Tuesday, July 31, 2007

SHPO jokes keep on coming

Amsterdam Houses, a cluster of 13 public housing buildings behind Lincoln Center on Manhattan's Upper West Side, marked its 60th anniversary with a three days of celebration that included a moonlight Circle Line cruise on Friday and an entertainment-packed afternoon program yesterday.

Amsterdam Houses Celebrate 60 Years

According to the preservation group, Landmark West!, which in 2005 added Amsterdam Houses to its list of buildings that merit landmark protection, the state of New York has determined that the complex is eligible to be placed on the state and national registers of historic places.

Amsterdam Houses Celebrates 60th Anniversary

Enough with the housing projects already! Are these the landmarks that best represent this city? Don't enough of our tax dollars already go toward the maintenance of these ugly structures? Why would we celebrate this part of the legacy of Robert Moses who may possibly be the king tweeder of all time?

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lord, are these buildings as repulsive from the ground as they are from the air?

Anonymous said...

No, they're actually more repulsive!

Anonymous said...

This is the difference between people from Manhattan and people from Queens. Only Manhattan people would say they want to landmark a housing project and do so with a straight face and without a punchline.

Phil said...

In what warped world do people believe that housing projects are a good thing? What historical events associated with this do they want to preserve: crime, drugs, dependence on the government?

Anonymous said...

This goes along with the revisionism of saying that Robert Moses wasn't such a bad guy.

Anonymous said...

If these get landmarked by LPC, I'm outta here.

Anonymous said...

I think I may have officially seen everything now.

Anonymous said...

Has the upper west side run out of things to landmark?

Anonymous said...

I'd like to have a roundtable of Queens preservationists. "Should we landmark the Queensbridge houses?" After all, it is the biggest housing project in the USA. I think the stares of incredulity would linger for awhile.

Anonymous said...

Let me guess - HDC & MAS support this.

Anonymous said...

I think the goal is to have at least one housing project in each borough landmarked. Throw the underclass a bone.

Anonymous said...

Jumpin jiminy....you think this is part of the gentrification of the projects?

Anonymous said...

This group that wants to landmark this project - have they ever attended a preservation rally in Queens?

Anonymous said...

So we have these people trying to landmark housing projects and that guy in the village who is always whining about signs being too big. These Manhattanites should move to Queens for a few days and see what they can do here with all their time and energy.

Anonymous said...

It's Manhattan rules boys.....if somebody famous spit on a street corner.....the sidewalk gets landmarked.

But in Queens the historic Legget/Fish Home got torn down to make way for politically connected Mattone to build a string of ugly boxes on the former CYO property !

That's an example of playing by the Queens (bury) rules !

Anonymous said...

Great, in Old Astoria we tear down several 150+ year old houses each year in a place that Goodwill Industries wants to hide the identity and rebrand 'Two Coves' (it will always be Old Astoria) while they would want to landmark the Astoria Houses.

Anonymous said...

I think the reason is that Crappie is exposing the hypocrisy of the preservation movement (excuse me, the 'official preservation' movement which is known by its fat consulting fees, big mansions and access (real or imagined) to the courts of power -- as opposed to the 'public grass roots' preservation community which is ignored, insulted, undercut and generally abused by the politicians, press and 'official' preservationists.

Yes, people without the right zip code or taste in refreshments (some of us do like beer at events) are putting together a very compelling profile of a deeply trouble movement that is underpinned by an obsolete and outdated law. A law that no longer protects historic buildings and communities (Richmond Hill?, St Savours?) but is used solely as an instrument to protect a very small portion of NY - a tiny segment that that does not represent a true cross section of the city.

In a few years of landmarking projects they can point proudly to the wonderful rainbow enjoying landmark designation.

Oh course they are wasting their time because the movement to overturn the landmarks law is well underway.

Anonymous said...

"If these get landmarked by LPC, I'm outta here."

Exactly what those who hijack the process want you to do. No, stay and fight. The law is hanging like a ripe fruit ready to fall.

You deserve the same rights as some rich West Sider who is enjoying a priv. denied to you but underpinned by your taxes.

Anonymous said...

The projects are safe, like the libraries, firehouses, cemetaries and civic appointments in Queens.

It bulks up the numbers without standing in the way of the bulldozers.

