18th Annual Preservation Conference:Videos

18th Annual Preservation Conference: The Great Outside: Preserving Public and Private Open Spaces

Opening Night Keynote Speech given by Charles A. Birnbaum

New York Law School185 West Broadway, Manhattan

Friday, March 2, 2012 6:00-8:00pm

Change, Continuity and Civic Ambition: Cultural Landscapes, Design and Historic Preservation

 

Conference Panels

Cooper Union

41 Cooper Square, at East 7th Street, Manhattan
Saturday, March 3, 2012 8:30 am-1:00 pm

10:00-11:15am
Open Space in the Public Realm
This panel will feature three distinguished panelists on the topic of significant public open spaces, including plazas, parks and beaches. Panelists include Thomas J. Campanella, Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Design at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who will discuss Moses-era parks; Alexandra Wolfe of the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, who will talk about the effort to preserve the significant WPA-era landscape of Jones Beach; and landscape architect Ken Smith, who will examine the theme of urban plazas.

11:45-1:00pm
Open Space in the Private Realm
Historic private and residential open space faces a different set of challenges and concerns than do publicly owned spaces. Several prominent speakers will examine some of these issues, such as regulation of these resources and raising awareness of their significance. Curator and architectural historian Thomas Mellins will address the evolving importance of mid-century public-housing landscapes and independent scholar Evan Mason will present her ongoing study of New York City rear yards. This panel will also address suburban-style open spaces including garden apartments and planned communities.

Full Transcript:

Historic Districts Council Conference March 2nd and 3rd, 2012 

332_0192_01.MOV

Speaker: Simeon Bankoff

Welcome to our 18th annual conference.

I have been accused in the past both of usually being asleep at this hour and also not really doing an adequate job of explaining who exactly the Historic Districts Council is.

So, after eighteen years, let’s try and do this right. As many of you may know Historic Districts Council is the citywide council for New York’s historic neighborhoods.

We don’t know how to put together a slideshow but, we work to ensure the preservation of significant areas, buildings and open spaces to uphold the integrity of the New York Landmarks Law and to further the preservation ethic.

This mission is accomplished through ongoing programs of assistance to more than five hundred community and neighborhood based groups and public policy initiatives and publications.

Activities and initiatives that we have include, spring community preservation efforts, this is one of our largest areas of activity and we aid community activists.
We offer free expertise programming to our constituency of more than five hundred groups through strategical advice, technical assistance and community organizations and campaign development and free informational panels.

Recently, last year, we initiated a new program, called the Six to Celebrate. And you’ve seen some of those posters out there. It is the first citywide list of preservation priorities in New York City that is chosen by the community. This is the only list that is really generated from the community for the communities.

We put out a call to all of our neighborhood partners, the community boards, interested parties on the Web and say send in nominations for where you think the priorities are that need strategic help and need HDC’s attention for a year. For one year then we devote direct attention to six chosen groups and campaigns.

Working with them on everything from fundraising to landmarking. Helping organize communities, helping organize educational programming. This year, we are proud to have our six and they are:

The Port Morris(garbled), Victorian Flatbush, Van Cortlandt Village, in the Bronx, Morningside Heights, the Beachside Bungalows in Bayridge. These are six neighborhoods that we are working with.

Many of them are in this room. There is material about them also and there are posters.

(Garbled) Educational programming we do approximately one educational program every two weeks, most of them are free and open to the public. Obviously, this is the annual preservation conference, welcome.

I had a moment when I was putting together this slideshow that I thought about showing images for the last eighteen conferences and that just seemed overwhelming even for me to put it together.

Suffice to say we have done many, many different topics over the years. This year we are incredibly happy to be focusing on the great outside and open spaces.

We do voter education. This is working with elected officials working to educate them and working to educate them before they are candidates before they are elected and after they get elected.

 

Elected officials are a very important partner to the public policy work that we do. We are the only group to review every single application that goes before the Landmarks Preservation Commission and comment on them when we feel necessary.

Our public review committee meets a few times a month at the LPC. We review on average over four hundred applications per year and testify on a fair number of them and that’s our committee in action.

The nice Tudor Revival up there, on top, is Addisleigh Park in Queens. We’ve been working in southeastern Queens, which is a culturally significant area of suburban Queens. Very significant both for its architecture and it was sort of “the Harlem in Queens”. Home to many, many notable African-Americans in music, politics and sports through the mid-century.

Also, the Grand Concourse we’ve worked for years to actually gain some protection for the Grand Concourse. You see below the first part of the Grand Concourse Historic District, which was just recently designated after working on that one since the mid-nineties.

And they finally we also have that large building over there is 75 Livingston, in the downtown Brooklyn Skyscraper District which just recently passed, despite fierce opposition from our friends at (garbled) as well as a number of local residents who claim that the building that you see before you is worthless.

We worked quite hard on that one. We worked with our community partners we worked especially with the city council who was extremely supportive. Councilmember Levin, for those of you who were with us last night was there. He represents the district and was a major help with that.

So with all that in mind, I hope I have given you some a sort of jerky perhaps freeform jazz version of what we do. That’s what we do and welcome to the conference.

