Letters & Such To The Editor

Red Shoes

To the editor:

Your article on The Red Shoes and your rating it as the top film of all
time: much appreciated.

These film frames first passed before my eyes in 1949, in Panama, where
I saw the movie virtually alone in the theater of Coco Solo Naval Base.
That was the defining aesthetic-moral moment of my life, and when I
look at the new DVD version I have recently obtained, that moment is
relived and revalidated.

I am now trying to find my link to the company offering a DVD of Tales
of Hoffmann - DVD very hard to find - which I saw in Key West in 1951,
with two or three other people in the theater. To this day I consider
it remarkable that those films were shown in those venues, considering
the infinitesimal audience that would have been attracted.

I have also obtained a magnificent DVD of Black Narcissus. The
Powell-Pressburger influence is strong on me, and to my everlasting
regret I never thought to look them up and send them a letter thanking
them for doing so much to inform me in the ways of the
art-music-dance-opera confluence they have left us.

Jon Aymon

January 21, 2004
jonaymon@leverdujour.com

Villa Rivera

To The Editor:

I somehow stumbled across your City Review website a few weeks ago in
doing some research on pre-WWII apartment buildings. I just wanted to
take a moment to thank you for the invaluable contribution you've
made to American architectural history. I've already spent many hours
re-exploring Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue and Madison Avenue thanks to
you. I'm also lookiing forward to more on the Upper West Side, where,
as you note, the architecture is entirely more exuberant and
unrestrained.

Living in Los Angeles, where true architecture rarely gets more than
a passing nod, I find myself yearning often for the stability, the
presence and -- yes -- the "hominess" (however grand) of the
multi-family residential architecture of New York. Your thrilling
tour of the apartment buildings of the Upper East Side have been an
inspiration. I hope your site will continue to be available
premanently for future generations.

David Gadd
Los Angeles

By the way, here's a link to one of the very few West Coast buildings
that can compare with the best of Manhattan. Although the Villa
Riviera is a solitary bastion in a ebbing sea of mediocrity, in some
ways it even surpasses the glories of the Dakota, the San Remo and
others. You no doubt already know it:

http://www.villariviera.net/

davidgadd@mindspring.com (David Gadd)

January 22, 2004

Eye-Sore Landmarks?

Dear Editor,

I write to you to express my utter dismay at the LPC’s decision to landmark
the Socony Mobil building on 42nd St. This is a terrible mistake that, if
repeated and not rectified, will eventually undermine the very legitimacy of
landmarking as a concept. I have already expressed my views to the
commissioner.

The Socony-Mobil building is not only not a landmark, it is a positive eyesore
that I dreaded to encounter every morning on the way to work when I lived
nearby. It is a graceless, bloated lump of floor-space, tricked out in
cheapjack decorations that resound with the sublime aesthetic witlessness of
1950’s suburbia.

The idea that it should be landmarked just because of its grotesquely
excessive fetish for stainless steel is ridiculous. Landmarking was never
intended to recognize merely technical uniqueness devoid of other merit.

I support landmarking in general, and testified in favor of the designation of
St. John the Divine. I support the landmarking of genuinely distinguished
modern structures like Lever House. But this is not one of them.

The fact that LPC is suspected, by the going gossip, of having designated this
building in order to prop up its prestige for an owner who knows he can’t
expand it anyway due to zoning, is not good for the reputation of the agency
as a fair and neutral arbiter.

This building is so bad that it provokes me to propose an idea: that LPC
should have the power to designate not only “landmarks” but
“eyesores,” which would then receive a special zoning bonus if the owner
demolished or renovated them in accord with LPC approval.

Sincerely,
Ian Fletcher

ianfletcher@usa.net (Ian Fletcher)

Former Board Member, Morningside Heights Residents Association
Founder, Morningside-heights.net & MHNET

August 12, 2003

The boxy, stainless-steel Socony-Mobil Building is actually better than the metal-clad 666 Fifth Avenue and has better proportions. The notion of "eye-sore" designations for zoning bonuses is quite intriguing.

Rebuilding Downtown

To the Editor:

Hello. My name is Chris Bush. I have been extremely involved and active in following the process of rebuilding Ground Zero and all of Downtown since Day 1. And I must say that The City Review offers some of the most intelligent, insightful, and optimistic viewpoints and suggestions to rebuilding. Your articles are very informed, and you look to find the most balanced solutions that accomodate as many ideas and desires as possible. This is a principle that I have tried to stick to when forming my own opinions of how and what should be done. Most important, however, is the sense of optimism you project about the future of the WTC site and of Downtown as a whole. The City Review dares New York to seek out its brashest and boldest possibilities, traits that are quintessentially New York, and traits that can not be abandoned so tragically in the face of fear. There is so much that needs to be done in Downtown and at the site, and if the decision makers can realize and utilize the maximum potential of Downtown and their resources, then they will realize that the many tasks at hand can all simultaneously be accomplished. The City Review it appears already has a hold on this concept. I especially enjoyed the recent articles and reviews of the NY Times designs and the New York Magazine designs. That is precisely the direction this process should be headed, and hopefully the LMDC and the city and state will recognize these innovative concepts.

