Tag Archives: Historic Preservation

Saving Cities: Learning from Melanie Griffith


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One of my favorite movie scenes is from Working Girl when Melanie Griffith explains while riding up the elevator with Trask and Indiana, how she came up with the idea for the corporate merger. It wasn’t as if she had been thinking about anything even remotely related to it. Her insight derived from a chance juxtaposition perceived by a mind willing to learn and open to new possibilities. Continue reading

Peter Feinman On New York’s ‘Ruin Porn’


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Ruin porn is in. Ruin porn is hot. Ruin porn is sexy. Ruin porn is the term coined by Jim Griffioen, who writes a blog about his life as a stay-at-home dad in Detroit.

As part of that effort he periodically posts photographs he has taken of the more than 70,000 abandoned buildings in his city. Such images included (as reported in the New York Times) “‘feral’ houses almost completely overgrown with vegetation; a decommissioned public-school book depository in which trees were growing out of the piles of rotting textbooks”. The term has become a familiar one in the city not without some misgivings by the locals as they watch tourists take souvenirs of their city back home. Continue reading

A History of the Albany County Hall of Records


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The following essay by Albany County Clerk Thomas Clingan is reprinted with permission from the Tivoli Times, the newsletter of the Albany County Hall of Records (ACHOR). ACHOR celebrated its 30th Anniversary in October.

Albany County can trace its records management program to a 1978 National Historical Publications and Records Commission (“NHRPC”) grant of $9235 to inventory Albany County Clerk records, accepted by the Albany County Legislature in Resolution 99 of 1978. This first modern inventory was completed and printed in 1979. The theft and quick recovery of County Clerk’s oldest Dutch record book in May 1980 increased public awareness of the need to safeguard these documents, and in January 1981, Resolution 10 of that year accepted a further $20,000 NHPRC grant to study the possibility of a joint city and county archives and records management system.

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James Howard Kunstler On Rescuing the American Townscape


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The Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA) will present a lecture “Rescuing the American Townscape from its Own Recent History” by author James Howard Kunstler.

James Howard Kunstler is a vocal critic of American architecture and urban planning which he describes as a tragic landscape of highway strips, parking lots, housing tracts, mega-malls, junked cities and ravaged countryside. For two decades, Kunstler has examined the growth of urban and suburban America. Continue reading

New Exhibit: Photography of the Landmarks of New York City


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On December 14, the New-York Historical Society will present The Landmarks of New York, an exhibition exploring the history of New York as revealed by its historical structures.

The exhibition’s 90 photographs of landmarks are critical documents that chronicle the city’s journey from a small colonized village to a city at the center of the world from the 17th through the 20th centuries and includes the newly acquired set of 30 photographs by Christine Osinski, Steven Tucker, Reuben Cox, Julio Bofill, Michael Stewart, Michael Stewart, Andrew Garn, Richard Cappelluti, Adam S. Wahler, Eric C. Chung and others. Continue reading

Roberta Brandes Gratz Recieving Landmarks Lion Award


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The Historic Districts Council, the citywide advocate for New York’s historic neighborhoods, buildings and open spaces, will present its annual Landmarks Lion Award on November 5 to advocate, author, journalist and urban critic Roberta Brandes Gratz.

Participating in the ceremony will be Ronald Shiffman, co-founder of the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development, Richard Rabinowitz, president of the American History Workshop, and Stephen Goldsmith, Director of the Center for the Living City. Since 1990 the Landmarks Lion Award has honored those who have shown outstanding devotion in protecting New York City’s historic buildings and neighborhoods. Continue reading

NYC Documentary Film Screenings Set


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The Historic Districts Council (HDC) of New York City will host a film series, “Across New York”, that highlights stories from across the City’s five boroughs on how the city came to be and the people who helped shape it.

All screenings will be held at the TRIBECA Film Center at 375 Greenwich Street, NYC; tickets can be purchased online. The cost is $5 per program for Friends of HDC, Seniors and Students, and $10 for the general public.

