Monday, October 31, 2011

West Side Spirit Gives Thanks to Local Heroes

Top to bottom, left to right: Batya Lewton, Melissa Elstein,
Victor Gonzalez, and Dee Rieber.
All photos by West Side Spirit.
Protecting the special character of our Upper West Side neighborhood is a never ending effort, and one shared on the shoulders of many.  LANDMARK WEST! calls the individuals and organizations who do their part to honor our history and community "Unsung Heroes".  Local newspaper and online news source The West Side Spirit shows its gratitude with its annual WESTY Awards!

As the West Side Spirit reported on on Wendesday, Oct. 26th, "the 2011 WESTY Awards (West Side Spirit Thanks You) took place the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 19 at Jewish Home Lifecare. Harold Holzer of The Metropolitan Museum of Art was the master of ceremonies, and 20 west siders were honored for their contributions to the community."

LW! congratulates all of this year's winners, such as those pictured here.  To Batya Lewton of Coalition for a Livable West Side, Melissa Elstein of the West 80s Neighborhood Association, and to Dee Rieber of the West 75th Street Block Association (read about Melissa's and Dee's work here), THANK YOU for your stalwart support of the community's long and ongoing efforts regarding the proposed West End Avenue historic district extensions.  And to our good friend Victor Gonzalez, we thank you for your support of our Amsterdam Houses advocacy initiatives.

Third Time's a Charm :: Recap of final public hearing at LPC for West End Avenue

Last Tuesday, October 25th, LANDMARK WEST! joined with fellow West Siders, elected officials, preservation colleagues, and lovers of landmarks to show our continued support for the proposed historic district extensions anchored by West End Avenue.

Convened by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), this was the last in a series of three public hearings to seriously consider historic district extensions to two existing districts: the Riverside - West End Historic District, and the West End - Collegiate Historic District.

This spring marked the first public hearing (for the Riverside - West End Historic District Extension I on March 22th, 2011); later this summer, on June 28th, the LPC opened the record to discuss the West End - Collegiate Historic District Extension.  And the fall season set the seen for discussion of the Riverside - West End Historic District Extension II, on Oct. 25th.

Click the arrow above to visit LW's Flickr page and experience West End Avenue,
Riverside Drive, Broadway, and the streets between.

To all of our friends and neighbors who came to the LPC; who took to the podium to testify; who sat as "silent supporters" of the West End Avenue proposal; who wrote emails and letters in absentia; and who helped spread the word about yesterday's public hearing far and wide ...  THANK YOU!

Our favorite quote from the hearing has to be the testimony of West Sider (and member of Three Parks Independent Democrats, who hosted the October 12th pre-public hearing info session about the landmark designation process) Steve Max:

The journey is far from over! The public record on the proposed Riverside - West End Historic District Extension II remains open--there's till time to add more emails and letters of support to those recorded at the Oct. 25th public hearing! Use this quick "how to", and share it with your friends.  And if you haven't already, please SIGN THE PETITION!  Add your name to the list of those who support the West End Avenue historic district extensions.

Couldn't make the public hearing? Stay tuned to our YouTube channel for video of the public testimony and, for photos, to our Flickr photostream.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Look Up": Architectural photography student shares photos

Photo by Gotham Girl
It's not just the devil that's in the details.  There's beauty in cornices, lampposts and dormer windows!  

Earlier this month, photographer John Hart led a small group of folks on an architectural photography walking tour of the Upper West Side.  With his guidance, they learned to train their eyes on the details hidden within the buildings surrounding us.  

One member of the tour, blogger Gotham Girl, shared her photos.  We're no experts, but we'd say she was a quick study on how the camera brings out the unexpected beauty of our bricks-and-mortar resources.  In the photo at right -- the landmark-in-waiting Level Club, 253 West 73rd Street -- we adore how the metal tracery atop the sculpted column plays on the soft beige brick.

Thank you, Gotham Girl, for sharing your individual perspective on the West Side!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tomorrow, We Testify! Come show your support for West End Avenue (and environs)!

WHAT:    Public hearing to consider the Riverside - West End Historic District Extension II
               (W. 89th - 109th Sts. - click here for the proposed boundary map)

WHEN:   TOMORROW, Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

                Time approx. 2:30PM*
                *This can sometimes be a moving target, depending on the pacing 

                 of earlier items on the agenda. West End Avenue could be heard 
                 right on time, or it could run late. Patience and flexibility of schedule 
                 are key! Can't make it? See below!  

WHERE:   Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC)
                  1 Centre Street, 9th Floor -- Bring photo ID
                  (Click here for directions)

Attending the public hearing is incredibly important; your presence speaks volumes. This is the last of three total public hearings being convened to discuss this important neighborhood issue. Come to show your support not only for the third and final piece of the puzzle, but for all of the area anchored by West End Avenue proposed for historic district designation!
Please let us know if you are planning to attend.

And if you haven't already, don't forget ...