Sept. 17, 2002

 

H. I. FELDMAN, NYC Architect

To The Editor:

I am the only surviving child of Hyman Isaac Feldman (1896-1981) and for my
children's sake I have been compiling a family history.

Hyman closed his office during the 1970's. At the time I was not visiting New York, and I now regret my failure to ask what disposition was made of the myriads of his plans and other documents. Perhaps our then family attorney sent them to New York City's Building Department. But it is also possible that all of them were thrown away (before paper recycling was practiced!).

After my parents' deaths, the University of Wyoming surprisingly wrote to ask us children to send any information or documents relating to our father's professional life and biography so that it could include them in its archives. We were puzzled because none of our family had ever set foot in Wyoming. My father had graduated from Yale in 1920, and during the 1950's he had endowed its newly established School of Architecture with funds for a scholarship to be awarded annually to a meritorious student. He had also donated a number of costly and rare art books to its library, and, I think, he may have done some architectural remodeling work on Yale's campus. But Yale was not the University that asked for the material, although, after my father's death, Yale did send our mother a condolence letter.

So we children agreed to have our attorney find and send to Wyoming for safekeeping whatever remained from my father's professional career. As I discovered several years later, when I received duplicates of that material, what had been sent to Wyoming was only a moderately thick packet of 8 1/2-by-11inch renderings and sketches of a number of buildings, only a few of which indicated their dates of completion or even their location. The packet included only a very few photographs, and almost no personal biographical material. (The lack of papers pertaining to my father's personal life was especially disappointing, because unlike my mother's family, which left a lot of memorabilia, my father's Feldmans left almost no paper trail and I had to find out about them and their Belarussian and Galician origins through years of dogged and tedious detective work.)

Here in Bloomington, despite the presence of a great library on campus, I am limited in the amount of research I can do in order to compile even a short list of the more 4,000 buildings Hyman designed before his death in 1981. I have been disappointed that this past year I could not visit my home town as I usually do once a year, where I can rummage around in the library
at Columbia University's Avery Hall, or at the city's Building Department. Of course, I have found information about my father in several books and in The New York Times index, going back to 1932. Still, I have had to resort to looking about on the Internet to find at least some of my father's buildings, and during these quests I have prompted David Yost, at:

http://yost.com/art/fifth-avenue/FifthAvenue-booklet.htm

to add to his description of 1025 Fifth Avenue the fact that my father had designed the building. When Mr. Yost responded he asked me whether my father regretted the destruction of the old building which had fronted on Fifth Avenue and which had harmonized with the flanking structures. I had to tell him that I hadn't heard any expression of dismay. I said that, quite simply, my father had to make money to support his wife and children. He was proud that he had won the contract through his ingenuity in figuring out a way to have the main entrance open on to Fifth Avenue even though the building itself had to run through from one side street to the other. (My father had nothing to do with the Loewy entrance; he hated it, saying it looked like a
tongue sticking out.)

Hyman had no pretensions about being artistic. Many of his designs, like some of those of Philip Birnbaum and other architects, were products of "hack work." Nevertheless, respected and honored by the building trade and made president of New York's architectural societies my father was awarded contracts because he was good at creating plans which would minimize building costs and which would afford prospective renters or buyers a fair amount of views and apartment layouts which were livable. (He would round corners of entryways and halls so that large pieces of furniture could pass through more easily than if the corners were sharp.)

When I came upon Stuart Brorson's Bronx Art Deco website I wrote to ask him whether he knew of any buildings my father had designed during the earlier part of his career. He became so interested that he went about photographing H. I. Feldman's buildings and put them on his website. See:

http://www.brorson.com/BronxWeb/HIFeldman/HIFeldman_Bldgs_1.html

Note that there are several "pages" of my father's buildings here. Stuart, who lives in Boston, hopes to mount still more pictures of them and to locate and photograph more buildings in Manhattan and the other boroughs to photograph when he has time. Last September, Stuart came to Bloomington where his parents live and we spent a pleasant couple of hours chatting,
although I had to admit that, except for a few buildings ( none of which were designed by my father), that while I was growing up in the city, I had never paid much attention to its architecture.

Although your comments about some of my father's buildings were not complimentary, I have been pleased to find at least something about my father's work, as well as photographs of 1025 Fifth Avenue and 45 West 10th Street. As for your review of 799 Park Avenue, which I found at www.cityrealty.com, I thought that the quote by Trager which you inserted- that HIF had "perpetrated" its design -was particularly nasty, though perhaps not entirely deserved in view of the more "stylish" buildings standing beside it. Incidentally, I read a NYT article recently about the newly discovered appreciation of "white," or "bland" post-war buildings. Despite the low ceilings and lack of architectural detail of their apartments this surge of interest can be attributed in large measure to the slightly lower rents in such buildings, and to the difficulties in finding livable spaces in New York. New residents of these buildings can merrily indulge in reviving the "retro chic" 50's style that has already gone out of style, at least it has here in Bloomington. Apparently, simple, boxy apartment, office and school buildings built just after WW II and during the 50's are now old enough to be considered "classics."

