21 December 2007

Newspaper Advocacy

AM New York has a nice piece today titles "Endangered New York: 10 (more) to Save," in which the paper makes the case for some City treasures in danger of being lost to the City Hall-Developers-Corporations cabal.

Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy says, "People throughout the city are slightly uneasy about the pace of change and the loss of familiar things in their neighborhoods. We're in a period where real-estate interests have clearly dominated. [Development] is not bad, but what makes the city unique and a joy to live in are the layers of history--you don't want to lose a sense of place."

Well put, Peg. Wonder if anybody's listening out there. Among the buildings AMNY stumps for are Admiral's Row, the Donnell Library Center, George Washington Bridge Bus Station, and the Hotel Pennsylvania. Even Macy's flagship building in Herald Square, which, unthinkably, is endangered, should the department store embrace the utterly boneheaded idea to clear out in favor of the proposed Penn Station Mall. I'd argue that the Macy's Building is 75 percent of the reason why any New Yorkers patronize that store; without it, Macy's is just another run-of-the-mill retail concern; with it, it's historic, grand and special.

Three cheers for AM New York. Now, why can't this sort of advocacy journalism be practiced where it would actually make a difference—at, say, the New York Times. The Times has been completely out-to-lunch on what I and many others consider THE STORY of the past ten years: the reshaping, denuding and bankrupting of New York City's cultural, architectural, emotional and physical soul.


J$ said...

i don't think anyone besides the developers of the Penn Station Mall actually thinks Macy's is going to move.

is it time to start landmarking businesses based on factors other than just architecture? cultural significance. can we landmark Katz's?

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Yes, J$, I believe it is time to landmark businesses. I've been advocating that for a couple years. But it's a tricky question. How do you do it? You can't force people to continue running a business if they don't want to. If the owners of Katz's want to sell and get out of the deli trade, how does government tell them no? That impinges on their personal rights, as merchants, as citizens, and amounts to coercion. I think the possible middle road is to give landmark businesses tax breaks and certain rental protections and the like—things that make it easier and more attractive for them to keep doing what they're doing. It's a knotty business; I wish someone at City Hall would start figuring out a solution.