(1) Sign the Petition!
Add your name to the list of those who support the West End Avenue historic district extensions. And encourage your friends and neighbors to sign as well!

(2) Email the LPC, and copy your elected official(s)! Tell them you support their efforts to expand existing historic districts anchored by West End Avenue. Here's how to do it!

For continual updates on this advocacy issue, stay tuned to the LANDMARK WEST! blog!

We'll see you tomorrow at the Commission!

Friday, October 21, 2011

A View from the Top: New book "Windows on Central Park"

A quick post to share some Friday inspiration, from yesterday's "A View of Central Park, or 100 of Them", by James Barron.

Photo from Betsy Pinover Schiff's new book, "Windows on Central Park" (via NY Times).
Taken from an apartment on Central Park West and 90th Street.
We can't wait to flip through Betsy Pinover Schiff's latest, "Windows on Central Park", to see for ourselves the incredible views she's captured.  The image above (possibly from the El Dorado?) is a compelling visual argument for the beauty of historic casement windows.  Breathtaking!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Preservation and Pilsner, a Winning Combination!

 Join LANDMARK WEST! for our first-ever...
 Young Professionals Happy Hour!
The time has come to cleanse your palette of wine* and cheese, and drink a $4.50 pint or a $5 cocktail with other professionals & students interested in architecture, preservation and the Upper West Side.

Festivities will be held at the Hi-Life Bar & Grill, a NYC Landmark described by New York Magazine as a "part forties film-noir set, part Prohibition-era speakeasy." So stop by to meet new friends, network, learn about LW!, and converse about what kind of events you'd like to see in the future.  Bring your friends and colleagues!

Thursday, November 10, 2011
6-8 p.m.
Hi-Life Bar & Grill*
83rd & Amsterdam Avenue
No cover
$4.50 domestic draft pints, $5 cosmos
$5 champagne cocktails, $3.50 Bud bottles
(also 1/2 price sushi until 7 p.m.!)
RSVPs encouraged:

*Wine will be also be available!
*Hi-Life Bar & Grill is located in the UWS/Central Park West Historic District

Living with Landmarks is "Living with History"

Landmarks are not frozen in time; they are forever evolving and adapting to the needs of our community. The Upper West Side is home to one of the greatest concentrations of landmarks in the city -- indeed, the Upper West Side - Central Park West Historic District (designated 1990) is one of the largest districts in the city, home to nearly 2,700 landmark-protected buildings. As such, West Siders understand as acutely as anyone else the absolute truth that to live in and with a landmark is to live with its history. Most importantly, our contemporary interactions with our bricks-and-mortar resources are, themselves, adding a new layer to a building's history. It is this historically rich palimpsest that makes our landmark heritage -- and the Upper West Side! -- so special.

This weekend's symposium at the Museum of the City of New York will showcase extraordinary projects that have aimed to bring historic buildings back to life. The half-day symposium will highlight various and sometimes controversial approaches to preserving the past while accommodating the needs of modern life.

Living With History:
Restoring, Redesigning, and Reviving New York's Landmark Interiors

Saturday, October 22, 2011, from 9:30 AM to 1 PM
The Museum of the City of New York

1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street

Co-sponsored by The New York School of Interior Design

Tickets are $25 for members, $35 for non-members; to register, click here
** SPECIAL OFFER ** mention this flyer, and non-members get $10 off admission!

Included in the symposium will be a look at the expert restoration of the stunning Interior Landmark, the Beacon Theatre (located at 2124 Broadway, between West 73rd and 74th Streets; more below!), in addition to the controversial retrofitting of the International Style Manufacturers Hanover Trust building on Fifth Avenue. Carol Krinsky, Professor of Art History at NYU, author of: Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore Owings & Merrill (1988), will discuss the former Manufacturers Trust Building and the impact of controversial Landmarks Commission-approved alterations upon the designated landmark interior. For more on this, visit, the website of the Citizens Emergency Committee to Preserve Preservation.

LOOKING BACK at Save the Beacon Theatre ...

The legendary Beacon Theatre--a New York City Interior Landmark--was saved not by chance, but by the sustained efforts of the citizen-advocates of Save the Beacon Theatre.

A look inside the restored Beacon Theatre.

More recently, in 2006, Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSGE) acquired the legendary venue and made a commitment to the city that it would restore the Beacon to its original grandeur. In 2008, MSGE embarked on a $17 million restoration, allowing audiences to experience its original majestic design. Working with architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle, the restoration has been more than just a rehearsal, but a true tour de force performance!

On October 8, 2009, to mark this preservation achievement, LANDMARK WEST! honored the Save the Beacon Theatre group with one of our 2009 "Unsung Heroes of the Upper West Side" Awards.
Though it is truly a wonder to behold, the majestically restored Beacon Theatre is no "Miracle on 74th Street." Planned as the Roxy Midway Theatre and opened in 1929, the future Beacon was the brainchild of theatrical impresario Samuel "Roxy" Rothfel (who later helped create Radio City Music Hall) and planned as a part of the Roxy Circuit of "movie palaces." Chicago architect Walter Ahlschlager designed The Beacon in an opulent pastiche of historical styles.