The best housing for landmarking is found in places like East New York and Bed-Stuy, but, well now, we do want to embrace minorities and people of color (to avoid charges of elitisim) but agian, don't want to stand in the way of bulldozers.

So public housing is the most obvious solution for the mentality that has been running the preservation movement as of late.

Anonymous said...

"These Manhattanites should move to Queens for a few days and see what they can do here with all their time and energy."

When the landmarks law gets overturned, buster, they will be in Queens.

Anonymous said...

They only want to landmark these projects to prevent redevelopment of the site. They fear 30 story buildings and fight with all their power to stop them. They are not preservationists, they are just hard-core nimbys, made up of 80 year old rent stabilized people who have nothing better to do.

Hunter said...

Dear Queens Crap,

I have read your blog with great interest. To be clear, is your argument that Amsterdam Houses—the product of several prominent designers, a symbol of the civil rights movement and an era of public housing—should not be eligible for state and national register status and city landmarking? Do you consider it important to preserve an early example of the New York City Housing Authority’s integration efforts? Is it not important to understand the later work of Grosvenor Atterbury, designer of Forest Hills Gardens?

For more information on these issues and others, I invite you to visit our website: www.landmarkwest.org/amsterdamhouses to learn more about the significance of Amsterdam Houses and our advocacy efforts.

Landmark West! has consistently advocated for the preservation of significant modern architecture and landscapes, including 2 Columbus Circle, Lincoln Center and Central Park’s Adventure Playgrounds. Preservation is not a Queens vs Manhattan issue, as we are all working toward the same cause.

Sincerely,
Hunter Armstrong
Deputy Director

LANDMARK WEST!

Queens Crapper said...

"Raynell France longed for a real home. She was 26 years old, pregnant and had just split bitterly from the father of her eight-year-old son. She shuttled between a tiny apartment in Harlem and her grandmother's place in the public-housing project where she grew up.

Her grim situation seemed reflected by the very walls around her. Hallways at the Amsterdam Houses project were dark and dirty. The elevator to her grandmother's seventh-floor apartment often stank of urine.

But something was changing in the neighborhood of her childhood. The housing project, located on Manhattan's West Side, had become an island of poverty in a surging sea of prosperity. Rising on all sides were massive new apartment buildings, and more would soon follow, boasting some of the glitziest names in real estate.

"Maybe there's some way I can get in there," Ms. France mused. The gleaming spires loom just across the street, but to most Amsterdam Houses tenants, they might as well be in the Emerald City. Rents on two-bedroom apartments are advertised at as much as $6,500 a month -- more than a third of the average Amsterdam household's annual income of $16,000. In the past few years, however, the new buildings have come to have a profound impact on the lives of Ms. France and some of her neighbors.

Across the country, an unprecedented real-estate boom is bringing riches and renewal to long-abandoned urban cores. But what's going on in this unusual section of New York's West Side isn't classic gentrification. Developers and yuppies are moving in, but they aren't pushing out the poor. Amsterdam residents mostly are staying where they are, in one of the city's oldest public-housing projects. Only now they're in the shadows of some of the most expensive new buildings in America.

The development has brought with it both promise and disappointment to the 2,700 mostly black and Hispanic residents of Amsterdam Houses. For a handful of them, the soaring new buildings mean direct economic benefit: One building in the Trump Place compound has hired three maintenance men from Amsterdam Houses. The Western Beef supermarket on the bottom floor of Mr. Brodsky's West End Towers has employed about a dozen workers from the project.

For others, the glassy edifices suggest opportunities denied. "I just don't see where those buildings get us," says Shirley Jones, a 59-year-old Amsterdam tenant and retired school aide who sells beauty products on the sidewalk near the project. "The new people are doing fine. Things here are bad and worse."

Amsterdam Houses is one of the few reminders of a historically poor and neglected neighborhood. The area inspired Leonard Bernstein's musical "West Side Story," and the 1961 film was shot a few blocks from Amsterdam Houses. In the late 1950s, as part of an urban-renewal campaign, city officials knocked down acres of shabby West Side tenements to clear the way for the Lincoln Center theater complex. Residents of Amsterdam Houses immediately sensed a bitter symbolism even in the architecture itself: Their view of the gleaming white-marble center across the street was of its garage and rear wall.

