The City University of New York has demolished a 1914 garage on its LaGuardia Community College campus that was part of the historic Loose-Wiles Sunshine Biscuit plant in Long Island City. The building had been protected by its formal status as “eligible” for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places until the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) issued a Letter of Resolution allowing its demolition in January. The ground on which the building stood will be paved for parking.
Restoring a building so pre-loaded with the green architecture virtues of flexibility and natural light, and tapping its immense embodied energy would have been a real coup for the sustainability on which CUNY congratulates itself. It would also have been the only responsible solution from a historic preservation standpoint. What’s lost in historical authenticity and identity of place is beyond replacement by new construction of any cost. When NYU outraged preservationists by demolishing Greenwich Village’s Poe House and most of the Provincetown Playhouse building, at least it was a matter of private versus public interest. CUNY is a public university system with 21 campuses and nearly 300 buildings, many of them architecturally or historically significant. How many of these will fall in the path of its mission?