2 Columbus Circle: Chronology
The Campaign to Preserve 2 Columbus Circle
June 11, 1956
New York Times article announces “Art Museum at Columbus Circle Planned by Huntington Hartford.”
Other press on new museum announcement: Village Voice (June 13, 1956)
May 19, 1958
New York Times article reports “Architect Picked for Art Museum.” Information on the planned design by Edward Durell Stone starts to emerge.
January 21, 1959
The controversy begins. According to the New York Times, “The Museum of Modern Art has gone to court to prevent Huntington Hartford, grocery chain heir and art patron, from using the name Gallery of Modern Art for the $2,000,000 art museum he is planning to build at 2 Columbus Circle.”
Other press on lawsuit: New York Times (February 1, 1959)
November 20, 1960
A New York Times article refers to the Gallery of Modern Art, together with the construction of Lincoln Center (scheduled to be complete in 1963) as a sign of the neighborhood’s development as an “arts center.”
February 25, 1964
New York Times architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable weighs in for the first time on
“Huntington Hartford’s Palatial Midtown Museum,” giving birth to the Krazy-Glue moniker “a die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollypops.” Huxtable also calls the building’s plan “an accomplished demonstration of one of the basic principles of architectural design—the expert manipulation of space by an expert hand….This interior planning is the building’s conspicuous success, an achievement to comment considerable admiration.” Her conclusion: “The building works well, poses no challenges, asks no hard questions and gives no controversial answers.”
Huntington Hartford’s Gallery of Modern Art opens to the public, amid great fanfare including an hour-long color television tour with Hartford and Salvador Dali, a four-day marathon party, and an overflow crowd. According to the New York Times, “Those who came seemed disposed to enjoy rather than to find fault, and the opulence of the interiors—parquet floors, crimson carpeting, fine-grained walnut paneling, dull-bronze fixtures, luxuriant potted plants—appeared to excite as much comment as the paintings.”
Other press on museum opening:
Interiors magazine coins another memorable phrase: “…these miniature red granite-trimmed, green-marble-lined colonnades, these rows of portholes likes [sic] borders of eyelet hand-embroidered on a marble christening robe are too winsome for heavyweight architectural criticism. Only a Bauhaus ogre with hardened arteries could fail to smile at them.”
Interior Design magazine calls 2 Columbus Circle “well on its way to becoming a landmark in a city meagerly blessed with outstanding architecture.”
American Artist (February 2005) pronounces, “If what [Stone] has achieved falls short of a miracle, it must be said to Stone’s credit that he has produced a building which in many ways is a model of elegance and comfort…The beautiful paneling, expensive bronze trim, comfortable leather furniture, and parquet floors, heavy gold area carpeting, with red for the staircase areas, all suggest a rich man’s club…This atmosphere of elegance is a distinct asset in showing works of art, provided only that they can live up to the setting.”
Architecture International (1965) calls the Gallery of Modern Art “the work of an outstanding American architect, who has introduced some interesting and effective departures into its design.”
Huntington Hartford publishes Art Or Anarchy?, taking to task “the artists, dealers, critics, and curators who have, in his view, blatantly duped the public for half a century… He attacks the drippers and sprayers; the painting created by sports-car driven on canvas (Schawinsky); the ‘pop art’ created by attaching a label to an unknowing passer-by (Greco); the artist who pummels color on to canvas with boxing gloves (Shinohara); and the sculptor whose hydraulically pressed ‘mashed auto’ has been called a ‘masterpiece’ (Baldaccini). ART OR ANARCHY? will be assailed by the ‘establishment’ – and hailed by many art lovers as an articulate, knowledgeable statement on behalf of meaningful art.”
Salvador Dali retrospective exhibition opens at the Gallery of Modern Art, reports the New York Times in “Dali and His Art Attract Throng to Preview at Hartford Gallery.”
March 16, 1969
Almost five years to the day since the Gallery of Modern Art opened, the New York Times reports that 2 Columbus Circle is “Up for Grabs.”
July 16, 1969
“Huntington Hartford’s Museum is Given to Fairleigh Dickenson,” reports the New York Times. The museum will be called the New York Cultural Center with the purpose “to present the contributions of all races.”
Other press related to New York Cultural Center:
March 23, 1975
Art critic John Canaday launches the most scathing attack on 2 Columbus Circle to date, writing for the New York Times, “The New York Cultural Center, nee the Huntington Hartford Gallery of Modern Art, was recently pronounced dead, following a lifelong illness, shortly before its 11th birthday…The plain truth is that the Center was licked from the moment of its inception…[Hartford’s] was a collection without focus or unity….Then there was the building. Designed by Edward Durell Stone in a weak moment and occupying a curiously restricted site on a kind of traffic island on Columbus Circle, it rises from a kind of defoliated Venetian Gothic arcade at street level to a height which, under New York’s building code, demanded so much elevator and stairway space that the exhibition galleries were reduced to boutiques clustered around palatial escape routes…there is something claustrophobic about a multi-storied museum made up entirely a small spaces.” “It did not take Hartford long to discover that his white tower was also a white elephant.”
September 8, 1975
New York Times editorial ponders the demise of New York Cultural Center. “Mavericks finish last,” the Times writes.
Other press on Cultural Center closing:
September 15, 1975
New York Times architecture critic Hilton Cramer calls 2 Columbus Circle “one of the worst-designed museum structures in the world. In this unfortunate building, the interior of which resembled more than anything else a rest home for retired bankers, this ambitious and untrained newcomer installed his own unremarkable collection of paintings…The Gallery of Modern Art very soon became something of a joke, a comic irrelevance to the city’s busy art life…an absurd and expensive building, in which every exhibition space has the character of a hallway, anteroom or lounge leading to a nonexistent center…”
September 26, 1975
New York Times reports that 500 “mourners” attended a “wake” billed as a “museum cooling” for the New York Cultural Center. The ceremony was accompanied by a requiem composed and performed by Philip Glass on the building’s in-house organ.
December 9, 1976
“Gulf & Western Gives New York A Culture Center,” reports the New York Times. The Gulf & Western Foundation buys 2 Columbus Circle from Fairleigh Dickenson University and offers it as “a gift to New York City” to serve as headquarters for the new Department of Cultural Affairs and exhibition and tourist center. The article notes that the Gulf & Western headquarters is across the circle, signifying its purchase of 2 Columbus Circle as “enlightened self-interest.”
August 7, 1978
Paul Goldberger writes Edward Durell Stone’s obituary for the New York Times, “Edward Durell Stone Dead at 76; Designed Major Works Worldwide.” Stone was born March 9, 1902, in Fayetteville, AK, and died August 6, 1978, in New York City. Goldberger calls Stone “one of the nation’s premier architects” and describes the architect’s career as “marked by a dramatic reversal of direction. He gave up a position as one of America’s leading advocates of the International Style just as that austere modern style was gaining wide public acceptance, and he began instead to evolve a personal style that was lush and highly decorative, the very opposite of the International Style.” His “major buildings” included “the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, the Huntington Hartford Gallery of Modern Art in New York, the General Motors Building in New York and the State University of New York campus at Albany.”
Gulf & Western Foundation deeds 2 Columbus Circle as a gift to the City of New York on the condition that the City use the building solely as “its principal public facility for visitors’ services and cultural affairs and for no other purpose.” In the case that the City defaults, “all right, title and interest acquired by the City pursuant to this deed shall terminate and all interest in the Premises shall revert to the Foundation, its successors and assigns.”
Tom Wolfe publishes From Bauhaus to Our House and devotes a chapter to “The Apostates,” featuring Edward Durell Stone. As “one of the earliest of the International Style architects in America” whose “credentials were so impeccable, in fact, that the Museum of Modern Art chose him as architect, along with Philip L. Goodwin, for its building on West Fifty-third Street” and who ultimately “renounced the fundamental principles,” Stone was “an apostate pure and simple….The fate of the apostate, classically, is that curse known as anathema. Within the world of architecture, among those in a position to build or dismantle reputations, every building Stone did thereafter was buried in anathematism.”
2 Columbus Circle is featured—along with Madison Square Garden, the World Trade Center, and the Pan Am Building—in a New York magazine article entitled “The Buildings New Yorkers Love to Hate,” by Richard David Story.
March 27, 1994
Herbert Muschamp first uses his position as New York Times architectural critic as a bully pulpit on behalf of 2 Columbus Circle. In “An Appraisal; Columbus Circle's Changing Face: More Than Geometry,” Muschamp refers to the circle as “a gigantic clock, an erratic urban timepiece that has been fitfully keeping time for just over a century. Styles mark the hours…The ups and downs of modern architecture are registered here [including 240 Central Park South and the Coliseum]…Two Columbus Circle, now occupied by the city's Department of Cultural Affairs, represented the initial stirrings of dissatisfaction with modernist orthodoxy.”
December 18, 1995
The Committee for Environmentally Sound Development mentions 2 Columbus Circle for the first time in its newsletter, reporting “That lovely little building…may be given away if [Deputy Mayor] Dyson has his way…you would think if a City agency (New York Convention and Visitors Bureau) occupies the building rent free, if the community considered the building a jewel, that it would remain to grace Columbus Circle. But that is not the case. The relentless drive to demolish and erect hugh [sic] buildings prevails.”
Whitney Guide, 20th Century American Architecture: A Traveler’s Guide to 220 Key Buildings by Sidney LeBlanc includes 2 Columbus Circle as one of 25 buildings listed in New York City.
July 2, 1996
The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the city’s quasi-governmental real-estate development arm, purchases the reversionary interest in 2 Columbus Circle for $10 plus “other valuable consideration” from the Viacom Foundation, the successor to the Gulf & Western Foundation, in accordance with a 1994 “term sheet.”
April 7, 1996
Writing for the New York Times, David Dunlap uses 2 Columbus Circle as an example of a building that begs the question, “Which postwar buildings merit preservation?”
The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) holds an internal meeting to discuss 2 Columbus Circle’s potential for landmark designation.
LPC Chair Jennifer Raab describes the outcome in a September 5, 1996, letter to Juliet Hartford, daughter of Huntington Hartford, responding to her request for the LPC to landmark the building: “In June, members of the Commission's Research Department met with the Designation Committee to discuss the building. (The Designation Committee consists of Landmarks Commissioners chosen for their expertise in architectural history and design.) After carefully reviewing the building's architectural features and its historical and cultural associations, the Committee declined to recommend Two Columbus Circle to the full Commission for consideration as a landmark at this time.”
EDC issues the first Request for Proposals (RFP) to develop 2 Columbus Circle, with an October 22, 1996, deadline. The RFP allows for demolition of the building. It states, “EDC does not expect the project, if undertaken as-of-right, to require approval under the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Nor should it require a public approval process pursuant to Section 384(B)(4) of the City Charter. As such, public approval for the sale of the site will rest solely with EDC’s Board of Directors.” Copies of 1996 RFP in Municipal Art Society and New York Landmarks Conservancy files.
A February 26, 1997, New York Times article describes some of the proposals received in response to the RFP.
July 31, 1996
In “The Short, Scorned Life Of an Esthetic Heresy” for the New York Times, Herbert Muschamp discusses the recent announcement that 2 Columbus Circle, “a small white elephant of a building,” will be sold as part of plans to redevelop the adjacent Coliseum site. “Though it is not certain that 2 Columbus Circle will be demolished, there is little likelihood it will survive. Impractical for commercial use, the building is also unlikely to arouse a campaign to have it designated a landmark.” On the same page of the New York Times appears a sidebar that states “…the city is to select a developer to raze the fading building and replace it with stores, offices or apartments.” Muschamp writes, “In a more enlightened time, a city administration might well commit itself to finding a cultural use for 2 Columbus Circle. But under the circumstances, it seems cruelly apt that the building should end up demolished by the highest bidder.”