Now, just a few pieces of business before in introduce Councilmember Mendez. I really have a lot of thanks to give. I mostly just stand here and babble at you. And all of the work is done HDC’s incredibly hard working staff. Frampton Tolbert, Nadezhda Williams, Sara Romanoski, Michelle Arbulu, this really would not have happened without them. And all credits to them and also our wonderful volunteers.

Thanks to our funders without which this would not happen. HDC depends on the generosity of all of you in the audience and all of our funders.

This was co-sponsored by our neighborhood partners by neighborhood chapter of the New York State Chapter of American Society of Landscape Architects. If anybody here is a member of the ASLA, by the way is a member of the chapter, you are eligible for credits you should sign up upstairs and we will take care of all that.

It was sponsored in part by public funding from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with support from Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Additional support was provided by Council Members Ines Dickens, Daniel Garodnick, Steven Leven, Rosie Mendez we are incredibly grateful for the public funding that HDC gets it is really necessary for us to maintain our work and we are very thankful for it.

A few more pieces before I introduce Council Member Mendez. After Rosie speaks our president, Françoise Bollack, will be speaking, giving sort of an overview.

And then she will move into monitoring the first panel. Two panelists, Kelly Carol, who is one of your volunteers will be your timing person.

She will tell you at your five minutes and one minute…

There is still some room on the tours we are taking registration for the tours upstairs. The Preservation Fair will be open in between when we break between the two sessions.

With all of that in mind, I would like to introduce Councilmember Mendez. Councilmember Mendez represents this area, she is in council district two. She is HDC’s home Council Member, a strong supporter and a member of the Landmark Subcommittee for six years.

Speaker: Council Member Mendez

Six years, two months and four days, but I’m not counting. Good morning, how are you doing today? Welcome to my district and I don’t know where the tours are going on but this is a really beautiful district and we have been working really to try to preserve a lot of the buildings in the community.

So I’m going to tell you something that I think everyone would agree with, right? History matters everybody would agree with that right? Communities matter, buildings matter but not a lot of people agree with that I don’t understand why because if history matters buildings and communities and people tell its history and that is the part that we are having trouble with in New York City.

People in this city don’t make that logical connection. So when you go  into communities and particularly when I have friends who come from overseas come here and they look at our buildings. And then we start telling the history about New Amsterdam. We move into different communities and we tall about the different ethnic groups that live there and it tells its history it makes sense to everyone. That’s why the work that the HDC does is so important.

Because and I am going to quote Amanda Burden who is the Chairperson of the Department of City Planning who said “When you lose building, you lose character and history”. And that is more true today than ever before. So I’ll leave you with that and we can move on to our panels. And again thank you all for being here. I look forward to working with you in preserving our history and preserving our communities and our buildings throughout the city.

Thank you.

Speaker: Françoise Bollack

I’m Françoise Bollack, and I am the President of the Historic Districts Council.

Very briefly before I introduce the speakers of this first panel which is dedicated to public open spaces.

Why should HDC be interested in open spaces after all we are really good at preserving buildings.

After all, we’re good at preserving buildings. We’re good at (garbled) to preserve buildings.

And we’ve been as Simeon demonstrated, successful at it. So why open spaces? And so, while our keynote speaker yesterday thought that we should not be coming across as an angry mob.

I’d like us to work up a healthy sense of outrage at what is happening with our open spaces.

So I just want to look at three things very quickly. The first one is the Commissioner’s plan which is celebrating Museum of the City of New York. And the gardens that are part of the (unclear) is the garden of the right and so what you have is.

332_0192_02

Speaker: Françoise Bollack

….feet space and a sixty-foot to thirty-foot rail yard. So there’s a wonderful regularity of this green planted spaces. This is what it should be. This is what it often is.

It is gerrymandered there are very few trees, there no sense of grace about it. So that I think we should concern ourselves with. Now we have the (garbled) movement of spaces that are in the city.

You can see here a Google map of midtown with Bryant Park in the middle on the left and of course recent that is Penn South on the lower left to the upper right.

So these provide open spaces in the city one is public Bryant Park the other is not really public, that’s Penn South. There’s an idea about the city, there’s an idea about public space.

This is what it is meant to be on the left. Setting up this great wide city monument public library. And this is what it is on the right four months of the year, it starts in November (unclear)

And there is Astroturf on the trees. They are planting trees on Astroturf which I think is quite wonderful. That’s what that is and I think that we should concern ourselves with that.

The danger of public of public partnerships these spaces are used as cash cows. It’s not about gracious city living or some ideas of public duty it is about how much money can they exploit out of it.

And the last thing that I want to show you is Washington Square Village on the left we again face the upper towers on the left to (unclear)

Facing each other across a magnificent open space which was designed as we learned yesterday, as we knew, by Giuseppe Dawson.

And on the right is the plan which is quite active by New York University to build towers in the open space between those two slabs in what they call zipper buildings.

Which sounds really not so good but in fact it is just humongous buildings. So, it is not just open spaces it is what they mean in terms of design, what they mean to the city.

