equivalent of 54 stories) residential tower on the eastern edge of Central Park. Meanwhile, planners have identified 10 potential development “soft sites” along Central Park West, many occupied by low-rise institutions such as the New-York Historical Society (which, until recently, had planned a 280-foot-tall tower that would have required special zoning exemptions).

It doesn't take a microscope to spot this trend, which could have even greater ramifications in the other boroughs. With today's approval, the BSA has opened the door to luxury condos towering over nonprofits in every previously protected neighborhood in the city. And their decision is final. Except for court. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Circulated August 7, 2008

A Day for Family and Community Pride

On Saturday, August 9th, LANDMARK WEST! will join with residents of Amsterdam Houses for "Family Day," a celebration of community, family, food, fun, music, and much more. As part of this all-day festival, we'll be organizing art activities for children and leading a walking tour for residents of Amsterdam Houses (West 61st to 65th Streets, between Amsterdam and West End Avenues), focusing on its special place in the history of socially conscious public housing, with an emphasis on open space and good urban design. (Designed by a team including Grosvenor Atterbury, Harvey Wiley Corbett, Arthur Holden, Gilmore D. Clarke and Michael Rapuano, Amsterdam Houses is included on LW!'s Wish List of priorities for future landmark designation.)

To commemorate this special day, one-man band Mark Foley of Volunteer Music will premiere Amsterdam Houses, Rise," a new song which draws on the history and spirit of Amsterdam Houses. He will also delight young residents with his Children's Concert.

The "Family Day" epicenter is Bennerson Park and 64th Street, which will be closed between Amsterdam and West End Avenues. If you're around the neighborhood on Saturday from 12 noon to 7 PM, stop by, say hello, and join in the party!


Circulated July 9, 2008

Circulated June 25, 2008
Congregation Shearith Israel: Ready the Floodgates



No Decision on Congregation Shearith Israel, But Ready the Floodgates
Yesterday, Tuesday, June 24, the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) voted to close the hearing on Congregation Shearith Israel’s application for 7 zoning variances to construct 5 floors of luxury condominiums on top of a new community house on the brownstone midblock of West 70th Street (adjacent to the Landmark Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue, in the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District).
This means that the BSA is poised to make its decision, but only after giving Shearith Israel yet one more chance to clarify and substantiate the record in support of its application – another “do-over”. YOU HAVE ONE LAST CHANCE TO BE HEARD! Send BSA the message, loud and clear, that the public expects them to stand up and defend the laws that keep our communities whole. See below for contact information and specific points that you can make. And while you’re at it, please contact NYS Senator Tom Duane and NYS Assembly Member Richard Gottfried to thank them for their stalwart support on this issue.
Quite frankly, it doesn’t look promising for those of us (in every neighborhood, every borough, all throughout the city) who care about zoning, landmarks and other sound land-use laws. And things seem to be looking up for developers (all too often non-profits) eager to capitalize on loosened zoning regulations. If the BSA approves Shearith Israel’s application, it will be open season for non-profits seeking to finance themselves through out-of-scale development. All along Central Park West, there are as many as 10 potential development sites (New-York Historical Society included) watching this application closely, waiting to see if this “canary in the mine” lives or dies.
Here’s some advice: wander into Central Park for a concert or play one summer night soon. Look at the sweep of the Central Park West skyline silhouetted against the sunset. Then write your letter. Remember, this is why we fight – so that we don’t continue to lose the treasures that make life in New York City not just tolerable but uplifting. Imagine.
Mail/fax your letters to:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007
Fax: 212-788-2460

Hon. Meenakshi Srinivasan
Chair, NYC Board of Standards and Appeals
40 Rector Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10006
Fax: 212-788-8769

Hon. Gale A. Brewer
NY City Council
250 Broadway
New York, NY 10007
Fax: 212-513-7717

Hon. Scott Stringer
Manhattan Borough President
1 Centre Street, 19th Floor
New York, NY 10007
Fax: 212-669-4900


Please say “Thank you!” to:

Hon. Thomas K. Duane
New York State Senate
duane@senate.state.ny.us

Hon. Richard N. Gottfried
New York State Assembly
Gottfriedr@assembly.state.ny.us

And please send copies of your letters to LANDMARK WEST! at 212-875-0209 (fax) or landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org.

