Friday, August 28, 2015

Let the children have their way...Let the children play

Singer-Songwriter legend Carlos Santana wasn't necessarily singing about Playground 89, on West 89th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam when he wrote "Let the Children Play" in 1976, but the playground, adjacent famed architect C. B. J. Snyder's P.S. 166 was first redesigned by landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg in 1967 so it is a possibility...

Photo Courtesy of Laurie Frey, Friends of Playground 89

The repetitive lyrics of the song remind us to let children be- they need to have fun, explore and find themselves.  The award-winning Friedberg knew this himself and incorporated as much fun into his designs as possible.  Playground 89 was "sunk three feet below grade for a sense of containment, it held a number of geometrized granite-block landforms--a mountain and canyons or caves--and an imaginative variety of playlinks, including springboards, bridges, fireman's poles, cables, and ladders.  The climbing mound concealed lavatories.  Trees were planted throughout the play area, including on top of a mound.  There were a tree house, a "spider's web" of cables suspended between posts, and an amphitheater with spray fountains" (Alison Dalton, M. Paul Friedberg's early Playground Designs in New York City).  Seminal at the time, playgrounds such as this would later be grouped into a category recognized as "Adventure Playgrounds" with others by Friedberg, Pei and Dattner among the most recognizable.

Playground 89 followed the fortunes of New York City.  The bathrooms were eventually shuttered and partially buried.  A revisit to the design in 1999 brought Friedberg a second act on the same site but with minimal funding it was more of a design simplification.  More recently, the NYC Parks Department proposed making alterations and shared their design with Community Board 7.

After lengthy negotiations between us, the Parks Department, and the Friends of Playground 89, work has begun on the renovations.  In an effort to modernize and make the playground more accessible, new ramps will be added, two sprinklers will be removed and the lowest step of the amphitheater will be filled, among other changes to the 1967 design.  A look back at the entire process is well encapsulated in The New York Observer.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Concerns about Intro. 775 shared with Council Members

Landmark West!, Historic Districts Council, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, and Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts wrote to Council Members to express serious concerns about Intro. 775. We share the desire for a swift, predictable and transparent landmark designation process and have given much consideration to how the current process could be improved to accomplish those goals. However, the bill as currently written would achieve the exact opposite. It would discourage the consideration of complicated or controversial sites and encourage obstruction rather than designation. 

Click here to read our full letter.

Write to members of the City Council Land Use Committee today to express your concerns about the significant ways in which this legislation would weaken the Landmarks Law (and please cc.! Our colleagues at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation have set up a handy electronic form letter, available here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT: Upper West Side Townhouse (24 West 71st Street)

This Upper West Side Townhouse was built in 1888-90 (NB- 1500-1888) by two commonly known architects Lamb and Rich and owned by Elizabeth Milibank. Significantly made with granite and iron spot brick, this Terra-Cotta designed townhouse is on the market for $29 million. The 20 foot wide 5 story home sits mid block between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue. In 1892 this townhouse was completed and filed in 1888. Later this town-house received a museum-grade restoration that cost $1 million and then became a grand single-family residence. The townhouse style is Romanesque Revival with Renaissance elements with facades of brick and stone. The windows type/ material is one-over-one double hung/wood, and transoms/wood. This method of construction is masonry bearing walls.

   Hugh Lamb & Charles Alonzo Rich were partners in the NYC firm of Lamb & Rich, established after 1880 and operated until 1899. Both architects were born around 1850. Lamb was a Scottish native. Rich was born in Beverly, Mass and attended Dartmouth. Lamb was the business man and Rich was the designer. Lamb died in 1903 and Rich died in 1943.
Some of their works include Mount Morris Bank Building (East 125th Street and Park Avenue) New York, NY (1883)-mostly demolished, Sagamore Hill (20 Sagamore Hill Rd, Oyster Bay (1884-86)), Astral Apartments (184 Franklin Street, New York, NY (1885)), Main Building Pratt Institute, Brooklyn NY (1886-87) Germania Fire Insurance Co. Building (62 William Street, New York, NY (1891)) and many others. 
24 West 71st Street      
    This same townhouse sold in 1996 for a then-record $4.3 million. This home now has six bedrooms, six and a half baths, 10 gas fireplaces, an elevator, a Japanese inspired spa and auxiliary kitchens on the garden level (used as a home office and conference room) and on the top floor, a self contained suite mostly used by the owners' parents. the third floor is designated master level, with a front library and den, a bold black marble powder room and rear bedroom with dual baths, one with a sunken tub and two exposures, the other with a shower and a wall of closets.

The current owners, Arrien and Robin Schiltkamp, were enthralled by the distinctive exterior, with its wrought iron ornamentation, terra-cotta scallop shells in the arches of the fifth floor windows, and twin cherubs hoisting the pillars that frame the cornice. 

As said by Dexter Guerrieri, the president of Vandenberg, the Townhouse Experts, "in 25 years of selling townhouses, i can say with confidence that there is not a finer parlor floor. The museum quality details and opulence of this townhouse are unsurpassed.  

My name is Shannon Brown and I'm an intern at Landmark West! I will be entering my senior year of high school in September 2015. My experience here has been a great one so far.  Hope to share more research before the summer is out.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

10 Years After Katrina, Book Talk by Roberta Brandes Gratz


Please join LANDMARK WEST! as we remember Hurricane Katrina (2005)
and celebrate 10 years of steady urban regeneration 
in the historic city of New Orleans.

Wednesday, September 9, 6:30PM
A Book Talk by Roberta Brandes Gratz*

award-winning journalist, urban critic and author of the newly released
We're Still Here Ya Bastards: How the People of New Orleans Rebuilt Their City

Book Culture on Columbus**
450 Columbus Avenue (between 81st & 82nd Streets)

Tickets $15 ($10 for members of LW!)
RSVP - space is limited or (212) 496-8110
or reserve online through Eventbrite

Talk followed by book signing and reception
Books available for purchase from Book Culture

On August 29, 2005, an ill wind swept across New Orleans. Her name was Katrina.

So begins RBG's riveting account of a historic city's near-destruction and, against all odds, rebirth. "Cities are never lacking in wise, energetic, passionate, and dedicated citizens who know how to rebuild their communities. New Orleans has more than its share of such citizens. They are the ones most responsible for their city's recovery."
What others are saying:

"Gratz provides a moving chronicle of the efforts of a real people to rebuild their battered city in the fact of bad engineering, cynical politicians, incompetent bureaucrats and greedy developers...This book is an absolute must read for anyone who cares about the future of our communities and nation."

- Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class and professor at NYU 

"In this powerful book, Roberta Brandes Gratz turns her deep understanding of the work of Jane Jacobs into an astonishing account of how imaginative community activists like Jacobs emerge and grow in the wake of a disaster like Katrina. In virtually every domain of urban life-in housing, health care, education, economic development, and environmental protection-she discovers New Orleanians... A masterpiece of reportage and analysis!"
- Richard Rabinowitz, Phd, President, American History Workshop

A Greenwich Villager by birth; a world traveler, lecturer and writer by profession; and an Upper West Sider by choice, Roberta Brandes Gratz began her preservation journey as a copy girl and went on to pen an award-winning-and game-changing series of articles probing the city's then-nascent landmarks process for the New York Post in 1973. Her coverage led directly to strengthening the Landmarks Law and set the stage for protecting more than 25,000 places covered by the Law in the years since. With Jane Jacobs, she founded The Center for the Living City. As a member of the Landmarks Preservation Commission from 2003 to 2010, and right on till today, Roberta is an outspoken defender of the New York's historic neighborhoods, including her own beloved West Side. She splits her time between New York and New Orleans. (for more about Roberta, visit

"As Upper West Siders, we want to start turning the tide right here in our own community, on a current trend that sees independent bookstores - and the power of choice that comes along with them - disappearing at an alarming rate. As New Yorkers, we want to do our part to make sure that our city's rich history and reputation for being home to writers, publishing houses, editors, and bookstores, remains intact - as does our city's position as the literary capital of the world." (excerpted from

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Continued Opposition to 361 Central Park West Residential Conversion

Landmark West! wishes to comment on the application to the Board of Standards and Appeals for the conversion of the former First Church of Christ, Scientist (Carrère and Hastings, 1899-1903, an Individual Landmark designated in 1974) into a 39-unit residential building, requiring six waivers under the New York City Zoning Resolution and Multiple Dwelling Law.