So what I’d like us to get busy with in the preservation movement is:

a)    not abandon this discussion to the green movement.

b)    reclaim these as part of the yin and yang of the city not just as landscapes but as spaces acting with the buildings.

So it’s the open space.  I mean this in the middle, this open space in the middle of Arizona doesn’t mean anything. But it means something in between two design buildings of which it is a part.

I think that is pretty clear. Without further ado, I’m going to introduce our three speakers for the first panel members.

I’ll introduce them all and then they’ll come in sequence and then we’ll meet after that.

First is Tom Campanella, who is here on the right. Tom Campanella is an Associate Professor of Urban Design at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has received Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships and is a fellow of the American Academy in Rome.

His books include Cities from the Sky, 2001 and Resilient City, 2005

The Concrete Dragon, 2008 and Republic of Shade, 2003.

Winner of the Spiro Kostof Award from Society of Architectural Historians. Tom is a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal and is currently working on a book about the landscape architect Gilmore D. Clarke and Michael Rapuano for University Press.

Then we have Ken Smith, who is sitting here on the right. Ken Smith is one of the best know landscape architects working today. Equally at home in the worlds or art, architecture and urbanism. Trained in both design and fine arts he explores relationships between art, contemporary culture and landscape.

He is committed to creating landscapes especially parks and other public spaces as a way of improving the quality of urban life and (unclear)

Much of his work pushes beyond traditional topologies, plaza, street and garden to landscapes that draw on diverse cultural traditions and influence the contemporary urban landscape.

Ken Smith is a graduate of Iowa State University and Harvard University Graduate School of Design he has taught and lectured at Harvard, the City College of New York, and other universities and institutions around the world.

Smith’s work has been published widely in the popular and trade press.

Alexandra Parsons Wolfe is trained in historic preservation and the fine arts and brings a creative analytic sensibility to her professional work.

Her experience spans the for-profit and non-profit worlds and includes material restoration, research and writing, design, organizational development and advocacy.

Miss Wolfe is currently Director of Preservation Services for the Society for Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA) in Cold Spring Harbor, New York.

The non-profit organization that broadly addresses regional historic preservation issues while providing support to local advocacy efforts.

As an independent consultant, Miss Wolfe delivered preservation research related to condition reports for Long Island historic properties held in public ownership. A study of Jones Beach, which is relevant to our discussion today.

A state park which recommendation for improved stewardship and a history of the creation and transformation of Northwood, one of Long Island’s largest country house estates.

So we are going to start this panel and please welcome the three speakers and in particular, Tom Campanella who is going to start.

Thank you.

Speaker: Tom Campanella:

Thank you Françoise.

And thank you to the Historic Districts Council for inviting me here to speak today.

We have in New York City a remarkable legacy of twentieth century parks and infrastructure, that some of which we are only just now getting around to appreciating as meaning and significant works of creative intent.

Much of this is the fruit of the Moses Era. And the work of an extraordinary but largely forgotten group of designers and engineers men as well as women that made up the Moses brain trust as its been called.

Some of this legacy has already been lost in that elusive interregnum

between the creation of a landscape or a piece of infrastructure and the moment when society finally deems it worthy of preservation.

This 1936 scheme here for City Hall Park for example, was swept away when the Guliani administration dialed the space back to the Victorian period.

Now the Moses Era plan here was perhaps no masterpiece but it was  rich with design intent. And I’ll say more about this in a moment.

The un-credited authors of much of the Moses landscape were the landscape architects and urbanists, Gilmore D. Clarke and Michael Rapuano. I‘ll introduce them by way of their work.  Which will also show how some very quotidian elements of the city’s landscape, roads, trees, asphalt, pavers even have in fact roots and meaning and cultural value.

And I’ll start at the regional scale and work my way down ending up literally on the pavement.

Contrary to what is implied in Robert Caro’s The Power Broker, Robert Moses did not invent our whole cloth this vision of metropolitan region laced with parks and parkways, he carted it lock, stock and barrel from Westchester County where Gilmore Clarke had pioneered the use of parkways, to create what was really the first park system of the motor age.

This was Olmstead in the automobile the bounded sanctuary of Central Park distributed now across a vast land area. And all tied up together by these green parkway tendrils.

I’m a little behind on my images. That’s Gilmore Clarke on the left and Mike Rapuano on the right.

One of the Westchester Parkways.

Now, Moses adapted the Westchester model, as it was known, to create Long Island Park System in the 1920’s and a decade later to and I’m quoting Moses here, “Weave together the loose strands and frayed edges of New York’s Metropolitan Tapestry. “

And he very wisely recruits Clarke and Rapuano to lead this effort that on the left is the Westchester County Park System.

Like their earlier work in Westchester, the parkways that Clarke and Rapuano create in New York are not just arterials but amenity rich recreational corridors that also happen to contain a motorway.

The Henry Hudson Parkway is the most spectacular in this regard as it involved the wholesale redevelopment of Riverside Park.

But the most extensive was the so-called originally named Circumferential Parkway through Brooklyn and Queens. Today’s, Belt, Southern, Cross-Island and Laurelton Parkways, Moses himself described the project as and I’m quoting here “Not just an automobile roadway, but a narrow shoestring park including all sorts of recreation facilities for people in the neighborhoods along the route. “ Including I might add, what is still the longest stretch of class 1 bikeway in the city.