Some points to keep in mind:

  • Congregation Shearith Israel (CSI) has made it clear in its papers and previous testimony that the purpose of the luxury condos is to pay for the new community house. This is the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent. Approving these 7 variances would open the floodgates for other non-profit institutions seeking zoning exemption to finance their programs and benefit their own members, essentially transferring wealth from the surrounding community to themselves.
  • There is nothing unusual or physically unique about the Congregation Shearith Israel (CSI) site. Approving variances in this case sends the message that landmark designation, contextual zoning and a property owner’s non-profit (already tax-exempt) status constitute “hardships” that justify exemption from the land-use laws that apply to everyone else.

  • CSI is crying “hardship” because it says it cannot satisfy its programmatic needs AND build 5 floors of luxury condominiums on the same midblock site (i.e., have its cake and eat it too) without getting zoning variances. If that isn’t self-created “hardship” we don’t know what is.



Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Naumburg Orchestral Concerts, SECOND CONCERT - Tuesday July 8th 2008

Dear Friends of LW! and NYC:

Don't miss out on one of New York's true summer pleasures...The Naumburg Orchestral Concerts, SECOND CONCERT - Tuesday July 8th 2008, 7:30 PM

_____

FREE CLASSICAL MUSIC IN CENTRAL PARK

Please Join The Naumburg Orchestral Concerts' free classical music series on Tuesday, July 8, 2008, 7:30 pm with the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players featuring cello soloist Ani Aznavoorian.

The Naumburg Orchestral Concert begins at 7:30pm at the Naumburg Bandshell on the Concert Ground in Central Park located south of the 72nd Street cross-drive. Admission is free. No rain dates. For information, log on to www.naumburgconcerts.org

Monday, June 9, 2008

Special Guest to Introduce Nina Gray on June 12

Exciting news! Joseph Cunningham, decorative arts historian and co-host of LW’s spectacular Evening at The Dakota celebration last September, will introduce Nina Gray at her slide lecture on June 12 (this Thursday). Don’t miss this special opportunity to join LW! in the lovely interior of St. Michael’s Church, with decorations by Louis Comfort Tiffany and others.

RSVP today! Call 212-496-8110 or email landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org.

“The Tiffany Girls”
The Designing Women of Tiffany Studios
A slide lecture by Nina Gray
Thursday, June 12, 2008, 6 pm
at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church
West 99th Street & Amsterdam Avenue
(enter through garden and Parish House at 225 West 99th, between Amsterdam and Broadway)
Tickets for this program are $25 (includes lecture, wine reception and book-signing). See special offer above!

The “Tiffany Girls,” directed by Clara Driscoll, were the “gifted artisans who made vital yet almost entirely anonymous contributions to many of Louis C. Tiffany’s most famous mosaics, windows and decorative objects” (New York Times, 2/25/07). Recently discovered letters written by Driscoll inspired the ground-breaking exhibition, “A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls,” at the New-York Historical Society in 2007. Nina Gray, a noted independent scholar and co-curator of the exhibition, will share the story of the women who labored behind the scenes at the Tiffany Studios, presenting the firm’s celebrated works in an entirely new context. Gray also co-wrote the exhibition catalogue, A New Light on Tiffany (D. Giles Limited, 2007 - book cover shown above), and will sign copies immediately following the lecture. Please join us in the historic 1891 St. Michael’s Episcopal Church (designed by Robert W. Gibson and recently heard by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission for official Landmark status) in the glow of the sanctuary’s magnificent Tiffany stained-glass windows and mosaics.


Special "Talk & Walk" Offer! Sign up for both the June 12 "Tiffany Girls" lecture by Nina Gray and the June 25 "Central Park West Skyline" walking tour by Andrew Scott Dolkart. Pay only $40 per person! That's a $10 savings, so RSVP today...

Central Park West Skyline
A Walking Tour with Andrew Scott Dolkart
Wednesday, June 25, 2008 (rain or shine), 6 pm
Meeting location to be announced.
Tickets for this tour are $25. See special offer above!

The iconic Central Park West skyline silhouette is one of New York’s most beloved treasures. Learn about the past, present and future of this unique urban vista—the western “frame” of Central Park—with its soaring twin towers and low-rise cultural and religious institutions. Acclaimed writer and architectural historian Andrew Scott Dolkart, the James Marston Fitch Associate Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia University, will lead this special walking tour focused on the history, architecture, real estate, planning and preservation of Central Park West’s distinctive profile for future generations to enjoy.


Tickets must be purchased in advance by calling 212-496-1714 or emailing landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org. Space is limited.
~
LANDMARK WEST! is a non-profit award-winning community group working since 1985 to preserve
the best of the Upper West Side’s architectural heritage from 59th to 110th Street between Central Park West and Riverside Drive. Owing in large part to our advocacy, there are nearly 2,700 designated landmarks in this area (up from only 337 in 1985).