The interior was renowned for its flawless acoustics and became a coveted venue for musical superstars. It was designated as an official NYC Interior Landmark in 1979. Still, its future was not secure. In 1986, Save the Beacon Theatre formed in swift response to a developer's proposal to carve out the space for a discotheque-a plan that, incredibly, was approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Years of grassroots advocacy and legal action kept destruction at bay until, finally, the tide turned. Today, under MSGE's stewardship, more than 100 concerts and events take place annually at The Beacon Theatre, and it has once again recaptured is prominence as one of the most vibrant theaters in New York City.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hidden in Plain Sight: Discover the Mechanics' Institute

As reported by graduate intern Kate Gilmore

Left, American Architect and Building News/Office for Metropolitan History;
G. Paul Burnett, via The New York Times

On its exterior, 20 West 44th Street is an imposing, majestic edifice (d
esigned by architects Lamb & Rich) on the National Register of Historic Buildings. Inside is one of New York's best kept secrets!

Inside the library's reading room.  Image via NYC

It is home to the Mechanics' Institute- the city's oldest technical school. Mechanic insitutues were originally created as a place for adult continuing education, and the coursework focused on technical skills. The New York Mechanics' Institute was founded in 1858 with the aim of providing "privately-endowed free evening instruction to respectable young men and women to improve themselves in their daily vocations."

The Mechanics' Institute still offers free continuing education.The Institute provides instruction in a variety of disciplines including electrical technology, facilities management, plumbing design and historic preservation. Courses are open to all, whether you're a curious individual looking to learn a new skill or a professional hoping to enhance your repertoire of knowledge. For more information, visit their website.

FUN FACT: 20 West 44th Street is also home to John M. Mossman Lock Museum, which has one of the largest collections of bank and vault locks.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

At the house of java, honoring the House of Wharton

Edith Wharton lives on!

Today, the Historic Districts Council and the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center honored the memory of celebrated author and New Yorker Edith Wharton with the installation of a commemorative cultural medallion at 14 West 23rd Street, Wharton's place of birth.  

14 West 23rd Street, birthplace of Edith Wharton.
Writes the HDC:

... a ceremony commemorating the life and work of Edith Wharton, author of “The House of Mirth” and “The Age of Innocence”. Born in 1862 at 14 West 23rd Street in the Ladies’ Mile Historic District, Wharton was a chronicler of New York City’s Gilded Age and trendsetter for her generation.

The plaque is part of the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center’s Cultural Medallion program. The Center, chaired by Dr. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel (HDC’s 2011 Landmarks Lion), has installed almost 100 medallions around New York City to heighten public awareness of New York’s cultural and social history. Read more about this program and the plaque in the Wall Street Journal article “Addressing History”. 

Dr. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, chair of
the Historic Landmarks Preservation Center.

Click on the image to read an enlarged
commemorative plaque.

The crowd gathers (and grows!) outside 14 West 23rd Street as the commemoration ceremony begins.

LW's Cristiana joined the crowded street before No. 14 along with dozens of "Whartonites" (think we just coined a term!) and curious passersby.  Now a Starbucks outpost, the present occupant of Wharton's birthplace shared in the celebration with free coffee for all!  

Cristiana celebrates Edith Wharton with a cup of java.

Help the Center to identify other cultural landmarks that you feel deserve recognition -- nominate a new cultural medallion!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Living with Landmarks, the sequel!

Got questions? Get answers!

The Upper West Side may soon be home to 800+ new landmarks, as the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) seriously considers landmark designation expansion in the area between Broadway and Riverside Drive, from 70th to 107th Street (click here for a map of the full study area). The third and final of three public hearings (to consider the area between West 89th and West 109th Streets) is this month!

Please join your fellow residents, business and property owners, and a host of preservation partners for an open Q&A program about the benefits and responsibilities of Living with Landmarks.

DATE:  Wednesday, October 12th
TIME:  8:00 PM
LOCATION:  American Youth Hostel, Amsterdam Avenue at West 103rd Street

RSVP to encouraged

This neighborly Q&A will feature a brief presentation by Prof. Andrew Scott Dolkart (
Director of the Historic Preservation Program at Columbia University's School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation) on the history and development of West End Avenue and environs. The program will bring together individuals and organizations experienced in the landmark designation process, as well as the regulatory process for managing landmarks after designation has happened.

Help spread the word!
Click here to download a flyer to post in your building's entryway, mailroom or anywhere else that neighbors can learn about this important informational program.

For more on the Living with Landmarks program, click here!

Our sincerest thanks go to the
West End Preservation Society (WEPS) for their stalwart advocacy, and to Three Parks Independent Democrats for hosting the October 12th program.
Click the arrow above to visit LW's Flickr page and experience West End Avenue,
Riverside Drive, Broadway, and the streets between.