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July 2007
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Archive for July, 2007

MAS Program Focuses on How NYC Can Adapt to Climate Change

On June 11, 2007, MAS in conjunction with the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance hosted a groundbreaking expert panel focusing on the measure New York City should undertake in order to adapt to global climate change. According to Columbia University’s Center for Climate Systems Research, the sea-level around New York City may rise more than two feet by the year 2080. In addition, “flooding by major storms would inundate many low-lying neighborhoods and shut down the metropolitan transportation system with much greater frequency.” Continue Reading>>

Morrone on the Farley Post Office

Moynihan StationFrancis Morrone, in a piece in the New York Sun on the Hudson Yards [The Fate of the Hudson Yards] provides some interesting information about the Farley Post Office:
Continue east on 31st street. Between Eighth and Ninth avenues stands the enormous General Post Office, or Farley Post Office, as it’s been known since it ceased to be the main post office. McKim, Mead & White designed the monumental classical edifice that rose between 1908 and 1913. Its style complemented Pennsylvania Station, on the other side of Eighth Avenue, demolished in 1963. The post office’s 20 53-foot-high Corinthian columns across its Eight Avenue front form the longest colonnade in the city. The building continues to function as a branch post office, and has attracted much interest for what might be built inside its voluminous spaces. For a long time we believed the building soon would welcome Moynihan Station, a new passenger facility to relieve in part the sinful ugliness of the 1968 Penn Station underneath Madison Square Garden.But the same Cablevision folks who helped scotch the stadium now want in on the post office, too, so that a new train station may share space with a new sporting arena. Stay tuned.
Morrone concludes with a note on the translation of the post office inscription, providing one of the rare circumstances where an architect is less prolix than others:
Meantime, not only does the post office boast our longest colonnade, but what must be our longest inscription: “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” It comes from volume 4, book 8, line 98 of “The Histories” of Herodotus, from the Fifth century B.C.E., as translated by William Mitchell Kendall — the McKim, Mead & White partner who designed the building. Perhaps Kendall indulged a bit of license. The University of Chicago classicist David Grene translated the same line as, “And him neither snow nor rain nor heat nor night holds back for the accomplishment of the course that has been assigned to him, as quickly as he may.”

Investigating Where We Live 2007: Downtown Duo

On view Wednesday, August 8 through Monday September 10, 2007 Opening Reception: Wednesday, August 8, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. This exhibition features the photographs and writings of New York City middle- and high-school students enrolled in the Investigating Where We Live program. This year, they compared and contrasted many facets of Lower Manhattan and Greenwich Village. Continue Reading>>

Opening Reception: Investigating Where We Live 2007: Downtown Duo

Wednesday, August 8, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. This exhibition features the photographs and writings of New York City middle- and high-school students enrolled in the Investigating Where We Live program. This year, they compared and contrasted many facets of Lower Manhattan and Greenwich Village. Continue Reading>>

Three Architecture Firms Retained for Penn Station District Development

Architectural Record reports that Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM), Foster + Partners, and Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) have been retained by a joint venture of the Related Companies and Vornado Realty Trust as architects for the multi-billion-dollar-project to redevelop the Pennsylvania Station district. The article [SOM, Foster, and KPF to Remake Penn Station] by Russell Fortmeyer published 16 July 2007, noted that Foster will prepare the master plan for the site which includes Penn Station, Madison Square Garden (MSG), and One and Two Penn Plaza, two office towers. David Childs, a partner with Skidmore Owings & Merrill, says his firm will focus on the Moynihan Station project in the Farley Post Office building. The article notes that “Moynihan Station could act as the front door to a relocated MSG to the west, as well as house retail space that may include a large department store.” It also notes that Kohn Pedersen Fox will design a 2-million-square-foot skyscraper that will be taller than the Empire State Building, for a site at the corner of 34th Street and 7th Avenue. The named sources for the article are Bud Perrone, with Rubenstein Communications, who is a spokesman for the developers; Errol Cockfield, a spokesperson for the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC); and David Childs.

Times Sports Columnist Vecsey Sides With a Landmark Penn Station

George Vecsey, sports columnist for the New York Times, writes a railroad fan’s plea for a landmark Penn Station, and warns that the Dolans and Cablevision, current owners of Madison Square Garden, might spoil the train station again. In “With the Dolans Involved, Expect More Ugliness,” [New York Times Select] Vecsey notes:
I’ve been waiting four decades for New York to atone for the sin of destroying the beautiful Beaux-Arts train station, and now we learn that the proposed station may have to share space with the cable guys. Continue Reading>>

Gabe Pressman Supports Moynihan Station Development

WNBC’s Gabe Pressman, in a 6 July 2007 column, [Will Moynihan’s Dream Come True?] joins with Senator Moynihan’s widow, Liz, and daughter, Maura, in supporting the Vornado and Related Companies [unnamed in column] plan for development. He also dismisses unspecified criticisms from ‘civic groups’ in a manner that would probably not please the civic-minded senator. Continue Reading>>