In case you are interested, here is a list of some of my father's Bronx buildings. I have compiled it from Donald G. Sullivan and Brian J. Danforth's study on Bronx Art Deco Architecture, which they prepared in 1976 for the West Bronx Restoration Committee as part of their Hunter College
Graduate Program in Urban Planning. In their introduction they say that they may have overlooked recording some of the buildings during their survey.

1060 Anthony Avenue (built in 1941)
2386 Davidson Avenue (built in 1939)
1150 Grand Concourse (built in 1937)
1530 Jessup Avenue (built in 1929)
1592 Jessup Avenue (built in 1941)
1460 Macomb's Road (built in 1930)
1185 Morris Avenue (built in 1937)
15 North Street (built in 1936)
2791 University Avenue (built in 1937)
130 W. 183rd Street (built in 1938)
5 East 196th Street (built in 1941)

Doing "armchair" research about architecture (as well as about other matters of interest to me) while sitting at my computer does have its rewards. I have acquired two new correspondents. One is Annice Alt who is interested in Art Deco buildings, particularly those by the firm Boak and Paris, and in terra cotta building decoration. I learned about her from an article in The New York Times and we have been happily corresponding for several months.

A third person who now shares my interest in my father and his buildings
is Michael Wutzke. He is webmaster of:

www.skyscrapers.com

I discovered this site only a week or so ago. At his site is a list of thirteen of Hyman's buildings, including 799 Park. Mr. Wutzke has invited me to provide him with a biography about my father and to send him a list of as many buildings I can find.

Respectfully,

Naomi Fatouros (née FELDMAN)
1350 Southdowns Drive
Bloomington, Indiana 47401-5149
NFatouros@aol.com

March 20, 2002

 

Slow Progress at Whitehall Ferry Terminal

To The Editor:

I'm attaching a recent photo of the Whitehall Ferry Terminal under
construction.

I came across your City Review website again recently and was
reminded of your attention to the project through the last decade or so.

(See The City Review article on the proposed ferry terminal.)

And while I don't share your lack of appreciation for the work of Venturi
and Scott Brown, with whom I worked for over a decade, I do find your
website and much of the discussion in it informative and interesting.

Though I'm no longer officially working on the Whitehall project (in yet
another shift in responsibility, TAMS Consultants became the lead architect
for the project when I left Schwartz Architects (who had inherited the
project from VSB in 1997) in 2000), I do keep in touch with the construction
progress. One of the more exciting aspects of the project, which I
introduced in 1995 and which managed to survive budget cuts, design reviews
and community input, was the incorporation of photovoltaic panels on the
south-facing, waterfront facade, and on a specially designed rooftop viewing
deck canopy. Despite the appalling process which left the two great VSB
designs (don't groan, I know you disagree, but I believe history will say
otherwise) in a junk heap (and if nothing else, the egregious breech of
process which occured should have been at least noted if not stopped, in the
New York architectural/press community, but that's another story), the
resulting "bland" design has a few redeeming qualities. One of them is the
PUBLIC rooftop viewing deck, which will be a wonderful and unique place in
the city. No "great" architecture here, but a rare concurrence of the
agenda of several constituencies that resulted in a prominent NEW public
space on the roof of a new city building (thanks partially to the NYC
Department of City Planning for that), incorporating a wonderful new
installation by artist Dennis Adams (thanks to the NYC Department of
Cultural Affairs, Percent for Art program) and an innovative technological
installation of polycrystalline photovoltaic panels on the canopy (thanks
partially to the NYC Economic Development Corporation, Energy Services and
the New York City Office of Management and Budget's Energy Department).
Amidst the literally dumb facades, the awkward massing and the other
obviously compromised design features, this one amenity I think will shine,
and will somewhat justify the time, money and effort spent on this
bedraggled project.

And I'm thinking a lot about public space recently, as I try to make sense
of the WTC site.

Anyway, hope this is interesting to you, somehow my Saturday afternoon web
surfing led me back to your site, and I felt compelled to give you an update
(with some ungracious editorializing) on the project.

Best,

Ron Evitts

Ronald Evitts Architect

1201 Broadway, Room 503
New York, NY 10001-5405

212-679-7050 tel
212-679-7058 fax
revitts@revitts.com

February 23, 2002

 

The Ellis Island of the West

To The Editor:

I have been researching how to explain to a very apathetic southern California populace the importance of preserving a place in San Diego, Naval Training
Center, which compares favorably in historical significance with Ellis Island.

Where Ellis Island acted as a portal for the masses to come into a country of promise, Naval Training Center acted as a portal for those same masses to step up and put their lives on the line to defend the democracy they fled other countries to experience.