October 22, 1996
The New York Landmarks Conservancy sponsors a lecture at the Guggenheim called “The Stern 35: 35 Modernist Buildings that Should Be New York City Landmarks, 1932-67,” including 2 Columbus Circle among worthy buildings recently eligible for landmark designation.
November 17, 1996
The New York Times uses 2 Columbus Circle as an illustration for an article about Robert A.M. Stern’s list entitled “A Preservationist Lists 35 Landmarks-in-Waiting.” According to Stern, these buildings are not always pretty, “But they may be very important technologically, or historically, or culturally.”
December 4, 1996
Community Board 5 (CB5) Chair Lola Finkelstein writes a letter to Charles Millard, president of the Economic Development Corporation, to request copies of proposals submitted in response to the 1996 Request for Evaluation (copies of the 1996 RFP are available in Municipal Art Society and New York Landmarks Conservancy files). Finkelstein states her understanding that EDC will review the proposals in January 1997, and she stresses the importance of review by CB5. “Because of the indivisible part 2 Columbus Circle plays in the entire Columbus Circle area, we believe that the input of the community regarding the use of this site is essential to the decision-making process.”
“Dahesh Museum Bids to Preserve 2 Columbus Circle,” reports Dahesh Museum newsletter. “On October 22, the Dahesh Museum submitted a bid to purchase the former Gallery of Modern Art at 2 Columbus Circle.” A response from the Economic Development Corporation is expected by January. “2 Columbus Circle is the ideal match. It was purposely built as a fine art museum—in fact, one that also featured academic art—with elegant galleries and intimate scale.” Robert A.M. Stern letter of support
The Westsider reports that Upper West Side Council Member Ronnie Eldridge and Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger “have charged that a public review of the sale of the city-owned property was neglected.” “In fact, the transfer [from Viacom Foundation to EDC] did not follow the normal protocol, in which the property first goes to the city before going to the EDC…The property’s transfer to the city, which did not happen, should have triggered a public review.” EDC Director Charles Millard and Deputy Mayor Fran Reiter claim that Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (New York City’s public review process) is not required for sale of 2 Columbus Circle. An EDC spokesperson says that meetings are being set up to allow community input via “a process like ULURP would provide.”
February 15, 1997
Arts critic Michael Kimmelman asks in the New York Times, “Is any site in Manhattan more vexed than 2 Columbus Circle, Huntington Hartford’s pseudo-Venetian palazzo, which in 33 years has never become the cultural center it was once called?” He continues, “The point here is not to argue for the building itself, though the scorn heaped upon it and on Mr. Hartford’s gallery certainly derived, in part, from the stranglehold that orthodox modernism had on critical opinion at the time….What matters now is the use of the site. This is soon to be decided by the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which is keeping the process secret.” Kimmelman reports that, according to a Viacom spokesman, Gulf & Western had “waived its restriction on the use of the building in return for tax breaks.”
February 20, 1997
The Committee for Post-War Architecture circulates a letter calling on preservationists to write to the Mayor, EDC and the LPC, urging that 2 Columbus Circle be saved and reused by a cultural institution.
February 21, 1997
CB5 sends a letter to LPC Chair Jennifer Raab, reporting the vote of the full board (33 in favor, 0 opposed) urging the Commission to “consider and calendar for designation Central Park South (59th Street from 5th Avenue to 8th Avenue) as an Historic District in order to preserve this rare and important collection of buildings which are important for themselves and for the landmark Central Park.” The letter specifically includes 2 Columbus Circle with other buildings “which together form an opulent architectural and appropriate wall for the historic and lush parkland opposite…”
April 9, 1997
New York Landmarks Conservancy receives a copy of a memorandum from Ned Kaufman, Associate Director of Issues for the Municipal Art Society (MAS), dated November 10, 1994. In the memo, originally addressed to MAS President Kent Barwick, Kaufman makes a strong case for MAS leadership in the effort to preserve 2 Columbus Circle. Copies of memo located in New York Landmarks Conservancy and MAS files.
April 14, 1997
Preservationist and Modern architecture expert Michael Gotkin and architectural historian Thomas Mellins make “an informational presentation” about 2 Columbus Circle to the Preservation Committee of MAS. Included in packets distributed to the Committee are an April 4, 1997, memo from Ned Kaufman to MAS President Brendan Sexton as well as synopses of 7 proposals under consideration by EDC. Copies of materials contained in MAS and New York Landmarks Conservancy files.
New York City Department of Cultural Affairs moves its offices out of 2 Columbus Circle.
Michael Gotkin prepares a report for the Historic Districts Council (HDC) entitled, “Central Park South: The Evolution of a Historic District,” citing 2 Columbus Circle among the street’s significant historic resources. On February 20, 1998, HDC writes a letter to LPC Chair Jennifer Raab, asking for the Commission’s consideration of four specific buildings along Central Park South, including 2 Columbus Circle. The specific threat to 2 Columbus Circle is “wholesale demolition or unsympathetic alteration as part of Columbus Circle redevelopment.”
May 16, 1997
The Zoning and Urban Design Committee of the American Institute of Architects/New York Chapter (AIA/NY) issues a resolution on Columbus Circle, resolving (in part) “that these [planned] civic improvements are so necessary to the area and of such benefit to the City as to justify the investments of the proceeds of the disposition of the Coliseum and 2 Columbus Circle, unless other funds are substituted.”
July 11, 1997
The Mayor’s Office sends a letter to Gail Benjamin, director of the New York City Council’s Land Use Division, responding to questions apparently submitted by a committee of the Council. The letter describes the Mayor’s interpretation of 2 Columbus Circle ownership issues and required public process. “EDC’s acquisition of Two Columbus Circle is pursuant to an existing valid and binding contractual arrangement (the 1980 deed) between EDC, as successor in interest to G&W, and the City. Although no final decision has been made, since EDC is not a City agency and thereby not subject to ULURP, it would appear that no further governmental approval processes (i.e., ULURP) would be required in order to dispose of the property.” An undated document that LANDMARK WEST! (LW!) obtained from EDC through a Freedom of Information request also explains the reversionary interest issue.
July 14, 1997
LPC Director of Research Marjorie Pearson sends a letter to Committee for Environmentally Sound Development Vice President Olive Freud “[i]n response to several queries from members of the public concerning [2 Columbus Circle].” Pearson echoes the language of LPC Chair Jennifer Raab’s September 5, 1996, letter to Juliet Hartford: “In June of 1996, members of the Commission’s Research Department met with the Designation Committee to discuss the building. After carefully reviewing the building’s architectural features and its historical and cultural associations, the Committee declined to recommend Two Columbus Circle to the full Commission for consideration as a landmark.” This explanation of LPC’s inaction is repeated in numerous letters to people and groups seeking a hearing on 2 Columbus Circle. For example, see Wist letters to HDC and LW!.
June 24, 1997
Margot Gayle writes a letter to EDC President Charles Millard, “…we owe it to the city to keep this unusual building in tact [sic] and in the hands of a cultural organization. I am not a special pleader for the Dahesh Museum, but it does seem to present a fortunate coincidence of a cultural buyer with money in hand.”
On July 29, 1997, Christopher Forbes sends a letter to Mayor Giuliani in support of the Dahesh Museum’s 2 Columbus Circle bid.
August 18, 1997
In a piece for the New Yorker entitled “Landmark Kitsch,” Paul Goldberger describes the controversy surrounding 2 Columbus Circle: “A private art collection, called the Dahesh Museum, expressed interest in buying [the building] recently, but the Giuliani administration, considering the forthcoming redevelopment of the Coliseum, next door, decided that more money could be made by selling the building to a developer. It would be a preservation scandal—‘CITY SELLS OFF MUSEUM TO DEVELOPER!’—if the preservation community weren’t so deeply ambivalent about Stone’s handiwork…Unfortunately for advocates of 2 Columbus Circle, no one has yet made a persuasive case that the building is much more than kitsch.”
October 18, 1997
New York Observer publishes paid ad addressed to Mayor Giuliani, pushing for a cultural use for 2 Columbus Circle, co-signed by the Coalition for a Livable West Side, Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, Clinton Special District Coalition, Fine Arts Federation, Historic District Council, Federation of Westside Block Associations, Turtle Bay Association, 63rd and 64th Street Block Association, West Village Committee, Congressmembers Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, New York State Senators Eric Schneiderman and Thomas Duane, New York State Assemblymembers Richard Gottfried and Scott Stringer, New York City Councilmembers Ronnie Eldridge, Christine Quinn, and Eva Moskowitz.
Probably around the same time, the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development releases an undated report entitled, “A Case Against Tall Buildings and the Virtue of Recycled Old Ones.” The back cover of the report provides an update on “the City’s intention to dispose of the Coliseum at Columbus Circle” and also cites a “new” threat to 2 Columbus Circle. “Public policy must be changed. City planners and private developers promote use of financial inducements at public expense to demolish sound buildings in desirable locations for new construction.”
January 15, 1998
EDC First Executive Vice President Michael Carey testifies at a City Council Land Use Committee hearing on “Columbus Circle.” His testimony addresses EDC’s Request for Proposals for 2 Columbus Circle. “The redevelopment of 2 Columbus Circle is an important project for New York City. The site is one of the highest profile sites in the City, if not the world.”
January 20, 1998
The New York Times reports, “Juliet Hartford, the 27-year-old daughter of the supermarket heir Huntington Hartford, is spearheading a letter-writing campaign in support of selling the mostly windowless structure he built at 2 Columbus Circle. She wants the city-owned building to go to the Dahesh Museum.” Juliet Hartford’s letter Letters collected by Juliet Hartford from Brooke Astor, Prince Rainier III of Monaco, Francesca von Habsburg, J. Carter Brown, and Erivan Haub.
Convention & Visitors Bureau tour information center at 2 Columbus Circle closes.
September 9, 1998
MAS President Brendan Sexton writes a letter to EDC President Charles Millard regarding 2 Columbus Circle, encouraging EDC to ensure that the building be maintained for a cultural use. He also writes, “I should add that some of our board members, and a clear majority of our Preservation Committee, believe strongly that Edward Durrell Stone’s building deserves to be preserved. Though admittedly controversial, it has attracted other well-respected voices to its defense. Our preference would be to see it restored and reused by a sympathetic new owner.”
October 13, 1998
EDC President Charles Millard writes a memorandum to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani stating, “In light of the MTA’s designation of a developer for the Coliseum site, EDC would like to recommence the process of designating a developer for 2 Columbus Circle.” A follow-up memo, dated November 13, 1998, elaborates on EDC’s consideration of proposals by Trump and the Dahesh Museum. On March 22, 1999, another EDC memo reveals that Steven Ross of the Related Companies, one of New York’s most politically connected developers, is interested in bidding on the 2 Columbus Circle site. Correspondence from Giuliani archive
EDC announces that RFP bidding has narrowed down to the Dahesh Museum and the Trump organization.
November 16, 1998
New York State Senator Thomas K. Duane writes a letter to Mayor Giuliani regarding “the city’s decision for the use and development of 2 Columbus Circle.” He notes two plans, one by developer Donald Trump to demolish the existing building and build a 30-story hotel, the other by the Dahesh Museum to re-use the building as an art museum. While Duane does not take a position in favor of either proposal, he writes, “While the building, in spit of repeated requests for a hearing, has not been landmarked (although it is now old enough to be eligible), its size and its conformity to the peculiar shape of Columbus Circle make it unusually compatible with its surroundings.”
Senator Duane receives a letter back from Scott C. Cantone, Director of City Legislative Affairs in the Mayor’s Office, dated January 5, 1999, stating, “While the City has not yet designated a developer for Two Columbus Circle, the Mayor shares your desire to see a selection made which is both economically viable and in congruence with the nature and needs of the surrounding community.”
