Friday, November 7, 2008

Save NYC Landmarks

To The Editor (Queens Gazette):

New York's rich past is clearly visible in its physical structures and neighborhoods. Growing up in New York, I appreciated the old buildings and felt a sense of continuity among them. As an adult, I learned about buildings and neighborhoods that no longer existed due to poorly planned developments, buildings such as the old Madison Square Garden and neighborhoods such as Radio Row. Yet I heard about successes, like the preservation of Grand Central Station. I saw other success stories in such places as South Street Seaport and the hundreds of old buildings and neighborhoods that formed the colorful tapestry of my city, a place that truly felt like the center of the world. I figured the city had learned from its mistakes.

But these days, New York is being looted. Recently, I have been shocked by a pattern of aggressive development that seems to be targeting old buildings and neighborhood centers with no apparent regard for their historical importance. While most New Yorkers I know share this impression, the people charged with protecting our cultural heritage and history do not seem to be as concerned. This destruction is taking place throughout the city. In particular, I have seen it in the destruction of the heart of the Yorkville neighborhood, the apparent targeting of Spanish Harlem, recent discussions about destroying the South Street Seaport to make way for a shopping mall, the planned destruction of Atlantic Yards and the project of the largest scale, the planned destruction of Yankee Stadium. This wave of destruction is akin to the type of cultural cleansing one might find in a vindictive war between rival ethnic groups.

To most New Yorkers, these places are landmarks. Yet the Landmarks and Preservation Commission seems to be hung up on highly technical definitions of what constitutes a landmark, and therefore, what merits preservation.

History and culture are important to who we are as a people. Does this really need to be rehashed? Do we really need to reinvent the wheel every time something of historic value is threatened, or can we place the burden on the developer? Why not make a rule that anything older than 75 years or that meets certain criteria, such as, say, the site of multiple papal visits, important concerts, national championships, something that is so close to the heart of all New Yorkers, be preserved unless the developer can prove why it should not be, and how the proposed project is better for the city?

This would slow development, it's true. Right now, that would be a good thing. Development at its current pace threatens to erase the city's character in the very near future.

Ultimately, we need to strike a balance between private and public interest. Right now, short-sighted developers are routing the city's cultural and historical legacy to make a quick buck. This serves no one's interests in the long term.

That buildings of such importance to our city's culture, to its neighborhoods, can be destroyed without a serious public debate is a sad state of affairs. These are irrevocable decisions that should not be made lightly. Yet they are being made every day without taking the city's will into account. And so, the city's face is being changed for the worse without thought.

The danger is that the city will so change that it will lose its unique character. New York is both a quintessentially American and global city, perhaps the premier American and global city. It is a treasure to the world. Before we allow this place to be looted any more for greed, we should take stock of what is going on.

Square one should be a concerted effort to stop the proposed destruction of Yankee Stadium. Most New Yorkers oppose destroying the stadium. There is no good justification for doing away with a building of such profound meaning to most New Yorkers.

Name withheld on request
New York, N.Y.

Editor's Note: The writer's remarks also apply to many neighborhoods and local landmarks in Queens.

Crappy's Note: This paper loves it when Astoria's landmarks are torn down to make way for "affordable" housing or other similar projects.


Anonymous said...

South Street Seaport was built in like 1985 .. How is this a landmark?

Anonymous said...

Are ya both listenin'
Mayor Mike and bumbling Bob Tierney?

Or are you too busy sharing
your "I-pod" ear buds plugged into your asses? !!!

pump up the volume and give 'em both a thrill!

Anonymous said...

"South Street Seaport was built in like 1985 .. How is this a landmark?"

The South Street seaport has buildings in it that date back to colonial NYC. There is one building, the Tin Building, that they want to move so they can build condos and a different shopping mall there.

Anonymous said...

The seaport's been around since the 18th century I believe.

The Disney-esque ambiance was added later you meat head!

The architectural style of the buildings on Fulton Street
don't appear to be circa 1985.

What school did you attend...
the University of Podunk?

Anonymous said...

they arent proposing knocking down the early buildings.

They are proposing knocking down the horrid red Pier building and moving the Tin building to his more historically appropriate place at the end of the Pier.

Read a little about the project before you go insulting people .

you cretin

Anonymous said...

Isn't it about time that NYC stopped growing? There are far too many problems in this city, and yet Bloomberg is obsessed with growth... There are enough shopping malls, luxury condos, and crap condos already. At the same time, some neighborhoods and the subway system can't deal with a heavy rain, and some subway stations are a disgrace to the city. Why doesn't anyone mention that many subway stations are in need of a major overhaul? Why the growth mania?

italian girl said...

The growth mania will very over very soon as long as the economy continues its downward spiral. Did you read about the job losses for October? It'll only get worse. Obama got a huge job ahead of him.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

Growth isn't the problem- there's no end of shitty post-war "modern" buildings that deserve the wrecking ball.

What's needed is smart growth.

Anonymous said...

"They are proposing knocking down the horrid red Pier building and moving the Tin building to his more historically appropriate place at the end of the Pier."

Doesn't "historically appropriate" = where it was built in the first place? Why the hell is this project necessary?

Ellen Brody-Kirmss said...

It's also very difficult now for organizations like the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society, keeper of the Vander Ende-Onderdonk House to keep things going. Funding from various NY government sources used for upkeep and programs was cut in half for this fiscal year (this has a great deal to do with a number of callous and inept public officials, who are or no longer will be in office). On top of this, funding is not being disbursed in the usual way, and is likely to be trimmed again.

That the Onderdonk House survives at all is a mystery in this climate of indifference, financial turmoil, and neglect and ignorance of history.

Somehow, there is always money to pursue something that is immediately lucrative for a relative few. We can only hope the community will step in to help in ways our city government refuses. A preserved landmark benefits all.

panzer65 said...

Since we are overpopulated,its time to start restricting all these residential structures. Many buildings and infrastructure that support communities should be prioritized, such as hospitals and police and fire stations.Furthermore, more emphasis should be placed on mass transit, creating new lines or upgrading the present ones.I totally agree with the author, we need to preserve our historic structures, by placing restrictions on any building that exceeds a certain time frame on its age.

Anonymous said...

I read about the project most thoroughly...
you intelligence bereft

It's totally inappropriate in scale and my gripe with you is that
your probably a spokesman for the developer.

Aren't you? So cut the shit!