Ms. France was bowled over by the contrast. Amsterdam's 14 red-brick buildings, most of which date to the 1940s, show the dark stains of age. At West End Towers, doormen stand guard 24 hours a day, and the elegant wood-paneled lobby gets swabbed and dusted daily. The elevators sparkle. There's central air-conditioning. Best of all, the model apartment she saw had a dishwasher. "I had prayed for a nice place with a dishwasher," she says. "I believe in God." The rental-office secretary encouraged Ms. France to appeal the rejection.

A few months later, she got good news: Her initial attempt had failed because she had mistakenly counted her grandmother's government benefits in her income calculation. Her own pay from part-time jobs as a hospital patient-services representative and cleaning-service worker came well within the program's $21,000 annual-income cap.

Ms. France wasn't the only one whose dreams of moving away from Amsterdam Houses were fed by hopes of a new apartment across the street."

Read the above and then ask me the question again.

Anonymous said...

Will the urine smell be preserved by LPC?

Anonymous said...

Honestly, if you are lobbying to save housing projects, you have a little too much free time on your hands. Ask the people who live in them if they think the buildings should be landmarked or would they prefer they be razed and rebuilt...

Rose said...

"Preservation is not a Queens vs Manhattan issue, as we are all working toward the same cause."

No, that's where you are wrong, Hunter. Preservation IS a Manhattan vs. Queens issue. Just take a look at the numbers and where the people with the power and money to push for landmarking concentrate their efforts.

Gerri said...

Do any Manhattan preservationists ever come to Queens to rally for a cause? Yet they expect us to shlep into Manhattan because there are signs that are too big hanging from a scaffolding...

The subway runs in both directions, folks.

Anonymous said...

2 Columbus Circle is another piece of "art" that people in Queens have a good laugh over. An eyesore for years that attracted lots of garbage, homeless and urine smell. (Maybe they just really like urine smell on the west side...)

Anonymous said...

I think anything connected with the horrible Robert Moses policy of razing entire neighborhoods should not be landmarked.

Anonymous said...

"Ask the people who live in them if they think the buildings should be landmarked or would they prefer they be razed and rebuilt..."

Actually it sounds like they'd rather move out completely.

mazeartist said...

My high school is across the street from the Amsterdam Houses. These projects are an isle of diversity in an otherwise wealthy white neighborhood. At the same time, they are isolated from the rest of the neighborhood by Lincoln Center.

Julie said...

I thought the excuse given for not designating landmarks in Queens was that they would not be tourist attractions. So, is the midwestern and European set expected to traipse around the projects? This is one ludicrous double standard.

Anonymous said...

Why would we celebrate public housing? Nothing more than people leeching off of others.

Anonymous said...

You know, LPC may catch onto this as a way to boost landmark numbers in Queens. We have: Lefrak City, Queensbridge Houses, Astoria Houses, Woodside Houses, the projects in Rockaway and Jamaica... they are all examples of warehousing and not likely to be demolished. Let's preserve these vestiges of the Lindsay administration forever!

Anonymous said...

I just read that upper west siders want to landmark projects based on their architectural value. I think someone's digging into their magic mushrooms...

Anonymous said...

As someone who worked at the Amsterdam Houses, I can honestly tell you that they are a DUMP. Tear them down and provide a real sense of community to people who have been kept downtrodden by getting everything paid for by Uncle Sam.

Kenny said...

I can't wait for the official MAS and HDC statements on this.

Anonymous said...

"I just read that upper west siders want to landmark projects based on their architectural value. I think someone's digging into their magic mushrooms..."

One of those groups who takes advantage that 90% of the 40% of preservation efforts and funding that should be earmarked for Queens (based on our size) is instead spent in Manhattan.

Thats gonna change, eh?

Anonymous said...

"At the same time, they are isolated from the rest of the neighborhood by Lincoln Center."

Yes, and I am sure the whiteys in the 'hood would like to keep it that way.

Anonymous said...

It's not that I personally disagree with the integration history inherent in these buildings but I don't see why this single complex deserves landmark status over any other existing low income housing projects throughout our city.

I suspect it's mainly because they lie in the jurisdiction of that noisy "Landmarks West" bunch whose agenda seems to be the employment of our municipal landmarks law to protect their fiefdom rather than basing designation on any real historic , architectural or scenic merit.

I'm old enough to have gone to school at P.S. 107....directly across from the much older much more significant La Guardia projects in the Classon Point section of the Bronx.