These are both of the Belt Parkway. Bayridge and near Long Beach.

Clarke and Rapuano also played a role in the great park renewal  campaign that Moses launched in 1934.

This is where Rapuano especially comes to leave his mark on the city.

That’s Mike Rapuano on the left at the Villa D’esta in Tivoli.

Rapuano was a crack designer who Clarke put in touch of a handpicked skunk works of sorts within the parks department.

That was responsible for all park planning and design. And many of his staff had studied in Italy, at the American Academy in Rome and they put their knowledge of Renaissance precedence to work here now.

They apply them to create a fresh and lean, what I call ‘public works Baroque’ a design idiom for the entire parks system among other things this involved the extensive use of ramps, terraces, curving port Onate, symmetrical layout about a central axis and the use of forced perspective. To either truncate or extend the apparent depth of a space.

He uses it here at Reis Park and here at a much  greater scale, this is Mike Rapuano master plan for the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow Park and here you can see again in Battery Park that forced perspective. And again this is City Hall Park here which we started out at.

And in fact the City Hall Park move was literally transcribed from the upper fountain cascade at the Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati

here. It just turns axis about twenty degrees or so that it lines up.

332_0192-03

Speaker: Tom Campanella

Actually on St. Paul’s right here. The plant material of the Moses era park also bears more meaning than one might expect. And here too we see the influence of Clarke and Rapuano

As I wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal the piece is actually in the supplemental packet that you have.

And I’m quoting myself here now. “Its long been a mystery in New York just how the London Plane tree, Platanus acerifolia came to have such presence in the city.

As you all know the tree dominates many streets in most of the smaller parks and playgrounds in the city and it turns out that the rootstock, so to speak of the Gotham Plane tree was Rome and the conduit, Mike Rapuano.

These are Plane trees in Cadman Park in Brooklyn. I should say Respighi and his pines of Rome not withstanding, Rome is really a city of planes not pines as this street tree census from 1890 shows.

The top arrow there, that’s the number of Plane trees and the little bump down there is Respighi. And like Xerxes of lore, Rapuano falls in love with this tree and effectively transplants it to New York where it becomes a Moses favorite as well as the leaf (which) becomes the identity, the symbol of the Parks Department.

This is a Pentagram’s updated identity for the Parks Department. Rapuano even adopts a specific technique of Plane tree planting from Italy. A dense, gridded grove or (unclear), which becomes another signature element of the Moses era park-scape.

And his source here again is the Villa Aldobrandini specifically, the “unclear” that flank either side of the palazzo, which you see here. These trees were planted around 1611 they are still clinging to life.

I’d like to think of this as the mother grove that Rapuano channels to create some of New York’s iconic spaces.

The lower portions of Riverside Park for example. Cadman Plaza Park up at the top, which I showed you a shot of a minute ago. Red Hook swimming pool, Leif Ericson Park too. This is not a photo of Leif Ericson. There’s many examples of this.

The London Plane along with the Crabapple and English Ivy were part of a standardized palate of plant materials, furniture and site details used citywide in the 1930’s and that even today help give the Moses era park its distinctive identity.

There’s also granite Belgian block, large aggregate concrete formwork, bluestone flagging, black iron railings and hooped planter edging those wonderful World’s Fair benches and the ubiquitous hexagonal asphalt pavers that you see here, known as Hastings Block.

You see a lot of the classic elements in this photo right here.

In terms of preservation these plant and hardscape materials are especially difficult to protect in the face of renovations and improvements. I’ll put that in quotes.

In Marine Park, where I grew up, in Brooklyn all the granite Belgian block was mysteriously replaced several years ago, I still haven’t figured out why, by rather cheap cast concrete pavers. There is probably not a single Moses playground in the city that has its original compliment of hazardous but fun equipment like monkey bars and seesaws.

There is one item I forgot to show you here. There may actually be a Rome connection with the hexagonal pavers. It is something I’m looking into right now. As I said, many of the landscape architects that worked in the design division of the Parks Department in this period had studied at the American Academy in Rome. Where nearly all the floors are paved with these wonderful hexagonal tiles which are more or less the exact same size.

This was actually Mike Rapuano’s studio at the American Academy in Rome it was more recently Robert Hammond’s studio. Plant material, in closing, is even more fleeting still.

Trees age and die and fall and are often replaced by a different species in an effort to reduce the hazards of monoculture.

The Parks Department no actually no longer plants London Plane. And this of course has serious implications for design integrity, inter-planting ginkgo or ash among the Plane trees at Cadman or Bryant Park might be wise from an ecological standpoint but it would also destroy the defining spatial element of those landscapes.

Thank you.

Speaker Ken Smith:

I really come to this from a design standpoint. I am a designer, not a historian.

I want to look at the mid-century plazas in New York City, titled Plaza City. And mostly looking at privately owned public spaces today.