November 18, 1998
The Committee for Environmentally Sound Development sends out a mailing calling for letters to Mayor Giuiliani and others in his administration in support of the Dahesh Museum proposal. The outside of the mailing prominently features a photograph of 2 Columbus Circle with the caption, “DONALD TRUMP PROPOSES TO DEMOLISH THIS BUILDING AND REPLACE IT WITH A 30 STORY HOTEL.” Letters/statements of Historic Districts Council and Municipal Art Society
November 30, 1998
Writing for the New Yorker about Edward Durell Stone’s East 64th Street townhouse, Paul Goldberger notes that “Stone’s controversial museum building at Columbus Circle has even aroused the sympathy of landmark preservationists.”
December 3, 1998
Manhattan Spirit newspaper describes 2 Columbus Circle controversy as a battle between Donald Trump, who wants to build a luxury hotel on the site, against the Dahesh Museum.
December 14, 1998
Members of the Coliseum Tri-Board Task Force (including members of Community Boards 4, 5 and 7) write a letter to EDC regarding their repeated efforts to meet with EDC to discuss the developer-selection process for the 2 Columbus Circle site.
The Fine Arts Federation sends letters to each of its constituent organizations, urging them to write to the Mayor in support of preserving 2 Columbus Circle.
December 20, 1998
The Committee for Environmentally Sound Development organizes a rally and press conference to “Preserve 2 Columbus Circle as an Art Museum on the Westside.” The Chelsea Clinton News reports, “In a heated reaction to the name ‘Trump,’ historic preservationists, environmentalists and some West Side elected officials have stepped up their campaign to preserve the old Huntington Hartford Gallery at 2 Columbus Circle.” Press release
December 21-28, 1998
New York magazine’s article “Artbreak Hotel” asks “Will a little art museum get in the way of a new Trump trophy on Columbus Circle?” The Dahesh Museum has gained big-name support for its plan to restore 2 Columbus Circle, but the article points out that “even ardent preservationists don’t adore it. They value it more as an architectural keepsake, a good-luck charm to ward off the Trumpification of the city.”
January 15, 1999
HDC issues a press release, “New York Civic Group Is Sweet on Lollipop Building,” describing the gingerbread model of 2 Columbus Circle built by staff of the MAS and entered into a World Monuments Fund gingerbread competition. The model “captures the offbeat sensibility of this most unusual of New York City signature buildings.”
The Alexander and Louisa Calder Foundation announces its interest in opening a Calder Museum at 2 Columbus Circle via a letter to EDC. “A Calder Museum use in a more appropriately reskinned building is compatible with the land uses and activities of Columbus Circle.” The proposal is an apparent bid to break the stalemate between the Dahesh Museum and Trump for the property.
January 20, 1999
Members of the Coliseum Tri-Board Task Force write a letter to Deputy Mayor Randy Levine to “express its concerns about the future development of 2 Columbus Circle….We believe that the history of the building and its architectural configuration dictates that the building should continue to be devoted to public and cultural uses.” They continue, “…we understand that a decision in [the building’s] future is imminent. It is essential that such a decision be as open as possible and that the participation and views of the community and public be taken into consideration.”
April 1, 1999
New York State Senator Thomas K. Duane writes to City Planning Commission Chair Joseph Rose (and sends copies of his letter to other city agencies, community boards and civic groups) regarding Columbus Circle. About 2 Columbus Circle, he writes, “I will here reiterate my strong support for development of this site which reuses the existing building and returns the building to its original use as a cultural institution.” Rose responds to Senator Duane, writing, “We are also in agreement that the future use of 2 Columbus Circle, as well as the Coliseum, must be carefully coordinated with the reconfiguration of the Circle.”
April 9, 1999
The Committee for Environmentally Sound Development circulates a list of supporters of the Dahesh Museum bid for 2 Columbus Circle.
May 6, 1999
The Spirit newspaper runs an advertisement, organized by the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, calling on Mayor Giuliani to save 2 Columbus Circle. The Committee also circulates a newsletter, displaying the ad, urging readers to write to the mayor. “What does it take to be listened to or even to be heard?”
The Committee publishes a similar advertisement in the October 18, 1999, issue of the New York Observer and circulates it in its March 5, 2000, newsletter. “Perhaps one of the reasons for the loss of these magnificent edifices is the lack of awareness on the part of the public…We want to make one huge effort to fill in that awareness and save this building with an ad in the New York Times.”
March 3, 2000: Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal print advertisements for the second RFP issued by EDC, with a deadline of May 2, 2000. The ad states, “The goal of this project is to redevelop the property for residential, hotel or other commercial uses.”
March 7, 2000
David W. Dunlap reports for the New York Times on the new RFP. “Almost any redevelopment plan would probably doom the gallery…economics practically dictate replacement…” Dunlap explains that the 1996 RFP resulted in bids from Trump and the Dahesh Museum; however, according to EDC, the first RFP process was abandoned in order to give precedence to developing the adjacent Coliseum site. [An April 15, 2000, New York Times article reports that insiders say real reason for re-issued RFP was that original bids were too few and too low.] Dunlap also notes that this RFP requires that the new building be composed of 50% masonry and no reflective glass, a design that “almost describes the gallery, which was widely lampooned in its day as a bit of World’s Fair-era kitsch but has since gained admirers, particularly for the way its concave façade and street-level arcades reinforce the sense of a great traffic circle.” Dunlap continues, “Although the Landmarks Preservation Commission has already declined to designate the gallery as something worth saving, at least one neighborhood group, the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, will lead a preservation charge.”
March 8, 2000
The Wall Street Journal runs an editorial entitled “Save the Columbus Circle Two” that argues, “We say, leave it standing. By now, it has acquired a certain kitsch allure. Besides, how much worse can this ‘eyesore’ be than any of the buildings likely to replace it or its neighbor, the New York Coliseum.” The editorial also asserts that the Dahesh Museum would be the perfect occupant, with its collection of “retro-kitsch” art.
March 9, 2000
“After a discussion at the [New York Landmarks Conservancy] Board meeting, the Board directs the staff to call upon the LPC to give [2 Columbus Circle] its ‘day in court’ by scheduling a public hearing on its possible designation,” according to a March 18, 2004, Landmarks Conservancy memorandum. The same memo references Conservancy President Peg Breen’s letter to LPC Chair Jennifer Raab on March 14, 2000, requesting a public hearing on 2 Columbus Circle. Around the same time, the Historic Districts Council and Municipal Art Society send letters to Raab urging a hearing. “Two Columbus Circle deserves its day in court,” writes MAS Executive Director Frank Sanchis.
March 14, 2000
Resident newspaper writes, “The ugliest building in Manhattan—possibly the Western hemisphere—is coming down.” “Inevitably, a few community groups opposed to development and a few architects have decided it has ‘merit’ and should be preserved. Fortunately, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission did not agree. Good riddance.”
The Dahesh Museum newsletter reports, “…we are renewing our efforts to secure a permanent home for the Dahesh Museum—and to create an important new civic facility for New York—by acquiring 2 Columbus Circle.” “[I]t is our hope to safeguard this remarkable building from the wrecker’s ball, restore and refurbish it and return it to its original use.”
April 2, 2000
Herbert Muschamp meditates on the reopening of bidding for 2 Columbus Circle in an article for the New York Times. “It’s an important site, partly because of the architecture and partly because of the layers of historical meaning that have settled over it. The building became eligible for landmark status in 1990. Should it be landmarked? Probably not. Which isn’t to say the building isn’t worthy of landmark designation. In my view, it should be the other way around. Why not spare the building and tear down our landmarks laws? Landmarking today has become a matter of some people wanting to force others to live with their childhood memories. The city is rapidly becoming one big boohoo corner, a place to lament lost Rosebuds and madelaines.”
April 14, 2000
New York Landmarks Conservancy, HDC, and MAS co-sponsor a rally in front of 2 Columbus Circle. The New York Times reports on “big-name support” for the derided building, including Tom Wolfe and Robert A.M. Stern, among “a corps of New York City’s preservationist elite.”
Other press on rally: Our Town (April 20, 2000)
The Dahesh Museum writes a letter to Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, asking her to write a letter supporting the Museum’s bid in response to the second Request for Proposals for 2 Columbus Circle.
April 17, 2000
MAS writes a letter to LPC Chair Jennifer J. Raab reminding her that it had received no reply to an earlier letter requesting a public hearing on 2 Columbus Circle.
The New York Landmarks Conservancy writes a letter to LPC Executive Director Ronda Wist asking her staff to give 2 Columbus Circle “a fresh look.” Conservancy President Peg Breen writes, “We know that the Commission’s staff is sincere in its belief that the building does not merit further consideration. And, with or without new information, we know that it’s hard for them to reconsider a judgement once made. But no less a figure than Ada Louise Huxtable has done just that, reconsidering her initial disparaging remarks about the building and changing her mind. She told me recently that she supports designation.”
April 19, 2000
New York Times ad published by the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, urging people to contact Mayor Giuliani and calling on the LPC to hold a hearing and designate the building: “Community groups, art connoisseurs, elected officials and residents of New York City favor use by such cultural institutions as the Dahesh Museum.”
April 24, 2000
The New York Observer editorializes in favor of preserving 2 Columbus Circle: “Whatever one things of 2 Columbus Circle, the distinctive building designed by Edward Durell Stone that sits like an oversized wedding cake adjacent to the old New York Coliseum site, all can agree that the last thing midtown needs is another condominium project….Preservationist are correct to assert that the building merits a better fate.”
April 25, 2000
CB5 Chair Lola Finkelstein and Landmarks Committee Co-Chair Joyce Matz write a letter to LPC Chair Jennifer J. Raab reiterating its support for designation of 2 Columbus Circle (see CB5 letter dated February 21, 1997).
May 15, 2000
According to the New York Observer, “The Mayor [Giuliani] hates the building,” and the City is holding out for more money than the $10 million bid by the Dahesh Museum. The article also insinuates that the Giuliani administration has additional reasons for rejecting the Dahesh: “[A] 1996 article in the magazine ArtNews drew connections between a secretive Saudi family, the Zahids, who started and endowed the museum and still serve as its board of directors, and a spiritual movement that believes Dr. Dahesh [Lebanese mystic Salim Moussa Achi] was an emissary of God capable of performing miracles…he was a second coming of Christ.”
Both the Historic Districts Council and the New York Landmarks Conservancy submit materials to the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) so that 2 Columbus Circle can be determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. According to a Conservancy memorandum dated March 18, 2004, “Although Commissioner [Bernadette] Castro made informal statements that she was leaning towards a finding of eligibility, political pressure prevented any official response from being made.”
June 19, 2000
Writing for the New York Observer, James Gardner observes, “In considering whether 2 Columbus Circle should be torn down, one must admit that the building is by no means perfect. There is a fussiness to the filigree of roundels coursing along the edges of the building, and the pillars at the base, though admittedly only ornamental, are too small to give visual support to the monolithic structure that rises above them. And yet, for this critic at least, the overall effect is surprisingly harmonious. Furthermore, if the imputation of ugliness were sufficient reason to tear a building down, little of midtown would survive the wrecker’s ball…Two Columbus Circle has the strengths of its defects.”
ESTO Photographics, Inc., gives permission to use iconic 1960s photographs of 2 Columbus Circle by Ezra Stoller for “research and press use relating to saving the building.”
January 20, 2001
SHPO Commissioner Bernadette Castro responds to a letter from HDC asking her to consider the eligibility of 2 Columbus Circle for the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Castro writes, “I too have taken an interest in the fate of the old Huntington Hartford Museum at 2 Columbus Circle. As you may know, properties less than fifty years old must be proven to be of exceptional significance in order to be listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, and my staff is assessing 2 Columbus Circle in this light.”
DOCOMOMO Spring 2001 newsletter reports that “the application for State and National register ‘eligible status’ languishes on Governor Pataki's desk—a casualty of gubernatorial/mayoral politics” and urges people to write to the governor.
