Yesterday, there was a sprawling editorial (literally sprawling too - it covered two pages) in the NY Times Week in Review by Tom Wolfe. And in it, he ripped the Landmarks Preservation Commission, most of its commissioners, and Mayors Koch, Giuliani and Bloomberg a couple new ones.
The essay, The (Naked) City and the Undead, begins with the debate over 980 Madison Avenue and developer Aby Rosen's proposed Norman Foster addition to it. (Which Wolfe is against.) But then Wolfe breathlessly mentions the LPC's and City Hall's run-ins with Pennsylvania Station, Grand Central Terminal, 2 Columbus Circle, Bryant Park, and the Dakota Stable, giving readers a delirious ride through about 20 years of NYC preservation history. Here's an excerpt about Rosen:
Like every major developer in town, he knows that the Landmarks Preservation Commission has been de facto defunct for going on 20 years. Today it is a bureau of the walking dead, tended by one Robert B. Tierney.
Mr. Tierney and the 10 members of his commission already have a hearty, comrades-in-arms, marching-along-together history with Aby Rosen. The commission was highly instrumental last November in clearing the way for him to build a zone-busting glass box full of condominiums on Lexington Avenue and 53rd Street in return for his guarantee, written into the deed, that the exterior of his Seagram Building, given landmark status in 1989, will be maintained in its original condition in perpetuity.
Mr. Tierney gushed — insofar as one can gush in a press release — that Aby Rosen was not only ensuring “the highest level of protection” for this historic building, he was also being so kind as to favor New York with “a landmark of the future,” namely, his glass box godzilla at Lexington and 53rd.
How generous! How civic-minded! Noblesse oblige! ... until one reminds oneself that Aby Rosen and every other owner of a landmarked building is required by law to maintain it in its original condition.
It's a good read. We must read up on the Bryant Park/"Tung Affair," too, as that's pretty juicy. If only we were more aware during the 1980s!