Showing posts with label preserving old New York. Show all posts
Showing posts with label preserving old New York. Show all posts

Friday, September 16, 2011

And developers win again

Yesterday, a City Council subcommittee voted down by a 4-1 count a landmarking proposal for 135 Bowery, an 1817 federal style row house. First American International Bank, who owns the property, plans to tear down the house, which, granted, isn't in the best shape, to toss up a seven-story commercial building. District 1 City Councilmember Margaret Chin was the deciding factor. She was initially for landmarking the building, but later changed her mind because she was "swayed by [the owner's] offer to create affordable commercial space for small businesses in Chinatown," as The Lo-Down noted.

City Council votes on the issue next Wednesday, but there's no chance without Chin's support.

And has anyone actually seen the bank's plans?

Per Save the Lower East Side:

The bank that owns 135 Bowery hasn't submitted its affordable intention in writing. The bank hasn't shown any affordable rent rates; the bank hasn't produced any legally binding contract for this promised affordable commercial space or any indication how long the leases would remain affordable, or even any binding document whatsoever showing their intent. All we have is the word of the bank. (What do you think that's worth?)

Any bets that 135 Bowery becomes luxury housing?

The Lo-Down

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

RIP Margot Gayle

Margot Gayle, who marshaled shrewdness, gentility and spunk to save the Victorian cast-iron buildings of New York — using a little magnet as a demonstration device — in a crusade that led to the preservation of historic SoHo, died Sunday at her home in Manhattan. She was 100. (New York Times)

[Photo: Don Hogan Charles/The New York Times]

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The New Yorker "is a Huge Machine"

I really enjoyed Rolando's post on Urbanite last Thursday on the glorious Hotel New Yorker. The hotel's room-by-room renovation is drawing near a conclusion, notes Rolando, who had the chance to take a tour of the place with Joe Kinney, the hotel's engineer and historian.  Here are a few passages from the post:

The striking pyramidical, set-backed tower was financed and built before the Wall Street crash of 1929, and opened into a sobered-up world on Jan. 2, 1930, with the Great Depression already under way.

The 43-story hotel boasted many extremes when it opened: It was the biggest, the tallest, the one with the largest switchboard, the largest kitchen, the largest private power plant. Today, its massive LED sign is a skyline fixture and is possibly the largest of its kind anywhere.

You hear of the ice follies at the Terrace Room, of visits by actor Mickey Rooney and band leader Benny Goodman, and of Nikola Tesla, the electrical genius whose obsession with numbers and his love for pigeons still draw the curious to the hotel, where he spent his final years.

The New Yorker Hotel's historically minded renovation comes at a time when the future of its former swing-era arch enemy, the Hotel Pennsylvania, has been in question, and during a time when the wrecking ball has been tearing down old New York with abandon.

The hotel’s rebirth is due in no small part to Kinney's curiosity and cheer-leading for the hotel's history.

Read this follow-up post here.

Meanwhile, I came across this article from the April 1930 issue of Popular Science Monthly on the hotel's grand opening. 

Monday, July 28, 2008

EV Grieve Etc.

With less than 18 months left in Mayor Bloomberg's final term, the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission is in a race against the clock to approve historic designations for more than 1,000 buildings. (NY Post)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Elk in the City

OK, I have to admit I had no idea that there was an Elk Street in Manhattan. Stumbled upon it yesterday. Not much of a street. It starts at Chambers and quickly ends here:

But there's interesting history to it. According to Archaeology magazine, Elk Street's history goes back to 1867, when "a group of New York actors formed a drinking club called the Jolly Corks and held their first meeting at a boarding house on this street, which was then known as Elm Street. By the early twentieth century, the club evolved into a fraternal and philanthropic society, renamed the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, now with hundreds of chapters across the United States. The street's name was changed to honor the first Elk lodge in 1939."

[Image via Time Out New York]

Seeing this street name reminded me of a nearly extinct part of the city -- the Elk Hotel, which is, well. Here's how Steven Kurutz described it in a June 13, 2004, article in the Times:

A shabby little building at Ninth Avenue and 42nd Street, just down from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the Elk is the kind of hotel whose reputation precedes it. It offers rooms by the hour to couples who aren't very well acquainted, and doesn't change the sheets a whole lot. Put simply, the Elk is a flophouse.

There's more, and it's a thing of beauty:

There are 50 guestrooms at the Elk, and they are remarkable less for what they contain than for what they do not. There's usually no TV, no phone and, beyond a nightstand and a bed, no furniture. There's also no air-conditioning, making the summers brutal. The bathrooms, two per floor, are communal, which tends to scare off most American tourists.
Once, Times Square boasted a dozen hotels like the Elk. There was the Evans on West 38th Street and the Woodstock on 43rd, once a favorite of winos and methadone addicts. But in the neighborhood's revitalization, the flophouses were mostly remodeled or demolished.
The Elk's miraculous -- some would say unfortunate -- survival stems from a real estate fluke (the building's owner doesn't want to sell) and from the tenacity of its proprietor, who would identify himself only as Dinesh. Sitting on a stool in the hotel's small glassed-in office, he emitted the weary impatience of a man who for the past 17 years has daily beaten back the devil from his door. It took great effort, he said, to rid the hotel of its drug dealer residents, and he continually defends the place against their return, denying a room to anybody he finds suspect.