Naval Training Center also was the center of the hub of embarkation of our troops to fight the Pacific battles in WWII. Because of its location in the home port of our nation's Navy, adjacent location to Marine Corps training facility (MCRD), priceless property and climatic appeal and capacity for public reuse, it is the jewel of all military facilities made available for civilian reuse during the 1990 BRAC process.

And 80-90% of this $700 million facility is being demolished for condos and corporate offices with no appreciable return to the national or local taxpayer.

I appreciated your insight into the Ellis Island issue and the care and concern New Yorkers have taken in preserving this national treasure. My question is how
do you wake up a nation to the loss of crown jewels in areas which lack the passion for history and excellence that New Yorkers exude? And how is it possible to get the national news media to cover the national giveaway of vast acres of public lands during the 1990 BRAC process with, as exhibited at Naval Training Center San Diego, no regard to public rights to their own property?

Sincerely,
John McNab
www.ntcsd.org

johnamcnab@yahoo.com
(619) 531-0773
1333 29th St
San Diego, CA 92102

November 17, 2000

 

Why Not Me!!!

To the Editor:

The response (see below) by someone who read the editorial on Darryl Strawberry "Why
Not Me!" (see The City Review article) shows the lack of compassion and understanding by our society.

It's true that children need good role models, and Strawberry's solicitation and use of cocaine are not things we want to teach our kids.

Or are they?

Perhaps parents and the general public should try the other side of the coin. We teach our children to read and write, math skills, the history of the world... but so many parents neglect the issues of emotional and mental health. "But we take them to church and teach them about God and how to be a good person," some might say. Despite good intentions, this often fails. Why? Because the ideas of goodness, compassion, and moral compass are too abstract for a child to fully grasp. The best way to explain it is that you can know something in your head without knowing it in your heart. They lack the experience that brings maturity. So the best we can do is show them the consequences of making the wrong choices.

If your child idolizes this man, then isn't this a great opportunity to teach him/her a lesson about right and wrong? Sit down with them and talk about alternative ways of coping with illness and death. Or are we all too lazy to give our children the guidance they need?

Darryl Strawberry is going through some tough times. How would you feel if you were diagnosed with cancer? He has shown a courage and attitude that few people have. I am not condoning the use of cocaine; I do feel that drug use should be a health issue NOT a criminal issue! Obviously his confinement to a treatment center is not solving his drug problems or his depression. I think the world and our government should leave well enough alone and allow him to make his own choice about his future. We cannot pretend to know what Darryl is feeling, whether or not he loves his family, career, or himself. People make mistakes and some are harder to overcome than others! After all, "you can lead a horse to water... but you can't make it drink."

Thanks for listening!
-DC from Wisconsin

tameone@wctc.net

October 25, 2000


To The Editor:

So what that Strawberry said, "Why not me?" (See The City Review article) Noble statement aside, he has done nothing to admit or overcome his drug addiction and continues to do what he wants because he is a professional athlete. He doesn't care about his wife, the young who idolize baseball players, the baseball profession, or most importantly himself. If he did he would have gotten off drugs a long time ago and stayed home instead of partying with friends and strippers.

So his noble statement, full of grace, just wipes out all the other negative actions by Strawberry? Please. Your article is liberalism at its best where no one needs to take responsibility for his actions, he just needs to make noble statements, full of grace.

kjenkins@natinfo.net (Kay Jenkins)

Sept. 12, 2000

....more on Strawberry

Whoever, wrote that article glorifying daryl strawberry should be fired on the spot...

steven.kalter@csfb.com (Kalter, Steven)

Sept. 12, 2000

...and a message to Strawberry

You don't know me. For some reason I was browsing and saw an article on recent happenings with Darryl and wondered if I could send him an e-mail. I enjoyed reading your piece "Why Not Me! The Amazin' Grace & Heroic Humility Of Darryl Strawberry" and wondered if you may have a way of getting this to him.

I read with sadness that he suffers from colon cancer and it appears that if he continues to have it treated in the manner he is currently doing, then his fate doesn't look very good. Proof of this is that a kidney has already been removed, what will be next?

On a physical level, cancer and all other dis-ease is due to one thing...blockage and toxicity. Colon cancer especially examplifies the blockage idea. Something (that was eaten...meat putrifies, and starch molds) is stuck (glued) in that part of his body, been there for a long time and is causing a poisining of the entire system. Surgeries and medication don't deal with this primary cause. What will? Colonic irrigations, drastic change in diet, rational fasting and complete physiological rest.

One can never afford to have vital organs removed from the body if one wants to remain whole and vital. Removal of the blockage and toxicity by natural means will result in a systemic change to take place. A rejuvination of the blood stream will take place allowing the body to begin to really heal itself.

You may not understand what I'm talking about here, but it is important that this information get to Darryl in some way, to see if his interest can be sparked. I can then refer him to people in NYC that may be able to really help him, help himself. At the end of the day, think of the many people that could benefit if he were to look at alternative therapies because of his public status.