March 29, 2001
At the urging of New York City Council Member Ronnie Eldridge, the Council holds an oversight hearing on the “Status of the Development at 2 Columbus Circle,” before the Committee on Economic Development, chaired by Jerome X. O’Donovan. Press release Testimony According to a report issued by the Council, on March 19, 2001, Mayor Rudolph Guiliani “announced that he had reconvened his Columbus Circle Advisory Panel to review plans for the redesign of Columbus Circle.”
April 3, 2001
Council Member O’Donovan writes a letter to EDC President Michael Carey expressing “disappointment for your failure to attend the Council’s…hearing on the status of 2 Columbus Circle….As you are aware this hearing was originally scheduled for February 20th. However, the administration called the business day before the hearing…to request a postponement….Despite this consultation and accommodation you again declined to appear on the 29th.” On the same day, Council Member O’Donovan writes a letter to LPC Chair Jennifer Raab in “support of a Commission hearing on the application for landmark status for 2 Columbus Circle.” LPC Director of Research responds to Council Member O’Donovan, stating, “Please be advised that in 1996 the Designation Committee of the Landmarks Preservation Commission declined to recommend Two Columbus Circle to the full Commission for consideration as a landmark.”
April 4, 2001
The New York Post reports “Trump Made Bid on Columbus Circle, But City’s Moving Slowly.” “The white monolithic structure at the intersection of Central Park South, Broadway and West 58th Street, was expected to be torn down by the Giuliani administration. Then admirers of the stark and nearly windowless Edward Durell Stone design…rallied to save it.”
April 21, 2001
Speaking on Philip Lopate’s New York & Co. radio show, Paul Goldberger states of 2 Columbus Circle, “It's not by any stretch of the imagination a truly important or seriously good building. I find it a kind of likeably dumb building. It has an amiable quality, a familiar quality. And like a great piece of sculpture, it really terminates that urban vista quite wonderfully. I'm in favor of saving that building for what I will be happy to admit is intellectually the weakest and worst reason-which is that I fear what would come instead…”
May 31, 2001
West Side Spirit quotes Arlene Simon, “president of Landmark West!, an organization that helped establish the Upper West Side/Central Park West historic district, said she believes the city might try to sell 2 Columbus Circle without consulting the public. If that happens, her organization is prepared to sue.”
May 31, 2001
Editorial on 2 Columbus Circle in the Westsider argues that “A city with a notoriously bad record of preserving its treasures should think seriously before allowing an historically significant structure to fall. Of course, deciding what’s worthwhile remains a complicated – and usually controversial – matter…Normally, the city would be expected to hold some sort of a public hearing about the building’s fate. But the Giuliani administration hasn’t acted much as if it wants the views of citizens as part of the planning process for Columbus Circle as a whole, and particularly when it comes to saving architecture. The administration may well see the site for its economic viability. Still, the planning process should be as open as possible. Here’s hoping that 2 Columbus Circle outlives the Giuliani administration and gets the fair hearing it deserves.”
June 4, 2001
“New York’s flashiest hotelier has fixed his sights on the city skyline’s ugliest duckling,” reports the New York Observer. Ian Schraeger says he was approached by two developers to partner on proposals for the 2 Columbus Circle site. “‘The only threshold decision I’ve been able to make,’ he said, ‘is that if I did get involved, I wouldn’t be interested in staying with that building.’”
July 11, 2001
CB5 Chair Kyle Merker responds to a letter from a West 57th Street resident regarding 2 Columbus Circle. The future of this site is of great concern to Community Board Five,” he writes. “I have enclosed copies of Board letters and testimony on this matter. As you can see, the Board has been active in requesting landmark designation for the building and its surrounding area since 1997.” See February 21, 1997, CB5 letter. See also CB5’s Landmarks Committee May 9, 2002, failed resolution in support of a public hearing and designation, later cited in CB5’s May 9, 2003, full board resolution to approve the sale of 2 Columbus Circle to MAD, which stated, “WHEREAS, the Landmarks Preservation Commission ("Landmarks") in 1996 and again in 2002 declined tp consider the building for designation as a landmark, and this Board in 2002 voted against recommending that Landmarks calendar the building for consideration.”
February 21, 2002
Elected officials co-sign a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg in support of designating 2 Columbus Circle as a landmark and preserving it for cultural use.
Subsequent individual letters from elected officials calling for a public designation hearing include ones from State Assembly Member Richard Gottfried (June 26, 2003), State Senator Liz Krueger (January 28, 2005), State Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell (June 27, 2005), City Council Member Eva Moskowitz (July 13, 2005) and City Council Member Tony Avella (August 3, 2005).
March 13-May 8, 2002
The Urban Arts Committee of Miami Beach and MAS present the exhibit “Beyond the Box: Mid-Century Modern Architecture in Miami and New York,” featuring 2 Columbus Circle among other examples of Popular Modernism.
Rumors that the American Craft Museum (soon to change its name to the Museum of Arts & Design, MAD) will be the designated recipient of 2 Columbus Circle and will retain the integrity of the building’s façade stir optimism among preservationists.
April 1, 2002
The New York Landmarks Conservancy sends a memorandum to MAD Director Holly Hotchner, at her request, offering “background on the historical and architectural significance of 2 Columbus Circle,” in preparation for a meeting Hotchner has on April 3.
April 30, 2002
LPC holds a public hearing to consider designating 240 Central Park South (designed by Whittlesey and Mayer and built in 1940, 240 Central Park South is directly across the street to the east of 2 Columbus Circle). Several speakers, including the New York Landmarks Conservancy and LW!, use the opportunity to remind the Commission of the need for a hearing on 2 Columbus Circle.
May 9, 2002
LW! hosts a meeting to discuss 2 Columbus Circle strategy.
Joyce Matz, co-chair of CB5’s Landmarks Committee, presents to the full Board a resolution unanimously passed by her Committee in favor of designating 2 Columbus Circle as a landmark. The full board does not pass the resolution. According to an October 14, 2003, email to Kate Wood, executive director of LW! from CB 5 District Manager Kathy Kinsella, “That does not mean that the Board took the opposite position; it means that we have no position. We did not take up a resolution in the opposite so as not to be in the way of community groups that wanted to pursue lobbying LPC or their elected officials on the matter.” See CB5 Chair Kyle Merker’s July 11, 2001, statement regarding CB5’s support for designation of 2 Columbus Circle.
May 13, 2002
HDC Executive Director Simeon Bankoff writes a letter to Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff stating “HDC's belief, shared by historic preservationists citywide, that this building is truly a landmark of modern architecture and must be treated as such.” LW! follows up with a letter to Doctoroff on June 4, 2002, urging him “as soon as the City designates the successful bidder, to initiate public review of the winning proposal via the Universal Land Use Review Procedure so that all interested parties have the opportunity to offer feedback that will shape specific plans for the site.” MAS sends a letter to LPC Chair Sherida Paulsen and EDC President Andew Alper.
May 15, 2002
The New York Post reports that EDC’s decision on the RFP will come soon and that the American Craft Museum (MAD) is likely to be selected as the successful bidder.
May 23, 2002
David W. Dunlap gives the back story on the sale of 2 Columbus Circle in a New York Times article entitled “Fate of 2 Columbus Circle Is Hidden Behind Marble Walls.” An announcement of the winning bid is expected soon, reports Dunlap. He quotes Daniel Doctoroff, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, saying, “We’re absolutely committed, once the designation is made, to have extensive community outreach,” but Dunlap points out that no public hearings have occurred as of yet. “Even if this approach can be justified legally – and the preservation group Landmark West is preparing to challenge that notion – it may have been a conceptual mistake, given the building’s renown (hate it or love it) and its role as a gateway between Midtown and the Upper West Side. It isn’t as if public review would have slowed or complicated an otherwise streamlined process.” Dunlap homes in on the reversionary interest maneuver. The Giuliani administration “asserted that 2 Columbus Circle was not subject to [ULURP], based on what is called a reversionary interest. To ensure that the city maintained the building as a visitors center and cultural affairs headquarters for 30 years, Gulf and Western held a reversionary interest in the property, under which ownership could revert to the foundation if the city failed in its obligation. The Viacom Foundation, successor to Gulf and Western, transferred this interest to the New York City Economic Development Corporation…Since the building is obviously no longer used for the purposes intended by the donor, the Economic Development Corporation could exercise the reversionary interest and take title from New York City, with the consent of city officials. Thus, the subsequent disposition of the property would be exempt from review. The transfer of the reversionary interest to the Economic Development Corporation occurred in 1994 as part of a $15 million incentive agreement between the Giuliani administration and Viacom that was intended to keep 4,450 jobs in New York City.”
June 3 & 10, 2002
An advertisement appears in the New York Observer, addressed to Mayor Bloomberg and co-signed by the Clinton Special District Council, Coalition for a Livable West Side, Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, Fine Arts Federation, Historic Districts Council, and Modern Architecture Working Group: “2 Columbus Circle is an architectural treasure. Please preserve it in the original form and shape.” “You are about to choose an occupant for this structure. We urge you to choose one who will not harm its original design and purpose.”
June 21, 2002
“2 Columbus Circle Will Be a Museum Again,” announces a New York Times article by David W. Dunlap. As the winning bidder for the property, the American Craft Museum will undertake $30 million in renovations. EDC says the sale will be subject to ULURP since, according to EDC President Andrew Alper, “This is an important project and we think it’s worthwhile getting public comment.” MAD Director Holly Hotchner confirms that “the façade would almost certainly be changed. ‘We’d like the museum to add to the architectural landscape of New York.”
Later, in 2002, attorney Antonia Bryson and LW! Executive Director Kate Wood discover among EDC files obtained via a Freedom of Information Law request a “draft memo” entitled “Strategy for 2 Columbus Circle,” dated June 13, 2002. The memo appears to have been prepared by EDC, providing the American Craft Museum (MAD) with public relations advice, including “Architectural Position Statement and Defense of Removing the Marble,” and “Target the Defenders of the Edward Durrell Stone Building including Robert A.M. Stern.”
Later research also uncovers a press release from Mayor Bloomberg, also dated June 13, 2002, announcing the Mayor’s inauguration of “Hunts Point Chazen Homes” as part of New York’s largest new public/private housing program. This program was made possible by a letter of credit from Jerome Chazen, chairman of the board of the American Craft Museum (MAD). The Hunts Point Chazen Homes occupy the site where Chazen grew up.
Other press related to selection of the American Craft Museum (MAD):
On June 21, 2002, The Wall Street Journal writes, “New York’s 2 Columbus Circle, the building everyone loves to hate, has been saved—sort of…But the Craft Museum is no white knight. It plans to replace the building’s signature feature, the exterior. Though no final decision has been made, ‘it’s fair to say that we’re not preserving 100% or setting out to restore the museum,’ says director Holly Hotchner.
U.S. Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney sends a letter to MAD Director Holly Hotchner expressing pleasure that the museum will have a new home on Columbus Circle but also concern “that the museum intends to make significant renovations that could detract from Edward Durell Stone’s innovative design.”
News arrives that Laurie Beckelman, a former LPC Chair with deep roots in the preservation community, has been hired by MAD to guide the 2 Columbus Circle acquisition process.
July to September 2002
LW! attempts to contact Laurie Beckelman to set up an appointment to discuss the 2 Columbus Circle project.
MAS Newsletter article ponders the question of preserving Modernism: “What structures will we chose [sic] to tell the story of the last thirty years?” Examples include such “gems” as the TWA Terminal, Alvar Aalto rooms, Time Life building, Queens Museum and 2 Columbus Circle.
September 26, 2002
LW! sends a letter to SHPO Commissioner Bernadette Castro again urging her to declare 2 Columbus Circle eligible for for the State and National Registers of Historic Places. HDC Executive Director Simeon Bankoff also sends a letter.
LW! approaches AIA/NY’s Historic Buildings Committee about cosponsoring a panel on Edward Durell Stone and 2 Columbus Circle. The panel, “2 Columbus Circle: At the Crossroads,” takes place in February 2003 (see links under this date).
October 3, 2002
New York Times columnist Carol Vogel contemplates the American Craft Museum’s (MAD’s) decision, “[w]ith a new building and new location in view,” to change its name to the Museum of Contemporary Arts and Design. “This is the fourth time since its founding, in 1956, that it has tried to reinvent itself.” The article also reports that the Museum’s design competition for the “new” 2 Columbus Circle has resulted in four finalists: Allied Works Architecture, Zaha Hadid, Toshiko Mori Architect and Smith-Miller & Hawkinson. The name of the museum was subsequently amended to the “Museum of Arts and Design,” or MAD.
October 10, 2002
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation prepares a Resource Evaluation for 2 Columbus Circle, finding that it meets eligibility criteria for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Preservation. The Resource Evaluation is never officially issued. In May 2003, in response to inquiries from LW! and the New York Landmarks Conservancy, Kathleen A. Howe of SHPO stated, “Three years ago [HDC] sent us a letter along with supplemental information asking us to place 2 Columbus Circle on the State and National Registers. HDC’s request was treated as a National Register application…It has been our policy that we will issue an eligibility determination on the building only if the project should involve state or federal funds.” Howe emails
October 11, 2002
LW!, preservationist Michael Gotkin, and architectural historian Thomas Mellins meet with MAD Director Holly Hotchner and Laurie Beckelman to discuss 2 Columbus Circle. Hotchner emphasizes her preservation credentials, the building’s poor condition, its limited usability, the costliness of restoring the façade, the need to bring daylight into the interior, and her dislike of the Edward Durell Stone design. She also stresses the goal to open the new museum by 2005. Mellins and Gotkin offer an eloquent case for the design’s significance and encourages MAD to take a respectful approach.
October 27, 2002
New York Times columnist Christopher Gray discusses the career of Edward Durell Stone, “An Architect Who Looked Both Forward and Back.” Stone “was far ahead of his time in his views on the environment, city planning and historic preservation. Now Stone himself is becoming a cause, as preservation groups gird for a final battle over the Columbus Circle building…In the last several years, leading preservation organizations, including the Municipal Art Society, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, the Historic Districts Council and Landmark West have tried to get the Landmarks Preservation Commission to hold a hearing on the old gallery.”
October 31, 2002
MAD press release announces selection of Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture to redesign 2 Columbus Circle. Says Laurie Beckelman, "As a graduate of Columbia University's School of Architecture, Brad Cloepfil has lived and studied on the Upper West Side for several years and understands this neighborhood. Like the Museum, he is committed to both preserving and enlivening this part of the city, and to transforming Columbus Circle into a dynamic and distinguished cultural and social destination." The announcement also anticipates that the construction could begin in late 2003.
November 5, 2002
New York Times reports on selection of architect for 2 Columbus Circle project, citing preservationists’ efforts to get the LPC to hold a hearing and the LPC’s refusal. Former Dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Bernard Tschumi, also questions MAD’s approach: “‘Either keep the building as a testimony to that period and to that architect, or tear it down and start from scratch,’ said Mr. Tschumi, who said he declined to be on the panel that selected the architect. ‘Don’t fiddle with a building that has a lot of integrity. You have to make up your mind.’” The Times also reports that “As city-owned property, [2 Columbus Circle] must have an urban land review, which is expected to begin early next year and last up to a year,” according to Laurie Beckelman.
LW! launches a postcard campaign, asking a mailing list of more than 10,000 to send cards to Mayor Bloomberg calling on him to urge the LPC to schedule a public hearing on 2 Columbus Circle.
December 18, 2002
New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp casts first stone at MAD’s selection of Allied Works for the 2 Columbus Circle project. Although the headline refers to Ground Zero, Zaha Hadid’s failed proposal for 2 Columbus Circle is the illustration. Whereas public pressure resulted in an improved design for the World Trade Center site, “New York did not show such courage when the American Crafts Museum selected an architect of less extravagant gifts to design its future venue at the Edward Durrell Stone building at 2 Columbus Circle. The stakes for architecture here warrant a separate story. Suffice it to say that contemporary design has yet to be ‘thought built’ in our great city. And some people intend to keep it that way.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg appoints Robert B. Tierney to become LPC Chair.
The Women’s City Club of New York sends letters to Tierney and MAD New Building Project Director Laurie Beckelman.
January 6, 2003
SHPO Commissioner Bernadette Castro sends LW! President Arlene Simon a letter, acknowledging that her office has received several letters from various organizations and citizens requesting State action to preserve 2 Columbus Circle. Castro writes, “In light of the fact that demolition was once a strong possibility, we are encouraged by the City’s plan to sell the building to the American Craft Museum for its continued use as a museum, and we hope to work with that organization to undertake the rehabilitation in a way that respect the historic character of the structure. Since we have not been informed of any state or federal involvement in the rehabilitation, we prefer not to issue a formal determination of eligibility at this time, but rather to try to affect a satisfactory outcome by working with the new owners in a positive manner.”
January 12, 2003
The New Year kicks off with a New York Times article spotlighting Brad Cloepfil, “A Neo-Modernist Is Having His Moment” and citing the 2 Columbus Circle controversy. ''It has to be bold,'' Cloepfil said of his design for the new MAD headquarters [NB At this point, the press is still referring to MAD as the “Museum of Contemporary Arts and Design.] “‘He's walking into a minefield,’ said Aaron Betsky, director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute and a consultant for the $30 million project.”
February 12, 2003
LW! and AIA/NY co-sponsor a panel discussion, “At the Crossroads: The Future of 2 Columbus Circle,” at Steelcase (4 Columbus Circle). Panelists include Kurt Andersen, Reed Kroloff, Theo Prudon and Billie Tsien, with Thomas Mellins as the moderator. Robert A.M. Stern, invited but unable to participate, submits a statement. Over 200 people attended. Transcript
Press related to the panel discussion:
LW! and AIA/NY agree to collaborate on a follow-up public program to address MAD’s proposed redesign of 2 Columbus Circle. In early spring 2003, plans get underway for an online forum, moderated by architectural critic Paul Goldberger (see entry under June 16-July 2, 2003). In May 2003, AIA/NY pulls out and declines to co-sponsor the forum.
March 26, 2003
R. A. Heintges Architects prepares a report for Allied Works Architecture entitled “The Existing Conditions of Two Columbus Circle Exterior Cladding.” LW! asks engineering firm Wiss, Janney Elstner to propose a critique of the Heintges report and restudy of the 2 Columbus Circle façade.
March 31, 2003
NYC Department of City Planning certifies MAD’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) application for the purchase of 2 Columbus Circle from the City of New York. Via ULURP, the City will transfer the property to EDC for sale to MAD.
The Mayor’s Office issues a Negative Declaration in response to MAD’s Environmental Assessment Statement, affirming MAD’s claim that the sale will have no adverse impacts on the environment, including historic resources. Appendix A to the EAS is a statement from LPC that “project site is not eligible for LPC designation.”
The Committee for Environmentally Sound Development sends a communication to the MAD Board: “We ask; beg the administration of the Museum of Arts and Design to reoncisder: repair 2 Columbus Circle. It is your most outstanding poseesion, use it as it us. In addition, save your $50 million, which you apparently don’t have, for better use. We and the generation to come will thank you.” Board list Board members’ responses
April 1, 2003
Writing for the New York Times, David Dunlap announces “A New Look for a 10-Story Oddity.” “Evoking both loom and kiln, the Museum of Arts and Design plans to reclad 2 Columbus Circle – an abandoned work of romantic modernism that has irritated and amused New Yorkers for 39 years – in a scrim of bright terra cotta…A spectral memory of Stone’s building, though not its specific imagery of circle and arches, will be embodied in the redesign.”
Other press related to the proposed redesign:
April 2, 2003
Mayor Bloomberg’s office issues a press release, “Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg Unveils Design for New Home of the Museum of Arts & Design at Two Columbus Circle.”
MAD’s press releases announce two donations towards the new building project totaling $22 million, from Jerome and Simona Chazen ($12 million) and Nanette Laitman, president of the board ($10 million), placing campaign past the halfway mark towards $50 million. Also in 2003, MAD circulates a brochure claiming that $30 million plus government support of close to $6 million has been secured towards a total goal of $70 million. “The Campaign for the Museum of Arts & Design at Two Columbus Circle offers meaningful ways of contributing to the creation of a new Manhattan Landmark, a legacy for New York City, and an international imprint.”
April 3, 2003
LPC Chair Robert B. Tierney meets in his office with Laurie Beckelman of MAD regarding 2 Columbus Circle, according to materials obtained by LANDMARK WEST! through a Freedom of Information request for access to LPC files on 2 Columbus Circle. See LW! v. Tierney Exhibits, p. 8.
CB5’s Land Use Committee holds its first meeting to review the 2 Columbus Circle ULURP application. LW email
April 21, 2003
MAD Director Holly Hotchner presents her institution’s proposal for altering 2 Columbus Circle to the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Public Policy Committee. On May 23, 2003, Conservancy President Peg Breen writes a letter to Hotchner informing her that a majority of the Conservancy’s board feels that 2 Columbus Circle “is worthy of preservation.” “We believe that you can still have a new, world-class museum for your collection while incorporating an outstanding work of American design that many consider an important part of the fabric of New York.”
April 24, 2003
CB5 Chair Kyle Merker responds to a letter from an Upper West Side resident regarding 2 Columbus Circle. He writes, “In May of last year, a resolution to request a public hearing to consider landmark designation of this building was considered by the Board. That resolution failed.”
DOCOMOMO newsletter outlines arguments for preserving 2 Columbus Circle in a piece entitled, “Historicism Happened. If You Can Handle That, Keep Reading.” “Difficult as it may be for many to accept, there are certain cultural artifacts worth recognizing not because they are archetypes, but because they are not types at all….2 CC is ahead of its time, categorically representing the small subset of the Modern movement where Historicism and Formalism colluded.”
Academic discussion of 2 Columbus Circle redesign in the context of other current issues continues at James Martson Fitch Colloquium, first as part of a program entitled “History as Prelude: Modern Interventions in Historic Context,” held at the newly reopened Morgan Library, and a second program called “Authenticity and Innovation: Ideals for Design with Old Buildings” at Columbia University. The Spring 2003 issue of Oculus highlights these programs and features an iconic 1960s photograph of 2 Columbus Circle by Ezra Stoller.
May 5, 2003
Paul Goldberger writes the caption for a New Yorker illustration of Columbus Circle by Matteo Pericoli: “Columbus Circle increasingly feels like a battleground….Now preservationists are preparing to fight for Edward Durell Stone’s strangely endearing 2 Columbus Circle, a white marble box…”
May 6, 2003
National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe writes letter to LPC Chair Robert B. Tierney, stating that the National Trust has “a strong interest in ensuring the continued integrity of Two Columbus Circle.”
May 8, 2003
Press related to CB5 approval: New York Observer (May 26, 2003)
Later, LW’s Freedom of Information request for LPC files pertaining to 2 Columbus Circle reveal that, in the days leading up to the CB5 meeting, LPC Chair Robert B. Tierney participated in a volley of emails with Laurie Beckelman.
May 1, 2003: Tierney forwards to Beckelman LW! email alert re: May 8 CB5 meeting, with the following note: “On the off chance that you haven’t seen this, just so you know what they’re up to.” [next several lines are blacked out in the copies provided to LW! by LPC] See LW! v. Tierney Exhibits, p. 9.
May 2, 2003: Tierney forwards to Beckelman an email received from a 2 Columbus Circle supporter, with the following note: “Do you want to see some, all or any of these letters?” Beckelman replies: “I would really appreciate seeing all of them, if it is not too much trouble.” Between May 2 and 8, Tierney forwards a number of emails to Beckelman. Their notes to one another are largely blacked out in the copies obtained by LW!. See LW! v. Tierney Exhibits, p. 11-20.
May 8, 2003: Tierney forwards to Beckelman an email from Boston Globe architecture critic Robert Campbell in support of MAD’s renovation proposal, “A good one for your side!” He also writes, “Good luck tonight…will talk later.” See LW! v. Tierney Exhibits, p. 21-2.
May 9, 2003: Beckelman emails Tierney, “Sorry we got out to [sic] late [next phrase blacked out] it would have been a good antidote to the night. We got the vote 18-8, but I see trouble ahead, thanks for all of your support.” Tierney replies to Beckelman, “Me too. [next phrase blacked out] Let me know how I can help on the trouble ahead.” See LW! v. Tierney Exhibits, p. 24.
May 15, 2003
Individuals in support of preserving 2 Columbus Circle (including representatives LW!, HDC, Modern Architecture Working Group, attorney Antonia Bryson and Wiss Janney Elstner conservator Kyle Normandin) meet with staff of Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields to discuss her role in ULURP. Borough President Fields ultimately sends the City Planning Commission a report supporting the sale of 2 Columbus Circle.
May 28, 2003
The Preservation League of New York State writes a letter to LPC Chair Robert B. Tierney “adding its collective voice to those many who have requested that the Commission hold a hearing on the remarkable and controversial building that for nearly forty years has defined Columbus Circle.”
Online issue of Architectural Record carries title “Modernism Endangered,” raising the question, “Why are we so ambivalent about the architecture of the recent past?” and using 2 Columbus Circle as its lead example.
June 4, 2003
LW! writes to LPC Chair Robert Tierney, reinforcing the fact that both the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation League of New York State have sent him letters calling for a public hearing on 2 Columbus Circle. The letter quotes the famous 1963 New York Times editorial on the destruction of Pennsylvania Station: “We will probably be judged not by the monuments we build by by those we have destroyed.” The letter also invokes what would become a catch phrase for the 2 Columbus Circle campaign, “What more will it take?” LW! email
June 6, 2003
[The following email correspondence was obtained via LW’s Freedom of Information request for LPC files pertaining to 2 Columbus Circle]
New York Landmarks Conservancy President Peg Breen emails Tierney, “the landmarks conservancy has also always felt that this building deserved a ‘day in court’ at an lpc hearing. i am enclosing a letter sent to holly hotchner. i realize your position, but you should know how many people think this building is worth saving. thanks.” See LW! v. Tierney Exhibits, p. 25.
Tierney forwards Breen’s email to Beckelman, with the following note: “FYI in confidence. Things really seem to be getting racheted [sic] up.” Beckelman replies to Tierney: “yes I know about this and the League and National Trust letters, [next phrase blacked out], and when are you free to talk?” Tierney replies to Beckelman: “Call anytime…in office now.”
June 13, 2003
Committee for Environmentally Sound Development runs advertisement in New York Times, directed towards Mayor Bloomberg and Tierney, calling for a public hearing to determine whether 2 Columbus Circle should be a landmark.
June 15, 2003
Robert V. Stone, Ph.D., son of Edward Durell Stone, writes a letter to LPC Chair Robert B. Tierney urging him to schedule a public hearing. “Morris Ketchum, one of the earliest architects advisors to the Landmarks Preservation Commission, was my godfather. He was one of my father’s first employees and closest friends….He told me the Commission would preserve buildings like Penn Station that had become landmarks as well as the work of great architects like Louis Sullivan. Two Columbus Circle meets his two criteria.”
June 16, 2003
The National Trust for Historic Preservation sends a letter to City Planning Commission Chair Amanda Burden urging her “to encourage a Landmarks determination for 2 Columbus Circle before you make your ultimate decision on its transfer from City ownership…While we applaud the vision of the City in seeking an appropriate reuse for this historic building, we would respectfully submit that to so dispose of a building before determining its historic and architectural significance is premature.”
Peg Breen emails Tierney: “i forgot to mention i’m sending you a letter asking for a designation hearing on 2 columbus. the majority of my board now wants us to do what we can to preserve the building. seeing the museum design got people fired up.” See LW! v. Tierney Exhibits, p. 30.
Tierney forwards Breen’s email to Beckelman: “More…” Beckelman replies to Tierney: “When did Peg send this to you? Also did you receive the latest Landmark west email? And by the way most meaning majority of the Conservancy has NOT seen the new design.”
Channel 2 (CBS) News covers 2 Columbus Circle preservation efforts.
June 16-July 2, 2003
LW! and Western Interiors magazine co-sponsor an online forum on 2 Columbus Circle, moderated by Paul Goldberger and including panelists Karrie Jacobs, John Kaliski, Diane Lewis, Thomas Mellins, Terence Riley, Witold Rybczynski, and Michael Sorkin. Transcript
Press related to online forum: DOCOMOMO newsletter (Summer 2003)
June 18, 2003
City Planning Commission holds a public hearing on the sale of 2 Columbus Circle, with testimony from 24 speakers against the sale (including Tom Wolfe, Juliet and Diane Hartford, and Hicks Stone) and 7 in favor. Transcript LW! submissions to the Commission LW! emails
June 19, 2003
New York Times columnist William L. Hamilton comments on the American Craft Museum’s decision to change its name to the Museum of Contemporary Arts and Design (later the Museum of Arts and Design, MAD) in an article entitled “Trading Baskets for Plastics.”
June 30, 2003
MAS writes a letter to LPC Chair Robert B. Tierney, stating that a “new understanding of the building’s significance in the history of 20th century architecture in America has inspired the Society’s Preservation Committee to re-examine its long-held position. The Committee determined last week that the building is not only deserving of a landmark designation hearing; it is the opinion of the Committee tha the building should be designated a New York City landmark.”
Ed Stone, Jr., son of Edward Durell Stone and a landscape architect, writes a letter in support of preserving 2 Columbus Circle.
July 2, 2003
City Planning Commission approves sale of 2 Columbus Circle. Transcripts of June 30 review session and July 2 public meeting. Final City Planning Commission report. LW! email
Press related to sale approval:
July 27, 2003
New York Times article on U.S. Embassies features Edward Durell Stone’s New Delhi embassy, reflecting general interest in Stone and acknowledgement of his contributions to architecture.
LW! contemplates lawsuits to prevent the sale of 2 Columbus Circle. In an August 19, 2003, letter to Deputy Mayor Doctoroff, attorney David Rosenberg outlines several bases for legal action against the City.
August 3, 2003
2 Columbus Circle plays a supporting role in a New York Times “Streetscapes” column by Christopher Gray. A LW! email highlights this article and the recent Preservation Online piece.
August 18, 2003
The New York Observer prints an editorial, “Museum of Arts and Design Misses the Target.” Panning MAD’s current exhibition, the editorial continues, “This is hardly an auspicious beginning for the museum, which…is planning a highly publicized move tinto a 54,000-square-foot space at 2 Columbus Circle. One would like to think that the new space will be used to display art, and not to sell more of [Michael] Graves’ tea kettles.”
October 12-13, 2003
New York Times prints a 2-part, 2300-word Op-Ed (Part 1 and Part 2) piece on 2 Columbus Circle by Tom Wolfe, arguing for significance of Edward Durell Stone as an architect and 2 Columbus Circle as architecture. Regarding the LPC’s refusal to hold a public hearing, Wolfe writes, “From the day the museum became eligible for landmark status in 1994, the commission's behavior puzzled me and many others. Naïvely, as it turned out, I had been thinking of landmark status in aesthetic and historical terms. The game proved to be about something else entirely.”
Wolfe theorizes that the City, in its eagerness to sell off 2 Columbus Circle to the highest bidder, ordered LPC to take no action. “From that day on, every time the question of a hearing on 2 Columbus Circle came up, the landmarks commissioners, as I see it, dove under their desks, clapped their hands over their ears, cried out to their secretaries to shove history and the concept of landmarks preservation itself through the shredder, and hid...Soon, during the next few days, weeks, months at the most, an appalling smack will be heard throughout New York. It will not be hostile fire. It will be the sound of the landmarks commissioners hitting the deck once more . . . while one of the most important buildings in the history of 20th-century architecture is vaporized and small urban creatures sniff the stench that's left in the air.” LW! email
New York Times runs a correction to Wolfe’s Op-Ed on November 12, 2003: “An Op-Ed article on Oct. 13 about the fate of a building designed by Edward Durell Stone at Columbus Circle incorrectly described the circumstances under which the Museum of Arts and Design changed its name and hired a former landmarks commissioner. The museum changed its name from the American Craft Museum after it was awarded the 2 Columbus Circle site in June 2002, not before. It also put the former commissioner, Laurie Beckelman, on its payroll after winning the site, not before. The article incorrectly described the status of Donald J. Trump's bid to develop the site. Mr. Trump never removed himself from consideration.”
October 13, 2003
The blog FelixSalmon begins a thread of reactions to the Wolfe Op-Ed that continues for months, stirring debate from many different viewpoints.
October 16, 2003
Slate online magazine also responds to Wolfe’s piece with an article by Timothy Noah (a.k.a. Chatterbox) “What's striking about Wolfe's defense of 2 Columbus Circle is that it's based not so much on the building as it is on the idea of the building.” Martin Plissner, former executive political director of CBS News, posts a reply in defense of the old Gallery of Modern Art. Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek international, also replies, “The point of preservation is not simply to keep what we currently think of as ‘pretty.’ It is to preserve what is architecturally significant.”
LW! Executive Director Kate Wood begins meeting with City Council members who sit on the Manhattan Borough Board, the government body that must ultimately affirm the sale of public property. Meetings are held with City Council Members Gale Brewer (whose council district includes 2 Columbus Circle), Christine Quinn (whose council district abuts 2 Columbus Circle immediately to the south), and staff of Council Member Alan Gerson.
October 31, 2003
Kate Wood and HDC Board Member David Freudenthal meet with Council Member Christine Quinn regarding Borough Board vote on 2 Columbus Circle (Board’s public hearing and vote did not occur until August 2004).
November 3, 2003
Article 78 lawsuit filed by Antonia Levine Bryson, Esq., for LW! et. al. against Amanda M. Burden, Chair of the City Planning Commission, et. al. The lawsuit challenges environmental review conducted by the City, stating ''The city's economic objectives infected the process for considering the potential landmark status of the building and subsequently tainted the environmental analysis that it performed in order to gain legal authorization for the sale.'' The Petition is accompanied by an affidavit from Robert A.M. Stern. More documents pertaining to this case, including copies of exhibits and appeal documents, can be found in the files of LW! and Corporation Counsel.
Press related to lawsuit:
In February 2004, City submits papers in response to LW! lawsuit, including affidavits from Robert Kulikowski, Ph.D. (Mayor’s office), Jennifer J. Raab (former LPC chair), Neal Smith (EDC), Ronda Wist (LPC executive director) and Holly Hotchner (MAD director).
Kulikowski affidavit defends the environmental review conducted during ULURP, describing his consultation with LPC and his own evaluation that, since 2 Columbus Circle was not a designated New York City landmark and the overall form of the building would be maintained in the new design, it “is not expected to significantly change the existing structure.” Therefore, Kulikowski was able to conclude that “proposed project is not expected to result in any adverse impacts.”
Smith affidavit states that ULURP provided “ample opportunity for a public dialogue on the 2 Columbus Circle project,” first at the April 3 CB5 Land Use Committee meeting, then at the May 8 full CB5 meeting where 19 people spoke against project and 2 spoke in favor, and finally at the June 18 City Planning Commission hearing where 24 speakers spoke against the project, 7 in favor.