[Photo via Lost City]

I haven't been in that neighborhood for a few months. So I thought I'd give the hotel a call. Just to make sure they were still open. I never thought about what I was going to say when/if someone answered the phone. Anyway, this is exactly how the conversation went:

Elk: Hello?

Me: Uh, is this the Elk?

Elk: Yes.

Me: Are you open?

Elk: Yes.

Me: Do you rent rooms by the month?

Elk: No. Only by the day.

Me: So I 'd have to pay you each day for a month?

Elk: No. You can only stay here for three or four days at a time, then we'll ask you to check out.

Me: I see. Thank you.

Meanwhile, not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the Elk.

These reviews were gleaned from Yahoo! Travel. (Still, four of the eight reviews were positive.)

For further reading:
Old 42nd Street Ain't Gone Yet (Lost City)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

“When I go out my door now, I don’t see anyone I know. I see the loss of a community.”

[Image by Clayton Patterson]

The new issue of The Brooklyn Rail has a great feature on Clayton Patterson, the artist and documentarian who has been chronicling the changes in the Lower East Side since he first set up shop here in the early 1980s. Some of his 100,000 photos and 10,000 hours worth of footage went into Captured, which debuts Friday at The Rooftop Film Festival. "The film is as much a biopic of the neighborhood as it is a portrait of Patterson himself," according to the article by Jericho Parms

Here's an excerpt from the article:

When the Lower East Side took hold of Clayton Patterson, it never let go. He speaks of it as “a magic crucible that everything else would come out of.” In the last decade, he believes, he’s seen the end of that era as soaring real estate prices have begun to empty the village of its artists, bohemians, radicals and immigrants.
“When I go out my door now, I don’t see anyone I know. I see the loss of a community.” Patterson notes the changes—the cranky old tailor is gone, a trendy café bar bought out the Latino grocery on the corner. Still, there is a good chance that any person that walked the streets or attended an event in “the deep pool that is the Lower East Side” in the past two decades can be found somewhere in the Clayton Patterson archives. And, in that sense, they will live on forever.

Here's a trailer for the film:

Here's an article on Patterson from the Times.

Friday, May 23, 2008

"A handful of its buildings may seem grimly picturesque, but for the most part this is unappealing New York"

That's Simon Jenkins writing in today's Guardian UK.

It's a reaction to the National Trust for Historic Preservation naming the LES in its 2008 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

Here's an excerpt from his column:

A new facet of globalisation is well-meaning organisations roaming the planet listing things as threatened or on the brink of extinction. They may be a beetle, a rainforest, a Buddhist temple or, it so appears, the spirits of a city's past. Two years ago the Indiana Joneses of Unesco fought their way up the Thames to be appalled by the Tower of London. They found its setting blighted - as if overnight - by ugly office blocks, qualifying it for the "world heritage in danger" schedule. Liverpool waterfront received a similar finger-wagging.

The Tower of London is one thing, the Lower East Side another. I have been a "poverty tourist" in many awful places and felt the mix of guilt, shame and astonishment at such human resilience. But it never occurred to me to want to "save" the street camps of Calcutta, the shanties of Bogota or the inhabited concrete ruins of modern Baghdad.

The Lower East Side is not in this league, but the principle is similar. A handful of its buildings may seem grimly picturesque, but for the most part this is unappealing New York, an environment of drab tenements, public housing and vacant lots, where only the lifestyle of the fleeing minorities infuses the streets with some visual interest. The concept of "endangered" here applies to an idea, that of a cultural and social fabric, and one that is inevitably transient.

Yet the appeal of that fabric to local residents and to New Yorkers in general is undeniable. This may be a New York churning with "comers and goers", but both residents and those new to the area seem to agree on one thing: they want something of its character preserved. Conservation has matured from saving buildings to seeing them as a proxy for communities, cultures and a sense of physical identity. It is reflected in the British yearning to "save rural communities" by subsiding houses and preventing sales to newcomers, the so-called "yokel in a smock" syndrome.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Just because a building is old does not mean that it is historically significant"

That's Mitchell L. Moss, professor of urban policy and planning at NYU's Wagner School of Public Service, in an op-ed in today's Post titled Death by 'Preservation.'

It's a reaction to the National Trust for Historic Preservation naming the LES in its 2008 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

An excerpt from Moss' op-ed:

New York City's Landmark Preservation Commission is focusing on the need to save important buildings in the area rather than to create a massive historic district that would limit new housing and development. Just because a building is old does not mean that it is historically significant. Landmark designation shouldn't be abused to achieve other political and social goals.

The Lower East Side is flourishing; the New Museum just opened on the Bowery and is the catalyst for the transformation of what was once the city's Skid Row. The Yiddish that once was spoken on Grand Street has been replaced by Cantonese and Mandarin.

If New York City is to accommodate the population growth projected over the next quarter century, neighborhood change is inevitable. This is not a city that stands still. It is always evolving.

We should be wary of strangers from Washington bringing their recipes for preservation; let New York be New York.