Thank you for your consideration.

DLM

dlmeritsky@escocorp.com

Sept. 12, 2000

 

Great Organs

To the Editor:

I fairly wallowed in your City Review Web site this afternoon. What a treat for those of us who must worship New York from afar.

I wandered by City Review looking for information on early 20th Century residences, as part of my ongoing research into the history of the Estey Organ Company of Brattleboro, Vermont.

Estey installed quite a few residence pipe organs in New York, many of them with automatic roll players. Among their clients were George C. Boldt; Henri Bendel, 520 Fifth Avenue; Rapelje Howell, 140 West 57th Street (current site of the Metropolitan Tower); and Chapel of the Holy
Spirit in the Tiffany mansion.

They also built a number of church and theater organs, including one for the Capitol Theater in 1919. I'm sure they are all gone now, and who knows what became of the organs. At the moment, I'm trying to determine if the organ they built for the old Waldorf-Astoria in 1911 was in the East Room or the Myrtle Room.

I learned a number of interesting things from City Review, and I thank you for providing such a fascinating site.

Best regards,

Rich La Voie, president
Friends of Sacramento Memorial Auditorium Estey concert organ, opus 2526 (1927)

lavoie@cwo.com (Rich Lavoie) 2/27/00

 

Gum, Sticky Business

To The Editor:

I read your article about gum (See The City Review article) with the pleasure of knowing that someone else seems to be stuck on gum.

Of course, as a gum manufacturer, the subject matter was less than supportive of my life/business quest. Be that as it may, just as Rave's are not the cause of drug over-use, gum is not the culprit, just the vehicle. I like to say that gum does not spit people, people spit gums. The question is: how do we get people to curb their nasty habit of spitting gums in the wrong places? A tax? I don't think so. I do have a solution, though. People can learn about the true value of certain chewing gums over others, and with that heightened awareness, they will not spit their gum on the street. It's true. Our gum is called JungleGum, and it is the only certified organic, natural chewing gum in the world. It is harvested by hand in the jungles of Central America. It is not only certified organic, but it is also certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (a splinter group form your NYC Rainforest Alliance), an organization which ensures that the forests from which we harvest our chicle (gum base) are managed for sustainable production. We are also certified by FairTrade to ensure that the gum tappers are paid fair, living wages. All this makes for a very sophisticated and smart gum. A gum that makes people think. It costs a little more, but when people buy it, they essentially become part of the whole chain of custody of a very interesting natural resource...and they don't spit it on the street!

What do you think? Can a simple approach like this not only do some good south of the border, but also clean up those nasty wads?

By the way, those globs on the street (all other chewing gums) are completely synthetic, petroleum-based plastic gums...who, in their right mind would want to chew them in the first place? No wonder they spit them out!

Peter Alcom

president

Wild Things, Inc., proud maker of JungleGum

alcom@junglegum.com

 

Movies that make me smile

To the Editor:

"Whiskey Galore" (Ealing)[Studios] belongs on the [Top 500 Sound Films of All Time] list, surely. The scene where the luscious Joan Greenwood teases her dear Sergeant into proposing in Gaelic is one of the sexiest ever filmed (right up there with - say - a pubescent Elizabeth Taylor in bed pretending to ride her horse Pie to victory in "National Velvet." Qualifying it for the list alone is one scene, without dialogue, where the news of the wreck of the whisky-laden steamer is spread faster than today's bandwidth-glutted age would deem possible. I believe "The Seven Samurai" is on the list twice. How about "The Magnificent Seven" as a substitute? Finally, may I suggest [Jacques] Tati's "M. Hulot's holiday" or Laurel and Hardy's "Way Out West"? I guess I'm a sucker for movies that can make me smile years after I've seen them.

Glenn Rebne

glennre@MICROSOFT.com

August 30, 1999

Oops! "The Seven Samurai" was on the list twice, at Number 168 and 464. "The Magnificent Seven," the American remake of "The Seven Samurai" with Yul Brynner, James Coburn, Horst Buchholtz, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson was jolly good fun and while not a great movie it certainly had a cast that would go places and therefore is an interesting "document." Joan Greenwood, of course, is the star of two other films high on the list, "The Man in The White Suit," and "Kind Hearts & Coronets" in both of which she positively boiled over with feminity, she of the great fog-horn voice and mischievous eyes. In its heyday from 1939 to 1951, Ealing Studios produced the great English comedies that are among the finest in the history of film. I highly recommend Charles Barr's 1980 book on "Ealing Studios," a third edition of which was published in 1998 by the University of California Press and which I purchased at Coliseum Books in New York City for $19.95. It includes two photographs of Ms. Greenwood in the 1949 "Whiskey Galore" and much, much more. I am very tempted to add "Whiskey Galore" and many more Ealing films to the list, but then I would be accused of being an Anglophile, or some such terrible thing.