Thursday, June 5, 2008

LW! Urban Forests Environmental Project UPDATE

If you didn't get a chance to Tune in to The Brian Lehrer Show on May 21 to learn about LW's environmental project: “Urban Forests in the Midst: In your Backyard,” you can download the conversation at: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/bl/episodes/2008/05/21


Scroll down to "backyard trees" and click on the arrow!

LW's Evan Mason and Bill Solecki from CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities talked with Brian Lehrer and fielded listener questions about the acres of open spaces located behind rowhouses throughout the City—in neighborhoods as diverse as the Upper West Side, Harlem, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Cobble Hill, and many more, in all five boroughs!

We are conducting a Pilot Project to:

Investigate the environmental benefits of these open spaces;

Instill awareness about the benefits of backyard open spaces, such as the capacity to reduce air pollution, alleviate strain on the the City’s water treatment system, and the temperature reduction capabilities of these combined backyards;

Inspire public policy officials and residents alike to recognize the environmental contributions conveyed by even small spaces to the urban air we breathe;

Incentivize landlords and tenants to maximize the environmental benefits of these backyards!

Stay tuned for future emails to update you about the progress of the study and shed light on what you can do to clean the air, reduce the burden on the City's aging water treatment infrastructure and enhance your enjoyment of even small open spaces—be they front, back or side yards!

Did you know that there are 108 acres of open spaces hidden behind rowhouses on the Upper West Side alone? That is 13% the size of Central Park! These backyard open spaces convey a range of environmental benefits to the entire City—and yet these benefits are overlooked by the architects of public policy for NYC, environmentalists, building owners and tenants alike.

To learn more about the project, check out this recently published Gotham Gazette article at http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/sustainabilitywatch/20080428/210/2511

"Urban Forests" Team:
This research study is a creative community-university partnership that brings together Landmark West!, a non-profit community-based organization committed to preserving the architectural heritage of Manhattan's Upper West Side with The CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in order to develop evidence-based policies and best practices with regard to environmentally sound management of privately owned open spaces.

To donate to this project, click here. Help us meet our goal of $200,00 for this project!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Talk & Walk: Tiffany Girls & CPW Skyline

Special "Talk & Walk" Offer! Sign up for both the June 12 "Tiffany Girls" lecture by Nina Gray and the June 25 "Central Park West Skyline" walking tour by Andrew Scott Dolkart. Pay only $40 per person! That's a $10 savings, so RSVP today...

“The Tiffany Girls”
The Designing Women of Tiffany Studios
A slide lecture by Nina Gray
Thursday, June 12, 2008, 6 pm
at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church
West 99th Street & Amsterdam Avenue
(enter through garden and Parish House at 225 West 99th, between Amsterdam and Broadway)
Tickets for this program are $25 (includes lecture, wine reception and book-signing). See special offer above!

The “Tiffany Girls,” directed by Clara Driscoll, were the “gifted artisans who made vital yet almost entirely anonymous contributions to many of Louis C. Tiffany’s most famous mosaics, windows and decorative objects” (New York Times, 2/25/07). Recently discovered letters written by Driscoll inspired the ground-breaking exhibition, “A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls,” at the New-York Historical Society in 2007. Nina Gray, a noted independent scholar and co-curator of the exhibition, will share the story of the women who labored behind the scenes at the Tiffany Studios, presenting the firm’s celebrated works in an entirely new context. Gray also co-wrote the exhibition catalogue, A New Light on Tiffany (D. Giles Limited, 2007 - book cover shown above), and will sign copies immediately following the lecture. Please join us in the historic 1891 St. Michael’s Episcopal Church (designed by Robert W. Gibson and recently heard by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission for official Landmark status) in the glow of the sanctuary’s magnificent Tiffany stained-glass windows and mosaics.

Central Park West Skyline
A Walking Tour with Andrew Scott Dolkart

Wednesday, June 25, 2008 (rain or shine), 6 pm
Meeting location to be announced.
Tickets for this tour are $25. See special offer above!

The iconic Central Park West skyline silhouette is one of New York’s most beloved treasures. Learn about the past, present and future of this unique urban vista—the western “frame” of Central Park—with its soaring twin towers and low-rise cultural and religious institutions. Acclaimed writer and architectural historian Andrew Scott Dolkart, the James Marston Fitch Associate Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia University, will lead this special walking tour focused on the history, architecture, real estate, planning and preservation of Central Park West’s distinctive profile for future generations to enjoy.


Tickets must be purchased in advance by calling 212-496-1714 or emailing landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org. Space is limited.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

RESTORE the LPC Budget!

URGENT: Your Help Needed to RESTORE the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s Budget to Preserve Our City

For the second year in a row, LANDMARK WEST! is working with a coalition of over 40 groups representing neighborhoods throughout the city to co-sponsor the Second Annual NYC Preservation Lobby Day on Wednesday, May 28, 2008. A press conference will take place on the steps of City Hall at 2:00 PM. Please join us! Voters make a difference.

Together, we're urging the City Council to RESTORE $300,000 in funding to the Landmarks Preservation Commission's 2008-2009 budget! This year, your participation is more important than ever. In 2006, the City Council, led by Council Members Jessica Lappin, Tony Avella and Diana Reyna, allocated $250,000 in additional funds to the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s budget, allowing the agency to hire five new full-time staff researchers to aid in their designation efforts. Last year that amount was increased to $300,000, which allowed the LPC to designate more than 1,000 buildings in 2007, a 2,000% increase in buildings since FY2005. Still, despite the amount of much-needed work that these grants have allowed, Mayor Bloomberg has declined to baseline this amount and it has not been included in the Commission’s FY09 budget.

Unless we band together in unified support of a well-funded, open, efficient, effective Landmarks Commission, the agency's staff and resources will shrink significantly -- at a time when its workload is higher than ever and the Department of Buidings is issuing record numbers of demolition permits!

WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY!

1) Call, write, email and/or fax your local council member stating your support for RESTORING $300,000 to the Landmarks Commission's budget. For contact information, go to http://council.nyc.gov/html/members/members.shtml. A sample letter is attached.

2) Send copies of your letters/emails to Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Landmarks Subcommittee Chair Jessica Lappin (contact information on website above). In addition, please send copies to landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org or 212-875-0209 (fax).

3) Invite council members, neighbors and colleagues to join you at the press conference. May 28, 2:00 PM, on the steps of City Hall.

4) Add your group's name to the coalition supporting the RESTORATION! Send emails to our colleagues at the Historic Districts Council, the citywide advocate for New York's historic neighborhoods - hdc@hdc.org.

SEE YOU ON THE STEPS!

Here's more information on why the Landmarks Commission needs your help (from the Citizens Emergency Committee to Preserve Preservation, www.savelpc.org)

1) The Landmarks Preservation Commission is one of the smallest city agencies in New York, yet its workload is impressively large and growing every day. Their staff and budget have become dangerously small.

2) The Commission’s budget has shrunk by 35% since 1990, in constant dollars.

3) The Commission’s share of the city budget has shrunk by 52% since 1990. It now occupies just .007% of the entire city budget.

4) The Commission’s staff has decreased by 25% since 1990. Over this same time period, the number of applications to repair or modify landmarks (which the Commission regulates) has more than doubled, to 9,000 per year.

5) The Commission has just 52 staff members who watch over more than 23,000 landmarks throughout the five boroughs; only 3 staff members are charged with enforcing the landmarks law.

6) Since 1990, the Commission has increased the revenue it generates for the city from just $10,000 per year to more than $1 million per year. It now raises nearly 1/3 of its agency budget, yet the city continues to deny the Commission the funding and staff it needs.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

May 31: New Taste of the Upper West Side

Because even Upper West Siders do not live by architecture alone...

Join the Columbus Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) and local culinary landmarks* for the first annual "New Taste of the Upper West Side." Unlimited tastings! Meet the chefs whose restaurants make our neighborhood a destination for connoisseurs of edifices and edibles alike. All funds raised will be dedicated towards the Neighborhood Streetscape Beautification Project, organized by our friends at the BID, in the heart of the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District.

To purchase tickets, visit http://www.newtasteuws.com/.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

5:00pm Patron and Sponsor Cocktail Party
6:00 - 8:30pm General Admission

Under a tent on Columbus Avenue (between 76th and 77th Street) Rain or Shine

*including Rosa Mexicano, the memory of whose pomegranate margaritas, guacamole and more - all donated for LANDMARK WEST's April 29 awards celebration - still lingers on many an Upper West Side palate... Here's your chance to savor pro bono fare from other local restaurants!

LW! Urban Forests Project on WNYC: Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.

Tune in to The Brian Lehrer Show
Wednesday, May 21 at 10:30am
WNYC - 93.9 FM or 820 AM


LW’s Evan Mason and Bill Solecki from CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities will sit down withBrian Lehrer to talk about our environmental project “Urban Forests in Our Midst.”

