N-YHS Scales Back

From Landmark West!

New-York Historical Society: Back from the Drawing Board with a Scaled-Back Plan…But the Worst is Still to Come

Over the past few months, the New-York Historical Society has learned a hard lesson in “you can’t always get what you want.” (Whether they actually NEED what they’re getting is another thing entirely.) What is clear is that the Society’s ambitions will change one of New York’s most significant and beloved landmarks forever — with the blessing of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and the Bloomberg Administration. Remember, the real deal is a 280-foot tower. Scroll down to see the rendering published in the New York Times last November. We’ve come a long way…but not far enough.

Yesterday, the LPC gave the Society the final go-ahead to proceed with plans to alter the Central Park West and West 77th Street facades of its “Triple Landmark.” The revised design is a far cry from what the Society presented to crowds numbering in the hundreds at community meetings in January, February and March. Overwhelming public opposition pressured the Society and the LPC to overhaul the design, eliminating sidewalk-eating ramps at the Central Park West entrance and significantly reducing the amount of historic fabric that will be disturbed. But disturbed it will be.

The LPC was under clear political pressure to give the Historical Society something, if not everything they wanted. The fix was in, and still is. Now that it has gained a toehold for redeveloping its landmark site, the Society will soon be back with its plan for a tower (potentially 280-feet, or 28 stories in height). Not in a matter of years, but months. The developers are in the wings. No wonder the New-York Historical Society–despite a pummeling in the court of public opinion–is still smiling.

Stay tuned for next steps.

“The Society’s tactics remind me of the card shark in my home state of Texas who looks across the table at his mark and say, ‘Now play the cards fair, Reuben, I know what I dealt you.'”

~ Bill Moyers, 3/15/07 letter to LPC Chair Robert B. Tierney

From the New-York Historical Society

25 April 2007

Dear Friends:

It is my pleasure to thank the many people whose advice and support on our facade renovation project helped bring about yesterday’s unanimous approval by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. As you know, the project will allow us to translate into appropriate physical spaces our deep conviction that the ideas and stories of our history are engaging and enriching, and that they have the power to challenge conventional wisdom and provoke new thought and action.

With our new design, we will achieve greater visibility and accessibility for a building that was originally intended as a private club, but which now serves hundreds of thousands of visitors. The façade changes, which are fully in character with our landmark, will above all give us the ability to transform our first floor into an immediate encounter with history, for visitors will now enter the building without the interruption of additional sets of interior stairs. A spacious Great Hall will enable, for the first time ever, the display of many of the large-scale sculptures and objects from our extraordinary museum collection. Of course we are extremely pleased that the approved design enables independent access for the disabled, which has been an important goal for us.

It was, first and foremost, our desire to enable the broadest possible public to enjoy learning about the history of New York and the nation that led to our design. With your help, we now have a blueprint for a façade that fully respects the architecture of our landmark, but that also conveys the evolution of one of the City’s greatest culture treasures. My colleagues and I look forward to working together with you as we continue to plan for the future.

Thank you!

With best regards,
Louise Mirrer

Posted Under: New-York Historical Society, Upper West Side

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *