The Dance of Preservation and Progress

ward-bakery-1208.jpgThe fourth article in the NY Times series on the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s trials and triumphs appears today, this one investigating how they’ve “repeatedly played dance partner to a potent mix of preservationists, developers and city politicians. It must strike a balance between protecting architecture and accepting economic realities, between a responsibility to history and a knowledge that the city must evolve.” Some folks feel the developers are “leading the dance” as they write, letting city landmarks fall prey to the call for bigger and newer buildings. Not all developers feel they’ve got the upper hand. Take Jed Walentas, aka Mr. Dumbo. Landmarking is one of the best tools that anti-development people have in this city — it’s a very long, political process, he told the Times. Among the buildings elsewhere in Brooklyn that evaded landmarking: 184 Kent, the Cass Gilbert-designed warehouse in Williamsburg currently being remade into a residential building with some modifications to the exterior. The designation was vetoed by the City Council. Then there’s Ward’s Bakery, one of the buildings razed to make way for the Atlantic Yards towers. Despite having won a listing in 2003 on the National Register of Historic Places, LPC nixed it for designation in 2006 and Forest City Ratner started tearing it down last year.
Preservation and Development, Engaged in a Delicate Dance [NY Times]
Photo of Ward’s Bakery Demolition by Tracy Collins.

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  • For me, Ward’s hurts the most. That decision was so political it was ridiculous.

  • Did anyone see the Law and Order re-run last night where McCoy agrees to get Landmarks to fast-track a building in return for someone co-operating with an investigation. Which headline was that torn from, I wonder?

  • When I saw that L&O episode the landmarking deal struck me as being highly improbable. The writer was probably a graduate of Hudson University :-)

  • I read the article this morning on my ride in and thought, if Lisa doesn’t pick this up, I’m going to scream.

    Thank You, Lisa.

    Preservation and development is such a heated topic. While I’m for development, I am also very pro preservation. Landmarking is a very time consuming process and unfortunately in some cases it is politically driven.
    The article also touched on neighborhoods; Tribeca; success and revitalization because of landmarking.

  • The Landmarks Commission is a Mayoral Agency. The eleven Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor and serve “at his pleasure”. Of course it is political, it has always been political. It is one of the city’s political players. What else should it be?
    Wards Bakery was never on anyone’s radar as a marvel of architectural worthiness until it was seen as a way to obstruct the redevelopment of the AY site. The Commission rightly turned it down. They are not supposed to be in the business of stopping every development project. There is a difference between a preservationist and an obstructionist althought to many the terms are interchangeable.
    The bottom line is that the commission does something very few government agencies do, they make controversial decisions and they accept the fact that not everyone can be made happy all the time. All the more remarkable considering ten of the eleven commissioners are not paid and the agency’s budget is a tiny fraction of its sister agencies like the City Plannng Commission (whose commissioners get paid handsomely).

  • “Then there’s Ward’s Bakery, one of the buildings razed to make way for the Atlantic Yards towers.”

    Historic? Yes.

    Architectrally unique? Possibly.

    Viable retail or residential development? No.

    # of developers proposing to re-develop the site prior to demolition? 0 (as in ZERO).

  • Architecturally

  • So untrue ENY — actually, Shayna Boymelgreen had plans to convert the space to a hotel or loft-style condos (a la what he’d previously done with Newswalk), and eventually agreed to sell it to Ratner in exchange for sparing Newswalk. That building would have been great as either one.

  • Oh really? I lived at 521 Dean Street, up the block from here, for about four years (1998-2001) and never heard a word about that plan. As “sam” said, I never heard anyone mention the building until the anti-AY ball got rolling. And why would Boymelgreen care about Newswalk? I’m not saying you’re wrong, but can you provide the source of your information?

  • Actually, the Ward Bakery was ruled eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, according to today’s Times article. So while the politicized LPC may not have been willing to save it, it had long been on the radar of preservationists.