07 April 2009

Landmarks Commision: Stupidity Incarnate

You knew it, but weren't quite 100% sure. But today, courtesy of the Brooklyn Paper, comes the final piece of evidence that the Landmarks Preservation Commission is run by dunderheaded idiots who wouldn't know a landmark if they lived on the top floor of the Tower of Pisa, and wouldn't know what's good for New York if they roomed with the spirit of Peter Stuyvesant.

You've heard about the imminent return of Armando's, the decades-old Brooklyn eatery that gave up its spice to something called Spicy Pickle last year, but, when the chain defaulted on its lease, decided to move on back into its Montague Street space? Hooray!—right?

Well, the Landmarks Commission is intent on spoiling that homecoming. When Armando's departed, it took its classic neon sign with it. (See above.) Now, the Commission isn't so sure the restaurant’s owner, Peter Byros, can rehang the sign, as he would like to. Wrote the Brooklyn Paper, "the city Landmark Preservation Commission must first rule if the sign is an appropriate addition — make that re-addition — to the streetscape of historic Montague Street."

The sign—with its wonderful neon lobster and colors of red, green and blue—was installed more than 70 years ago. When the area was given historic status in 1965, the neon sign was grandfathered in. By taking down the sign, Byros lost its protected status.

Byros is working with the city, but some Brooklynites are not working with him. "It may need to be smaller and it may need to be modernized," an ignoramus named Judy Stanton, who is somehow the executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, but would be better off as the recording secretary of the Bloomington, Indiana, BID, told Brooklyn Paper. Ms. Stanton, as my mother used to say, has her sense of taste in her mouth.

Now, let's be brutally honest here. The best thing about Armando's was the neon sign. The food was OK. The decor had been modernized over the years and didn't have a lot of remaining character. Armando's had two big pluses going for it: the fact that it was 72 years old; and that wonderful old sign. Christopher Gray recently wrote in the Times that "Armando’s Restaurant, at 143 Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights, had a rare green-red-blue-yellow combination for its restaurant, with a lobster in yellow."

What does faceless old Montague Street have anymore that's worth looking at? Garden of Eden? Starbuck's? Banana Republic? It's anonymous and personality-free. Only a fool would pass up the chance to rehang the Armando's sign. But fools is who you've got sitting on the Landmarks Commission and on the Brooklyn Heights Association.

Byros: if you need someone to speak on behalf of your sign, and think I could do any little bit of good, contact me.


exvelveteen said...

So since the Commission has to rule on it, they will automatically say no? How's that logic work?

And "the food is OK, but the building and sign are old and great" is not often enough to keep a place in business. It was too bad that Armando's closed, but I assume it was because business wasn't going so well or they wanted to get out of the food business altogether. Their business might have done better if more people thought "Hey, I hear their food is great" and not just "Boy they've got a neato sign". And if it was just that they wanted out of the business, then that's their prerogative.

And before declaring everyone else to be idiots, perhaps you should look at the section in the NYC building code for signs:

"3202.2.1.8 Projecting signs

2.2. Illuminated projecting signs. No permanent illuminated projecting sign shall be erected on any building on:

2.2.5. Montague Street between Court Street and Clinton Street;"

(among others streets in Brooklyn)

So it's not just that they lost grandfathered status with Landmarks (which could, contrary to your assumption, still approve the re-installation). More importantly, they lost their grandfathered status with the DOB.

I'd love to see the sign come back too, and hopefully they can work something out with the City. But this baseless screed makes you look like a fool.

Carol Gardens said...

Can't they just keep the old sign and hang it differently? It would still look great flush with the facade.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Good suggestion, CG.

Rego-Forester said...

Armando, if you need a second person to submit online testimony on your behalf, regarding the gem of a sign, please e-mail me at unlockthevault [at] hotmail [dot] com