Why shouldn't these low rise (2 story) buildings be landmarked first ? Or how about the Sound View Housing Projects (one of the first high rise projects to be built in the Bronx on Rosedale Ave. in about 1953)) directly across the street from where I grew up ?

These might be considered far more worthy of preservation and landmarking (particularly the La Guardia Houses) .

Why aren't they landmarked? Probably because they're not in Manhattan.
They are more particularly NOT on the west side !

Once again, this is the domain of that vociferous "preservation" group that appears at almost every meeting I've attended.....sucking the very air from the room attempting to dominate all other preservation issues in NYC with their own agenda!

They DON'T appear to be very cooperative in sharing "the scene" with their brother and sister historic preservationists in other parts of OUR city.

We never see any of the "Landmarks West" folks turning out for any other preservation rallies outside of Manhattan do we ?

As poster "Gerri"said, "THE SUBWAY RUNS IN BOTH DIRECTIONS" and you certainly don't need a passport to come to Queens,

Personally....I wouldn't give you parochial "West" folks the skin off a grape until YOU DO YOUR SHARE of supporting preservation in NYC's 4 other boroughs......that means PLANTING YOUR FEET outside of Manhattan some time in the very near future !

If those (rather unimportant in the scheme of integration history) Amsterdam Houses don't get landmarked, then the west side will have to take their lumps alongside the outer boroughs.

Our history is disappearing at a much faster rate than yours!

P.S. I have some wonderful B/W photos of the neighborhood (that I took in 1962) before Lincoln Center was built.
Where was the public outcry to preserve those architectural treasures that were pulled asunder to build the opera house complex that replaced the Old Met.

Using the criteria of being an important part of "integration history" as a device for landmarking the Amsterdam Houses might be construed as the upper classes merely using the lower economic classes to achieve their own elitist goals.

Can this be interpreted as a "creative" form of classism or racism ?

Anonymous said...

Why don't you "Landmarks West" advocates
get busy helping to secure some funds to repair
the crumbling Travertine Marble widely evident throughout the whole Lincoln Center complex instead of advocating to landmark an eyesore?
It looks like Hell !

Anonymous said...

The prominent African American author James Baldwin once described Harlem as "....a festering black sore on the soft underbelly of a white women....".

His words might well describe the position of the embattled Amsterdam houses .

Anonymous said...

Well how about all those stunning blocks in minority communities? They are far more worthy of designation, and just because they are people of color or immigrants does should not deny them the benefits of designation.

The anti-landmark group at Sunnyside Gardens came within an ace of figuring that out and almost won the battle.

I believe that sooner or later this argument will be used to deny a community landmarking. Yet another compelling reason to overturn to that law.

A new landmarks law should insure that landmarking is across the city and reflects the wonderful diversity of our city, not just a few wealthy enclaves (that got designated coincidentally just before the bishops of preservation decided to close the canon in the official bible.)

It should provide a commission at least 10 times the size of the current one (I mean really folks, lobbying a few thousand dollars increase in their budget? Where do you live, Old Greenwich? Montclair? This is NYC for heavens sake - get real!)

Anonymous said...

"Their view of the gleaming white-marble center across the street was of its garage and rear wall."

Sounds like Suna (aka Silvercup) and what the folks at Queensbridge and LIC will see of his project once ths private developer grabs what should be public parkland from voters, taxpayers and the middle class residents of the area.

Anonymous said...

Landmarks West seems to have hijacked organizations with their own agenda, look at all those annoying emails from them and HDC over 2 Columbus Circle completly pushing out any attention to all the other neighbhorhoods in the city who were losing true architectural/histrocal gems.

Got to the point where people were so turned off even committed preserationists were sending them angry emails to stop the spamming.

Wags in the movement started calling them 'Landmarks Pest.'

one hand washes the other said...

As soon as one of those "Landmarks Pest"
people spotted me as a gung ho preservationist
at a CECPP meeting,
they immediately tried to enlist me in their"cause"
like an over eager army recruiter
or a high pressure insurance agent.....whew.....
before I even got a chance to sit down!

Hey, Hunter....
will we ever see you out in Queens
expressing the same degree of zeal
supporting our issues
as we've done for you in the past?

We're not holding our breath....
you bunch of spoiled brats !