10 January 2007

Where's the 27th Regiment When You Need Them?

I passed by the Abram S. Hewitt Memorial Buidling the other day. A sad sight. In case the name doesn't ring a bell, it's that squat, grey, stone-solid building on Fourth Avenue between Sixth and Seventh Street, right across from Cooper Union. You've seen it a million times. Everyone has, and has gotten quite used to it. It's all barricaded and graffitied right now, because the hideous-minded Cooper brass has decided to demolish the 102-year-old structure in favor of an undulating glass jobbie about ten stories high and fifty stories ugly.

The students who have art studios inside the Hewitt no-like-y this idea, for good reason, and are responsible for the helpless-fury-born graffiti. At one point the second-story windows bore the legend: "I Like the Old New York." Amen. Of course, this message has since been removed.

The site has a tremendous history. Before the Hewitt building, it was the home of the 27th Regiment of the New York National Guard. The regiment was sent out to quell unrest during the Stone Cutters' Riot; the Astor Place Riot; and the Drafts Riots of the Civil War—only the best goddam riots New York ever saw. I doubt that wall of glass will conjure up visions of any such history.

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