...All the Disrepair

To the Editor:

I am writing to say that my family and I were recently in New Jersey to visit some relatives. We are from Ohio. While there we went to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I would like to say that as an American, I would like to see Ellis Island fully restored to original as possible. It may be located on the East Coast, but it belongs to all of the United States. It broke my heart to see all the disrepair. I hope all will remember that this place meant hope, future and most importantly freedom to millions of people. I thank you for your time and may God bless you all.

Sincerely,

Matthew Baldwin

chi2@alltel.net

August 10, 1999

 

Dime-Accepting Turnstiles...

To The Editor:

I enjoyed and agreed with your article on the Central Park Children's Zoo (see The City Review article). (Remember the dime-accepting turnstiles?).

I also concur with your observations on the benefits versus detriments both inherent in the new design of the main zoo. My childhood memories of the fun I had there are genuine, whereas I figure that my naturalist outrage was embellished when viewed through a prism acquired in later years.

Your observation pertaining to the accessibility of the animals that city kids (like myself) would not otherwise have had occasion to see (and how it shaped our views) was especially thought provoking. Nothing is as interesting to me as having cherished assumptions confounded.

I thank you for the time and effort you have obviously put into your site and your writing.


I look forward to future updates.

Jahn Bonfiglio
jahnbon@aol.com

January 30,1999

     Who's Got the Chanin Archives?

To The Editor:

I am researching a building by Irwin S. Chanin, the Coney Island Fire Service Pumping Station. I am interested in finding whether or not the plans for this building, its internal mechanism, purpose and underground facilities are available in any public archive, or is the company still active and maintaining its own archives? I called the Architectural Archives at the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at Cooper Union and was informed that they did not have his archives. Apparently, when they did an exhibit on his work in the city and published the catalogue,        "Irwin S. Chanin: A Romance With The City," which did contain a two -page spread on this pumping station, they borrowed Chanin's personal collection of photos, etc. His archives were not deposited with the school that he endowed at Cooper Union.

Any help or leads you can provide would be very appreciated. Thank you.

Louise Basa

BasaConsulting@worldnet.att.net

October 12, 1998

 

    Looking For The Poet In The City

To The Editor:

By means of this letter I would like to congratulate The City Review for the array of information provided to the reader about New York.

I was particularly interested in the strong emphasis The City Review has on architectural issues. This is key in a city like New York which could be defined as the epitome of urbanity.

I am a student at the Tulane University School of Architecture in New Orleans. As part of an independent study, I am conducting an investigation on New York in the 1930's seen through the eyes of the Spanish Poet Federico Garcia Lorca. Lorca was invited to spend one year at Columbia University. After this year he wrote a manifesto about the city titled "A Poet in New York". To conduct this investigation I need extensive graphic material and texts about New York in the 1930's. I wonder if you could suggest certain archives where I could find this information as well as books that cover this time period.  Thanks.

Felipe Correa V.

fcorrea@mailhost.tcs.tulane.edu

September 24, 1998

 

Architecture, Not Jazz

To The Editor,

I happened to notice your review of Pat Metheny, and I think it is pretty much on the mark. I too think "As Wichita Falls, So Falls Wichita Falls" is extraordinary. What he is doing (or was doing more of when he was still with ECM) is a giant step ahead, as was Creed Taylor's CTI work, much of which is brilliant. Hubbard's "First Light," "Red Clay," and "Sky Dive," with their lush orchestrations, are also masterpieces. What is troubling, however, is your assertion that jazz is America's greatest gift to the world. Herbert Muschamp [the architecture critic of The New York Times] said this a couple of weeks ago, and The New York Post said it in an editorial last week. Muschamp actually said that jazz is "the essential art form of a democratic society," which ridiculously implies that one cannot have a democracy without jazz. I wrote letters to both papers, and the Post printed mine today. Anyway, I thought it was a coincidence that I came across your Metheny review today. In my letter to The Post I said I admired the newspaper's stance against politically correct historical revisionism, but felt that its statement that jazz is the only original American art form was ironic since it was made in the context of a discussion of a new skyscraper. The invention of the skyscraper is a more important and original art form especially if one looks at the architectural marvels in New York and Chicago by Louis Sullivan, Cass Gilbert, Raymond Hood, Harvey Wiley Corbett and countless others. Whatever its contributions to the world, the reliance of jazz on rhythm is partially responsibility for the death of melody, and hence the death, or at least the waning popularity, of music.

Scott Springer

springer@interport.net (august 13, 1998)

The writer is an architect who is working on a monograph on Harvey Wiley Corbett, the influential Art Deco architect.

