There's a must-read piece in the New York Times today by Nicholai Ouroussoff, addressing the coming battle over St. Vincent's plan to tear down several buildings within the Greenwich Village Historic District in order to throw up a couple very tall towers, one to house the hospital itself, one chock full of co-ops.
Here are a few tastes:
Sadly, the hospital’s application reflects the pernicious but prevalent notion that any single building that is not a major historical landmark — or stands outside the historical mainstream — is unworthy of our protection. Pursue that logic to its conclusion, and you replace genuine urban history with a watered-down substitute. It’s historical censorship....
In patronizing fashion, hospital officials have suggested that preservationists are choosing buildings over lives, as if the two were in direct opposition. This is the kind of developer’s cant that is ruining our city. The addition of up to 400 co-op apartments is about money, not saving lives. There are plenty of other ways that the hospital could upgrade its facilities....
...the O’Toole Building is part of a complex historical narrative in which competing values are always jostling for attention. This is not simply a question of losing a building; it’s about masking those complexities and reducing New York history to a caricature. Ultimately, it’s a form of collective amnesia.
At St. Vincent’s, the damage is likely to be only compounded by the design of these new co-op buildings, a sentimental faux version of the past.
If we continue down this path, we’ll end up with the urban equivalent of a patient on meds: safe, numb, soulless. Is this choosing lives?
Nice to see someone at the Times come out swinging. The blogs and the tabloids can't do all the work.