The brief history…there are sort of two points in the 1915, the Equitable building was constructed and caused shadows to fall of adjoining properties. And a year later 1916 a zoning resolution was passed which gave us our skyscrapers of New York City.

It based zoning on mass, I guess height was relatively unregulated but the building massing was controlled so to preserve light and air.

I’m deliberately skipping over Rockefeller Center, which is probably where I could start the story.  I’m focusing on post-World War Two in this presentation. So the next part of the story really is the 1950’s.

With the Lever House and Seagram’s buildings. These buildings set up the next stage I think of urban development in New York City. And they were the prototypes which led to the revisions of codes in 1961.

So the first shift was from sheer street wall to step-back buildings and the second shift was from the street wall city to the plaza city. And in particular it was put in place with the incentive zoning and the bonus plaza program. Lever House and the little sketch is not mine I cribbed it from Google Images but you can see how Lever House existed within the existing zoning envelope Lever house was built with much less density than was allowed but it allowed them to create a really remarkable building it was the first curtain wall in New York City but it was really the model that set forth the post-war precedent in the city of creating a set-back building with a plaza.

In this case, it is not an entirely open plaza it has the low podium with the domed hull that creates the courtyard.

And then the Seagram Building is perhaps a little more pure set-back building with open plaza and interestingly it was not intended as a social space. I think that Philip Johnson has commented that it was really intended as a fore-court for the building but when William White did his seminal studies, he discovered it was also a good social space people did you those stone hedges as urban furniture and it is a better social space I think than what was intended.

Then the Avenue of the Americas… the Time Life Building, the plaza here is really a corporate address. I don’t think that it was intended as a social space it may well function as that but it really was defined as a corporate address for corporate buildings.

By 1961, the renewal program became a little more adventurous. This is really part of multi-block program but Chase Manhattan, the plazas are starting to be come vertically integrated with a low rise off of the street and also the courtyard which integrated the lower level of the bank lobby into the plaza with the Noguchi sculpture.

Thinking of these spaces as a public sculpture collection with in this case the use of the deux buffet to create a sightline that went all the way down through Liberty Plaza. And then the last one in this very brief history is what was formerly called Liberty Plaza, the US Steel building One Liberty Plaza. SOM’s building.

These photos are from the renovation when it was transformed from Liberty Plaza to Zuccotti Park and the diagram you can see how the public sculpture actually works beside the sightlines and connections between these urban plazas.

And of course this has become an unintended protest site. It is interesting, the bonus plaza programs because I think what was intended to create public open space for the city much needed open public space has often been criticized for creating fairly sterile places that are maybe even intentionally designed to not really foster social life. But it is I think interesting and ironic in fact that these bonus plazas have become to serve a social function in the city.

So the next part I wanted to look at some of the landscapes. The first part can’t really talk about landscapes in New York City without talking about the buildings because the buildings are predominately what formed the spaces that become the landscapes in the city.

It is true of Central Park. Central Park was really formed by the Commissioner’s Grid in the street wall around it. And most of the urban  plazas of the mid-century period are really formed by a collaboration with the buildings around them.

So the first one I want to look at is the Lever House, 1952 Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Restored in 2002 with Skidmore and Merrill working on the project and it was an interesting renovation project because it raised a lot of questions about how do you restore a modernist building.

And this is not really due to the landscape

One of the interesting questions on the Lever House was how to restore the curtain wall. Because there were portions of the curtain wall which were decayed and needed to be replaced and the discussion was that if it had been a stone building, you would replace the bad stone and you would have had left it perhaps visible you would understand the replacement versus the original.

But the Lever House was designed intended to have a pristine clean uniform surface and the debate at the time was if you only replace the parts of the curtain wall that are decayed, you would actually end up with something that was not consistent with the original design intent.

And in fact what was done and approve by the Landmarks Preservation Commission was a complete replacement of the curtain wall.  So it is a brand new curtain wall.

Speaker: Ken Smith

It is slightly updated they use fritted glass instead of the shadow boxes that were originally there. But it does maintain the pristine uniform surface of the building which was considered to be the design intent.

At that time, I was brought into the project to look at the landscape, which was not very well documented and was not in very good shape at the time of 2000.

The research that I did was along with Gavin Keeney who was helping with this was at the Avery Library where the Asylum Archive was.

It was interesting to me that you can build a high-rise building in 1952 with a couple dozen sheets of drawings, a very thin set of drawings, and there was very little detail of the landscape in that set it most likely that it was done by in-house landscape architect and SOM the plantings.

While the project was under construction, Isamu Noguchi was brought into the project to do some alternate designs that were never executed.

And as part of the renovation we worked with the Noguchi Foundation it was not realistic to recreate the Noguchi design because the sculptural pieces were never executed.

But we did do it replacement of the (unclear) landscape planting and we got  permission from the Noguchi Foundation and the Landmarks Preservation  Commission to execute the seeding elements that Noguchi designed.

Because of the lack of drawings on the landscape we relied on Ezra Stoller’s photographs. There was taken during and right after construction to guide much of the landscape preservation restoration work.

So you can see the before and after Ezra Stoller in the Peter Moss photos. The most significant changes that we put in Japanese Maple instead of the Willow tree.

