Letters, Week of April 23, 2014
Losing the unexceptional is unacceptable
To The Editor:
Re “LPC Likely to Protect Ladies’ Mile Buildings From Demolition” (news, April 9, 2014):
When the Landmarks Commission protects banal buildings such as these two, they make the best possible, if amoral case, for no landmarking at all. There is nothing intrinsically important or significant about these particular buildings…even the buildings themselves have little to do with each other except for their scale and modesty of construction and design.
Taken as a whole, there are still some blocks (or parts of blocks) in Ladies’ Mile, or in the Fur District, or Garment District, or on Sixth Avenue or Broadway in the 20s and 30s, that conjure a sense of place. None of the individual buildings are great, but together, they add up to more than the sum of each other. They add up to a real, authentic feeling neighborhood and they give rhythm and variation to our experience of the street. When these crummy insignificant buildings come down, they are inevitably replaced by larger-footprint developments that are anti-diversity and anti-individualist.
These two buildings are as common as corn in every borough. There is no cultural or aesthetic reason to keep them as architectural specimens. What do we give up by losing these two structures?
What these buildings mean to us is much more subtle than any physical thing that we can put our arms around. They are plain, basic, unglamorous. What happens when we forfeit the bland background fabric, when we take away the structure and are left with…blank? It’s easy to trash the cotton muslin; will we be able to live with acrylic velour, nylon velvet, faux brocade or performance microfiber?
How do we preserve our dignity, our souls as a city and at the same time, allow our city to evolve?
The article “Neighbors Crusade Against Church Air Rights Sale” (April 9 edition) incorrectly cited an April 2012 document, filed through the city’s Department of Finance, as a deed of sale for the air rights to 126 West 16th Street. That document referred to a previous agreement regarding air rights transfers at the site, but had no bearing on any sale. The article also incorrectly stated that the Einhorn Development Group received city approval for the purchase of air rights from 126 West 16th Street — but that was based incorrectly on an earlier statement by the developer to a local resident, and such city approval is not legally required for a private air rights sale. On the afternoon of April 10, the chelsaenow.com version of the article was updated to reflect these facts.