Editor's Note:

Scott Springer's argument for skyscrapers being a more influential and important contribution to world culture than jazz is appealing to those of us who love "good" architecture. To those of us who also love "good" jazz, it is not quite so clearcut. The great early skyscrapers of New York and Chicago were a marvelous combination of excellent engineering and an enriched decorative sense that liberally borrowed from many historical styles. Frank Lloyd Wright and some of the better Art Deco designers began to evolve significant new art forms, but they still did not surpass the romance and awesomeness of the Eiffel Tower. Architecture in its Post PoMo phase is now entering a golden age of creativity, but one that is not dominated by Americans, even if post-chicken-wire Frank Gehry is the best architect of his generation (closely followed by Peter Eisenman and about 10 Japanese architects). Under intense analysis, very few things cannot be viewed as derivative, but there is no question that the skyscraper flourished in American cities and after scores of years began to flourish internationally. Jazz, on the other hand, while obviously influenced by African (and other native) rhythms, started as a crescendo of brilliance in New Orleans and reached its apex with Miles Davis seven decades or so later, a stretch in which American artists were totally dominant internationally. Manfred Eicher's fabulous ECM label, of course, demonstrated that while jazz had become almost moribund in the United States by the mid-1970's, great European artists like Jan Garbarek and Eberhard Weber were carrying on the torch. Metheny, who eventually left ECM, and Keith Jarrett, a major ECM star, of course, continue to demonstrate American leadership. Unfortunately, their brilliance is drowned out by a boring and arrogant, but successful trumpet player, and an insipid, conceited and mustachioed keyboard player. The collaboration of Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays is the greatest since that of Josef Zawinul and Wayne Shorter (in their group Weather Report) that was the greatest since Miles Davis and Gil Evans, which was the greatest. Jazz's influence on the musical theater and art is enormous, and even on "serious" music. Melody has not disappeared, but merely been deemphasized and given way to emotional happenstance and sonic explorations and adventures (that in time, after repeated listenings, assumes their own introverted melodic structure). The deemphasis is not necessarily a minimalization. "Music for 18 Musicians" (also on the ECM label) by Steve Reich may be regarded by some as minimalist, but its sonic vigor is de maximus and it may well be the most important composition of the 20th Century artistically (and certainly from the viewpoint of rhythmic jazz) even if it is not as beautiful as Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto (as played by Vladimir Horowitz near the end of his illustrious career). Jazz is in decline, creatively, but it will be supplanted/augmented/extended by electronic music as virtuosi eventually emerge to catch up with the potential of their wondrous instruments. Architecture, on the other hand, is very much alive although it is not well supported in New York and much of the United States. If great jazz is liberating, great architecture is nurturing. The pyramids and pagodas and great cathedrals were high-rise exuberations before the American skyscraper and sadly many Americans prefer low-rise suburbia to the cliffs of cities.

The Terrorism of Ugly Buildings

To The Editor:

People come to and fall in love with Manhattan because they find here a unique atmosphere, an urban atmosphere, an urban environment unlike any other, one that makes them feel and act differently than if they were anywhere else in the world.  The enduring appeal of New York City, the source of what makes Manhattan Island "so New York," is easy to locate: it's the beauty of the buildings, the charm of the streets, both wide and narrow, along which the buildings rise, and the varied ambiances of the neighborhoods, all the Greenwich Villages, China Towns and Little Italys that are crammed onto one huge island.  Despite the incredible distances and differences that exist between these areas, a certain fragile unity of atmosphere - a certain "New Yorkness" can be perceived and enjoyed, no matter where you go in Manhattan.  It is to the preservation and enrichment of this pscyhogeographical spirit of New York that we are resolutedly dedicated.

....ugly buildings such as the huge United Artists theater complex that is being erected at Broadway and 14th Street are destroying the charm of our city's streets and the ambiances of our city's neighborhoods.  We should be fighting against...ugly buildings as vigorously as we are fighting against terrorist bombings of the World Trade Center and other city landmarks, for these architectural monstrosities are horrible explosions in reverse, disasters that spring up, rather than fall down.  ...ugly buildings are the neutron bombs of urban planning: they kill the spirit - the love of beauty - of the people who have to experience them day after day, while leaving their bodies intact.  Because...ugly buildings are the same anywhere you go - what makes them...ugly in the first place is that they all look alike, each one has the same square-headed, blank, glassy-eyed expression - their construction in Manhattan is destroying its uniqueness, fragmenting its unity, and threatening its very spirit.

We think that it is telling that this particular...ugly building will eventually house the city's biggest movie theater complex and a Virgin Records megastore.  Why can't the building itself be as creative, interesting and satisfying as the commodities that are sold inside are supposed to be?  These commodities (the movie spectaculars, the junk food, the consumer electronics, and the pre-recorded bits of entertainment) will change all the time, but the...ugly building will remain there, day in, day out.  Why should we be stuck with it?  We are the ones who, through our state taxes, are helping to finance its construction.  If Union Square needs anaything, it needs affordable public housing, which is what was supposed to be constructed, that is, until Anthony Pagan's crew got involved.  A huge theater complex such as this one belongs in Times Square (if anywhere), but most definitely not in Union Square, which has traditionally been home to the city's printing presses.  We fear for Times Square (which has been invaded, occupied and destroyed by such distinctly un-New York corporations as Disney), but not nearly as much as we fear for Union Square, which has recently suffered the construction of such...ugly buidlings as the Beth Israel Medical Center and Bradlees Toys, which is what the statue of George Washington, mounted on his horse in Union Square Park, has to look at every day for the rest of his monumental life.  Union Square is near death; there is even a TV show named after and set in it.  We must do something now.