The Willow Tree died pretty quickly within a couple of years because it really didn’t get enough sunlight. And then we also paid a great deal of attention to the ideas of the landscape goes from the exterior to the interior of the building.

We clarified the plantings on the roof. This is not a pure restoration there was some adaptation, the replacement of the Maple trees and some other slight adjustments.

But I think the key to the success of the space today is that it’s really actively programmed. Amy Rosen programs it with a changing sculpture program. And Cassa Lever has a café in the summertime which brings people and activity to the site.

Also during this period a little bit later is the MOMA sculpture garden. 1953 I think the 1964 version is the one we mostly remember that Philip Johnson designed with Zion and Breen.

Bob Zion was mentioned last night and the reconstruction in 2005. There might be some quibbles with it but it I think largely respects the intention and most significantly, it was done with the original landscape architects, Richardson of Zion and Breen.

Paley Park, also Zion and Breen, I think one of the most beautiful small spaces in the city. These are all private spaces, privately owned public spaces and the later Green Acre Plaza which is a little more complex than Paley Park but both really beautiful examples of creating oases in the city.

These were really the models for what are supposed to be the public amenities of the Bonus Plaza Program.  Just show a couple more examples. This is a project I worked on, I probably could be criticized. This was a Municipal Arts Society sponsored project. We replaced the Paul Friedburg Plaza from 1972 with a much  more green and park-like plaza. These are before and after pictures. The plaza suffered from access. It was actually very difficult to get there actually, nobody wanted to go up those set of steps.  That was redeveloped as part of our scheme with Rogers, (unclear), and myself.

And the large hardscape areas were removed and replaced with a landscape that is much cleaner. Those are views of that new plaza and it also is a much more vital social space than the former. And again there is an active program for cultural and event programming to give it social viability. The last project I will show is 7 World Trade Center. In the rebuilding of this building, David Childs championed the idea of a returning the Greenwich Street visual corridor and what that did is it created a new triangular space.

Which my office designed as a triangle park and it draws on the earlier examples of Seagram and other plazas other plazas in creating a formal forecourt for the building but it also incorporates the lessons of Holly White in terms of creating a  “unclear” on both sides which are really good social spaces.

And in fact this site is largely populated with people most times of the year. The seating is comfortable and there are always people hanging out in this park.

And I will just end with a question about the future of privately owned public spaces I don’t mean to pick on Trump, but this plaza is indicative of what public bonus plazas program has become throughout most of the city with fairly sterile un-programmed, unimaginative spaces.

And then the unintentional vitality of Zuccotti Park which has become something it never intended. But in fact has provided a great social function to the city. I think that the privately owned public spaces do provide a good service to New York City even in their unintentional uses.

Thank you.

Speaker: Alexandra Wolfe

I’m Alexandra Wolfe. I’m with Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities. I’m so glad that Tom talked a little bit about Robert Moses in the broader sense.

I’m going to talk specifically about Jones Beach. Talk about this idea of open space and design landscape in the suburbs. So here a wonderful photo of Jones Beach,

brainchild of Robert Moses, borne out of the progressive era ideals. Where government was responsible for providing public benefit.

It is the first time in an (unclear) scale is applied to a seaside recreational facility and it was an instant success when it opened in 1929. And it remains one of the best attended parks in the New York State park system.

So I’m pointing that way.  For those of you who don’t know where Jones Beach is, thirty-four miles from Manhattan on Barrier Island on the south shore of Long Island in the county of Nassau, incorporates 2,413 seaside acres, six miles of Atlantic beachfront and about a half mile of frontage on what is known as Zach’s Bay in the Great South Bay area.

Opened in 1929 but was conceived in 1925 and part of an extensive regional system of public parks connected by parkways which were executed under the Long Island State Park Commission.

A lot of the roadways here are all parkways that were created under Moses. Southern State, Wantagh, Meadowbrook, Northern State a couple of others on the east end designed to serve an urban population and it hinged on the construction of the Southern State Parkway which was the former watershed of the Brooklyn waterworks.

Development for the entire region was very active between 1925 and 1935, so this sort of precedes the city work that Moses did. And I find this extraordinary, by 1936, Moses had open twelve parks on Long Island and twelve parkways and also was also working on the Triborough Bridge in New York City. I find that astounding in terms of how big this works was.

He essentially completes his bulk of his work on Long Island when he resigned from the Long Island State Commission, Moses had opened two more parkways.

Creating Jones Beach, and I realize this is sort of like a case study in preservation so as we move forward think about issues, these are the design elements that go into  creating Jones Beach and then what are some of the issues that going forward in terms of it being an historic site. Or becoming an historic site.

So Jones Beach… gargantuan undertaking in terms of administration, engineering, planning and design. I think this image really captures just the order of the planning of this park.

You have the main this is the west bathhouse, the central mall and the east  bathhouse. This is part of the first of three major building phases that led to the creation of Jones Beach. Happens between 1926 and 1934. This is when these principle elements are completed.