New York Times Calls Governor to Respect History and Protect Penn Station

The New York Times editorial [Senator Moynihan’s Legacy] asks New York Governor Eliot Spitzer to respect the legacy of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and the history of the Farley Post Office. It starts with the recent good news:
For years now, plans and sometimes mere illusions about ways to replace New York City’s dismal and disheartening Penn Station have been debated, mostly behind closed doors. Now comes the good news that developers Stephen Ross and Steven Roth will finally make public their proposal to revive the drab area around Penn Station and create a grand new terminal, named for the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
They then raise the critical question for all concerned about this development:
When the plan is revealed New Yorkers should focus on one concern: whether the historic public spaces are being shortchanged once again in favor of private developments.
They also point out the less than promising news that has been leaked so far:
With each bit of news that seeps out about these plans, it looks more and more as though the Garden will be allowed to take over most of the magnificent Farley building, including its dramatic stairway entrance and the elegant lobby that stretches along most of a city block. One main wall of the central terminal might also be used for Garden advertising.
Let’s join the Times in opposing what could be a terrible fate for the New Penn Station:
One can only imagine Senator Moynihan’s eloquent disappointment if he thought that the Farley building he worked so hard to protect would not be a soaring entrance for the trains and the city but a route through a public treasure to a privately owned coliseum.

Vornado Realty Hires Lobbyist, AP Reports

Moynihan Station developers Vornado Realty Trust and its partner the Related Companies LP hired Cassidy & Associates to lobby the federal government, according to a disclosure form, the AP reports. The firm will help facilitate communication with Amtrak and congressional members, according to the form filed Tuesday. It looks like it’s time for supporters of a sane Penn Station development to communicate with Amtrak and members of congress as well. Let them know what the public seeks in this development.

Plan for Moynihan Station Coming in Three Weeks, Notes New York Times

In a July 4 article by Charles Bagli, New Grandeur for Penn Station in Latest Plan, the New York Times notes: In the next three weeks, two of the city’s largest developers will unveil new plans for rebuilding the station, moving Madison Square Garden, replacing the Hotel Pennsylvania, and erecting a pair of skyscrapers, one of which would be taller than the Empire State Building, over the site of the existing station. Though the new plan is broadly similar to a proposal offered a year ago, it is different in several important ways, starting with the cost: $14 billion, double that of the original plan, a real estate executive who has seen the plan said. It is also bigger than anticipated: the entire plan, involving buildings on six adjacent blocks, would create 10 million square feet of new office space off West 33rd Street, as much as in the old World Trade Center. The developers, Stephen M. Ross and Steven Roth, have also burnished their vision for the station, which would be renamed after Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who championed the original idea. Civic groups and the head of the City Planning Commission, Amanda M. Burden, had complained that last year’s plan treated the underground station as an afterthought, without a grand public space worthy of the country’s busiest transit hub. The new plan would try to recapture the imposing aura of the original station inside the James A. Farley Post Office across the street, with a vast, street-level waiting room under a glass canopy that would spill sunlight onto the concourse two levels below. In the next three weeks, the public will get its first, albeit sketchy, look at the new plan when the Spitzer administration takes the first step in an environmental review of the project’s potential impact on the neighborhood. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I think the stars are aligned to do this,” said Patrick J. Foye, co-chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, the state authority overseeing the project. Thus the story of the new Penn Station, Moynihan Station, begins again. The Times article presents some of the issues, but there are many more to come in a project this important. Among them are the cautions offered by community watchdogs including the Municipal Arts Society. Bagli notes: But Kent L. Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society, a civic group that has met with the developers, said that it was “inappropriate” for the state to put the project on the fast track and begin an environmental review before “the design, the financing and all the implications are on the table.” I hope that the Moynihan Station development is an example of New York City learning from its past mistakes and taking a wiser direction. A few years ago Grand Central Terminal was threatened by unwise development. Wiser heads prevailed and we now have a restored train hub that is vital with retail shops and restaurants and is a ceremonial gate at the south end of Park Avenue. Let’s use this chance to make Moynihan Station a place where New York cleans up the embarrassment that is the current Penn Station and makes some restitution for the destruction of the original Penn Station forty years ago.

Neighborhood Planning Heats Up

Over the course of two Saturdays in May at Hunter College, the MAS Planning Center trained more than 100 New Yorkers, from community board members to city newcomers, from neighborhoods across the city, to become part of the next generation of community planners. Part of the Planning Center’s Livable Neighborhoods Program, the two, day-long seminars broke down the community planning process, offering training materials and workshops on everything from community organizing to zoning to sustainability to how to create a community plan that elected officials will take seriously. Continue Reading>>