Did you know that there are 108 acres of open spaces hidden behind rowhouses on the Upper West Side alone? That is 13% the size of Central Park! These backyard open spaces convey a range of environmental benefits to the entire City—and yet these benefits are overlooked by the architects of public policy for NYC, environmentalists, building owners and tenants alike. This project will have significant implications for the entire City given the many neighborhoods in all five boroughs characterized by significant numbers of rowhouses with adjoining backyards.

To learn more about the project, check out this recently published Gotham Gazette article at http://www.gothamgazette.com/article/sustainabilitywatch/20080428/210/2511


"Urban Forests" Team:
This research study is a creative community-university partnership that brings together Landmark West!, a non-profit community-based organization committed to preserving the architectural heritage of Manhattan’s Upper West Side with The CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in order to develop evidence-based policies and best practices with regard to environmentally sound management of privately owned open spaces.

To donate to this project, please go to www.landmarkwest.org and click on “green initiatives” link, or call 212 496-8100 for more information. Help us meet our goal of $200,00 for this project!

Monday, May 19, 2008

"Tiffany Girls" on June 12

A slide lecture by Nina Gray
"The Tiffany Girls"
The Designing Women of Tiffany Studios
Thursday, June 12, 2008, 6 pm
at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church
West 99th Street & Amsterdam Avenue
(enter through garden and Parish House
at 225 West 99th, between Amsterdam and Broadway)
RSVP today! Tickets are $25 and must be purchased in advance. See below.




The "Tiffany Girls," directed by Clara Driscoll, were the "gifted artisans who made vital yet almost entirely anonymous contributions to many of Louis C. Tiffany’s most famous mosaics, windows and decorative objects" (New York Times, 2/25/07). Recently discovered letters written by Driscoll inspired the ground-breaking exhibition, "A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls," at the New-York Historical Society in 2007.


Nina Gray, a noted independent scholar and co-curator of the exhibition, will share the story of the women who labored behind the scenes at the Tiffany Studios, presenting the firm’s celebrated works in an entirely new context. Gray also co-wrote the exhibition catalogue, A New Light on Tiffany (D. Giles Limited, 2007), and will sign copies immediately following the lecture.


Please join us in the historic 1891 St. Michael’s Episcopal Church (designed by Robert W. Gibson and recently heard by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission for official Landmark status) in the glow of the sanctuary’s magnificent Tiffany stained-glass windows and mosaics.


Tickets must be purchased in advance by calling 212-496-1714 or emailing landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org. Space is limited.
~
LANDMARK WEST! is a non-profit award-winning community group working since
1985 to preserve the best of the Upper West Side’s architectural heritage from 59th to 110th Street between Central Park West and Riverside Drive. Owing in large part to our advocacy, there are nearly 2,700 designated landmarks in this area (up from only 337 in 1985).

Friday, May 2, 2008

April 29 "Unsung Heroes of the Upper West Side"


...and there are awards! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who made our April 29 "Unsung Heroes of the Upper West Side" Preservation Awards celebration such a resounding success...

What a fiesta it was!

Little did we know when we started planning last night's heartfelt, homegrown tribute to people who have made an honest-to-goodness difference for our city and our neighborhood that it would turn into such a hot ticket. (If you RSVP'd after we'd already sold out, your support and enthusiasm registered nonetheless!) The extraordinary turn-out speaks volumes about the accomplishments and contributions of our awardees (listed below, together with those who gamely presented the awards)...not to mention the lure of Rosa Mexicano's heavenly pomegranate margaritas, guacamole and other delicious fare (all donated, http://www.rosamexicano.com/) and the ideal historic setting in the former ballroom of the Hotel des Artistes, now LA PALESTRA, Center for Preventative Medicine (also donated, http://www.lapalestra.com/).

Last night was truly the highest of the high, an all-too-rare chance to revel in the good that comes of people working together; fighting the battles that need to be fought; recognizing, preserving and taking pleasure in the beauty right here in our midst.

Here's toour wonderful awardees...and to all of you. Start sending in your awards nominations for next year!

P.S. 87, 160 West 78th Street – Future Generations Award presented by Alexis Penzell, NYC Department of Education superintendent and former P.S. 87 parent

Whitney North Seymour, Jr. – Preservation Citizen Award presented by Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the United States District Court (SDNY)

Pomander Walk, 260-266 West 95th Street – Building Rehabilitation Award presented by Wint Aldrich, New York State Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation

Michael Laub, G&L Realty, 175 West 72nd Street & 170 West 73rd Street – “Domino Effect” Award presented by Fernando Ferrer, former Bronx Borough President

The Evanston, 610 West End Avenue at 90th Street – Architectural Detail Restoration Award presented by Andrew S. Dolkart, the James Marston Fitch Associate Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia University

Cliff Dwelling Apartments, 243 Riverside Drive at 96th Street – Building Stewardship Award presented by Susan Tunick, President of the Friends of Terra Cotta

For more information about the awards celebration, please visit http://www.landmarkwest.org/.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Parkhouse v. Stringer: The Real Story

Landmark West!, Virginia Parkhouse, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer: What Really Happened

A recent New York Times article (April 12, 2008, Metro Section, pB1) tells thestory of Virginia Parkhouse-devoted preservationist, long-time Landmark West! volunteer, hardy citizen and, not coincidentally, target of small-minded, vindictive politicians. Click here for the"back story" behind the Times report...

In addition to a couple of minutes' worth of mandatory reading for any civic-minded New Yorker, you will find links to court papers filed by attorney Whitney North Seymour, Jr., defending Parkhouse against a NYC Department of Investigation subpoena issued after she testified at aLandmarks Preservation Commission public hearing in October 2006. You'll also find a link to a fascinating Amicus Curiae Brief filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union in support of Parkhouse's first amendment rights. Excerpts from the brief are included below.

Excerpts from the New York Civil Liberties Union Amicus Curiae Brief (dated December 27, 2007) in Parkhouse v. Stringer

"Virginia Parkhouse has spoken as a private individual before the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission and now finds herself investigated and subpoenaed by the Department of Investigation of the City of New York ("DOI") for non-perjurious statements made at the hearing." (p. 2)

"The very purpose of the First Amendment is to foreclose public authority from assuming a guardianship of the public mind."(citing Supreme Court decision Meyer v. Grant, 486 U.S. 414, 419 (1988)). (p. 2)

"Exercise of subpoena power to demand an individual to account for their speech before a public commission subverts those constitutional values that allow the people to decide the merit of political debate. By forcing Ms. Parkhouse to testify under oath concerning her statements to a public commission and by threatening prosecution, DOI has burdened her right to free speech without any connection to a legitimate governmental interest." (p. 3)

"An individual's representations before a public commission are expression, pure political speech to which the most rigorous First Amendment protection applies." (p. 4)

"Much like the additional speech required in McIntyre, the subpoena issued to Ms. Parkhouse undoubtedly burdens her First Amendment right to speak before a commission concerning issues of public importance. The practical burden of compliance with a subpoena includes hiring an attorney, appearing before the DOI at the appointed time, and facing a battery of hostile questions under oath. Undoubtedly these increased personal costs would make even a civic-minded individual such as Ms. Parkhouse secondguess whether he or she should express their opinion before a public commission." (p. 8)

"The First Amendment interests in this case are not confined to the personal rights of [the recipients of a subpoena.] Although their rights do not rest lightly in the balance, far weightier than they are the public interests in First Amendment freedoms that stand or fall with the rights that these witnesses advance for themselves."(quoting decision Bursey v. United States, 466 F.2d 1059, 1083 (9thCir. 1972)). (p. 9)

"The First Amendment does not convey a "right" to the public to hear only a sanitized and government-approved version of the truth; rather the public holds a right to state what they believe the views of their leaders to be, even if those beliefs are mistaken." (p. 11)

"Any further investigation serves only a retributive interest in prosecuting Ms. Parkhouse for her speech." (p. 16)

Friday, April 11, 2008

UPDATE: Shearith Israel Hearing: April 15 Hearing for Zoning Variances

UPDATE: The Board of Standards & Appeals has let us know that the Congregation Shearith Israel application will be considered in the afternoon session, which is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. Read on for more details.

Third and (Perhaps) Final Public Hearing at NYC Board of Standards and Appeals on Congregation Shearith Israel's Condo Plan for West 70th Street

Consider this email urgent notice to all of you who care about preserving the scale and character of our city's low-rise rowhouse midblocks, the rationale of New York's zoning laws, and the integrity of the public process intended to defend our neighborhoods from inappropriate development. Just think of all of the other institutional developers lined up for zoning variances around the city-St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Center, the New-York Historical Society, The Ramaz School, the list goes on and on...Connect the dots (and note that developer Jack Rudin, one of the city's most politically connected developers, is involved in both Congregation Shearith Israel and the St. Vincent's plan). This could well be the hearing that determines YOUR community's future. The hearing is open to all, and anyone may speak (even if you already spoke at a previous hearing).

DATE: Tuesday, April 15, 2008

TIME: Afternoon Session Will Begin at 1:30 p.m.