The main structures, roads a lot of landscape features between 1934 and 1943 this is the post-depression enhancements. This where you’d would find the WPA work. And then the next phase 1943-54 where there’s rehabilitation sort of fixing up things that have sort of declined and also the opening of the west-end beaches which is about an additional two miles on the west side of the beach.

The water tower, symbol of the park’s planning in my opinion. It is coordinating the aesthetics of recreational experience with infrastructure and management needs. So you have the water tower which is the physical epicenter of the park it is the park’s beacon.

You see this from you know, miles when you are traveling on the Wantagh or the Meadowbrook which are the ways to Jones Beach. It’s also a traffic manager it’s sort of organizing the movement of traffic. And I should mention also these used to be, just bear in mind, these used to be decorative water features. They were pools which are now grassed over. And it’s also a water container.

The water tower holds all of the water that served Jones Beach.

Here the central mall the brand welcome on axis with the water tower. Here’s your Beaux-Arts planning, the city beautiful which is brought to a beach, never before done.

And I should note the formal landscaping. This is extraordinary for a beach today and was so then as well.

Here the sort of hedging that lines, sort of divides and identifies changing of spaces and uses.

Architecture well built, high style, never used at a beach before the National  Register Report, which was only written up in 2005 identified twenty-two contributing buildings and thirty-three structures. We have the west bathhouse the east bathhouse, this is a cafeteria which is unrecognizable today on the central mall.

And this is the police headquarters built in 1937. This is one of the big projects with WPA money. And then color and texture. I’ve been showing you black and white images up until now.

Natural materials and colors to create a very distinct palate evoking the sea and sand and moves to exotic places. The execution and assembly is luxurious. I’ll point out the hydrangeas. These are hydrangeas at the beach. If anyone has these plants you know how much water they take extraordinary.

332_0192_05.mov

Speaker: Alexandra Wolfe:

Here this is a glazed brick it has variation in the tone and texture these are all subtleties that are really important in term of design of this public facility.

These are the decorative and artistic details that enhance this overall nautical theme. There is a series of mosaics that are throughout the park that kind of create surface on the pedestrian ways. There is the boardwalk that is meant to evoke a sense of the ocean liner at the beach.

These are the garbage can containers, ship’s funnels, they’re supposed to be ship’s funnels. This, I used to think… I was corrected on what this thing is it is a water fountain and it is used to roll up ropes originally. At one point there was a mahogany railing all throughout this boardwalk it was since replaced with aluminum because maintaining the mahogany rail was just too much for the Parks Department to deal with.

And then you have this wonderful whimsical signage. This is actually a reproduction. There’s a few of them from when Jones Beach had its 75th anniversary. So what we have is a highly organized facility that provides resort activities for a general public. One of the interesting things that appears in a lot of Moses’ parks in the separation of the recreational activity from infrastructure and travel.

So you have the parking and you know the park sort of functioning on the north side of Ocean Parkway and then all of the recreation happens on this end. If you notice

in the earlier images that Tom showed of Riis Park there’s this sort of embracing pavilion that comes up in Moses’ work all the time. He has it in the paving and the boardwalk features, over here and here. You see that in Riis Park and Orchard Beach as well.

This sort of works out I mean Jones Beach at least in my mind is the precedent, the place where these ideas are worked out and then he takes them to his city projects.

So there’s the formal and ceremonial arrival space. There’s always the grand mall in a lot of these parks and you saw that in Riis, where you have the long planted way there’s also the separation of parking lots set apart from where all of the fun is supposed to happen.

And then you have the natural setting at the edges so what you have is a three-way relationship where you have a design landscape that includes structures and artistic details interacting with a natural setting and both are impacted by park user.

You have to bear in mind that Jones Beach is continuously used as a public beach. Over time there is an evolution in priorities.

For example, the environmental interests and concerns are later in the 20’s and 30’s. The issue of estuary health and habitat were not as pressing as they are now. And these are factors that complicate preservation at a facility like this.

Another issue is that the Parks Department is a bureaucracy and there is a whole system of hierarchy that they need to go through and they are focused primarily on the maintaining Jones Beach as a public beach.

And this means that their main priority is to keep it safe, clean and servicing the users. And in the face of diminishing funds and if all of you are not aware of this, the Parks Dept I think is looking at six billion dollars in deferred capital need.

So, the idea of design integrity falls very low on their list. Another complicating factor is that Jones Beach grew into its historic significance during its continuous operation. It was eventually determined National Register eligible but nobody went through the course of developing a master plan to guide major capital improvements. And there was no formal protocol to include preservation practice and general maintenance. And what you have is, you have the main office in Albany and you have a regional office in Long Island. And depending on the type of project, they don’t always have to coordinate.

So you add diminished funds to parks generally and this habituated maintenance program which is primarily focused on delivering recreational services, and you end up seeing a stripping away of design elements.

So for what is for preservationists so critical to the overall experience becomes  really not so essential from the park’s maintenance perspective. So if we look at this image, this is the north side of the east bathhouse. You see these wonderful brackets that decorate the edges this wonderful light fixture is here.

This is this guardrail, the hedge. Organizing these spaces, telling people where you walk where you walk, what’s decorative, all that stuff over time becomes this, it gets stripped away.