Rally around the cause of beautiful buildings, lively streets and unified neighborhood ambiances!  Enjoy your city passionately for what you can experience and the people you can meet by travelling through and in it, not by what you can buy in it!  Join the New York Pschogeographical Association, or, better yet, form your own!

P.O. Box 1115

                     New York, NY  10009-9998

             rose@thom.net (2/19/98)

 

No-Walk Zones

We are (not yet) convicts

Dear Editor:

Like many of Mayor Giuliani's so-called "ideas", pedestrian no-walk zones violate the fundamental consitutional rights of New Yorkers.  During his first four years the Mayor routinely assaulted free speech, free enterprise and freedom of the press.  On the eve of his second term Guiliani's rapidly evolving police state characteristically begins taking away our freedom to walk on public streets.  Last time I checked New York City was not Rikers Island and we are (not yet) convicts.  The Mayor appears to have mistaken his job as a public servant for one as a prison warden.

          Robert Lederman

            President of A.R.T.I.S.T.

            (Artists' Response to Illegal State Tactics)

            255 13th Street

            Brooklyn, N.Y.  11215

            718-369-2111

This letter sparked a Plots & Plans article in The City Review called "The Pedestrian Prerogative." Mr. Lederman, shown at the left  leading a demonstration against the arrests of artists selling their art in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in March, 1998 in the photograph below, was arrested in front of City Hall January 14, 1998, during the Mayor's State of The City speech for writing "Guiliani = Police State" in chalk on the sidewalk.  He was charged with defacement of property and released later in the day and he planned a "chalk-in" protest January 21 at the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 50th Street at noon to show "the world that New Yorkers are not sheep: that we need no pens or corrals on our streets; and that we will not tolerate the Mayor abridging our freedom our speak, sell art, walk or protest." (For further information, see http://www.openair.org/alerts/artist/nyc.html.)

 

Ellis Island:

"Not A Campy Theme Park"

I grew up on Long Island, but had never been to the city.  I recently had the opportunity to spend three days exploring this mythological place. Since I have just begun my genealogical search, Ellis Island was one of the places on top of my list.  Though my father's family did not come through here, my mother's side had.

 When I made it to Ellis Island via ferry (which I feel is part of the experience - not a bridge) and entered the front room with its long glass case filled with baggage and photographs overhead, I could hardly contain my emotions - the presentation was intense and overwhelming.  I can image the bewilderment as the immigrants arrived - a bittersweet mix of hope and sadness.  Unfortunately, I only had an hour and a half to view this historic monument, but I still marveled over all the displays.  I was amazed at how badly maintained the majority of the buildings were, but yet they did have their own allure.  I think I would be wonderful if a majority of the buildings could be restored and further continue the museum and also keep some buildings in their current state, but insure that they are structurally sound and conduct tours.  

When I read in your article that someone should use the buildings for restaurants, conference rooms, etc., I could not help but feel disappointed.  This country is so obsessed with commercializing everything.  

Why can't we keep this one place just as it is?  This is an enormously important part of our history, not a campy theme part  with a McDonald's and Coke machines on every corner.  I think it is time that people start thinking about the beauty and sentiment that Ellis Island symbolizes and not viewing it as merely an "opportunity" for developers.  

Thank you for listening.  

Kathleen Kimlin  (11/9/97)

 

Gum:

"Chewy Problem"

I caught your article "Tax The Gum."  Being the curator of the Chewing Gum Chronicles, I got a real kick out of your solution to the chewy problem.

Being a collector and not a chewer, I hope the government doesn't take you seriously.  God knows being a property owner is taxing enough.  Don't target my hobby, too!

Thanks for the laugh!

tmgum@aol.com (11/9/97)

 

"Trashy Suburbanization"

To The Editor:

I have enjoyed "The City Review" because I have a strong passion for New York, my reason for moving here from Irvine, Ca., after living in upstate New York and originally in South Carolina.

However, it is starting to accumulate the junk that I hoped to get away from: the superstores.  It's disgusting to see such a huge K-Mart stuck in the middle of the city, with such a large space. 

All of the unique, boutique characteristics of the city are disappearing with the onslaught of the T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and the rest of the onslaught of newcoming supermonstrosities, just plaguing the city architecturally, and historically.

The destruction of some of the antiquated structures should continue to be a major issue.  Rehabilitating the older structures for the new century will be much more "New Yorkish" than the trashy suburbanization, mall-construction type of building going on currently.  The markets for the particular stores coming is saturated in suburia, so the city is the next option.  The fact that New York is so bureaucratic about commercial real estate is a quality that no other major metropolitan areas has, except maybe San Francisco.

I am glad that this magazine exists, and I will continue to read it.


Deborah Sitton, New York (4/25/97)

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