PLACE: Board of Standards and Appeals, 40 Rector Street, 6th Floor (take #1
subway to Rector Street, walk west)

YOU can help win a key battle, one with major ramifications for the entire city. Just by showing up-even just for 30 minutes or an hour.

YOU can help reinforce the importance of a fair and balanced review process, one that isn't weighted toward the developer and major institutions. It's important to note that, despite over a year of paper filings and public hearings, Congregation Shearith Israel still has failed to prove that it meets the standard for any of the 7 zoning variances from BSA it would need to build a 105'-tall building with 5 floors of luxury condos stacked on top of a new community house.

YOU can help hold the line against out-of-scale development that diminishes quality of life. Because of the luxury condos, this new building would be more than twice as tall as any other building on the brownstone midblock of West 70th Street, undermining both its contextual zoning and landmark protection as part of the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District, designated by the Landmarks Commission in 1990. For more information, visit www.protectwest70.org.

We know mid-day hearings aren't easy, and we wouldn't ask if your presence weren't vitally important. Showing up means just as much as speaking up, so please make every effort to attend even if you don't plan to testify!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Shearith Israel Hearing: April 15 Hearing for Zoning Variances

Third and (Perhaps) Final Public Hearing at NYC Board of Standards and Appeals on Congregation Shearith Israel's Condo Plan for West 70th Street

Consider this email urgent notice to all of you who care about preserving the scale and character of our city's low-rise rowhouse midblocks, the rationale of New York's zoning laws, and the integrity of the public process intended to defend our neighborhoods from inappropriate development. Just think of all of the other institutional developers lined up for zoning variances around the city - St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Center, theNew-York Historical Society, The Ramaz School, the list goes on and on...Connect the dots (and note that developer Jack Rudin, one of the city's most politically connected developers, is involved in both Congregation Shearith Israel and the St. Vincent's plan). This could well be the hearing that determines YOUR community's future. The hearing is open to all, and anyone may speak (even if you already spoke at a previous hearing).

DATE: Tuesday, April 15, 2008

TIME: TBA

PLACE: Board of Standards and Appeals, 40 Rector Street, 6th Floor (take #1 subway to Rector Street, walk west) YOU can help win a key battle, one with major ramifications for the entire city. Just by showing up-even just for 30 minutes or an hour.

YOU can help reinforce the importance of a fair and balanced review process, one that isn't weighted toward the developer and major institutions. It's important to note that, despite over a year of paper filings and public hearings, Congregation Shearith Israel still has failed to prove that it meets the standard for any of the 7 zoning variances from BSA it would need to build a 105'-tall building with 5 floors of luxury condos stacked on top of a new community house.

YOU can help hold the line against out-of-scale development that diminishes quality of life. Because of the luxury condos, this new building would be more than twice as tall as any other building on the brownstone midblock ofWest 70th Street, undermining both its contextual zoning and landmark protection as part of the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District, designated by the Landmarks Commission in 1990. For more information, visit www.protectwest70.org.

We know mid-day hearings aren't easy, and we wouldn't ask if your presence weren't vitally important. Showing up means just as much as speaking up, so please make every effort to attend even if you don't plan to testify!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Reserve today for April 29 Awards Celebration

Invitations are in the mail. Reserve your tickets today! Email us at landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org or call 212-496-8110. Use your credit card, or mail us a check with your reply envelope.

$500 Hit A High C
2 tickets, includes Celebration Committee listing in the evening's program
(see list in progress below)

$250 Belt It Out
2 tickets, includes acknowledgement in the evening's program

$75 Sing a Solo
1 ticket

$50 Join the Chorus
1 ticket, limited number available, reservations cannot be guaranteed until payment is received

~

Signature pomegranate margaritas, guacamole and much, much more generously provided by Rosa Mexicano. LW! is street smart, turn-on-a-dime, aggressive, effective...and we know how to have fun. JOIN US!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

ST. MICHAEL'S UPDATE

St. Michael's Church: 28 Years of Landmarks Purgatory

This morning's public hearing on the potential landmark designation of St.Michael's Church, Parish House and Rectory raised hopes that 28 years of landmarks limbo may soon end for this remarkable religious complex on the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 99th Street on the Upper West Side. The 1891 limestone ensemble (largely designed by Robert W. Gibson, with exquisitestained-glass windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany) was last heard by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) in 1980.