AT HOME IN UTOPIA
Thursday, November 1, 6PM
The acclaimed documentary At Home in Utopia. was written and directed by Michal Goldman. This film tells the story of the Eastern European, Russian and Polish garment workers who joined together to create a “Bronx Bohemia” known as the Coops. This cooperative apartment complex was built in 1925 on the corner of Allerton Avenue across from Bronx Park. The Coops were what some would consider the ideal community; based on the philosophies of communal living and designed with the ideas of a bucolic setting in mind, the Coops were a “dream home” to many. The residents wanted a design aesthetic that was uncommon in New York at the time; bright, airy and spacious, which was representative of the change that was sought to promote public health, safety and a sense of community. The residents of the Coops were also politically active as advocates for racial equality during a time of severe distress, violence and social injustice. Join us for this special screening and panel discussion of At Home in Utopia, where several of the former residents will discuss their lives in the Bronx. Directed by Michal Goldman, 2008, 133 minutes.

FLORENT: QUEEN OF THE MEATMARKET
Thursday, November 8, 6PM
Join the Historic Districts Council for a night of nostalgia as we view the documentary film Florent: Queen of the Meat Market. Florent, a 24-hour diner located in the Meatpacking District, was once the place to be. This legendary spot attracted artists, club-kids and the blue-collar workers who sought decent French-American cuisine at the wee hours of the morning, but who mostly flocked to
this space because of the energy the owner, Florent Morellet, exuded and brought to the establishment. Florent was also one of the leaders of the movement which successfully got the Gansevoort Market neighborhood landmarked in 2003. Florent was unfortunatelyforced to close down in 2008 due to rent increases and development in the area that would not allow for the business to sustain itself. Following the screening, Florent, will discuss his time owning his successful namesake business in an area that has drastically changed over the past twenty-five years as well as how he has remained an activist and leader within his community and beyond. Directed by David Sigal, 2009, 1 hour 29 minutes. This film is not rated.

CONEY ISLAND
Wednesday, November 14, 6PM
“Coney Island” is an award-winning documentary that delves into the extensive history of this seaside community, from its discovery in the 17th century to its ongoing and sometimes heartbreaking evolution. The film illustrates the affinity that the public had for Coney Island as a summer getaway, as evidenced by the 250,000 people that once populated its shores
on any given summer weekend. Also covered in the film is the development of the three major amusement parks (Steeplechase Park, Luna Park and Dreamland) that once inhabited Coney Island, along with the sometimes bizarre and fascinating stories that go with them. There will be a discussion following the film. Directed by Ric Burns, 1991, 1 hour.

This series is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Additional support is provided by Council members Margaret Chin, Inez Dickens, Daniel Garodnick, Vincent Gentile,
Stephen Levin and Rosie Mendez.

William Seward Biographer Visting Seward’s Hometown


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Walter Stahr, author of a new biography on one of America’s greatest statesmen, William Henry Seward, will be visiting Florida, NY (Orange County) on October 14. The visit will include a lecture and book signing at the school founded by William Henry’s father, Samuel Sweezy Seward, which today still bears his name, the SS Seward Institute.

This will be Stahr’s third visit to Florida. His first two visits took place while he was researching his latest book, Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man, which took four years to complete. The biography, released in September, has already received highly favorable reviews. Continue reading

Jay Heritage, County Reach Agreement on John Jay Property


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Responsibility for the full restoration and long–term maintenance of the historic John Jay property in Rye, NY, the boyhood home of a Founding Father and the nation’s first Chief Justice, will be turned over to the Jay Heritage Center (JHC), under terms of a license agreement announced late last week by Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino at a news conference at the site.

According to a statement issued to the press the agreement is designed to ensure the preservation of the nationally significant property and serve as a model of cooperative stewardship that can be emulated nationwide. “It will also advance shared goals of New York State, Westchester County and non-profits like JHC to promote heritage tourism by making historic resources more accessible to the public,” the statement said.

“It has been over 20 years since the county, working with New York State, came to the rescue of the Jay property, saving it from demolition,” Astorino said. “Now the county is stepping in again with an innovative public/private partnership to preserve it for future generations in a way that doesn’t fall on taxpayers. In these challenging economic times, these are the kinds of solutions that are essential.”

The property is located adjacent to the county’s Marshlands Conservancy. Westchester County and New York State jointly own 21.5 acres of the site; the Jay Heritage Center owns the other 1.5-acre parcel, which contains the 1838 Jay House, built by Jay’s son on the site where his father grew up.