Read our full submission to the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals here.

Monday, August 10, 2015

HIGHLIGHT! George and Edward Blum

Source: Office of Metropolitan History 

    by Shannon Brown
      George and Edward Blum aka the Blum Brothers studied at the Ecole des Beaux- Arts during the 20th century. After their studies, they created the Admaston (251 west 89th street) and few other buildings with this architectural feature such as the Evanston (610 West End Avenuethe Phaeton (539 West 112th Street) and many others. 

       George Blum was the more the laid back and opinionated brother who had similar ideas as his brother but different intentions as to how the buildings would be or appear to look in others eyes. Also Blum graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1894 and in that same year he took the bar exam and a partnership in a firm with John B. Fleming called "the firm of Fleming and Blum".
    Edward Blum was the more creative brother out the both of them. He came up with the most design ideas. Blum attended Columbia University from which he received his degree in architecture. He later formed a firm with his brother George and built some of the most well-known and geometrically designed buildings. 
499 Seventh Avenue
Terra Cotta design panels

    As an individual each brother had the same intentions to come together to create the same design idea in buildings. In result to that they both collaborated and eventually had their owned firm called “the firm of George & Edward Blum”, which received more than 170 commissions in Manhattan alone between 1909 & 1930. Their most common façade details are designs made of Terra-Cotta, brick; usually geometrical shapes for the buildings front entrances and street façade. The brothers mainly gravitated towards Renaissance themed facades but depended on masonry and metalwork.

My name is Shannon Brown and I'm an intern at Landmark West! I will be entering my senior year of high school in September 2015. My experience here has been a great one so far but hope to share more research before the summer is out.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Upcoming Events - September 2015

Dear Friends of LANDMARK WEST!:
We have some exciting events coming up here at LW! to get you through these dog days of summer. Here is a sampling of our programs taking place in September:

Learn the ABCs of Central Park with Gerald Lynas!

Central Park
Monday, September 7, 10:00am 
A great Labor Day activity for the whole family!

Through the alphabet and numbers, artist/author G. Augustine Lynas introduces youngsters to the wonder and beauty of New York's Central Park, a NYC Scenic Landmark. First, we will discover where Lynas found inspiration for his book The ABCs of Central Park, then we will use our own keen eyes to snap candid photos of what Lynas calls "alpha-branches" and "number-limbs!" Check out Lynas' book here and see some pictures from our last tour with Lynas here. 

$5 per person. To make a reservation, please email or call (212) 496-8110.

Roberta Brandes Gratz Book Talk Celebrates Launch of 
We're Still Here Ya Bastards: How the People of New Orleans Rebuilt Their City

Book Culture, 450 Columbus Avenue (between 81st & 82nd) 
Wednesday, September 9, 6:30pm

Join LW! as we remember Hurricane Katrina (2005) and celebrate 10 years of steady urban regeneration in the historic city of New Orleans. Award-winning journalist, urban critic, and author Roberta Brandes Gratz will guide us through her newly released publication, We're Still Here Ya Bastards: How the People of New Orleans Rebuilt Their City. Gratz's book provides a powerful account of how community activists are leading their city's recovery. 

$15, $10 for LW! members. To make a reservation, please email or call (212) 496-8110. Reservations also available through Eventbrite by clicking here.

An Architectural Walking Tour of Lincoln Center with architectural historian Thomas Mellins

Lincoln Center
Wednesday, September 30, 6:00pm

Join us as we explore Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts with Thomas Mellins, an architectural historian, independent curator, and author who has curated exhibitions for Jazz at Lincoln Center, the National Building Museum, the Yale School of Architecture, and many others. Mellins will lead us through the country's largest performing arts center, a space which represents the unity and talent of several prominent architects of the mid-20th century.  Then-starchitects Max Abramovitz, Pietro Belluschi, Gordon Bunshaft, Wallace Harrison, Eero Saarinen, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and Phillip Johnson collaborated to create a world-class center of the arts in Manhattan, defined by an overall aesthetic that synthesized Classicism and Modernism. The tour will also highlight the recent redevelopment project, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Lincoln Center is on LW!'s Wish List of landmark designation priorities, and it was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

$25, $15 for LW! members. To make a reservation, please email or call (212) 496-8110. Reservations also available through Eventbrite by clicking here.