I had so many of these but I had to keep it really really tight because I only have ten minutes.

SPLIA, my organization first brought this to light in 2001 and we called this the result of deferred maintenance and inappropriate alterations. This is just the Parks Department doing the course of least resistance in the cheapest way of maintaining this so the public can still use it.

It’s a systematic decline that begins in the sixties after Moses is ousted from his various appointments and when the Jones Beach Parkway Authority is eliminated.

That was like a money funnel for Jones Beach. Because this was always a facility that was very expensive to maintain because it was basically like the jewel of the whole Long Island System. Again, looking at this from landscape features and the elements we have this wonderful brick paving.

We again have the guardrails, the signage, the lights. It is all part of the piece. It’s this complete landscape. It gets reduced to that where again and a lot of these decisions are about driving on lawnmowers. They don’t want to go around guardrails to deal with mowing the lawn and just sort of taking care of your basic needs at this park. This is an interesting situation, the Park’s narrow focus makes managing the facilities for changing use patterns over the long term difficult.

They are not really thinking about the original plan when they modify structures so this west bathhouse, for instance, originally you could enter form the north side of the pavilion. You could walk through to these changing areas.

This was the concession stand at the bottom level and then the marine dining room and then there was a mezzanine area that ran all around. There was egress from various points to the pool area and you could walk from this point through. A kiddie pool and the main pool.

At a certain point the Parks Department wanted to collect additional fee for entrance into the pool so they closed off the egress in this building and what you ended up getting was dead space.

There is also the change in cultural habits which affects the use leads to deterioration because it ends up creating spaces that are no longer functional.

So the changing booths, we don’t come to the beach fully clothed and changed. So all of this becomes space that doesn’t really serve a purpose anymore. So this was removed and now the Parks Department just uses it for storage and grazes the issue, what do you do with a large historic structure that no longer serves its original program. And how do you maintain them with the limited funds.

So the Parks Department turns to more private sector involvement. Originally there were several food options at Jones Beach that were run by Parks Department they  now work with a concessionaire. This was pointed out by SPLIA in 2001 the Friendly sign really not what Moses had intended. After we brought this reality up to  the Parks Department, they kind of modified it and did a more appropriate sign.

But Friendly’s, the concessionaire, still feels like they need the red sign to drive people to the ice cream parlor that is on the second floor.  And I think the big issue here is, the ice cream parlor really isn’t the place that you want to go to because it is ill suited to the space it occupies.

And also they’re charging you five dollars for an ice cream, like c’mon that’s why you’re not getting traffic in there. Plus, the smell of the French fries is revolting.

I think those are the issues, really. And there’s this, we should pick on Trump because he’s a bad guy sometimes. This issue 2006 this I think, and I should mention also there’s the Nikon Theater, that’s another incident were there’s this turning to concessionaires, turning to the private sector and without a sort of guidelines to manage how they use and occupy these space, you’re always going to run into trouble.

And SPLIA has looked at the state parks and historic sites  within state parks throughout Long Island, and this is a reoccurring theme. And it seems to me that the Parks Department sort of sells their resources cheap and they don’t realize the value.

So this instance, this was Trump coming in to do a new restaurant. The scope and scale of this thing was too big for the park to begin with there was a lot of pushback for the community that was unexpected.  They were going to take a part of this pitch cut course about an acre for a parking lot.

This was a Newsday proposal. This was one of the iterations this is held up now over an occupied basement and its in the court of appeals so we’ve had a hole in the ground at Jones Beach since about 2005, I think.

Another route that the Parks Department is coming into is encouraging friends groups to partner with them and so this is a SPLIA project where we are cultivating a friends group, Jones Beach Rescue to sort of assist in fundraising and become an advocate and I think the reality though is that these are so much need there and it is really a haul a heavy demand it’s a heavy lift for volunteers to do this stuff.

So Jones Beach rescue is looking to fund projects that really connect with the user experience. This is their first project, restoration of the central mall mosaics. This is a map of Long Island and it identifies all of the state parks. It’s very whimsical it’s a slate colored concrete with brass detail.

And, you know, it’s a manageable fundraising initiative, but it is $200,000, we’re estimating for a mosaic restoration when a building like the west bathhouse needs millions.  So there’s a lot of stuff going on.

So, I’ll close with this image, I often talk about Jones Beach and forget to show images of the beach itself. So, here we go and I close with a quote from Mumford because I think that things moving forward someone somewhere needs to start thinking about this and SPLIA and Jones Beach Rescue are starting that dialog but it is “Every spot that his architects and planners touched bears the mark of highly rational purpose, intelligent design and esthetic form.”

Thank you.

 

Thanks for Visiting

The Historic Districts Council is the advocate for all of New York City's historic neighborhoods. HDC is the only organization in New York that works directly with people who care about our city's historic neighborhoods and buildings. We represent a constituency of over 500 local community organizations.

Contact Us

Historic Districts Council
232 East 11th Street
New York NY 10003
tel: 212-614-9107
fax: 212-614-9127
email: hdc@hdc.org

Donate To HDC

Become a Friend of HDC! Consider donating to support our efforts.

Follow Us