Raab affidavit discusses the1996 LPC Designation Committee review of 2 Columbus Circle’s eligibility for landmark status. Present were members of the LPC’s research department as well as Commissioners Vicki Match Suna, Rev. Thomas Pike, Charles Sachs and Sarah Bradford Landau. According to Raab, the Committee voted unanimously “not to recommend the building for further consideration as a landmark because it did not possess historic or architectural significance sufficient to warrant holding a hearing for its consideration as a New York City Landmark.”
Wist affidavit emphasizes the definition of “landmark”: “The Landmarks Commission may, upon adoption of a motion, calendar an item to be considered for landmark designation.” LPC has “exclusive discretion” and “devotes its limited resources to appropriate application of its expertise.” Prospective landmarks are first considered by an internal committee “consisting of the Chairman, the Executive Director, the Director of Research, and other agency staff members.” This committee decides whether buildings are submitted for further review to the Designation Committee, which “consists of no more than five Commissioners and staff.” Regarding 2 Columbus Circle, Wist says, “..while it is more than 30 years old, this building does not, in the eyes of the Landmarks Commission, possess a special character or special historical or aesthetic interest or value that would make it worthy of designation as a landmark.”
Hotchner affidavit calls 2 Columbus Circle a “deteriorating, abandoned and unworkable building.” “The Museum’s proposed renovations were painstakingly crafted to produce a building that would complement a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing neighborhood.”
November 19, 2003
LPC Chair Robert B. Tierney’s schedule shows a meeting regarding 2 Columbus Circle at City Hall, according to materials obtained by LW! via Freedom of Information request.
November 20, 2003
New York Times “Public Lives” piece on Juliet Hartford refers to Hartford’s participation in 2 Columbus Circle lawsuit. Talking about the building, she says, “I think it’s beautiful…Everyone I’ve ever met in the art or fashion world likes it.” She discusses her efforts to drum up support from famous and connected people, in hopes that “someone cool” will buy the building.
November 21, 2003
Kasirer Consulting, a government relations firm retained by MAD for the 2 Columbus Circle project, emails Laurie Beckelman: “I want you to know that CM [Council Member] Brewer’s office called to let us know that the Preservation League of NYS is announcing on Monday that they want to see 2 Columbus Circle preserved.” Beckelman forwards the email to Tierney.
November 24, 2003
The Preservation League of New York State holds a press conference at The Hudson Hotel announcing the inclusion of 2 Columbus Circle on its “Seven to Save” endangered buildings list. Speakers include Tom Wolfe and architectural historian Barry Bergdoll. LW! prepared a nomination of the building to the list. Letters of support. LW! emails
Herbert Muschamp discusses the campaign to save 2 Columbus Circle in the New York Times: “A campaign is under way to have the building declared a city landmark before it undergoes a major renovation. I would regret the loss of the building. Whether the campaign succeeds, I hope that New Yorkers will take the opportunity to renew the independent spirit the building embodies.” Muschamp takes the opportunity to critique Cloepfil’s proposed redesign: “The proposed facades appear intentionally underwhelming. The small, invited competition organized by the museum included more impressive efforts. Perhaps the museum hoped to forestall opposition by choosing the least aggressive design. If so, the strategy backfired. The problem is not Mr. Cloepfil's plan. It is his client's choice of a design that stood little chance of rallying supporters…The distinction of 2 Columbus Circle is that Stone was out of step. You do not necessarily improve on such a building by replacing it with something recessive.”
Other press related to “Seven to Save” announcement:
November 30, 2003
Los Angeles Times describes 2 Columbus Circle campaign: “The fight is not on the scale of the successful campaign in the mid-1960s, featuring Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, that resulted in Grand Central Terminal being declared a landmark and then preserved. But it is more than a skirmish.”
MAD circulates a holiday card with the greeting, “We’re dreaming of Two Columbus Circle…”
December 2, 2003
Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Laurie Kerr describes “How 2 Columbus Circle Saved the World.” “When it comes to designating architectural landmarks, there should be a special criterion, quite apart from artistic merit, for buildings that express the political zeitgeist. We may not especially like these buildings, but they stand as remnants of the ideas that shaped their age. In New York, one such structure was the World Trade Center. Another is 2 Columbus Circle…With the Twin Towers gone, 2 Columbus Circle is one of the last places where New Yorkers can glimpse a symbol of those early years of global American power -- the moment when greatness was thrust upon us and our architects attempted to embrace new cultures.”
December 15, 2003
In her “Metro Matters” column for the New York Times, Joyce Purnick revives the Ada Louise Huxtable “lollipop” quote as evidence of “die-hard” preservationists’ folly in trying to save 2 Columbus Circle by filing the “inevitable lawsuit” just to delay the project. Purnick quotes former LPC Chair Sherida Paulsen in response to the question, Why not answer critics by holding a hearing anyway? Paulsen replies, “We designate buildings for lots of really good reasons…But in terms of history, architecture, cultural significance, [2 Columbus Circle] does not rise to any of those levels.'' LW! email
On December 22, the New York Times prints a letter to the editor from Tom Wolfe refuting Purnick’s claim that 2 Columbus Circle does not take advantage of the Central Park view.
December 28, 2003
New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp, itemizing the year’s “Highs” and “Lows” on the architecture front, cites 2 Columbus Circle twice. Number 7 among his “Highs” is “1 COLUMBUS CIRCLE, NEW YORK – Faint heart never won fair critic. Brad Cloepfil's proposal for remodeling Edward Durell Stone's mid-20th-century campanile at 2 Columbus Circle is an unwelcome exercise in caution. A quarter-turn around the circle, though, things are looking up and up, with David Childs's design for Time Warner's sleek new headquarters at 1 Columbus Circle.” Number 3 among Muschamp’s “Lows” is “The refusal of the New York City Landmarks Commission to hold hearings on the future of 2 Columbus Circle is a shocking dereliction of public duty. Unacceptable in itself, this abdication also raises the scary question of what other buildings the commission might choose to overlook in the future.” LW! email
On January 3, 2004, Laurie Beckelman emails Muschamp’s piece to Robert Tierney with the note: “Hat [sic] do you think of Herbert’s comment?” Tierney responds, “ ‘shocking dereliction’ ‘unacceptable’ and ‘abdication’. Other than that, I thought his comments were fine. How do we get ourselves out of this craziness?” Beckelman replies, “I don’t have an answer, I am speechless when it comes to Herbert, he is so unpredictable and to think he is the Chief critic for the Times. I also hear that the Simons, or whomever are adding another piece to their lawsuit stating that the city does not have the right to sell the property without state legislation? Have you heard anything about this?”
On January 6, 2004, Tierney emails New York University professor Mitchell Moss, apparently in response to an email from Moss regarding Muschamp’s article: “Ye shall know me by my enemies. Speaking of considerable wattage, did you see Muschamp’s rant today on Ground Zero?”
DOCOMOMO US includes 2 Columbus Circle on its “Manhattan Modern Map.”
Michael Sorkin, one of the participants in the July 2003 online panel discussion regarding 2 Columbus Circle, writes for Architectural Record, “Of landmarks and memorial: Getting mad (and MAD) about all the wrong things.” Comparing 2 Columbus Circle to Richard Serra’s wrongfully maligned Tilted Arc sculpture, which was removed by federal government from in front of Jacob K. Javits Federal Building in Lower Manhattan in 1989, Sorkin confesses, “I have always held this quirky, bright little folly in affection, and strongly agree it should be saved. Articulating the argument is problematic, however. Although I love the building, defending it on the narrow grounds of its aesthetic importance requires a grain of salt: This is not a ‘great’ work in the sense that the Guggenheim is or Penn Station was. Defending this building requires a somewhat more expansive—if equally compelling—interpretation of the idea of preservation. It should be saved because many hold it in deep affection for various private reasons, because it is a very good building, and—perhaps especially—because it contributes so strongly to defining its site.”
LW!, HDC and the Preservation League of New York State submit an application, including letters of support from Tom Wolfe and Robert A.M. Stern, to the National Trust for Historic Preservation to place 2 Columbus Circle on the Trust’s annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
January 7, 2004
Ada Louise Huxtable weighs in with an article called “The Lollipop Building: The best way to preserve 2 Columbus Circle? A makeover.” Huxtable bemoans “the beautification of 2 Columbus Circle….This small oddity of dubious architectural distinction…has been elevated to masterpiece status and cosmic significance by a campaign to save its marginally important, mildly eccentric, and badly deteriorated façade—a campaign that has escalated into a win-at-any-cost-and-by-any-means vendetta in the name of ‘preservation.’ Never has that term been so taken in vain.” The effort to preserve 2 Columbus Circle, according to Huxtable, reflects unfortunate “…tunnel vision and a blind resistance to change.” “One wonders at what point New York’s civic groups lost their vision, just when they decided nostalgia and trendy revisionism overrode a positive contribution to the city’s cultural and architectural quality….There is a great deal more at stake than this one building. When preservation distorts history and reality in a campaign of surprising savagery, it signals an absence of standards and an abdication of judgment and responsibility. It has lost its meaning when we prefer a stagnant status quo.”
Slate picks up on Huxtable’s piece immediately with an article by Timothy Noah, “A.L. Huxtable vs. Tom Wolfe.” “Chatterbox lacks the expertise to assess Huxtable's claims, but she certainly makes preservation seem like a lot of trouble to go through on behalf of a building that, even its defenders concede, is no beauty.”
January 20, 2004
The Committee for Environmentally Sound Development runs a “Dear Chairman Tierney” ad in AM New York, calling on him to hold a public hearing for 2 Columbus Circle and providing a list of supporters.
January 22, 2004
A New York Times article by Julie Iovine, “On Columbus Circle, Fighting a Face-Lift,” announces Brad Cloepfil’s new, new design for 2 Columbus Circle. Iovine reports that a lawsuit threatens the sale of the building to MAD. “Mr. Tierney said that the commission was mindful of the ‘robust debate’ about 2 Columbus Circle, but would not reconsider. ‘In the past year, we’ve seen a lot in print and we’ve thought about it and the decision made in 1996 is the decision that stands.’” LW! email
On the following day, Robert Tierney makes the New York Times again in an article about the campaign for a Douglaston Hills Historic District. “Asked why 14 years had gone by without a decision, Mr. Tierney said, ‘It is not foreclosed. What may be “no” today may be “yes” tomorrow. In the continuum of history, 14 years is not long.’”
February 4, 2004
Newsday reports on the 2 Columbus Circle controversy. The article makes it clear that the reporter received a tour of the building. “The building could be authentically restored. It would be a laborious and expensive process….The question is: Who would want to do all this - or even part of it - for the sake of a small, awkward building punctured with miserly windows at the corners of each floor?” Paul Spencer Byard, director of Columbia University’s graduate program in Historic Preservation, sees the case as evidence that historical preservation has been hijacked by "fundamentalists" who would rather embalm a mediocre building than let another architect attempt to bring out its inherent ideas. ‘Architects have been dealing with the issue of how to reuse old buildings for thousands of years, and they've done it pretty successfully,’ he said. ‘Now we have a culture that is using old buildings as a way to express a terror of change.’
LW! meets with Susan Weber Soros, president of the Bard Graduate Center, to suggest that Bard purchase 2 Columbus Circle. Soros expresses admiration for the façade and location, though she demures as to whether Bard can step in.
February 24, 2004
New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo fires off his first public diatribe against 2 Columbus Circle. “Related Cos. chief Stephen M. Ross wants to know why, after his company spent $1.7 billion to build Time Warner Center and open it on time, dug-up Columbus Circle outside its front door is such a mess,” including “the crumbling eyesore at 2 Columbus Circle,” which MAD wants to replace with a “sensitive redesign by architect Brad Cloepfil.”
