For over two-and-a-half years, in one capacity or another, I have covered the Landmarks Preservation Commission, new real estate development, architecture, history and urban infrastructure for New York YIMBY. Today, I sign off, providing an opportunity to look back on some of the nearly 500 stories I’ve filed for YIMBY.
My first story, published on November 19, 2014, was about a four-story mixed-use building proposed to replace a gas station at 112 Atlantic Avenue, in the Cobble Hill Historic District. A revised proposal was later approved by the LPC and the building, now known as 325 Henry Street, topped out earlier this year.
But there were far bigger and more contentious issues facing the LPC. Perhaps the biggest in that time was the Landmarks backlog. When a proposal to simply de-calendar 95 items on its designation calendar pre-dating 2010 was widely panned, a new plan was conceived — actually dealing with those items through a series of borough-by-borough public hearings. In the end, 26 sites were individually designated, and another was protected as part of the Park Slope Historic District Extension II. One item – the former IRT Powerhouse in Hell’s Kitchen – still remains on the calendar.
Six individual landmarks and four historic districts were designated in 2015. Forty individual landmarks and two historic districts were designated in 2016. That includes the backlog sites and 12 new Midtown East landmarks.
Three individual landmarks have already been designated this year – 181 and 185 Montague Street on Brooklyn’s Bank Row and the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights. Also in that neighborhood, the Morningside Heights Historic District was designated in February. Two interior landmarks were designated this year — 1 and 2 United Nations Plaza and the Waldorf Astoria New York hotel. That designation was followed by one of the most extensive renovation and restoration plans to go before the commission in my time as a reporter.
The commission now has another interior landmark designation on the horizon as the New York Public Library’s Rose Main Reading Room and Bill Blass Public Catalog Room were put on its calendar just last week. The designation of the Empire State Dairy Complex in East New York is also an unresolved matter for the LPC.
2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan and more than a handful of prominent architects went through the history of adaptive reuse in New York City. I was there for that, and it was one of the longest stories I have ever written. Next on that list was a look at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s report on new development in the Greenwich Village Historic District, which shows that new development and preservation can co-exist successfully.
2016 marked the beginning of a new era for the LPC, with the signing of Intro. 775-A, a law highly-derided by the preservation community. It imposed an unfunded mandate on the commission in the form of deadlines.
It also marked the opening of the New York City Archeological Repository in Midtown. It includes over one million artifacts from the five boroughs, including a 19th century sugar mold that still smells of molasses.
There were a lot of contentious new developments. There was the remaking of West 29th Street, of Gansevoort Street, and of the South Street Seaport, mega-mansions on the Upper East Side and in the West Village, the expansion of the American Museum of Natural History, LPC approval for a supertall tower in Downtown Brooklyn, the redevelopment of the home of Alexander Hamilton’s wife and son in the East Village, the flipping of a synagogue in Greenwich Village, approval for a David Chipperfield-designed apartment building in the West Village, the failed attempt to convert the former First Church of Christ, Scientist on the Upper West Side into condos, and the order to remove the illegal fifth floor from the Hopper-Gibbons House in Chelsea’s Lamartine Place Historic District, which is the last surviving Underground Railroad stop in Manhattan.
There were some big groundbreakings and reveals. Ground was broken for 99 Hudson Street in Jersey City, which will be New Jersey’s new tallest building, and for One Vanderbilt, the supertall set to rise across from Grand Central Terminal. The design was revealed for the Ronald O. Perelman Performing Arts Center at the World Trade Center, leaving 2 World Trade Center the only component still hanging in the air.
Sometimes, I got to actually visit new developments in the works, often with great views or stunning spaces. They included Halcyon at 305 East 51st Street in Midtown East, 88 & 90 Lexington Avenue, 172 Madison Avenue, 51 Jay Street in DUMBO, the adaptive reuse transformation of the Bronx General Post Office, the skybridge at the American Copper Buildings on the East Side, the condo conversion Manhattan View at MiMA, the adaptive reuse of the former Schlitz brewery at 95 Evergreen Avenue in Bushwick, the new 13-story building at 190 South 1st Street in Williamsburg, Hudson Lights in Fort Lee, the hotel and condo tower The Bryant at 16 West 40th Street in Midtown, supertall 53W53, 13-story 207 West 79th Street on the Upper West Side, the first tower of Journal Squared in Jersey City, the restoration and conversion of the stunning spaces inside 1 Wall Street, and the adaptive reuse of the former shipyard now known as Kearny Point in Hudson County, New Jersey.
I also got to write about the first presidential inauguration and the rehabilitation of the George Washington Bridge. On the infrastructure front, don’t forget about the coming L train shutdown.
My final news story, published Friday, June 9, was a construction update on the two-building development 121 East 22nd Street in Gramercy.
I have seen and learned so much. As a broadcast journalism major and political science minor, I didn’t have a formal background in architecture, but I got an on-the-job education from some of the best minds in the business and, last month, the Historic Districts Council honored me for my work.
Thank you to all of my readers for coming along on this journey. Tomorrow, I start a new chapter in my career, but I’m not moving away and you can still follow my musings on Twitter.
Live long and prosper.