The new license agreement will transfer oversight for the upkeep of the property and investment in significant capital infrastructures to the Jay Heritage Center, which will raise funds as a private 501(c)3 and also apply for grants. Tax deductible donations from individuals and corporations will be accepted to help restore the historic meadow, the gardens, the apple orchards and rehabilitate historic structures for public educational uses as lecture halls, classical music spaces and art galleries.

At a press conference at the site, Astorino was joined by Rye City Mayor Doug French and Suzanne Clary, president of the Jay Heritage Center (JHC), as well as New York State Parks Deputy Commissioner Tom Alworth to announce the agreement, which must be approved by the county’s Parks Board, the Board of Acquisition and Contract, and the State Comptroller’s Office.

The Jay Property was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993 as part of the Boston Post Road Historic District. It was also named to the Westchester County African American Heritage Trail in 2004.

Most recently in 2009, it became 1 of only 100 Congressionally funded sites in the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area based on the importance of its architecture, its landscape and themes of freedom and dignity that its 10,000-year-old history embodies.

“This is an unparalleled opportunity for us to restore one of America’s greatest landscapes and open it to the public at a time when families are looking for places of beauty and history to inform and inspire their daily lives,” said the JHC’s Clary.

Deputy Commissioner Alworth also praised the agreement, saying: “Partnership agreements such as this one have been highly successful in enhancing the quality of parks and historic sites for the visiting public. The Jay Heritage Center has done an impressive job restoring the historic house, and I’m confident they will continue their excellent stewardship of the site. This public-private partnership will ensure the John Jay property remains a valued recreational and cultural resource for Westchester residents and visitors alike.”

The main terms of the agreement are:

· The county and state, as owners, will grant a 10-year license, which is renewable after the initial term, to the Jay Heritage Center for the use of the property. This will give the JHC the ability to raise funds to operate the park and make improvements.

· The county and state will have the right to approve or disapprove any physical alterations to the property.

· The property will continue to be operated and maintained as state and county parkland and will be accessible to the general public. The JHC may establish admission fees, subject to approval by the state and the county consistent with county fee structures.

· JHC will create and pay for a specific maintenance and restoration schedule detailed in the agreement, dealing with landscape, invasive plant removal and restoration of historic structures, among other things.

· The county will continue to police the property.

· The county will no longer spend approximately $25,000 annually to maintain the property, and JHC will be responsible for ongoing maintenance and the capital improvements that the property requires.

· The county will remain responsible for the costs of any environmental remediation that may be required on the property for conditions that existed prior to the license agreement. Any environmental remediation required as a result of JHC’s restoration work will be the responsibility of JHC.

Photo:Top Row: JHC Board members Emma Hanratty, Jim Kelsey (JHC Vice President,) Lauren Lambert, Michael Kovner (JHC Vice President); Bill Mooney, Senior Assistant to County Executive, Joe Sack ,Rye City Council

Second Row: Deputy County Executive, Kevin Plunkett, Frank Sanchis, World Monuments Fund and JHC Advisory Board, JHC Board member Cathy Rosenstock, Julie Killian, Rye City Council and Tom O’Handley, Audubon NY

Third Row: JHC Board Member Charlene Laughlin, Anne Van Ingen, Preservation League of NY State, Patricia Mulqueen, Con Edison Community Relations Westchester, JHC Founder, Kitty Aresty, Steve Otis, former Mayor of Rye

Front Row: Tom Alworth, New York State Parks Deputy Commissioner of Natural Resources, Suzanne Clary, JHC President and Rob Astorino, Westchester County Executive.

Art and Preservation at the Park Avenue Armory


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Armory Armoire. Carol Hepper

Architectural white elephants are a specialty of large urban areas, and armories form a particular subset of these: rife with possible new uses, dauntingly expensive to reclaim. In recent years New York City’s Park Avenue Armory Conservancy has refurbished its 1881 building and turned it into an exciting new space.

Its theatre programs have featured amazing performances with audiences moving on rails for Die Soldaten, or viewing the vast Peter Greenaway multimedia interpretation of Leonardo’s Last Supper. Dance companies, concerts and artistic programs are flourishing and a partnership with the Williamsburg, Brooklyn Art and Design High School gives high school students access to a historic preservation program. Continue reading