A public hearing is always a positive step. Thanks so much to everyone whowas able to be there in person. The LPC did not vote at today's hearing but informs us that the record on St. Michael's is now closed. Still, this is an opportunity to make your voice heard on the broader need for action to preserve New York City's historic places of worship. Is there a historic church, synagogue or other religious institution in your community that needs to be preserved but doesn't yet have landmark status? Here's your hook! You can support St. Michael's (see below LPC statement of significance and LANDMARK WEST's testimony below; to read other letters of support, click here and at the same time point out that there's a bigger picture by naming other religious sites that also deserve attention from the LPC.

Join us in urging the LPC to end the tear-down trend that robs our city of its historic houses of worship!

Hon. Robert B. Tierney, Chair
NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
1 Centre Street, 9th FloorNew York, NY 10007
comments@lpc.nyc.gov
Phone: 212-669-7888
Fax: 212-669-7955

Hon. Melissa Mark Viverito
NYC Council Member (for the district in which St. Michael's is located)
105 E. 116th Street New York, NY 10029
viverito@council.nyc.ny.us
Phone: 212-828-9800
Fax: 212-722-6378

Hon. Jessica Lappin
NYC Council Member Chair, Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses
336 East 73rd Street (Suite C) New York, NY 10021
lappin@council.nyc.ny.us
Phone: 212 535-5554
Fax: 212-535-6098

Please cc. landmarkwest@landmarkwest.org.


Landmarks Preservation Commission Public Hearing On
Proposed Designation of St. Michael's Church, Parish House and Rectory
201-255 West 99th Street (aka 800-812 Amsterdam Avenue and 227 West 99th Street)
March 18, 2008

It gives us great pleasure to be here today to testify emphatically in favor of officially designating St. Michael's Church, Parish House and Rectory as a Landmark, at long last.

Twenty-eight years have passed since St. Michael's was first heard for potential landmark designation (in 1980). LANDMARK WEST! included St.Michael's on its Wish List of priority designations nearly 25 years ago-along time, too long, for any building to hang in limbo, its value and significance known but its future unsecured.

And yet there is tremendous urgency to protect this building now. First of all, St. Michael's is without question one of New York's most remarkable architectural ensembles. This gleaming-white limestone church,with its commanding corner tower, red terra-cotta tile roof and Romanesque-arched windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany, together with its adjacent parish house and rectory, is already a "landmark" on the Amsterdam Avenue skyline. And the architect of St. Michael's, Robert W. Gibson, is justly celebrated for other landmarks he designed, including West End Collegiate Church and School (West End Avenue at 77th Street).

Without diminishing the special significance of St. Michael's, one can also compare it to West-Park Presbyterian Church at 86th Street and Amsterdam Avenue and, a few blocks further south, Holy Trinity Church at 82nd Street near Amsterdam and First Baptist Church at 79th Street and Broadway (each was left out of the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District when it was designated in 1990 in response to owner objections). Or, even farther afield, St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Harlem. All are beacons in their communities, anchoring prominent sites and establishing a sense of place, time and scale for the surrounding neighborhood. All physically embody the dreams and aspirations of their founders, who often made personal sacrifices in order to create a public monument to faith, beauty and community. Each offers a unique window into the history of our city and the cultural memory of its people.

The caretakers of St. Michael's have kept vigilant watch over this beacon and lovingly preserved it. Landmark designation is an important validation of their labors and a crucial tool for safeguarding their investment for generations to come.

Their investment and ours. After all, the public assumes an extra tax burden so that religious institutions may freely pursue their good works.When a congregation maintains and preserves its building, it honors its social contract with the community. And because landmark designation is a key mechanism for making sure that promises of preservation and sensitive improvement are actually kept, the Landmarks Preservation Commission has a special responsibility to identify and protect historic houses of worship.

Unfortunately, the Commission has too often assumed a "hands off" approach,leaving these sites vulnerable to insensitive development that not onlydestroys the structure itself, but diminishes community character and,frequently, weakens the congregation. All of the sites previouslymentioned-plus many, many others in all five boroughs-are in immediatejeopardy as a direct result of the Commission's failure to live up to itsmandate and indeed its proven potential as an agent for revitalization.

In a compelling list of success stories, landmark designation is part of the formula for sustaining the vitality of religious sites-Eldridge StreetSynagogue on the Lower East Side, St. Bartholomew's on Park Avenue, the First and Second Churches of Christ Scientist on Central Park West. In how many cases does the replacement of a religious institution with a residential high-rise or office building ensure a congregation's survival or otherwise contribute to the cultural life of a community? Name one example.

We urge the Commission to designate St. Michael's Church, Parish House and Rectory, thus releasing it from 28 years of landmarks purgatory. We also urge the Commission to step up to its important role in ending the tear-down trend that robs neighborhoods of our historic houses of worship.