February 27, 2004
With help of DOCOMOMO board member Kathleen Randall, LW! produces thousands of “Save 2 Columbus Circle” lollipops and begins giving them away as campaign props.
Harvard Architecture Professor Scott Cohen leads a design studio focusing on 2 Columbus Circle, calling the building “singular not in spite of but rather because of its regression and the obsolescence of its critique. It is significant moreover that this critique was accompanied by the figurative, historicist idiom of a particular phase of Edward Durell Stone’s architecture after his design for the MoMA building.”
LW! starts conversations with architect Hicks Stone (son of Edward Durell Stone) about the possibility of organizing an exhibition on Stone and 2 Columbus Circle. The idea evolves into a short-term show and auction fundraiser at Liz O’Brien Gallery (800 Fifth Avenue) that takes place on June 29, 2004.
April 15, 2004
Justice Walter B. Tolub issues a negative decision in LW! et. al. v. Amanda Burden et. al., concluding that “…it is not the role of the courts to sit as arbiters of art or architecture or to judge what is or is not of architectural or historical significance. Our role in these matters is limited to an inquiry as to whether the respondents’ determination was made in violation of lawful procedure, was adduced by an error of law, was arbitrary or capricious, or was an abuse of discretion…The record shows that the Deputy Mayor’s Office followed the methodology set forth in the CEQR Technical Manual. It verified whether the building was a known historic resource…The State and the City, by its agencies, and the people through their Community Board and elected officials have concluded that Two Columbus Circle is not worthy of preservation in its present form.”
New York’s Corporation Counsel issues a press release declaring “ALL CLAIMS BY PETITIONERS REJECTED AS NEW YORK CITY REAFFIRMS ITS COMMITMENT TO THIS IMPORTANT CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT PROJECT…The Court found that, among other things, the City reasonably concluded that the building was not an important historic resource, and that City agencies were entitled to rely on a conclusion by the Landmarks Preservation Commission that a building is not eligible for designation as a landmark in reaching that decision.” LW! email
Press related to court decision:
April 23, 2004
Steve Cuozzo writes for the New York Post “The local ‘Not In My Backyard’ anti-development crowd is on an embarrassing legal losing streak. Three – count 'em, three – high-profile, anti-development nuisance suits were just thrown out of court in the space of as many weeks. And if the trend keeps up, the city as a whole will be the big winner.” Cuozzo cites court losses by opponents of a new 10-story tower on Madison Avenue and 91st Street) and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's plan to build a 23-story research facility on East 68th Street. “Then, last week, a court rejected an attempt by preservationist zealots to prevent the city from selling the long-vacant Edward Durrell Stone-designed eyesore at 2 Columbus Circle to the Museum of Arts and Design. The museum plans to replace its blank wall facing Central Park with an architecturally sensitive new facade that will include windows.”
In a piece called “Full Circle,” Metropolis magazine “surveyed a number of architecture critics across the country, using quotes from Wolfe, Riley, Muschamp, and Huxtable to form the answers of the survey questionnaire.” The surveyed critics included Paul Goldberger, the New Yorker; Robert Campbell, Boston Globe; Joseph Giovannini, New York; Jane Holtz Kay, the Nation; Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune; Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Magazine Antiques runs an article by historian Mary Anne Hunting on 1950’s furniture designed by Edward Durell Stone for senator James Fulbright. “Since the early 1950s, serious interest in the furniture was more or less dormant until last December, when a chaise longue from the line invited multiple bids at a Sotheby's auction in New York City and sold for $13,200--more than one hundred times its original list price of $115.” Reflecting renewed interest in Edward Durell Stone’s contributions to architectural history and theory, Hunting later completed a doctoral thesis on his life and work.
May 17, 2004
LW! files a Notice of Appeal in the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court.
May 24, 2004
2 Columbus Circle is included on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. The Trust’s press release states, “2 Columbus Circle is a nationally recognized – albeit controversial – icon of the Modern Movement…radically different from the glass-and-steel boxes typical of its era…[U]nless the new owner can be persuaded of the building’s significance, sweeping architectural changes could rob 2 Columbus Circle of its distinctive character and rob America of an engagingly quirky icon of the recent past.” The Trust calls on MAD to adopt “a restoration plan for the building that respects its integrity as a modernist masterpiece and celebrates its unique form and design” and for “listing in the State and National Registers of Historic Places and public hearings by the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission for landmark designation.” LW! email
LPC Chair Robert Tierney emails Laurie Beckelman: “The National Trust(Moe) just announced the most endangered list, and oof [sic] course o0ne [sic] of the 11 is….2Columbus Circle! Congratulations. Let’s talk a little later.” [The rest of the message is blacked out.]
Beckelman send Tierney an email from Suzanne Davis, who has forwarded her LW’s email alert announcing listing of 2 Columbus Circle on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “11 Most Endangered Places” list of 2004, with the following note: “Here’s THEIR version of it….”
A couple of weeks later, Laurie Beckelman forwards the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered press release to Ada Louise Huxtable, writing, “Bob Tierney asked me for your number.” Huxtable replies, “I never know if anyone is paying attention – they sure haven’t with the 2 Columbus Circle piece [referring to her January 2004 article in the Wall Street Journal] which just proves that reason isn’t involved in these matters because on one could have read it and not rethought it.”
Press related to 11 Most Endangered listing:
Late May 2004
LW! launches Save 2 Columbus Circle website (www.save2columbus.org – no longer active) and sends out thousands of fundraising letters, introducing the Save 2 Columbus Circle logo, designed by Nicholas Blechman, and announcing listing of the building on the National Trust’s most endangered list.
May 29, 2004
Washington Post describes the growing campaign to save 2 Columbus Circle: “In the annals of preservation, few buildings have generated as quirky a battle as the one raging over 2 Columbus Circle, a beleaguered piece of New York architecture whose intended new owner—the Museum of Arts & Design—plans to erase the legacy of a rare American modernist to bolster its own image.” The National Trust’s decision to include the building on its 11 Most Endangered list “raises an impassioned local preservation debate to national stature. The issues—cultural stewardship and the determination of merit in a building too new to be truly historic—are played out in many other cities.”
LW! publishes its Spring 2004 newsletter, with a cover story on 2 Columbus Circle: “Mayor Bloomberg: What more will it take?” Inside, the 2 Columbus Circle article is juxtaposed with a “report card” on Mayor Bloomberg, with quotes from LW’s August 2001 breakfast forum at which then-candidate Bloomberg vowed to support landmarks preservation.
June 3, 2004
Writing for the New York Times, Joyce Purnick blames lawsuits and the preservation campaign for delaying MAD’s renovation of 2 Columbus Circle. She cites the interconnections between the various organizations involved in the campaign—LW!, HDC, Preservation League of New York State and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “In a city where most people are busy and distracted, just a small number of New Yorkers who feel very strongly on one subject can sometimes get their way. Or at the least get in the way of others.” LW! email
National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe writes a letter to MAD Director Holly Hotchner: “I would welcome an opportunity to visit with you and your board leadership to discuss plans for the building. The Museum otherwise has a good record of preservation, and we commend you for your interest in embracing Huntington Hartford’s little museum and renovating it as your new home. We do, however, believe that your plans for the exterior should be for restoration of Edward Durell Stone’s creation…”
June 11, 2004
LW! circulates an email picking up on a New York Times article about the restoration of the Guggenheim Museum (“Guggenheim Reviving Its Main Asset: Itself,” by Carol Vogel, June 10, 2004).
June 17, 2004
In an email referencing 2 Columbus Circle, Laurie Beckelman writes to Ada Louise Huxtable: “Bob Tierney, the Landmarks Commissioner asked me for your number. I hope that was alright. I have [sic] him your e mail and phone number.”
June 29, 2004
LW! holds a cocktail party and auction at Liz O’Brien Gallery (800 Fifth Avenue), attended by around 150 people and raising nearly $50,000 for the campaign to save 2 Columbus Circle. Among the items up for auction are an original sketch of 2 Columbus Circle by Edward Durell Stone and a wooden bench designed by Stone for Senator Fulbright’s furniture works (featured in Mary Anne Hunting’s May 2004 article in The Magazine Antiques). Tom Wolfe provides a statement in absentia. Photos Auction Items LW! emails
Press related to fundraiser:
LW! submits a Request for Assistance to the World Monuments Fund, asking it to intervene to help save 2 Columbus Circle.
July 16, 2004
LW! issues a press release and email, “Court Denies City’s Attempt to Rush Judgment on 2 Columbus Circle” reporting that the Appellate Division of NY Supreme Court has denied a motion by the City to expedite LW’s appeal, “which normally would give plaintiffs until early 2005 to file its papers” and calling the City’s motion “the latest in a series of maneuvers to derail efforts to preserve Stone’s famous design.” A week earlier, the Economic Development Corporation had notified the Manhattan Borough President’s office that it would seek an August 19 hearing before the Borough Board, a last step in transferring ownership of the site to MAD.
August 13, 2004
The City sends a letter informing the Appellate Division that EDC’s board has approved the sale of 2 Columbus Circle on August 3, 2004, and that the project is on the Manhattan Borough Board agenda for August 24, 2004.
August 18, 2004
In an article entitled “Lollipop Licked?” the Daily News reports on the Borough Board meeting, scheduled for August 24 despite the lingering court appeal. The article quotes LW! Executive Director Kate Wood, who calls the meeting “a dog-day sneak attack,” an attempt to move a controversial issue forward when many New Yorkers are out of town.
August 19, 2004
August 24, 2004
The Manhattan Borough Board holds a public meeting to review the sale of 2 Columbus Circle to MAD. Several opponents and proponents of MAD’s plan appear and testify. The Board votes 9-1 in favor of the sale (Council Member Bill Perkins’s proxy, former New York State Assemblyman Edward Sullivan, casts the dissenting vote). A prepared resolution, printed and included in each Board member’s packet, underscores fact that the decision was predetermined. Minutes Transcript Paul Byard letter LW! email
That same day, MAD issues a press release, “Museum of Arts & Design wins final approval by community and elected officials for redevelopment of Two Columbus Circle, Public Process Completed As Manhattan Borough Board Votes in Favor Of Building’s Sale to Museum.”
August 25, 2004
Daily News reports on Borough Board decision and Council Member Perkins’s lone vote against the sale: “This is a precious piece of property," he said. "I thought it was important that we take a position that respected the architectural and historical significance.”
August 30, 2004
Former Landmarks Commissioner Anthony M. Tung writes a letter to current Landmarks Chair Robert B. Tierney. “I write in behalf of calendaring a designation hearing on Two Columbus Circle. A designation I do not support – in relation to the architectural aesthetics of the edifice. But a hearing whose absence damages the name of the commission for responsible governance. Simply, in the 26 years of my involvement in preservation matters, beginning with my appointment as a commissioner by Mayor Edward I. Koch in 1979, I have never seen the commission turn its back on such a widely supported and substantive argument for a hearing.” LW! email
September 2, 2004
The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court grants the City’s motion for expedited appeal (with appellant’s record and brief due by October 4 rather than early 2005).
Responding to a letter from an artist to Holly Hotchner questioning MAD’s plans for 2 Columbus Circle, MAD Chief Curator David McFadden writes, “We also are not removing the ‘lollipops’ as they actually hold up the building, but extending the outer walls of the museum to encompass them.” Previously, renderings had seemed to indicate that the lollipop arcade would be removed along with the marble, porthole windows and other elements.
September 10, 2004
Former LPC Chair Beverly Moss Spatt writes a letter to LPC Chair Robert Tierney urging him to schedule a public hearing for 2 Columbus Circle. “I know that you, as a long term public servant, are aware that government is accountable to the public weal. Thus, a public hearing on 2 Columbus Circle is necessary to afford space and opportunity to hear from all sides whether it is not or is worthy of designation….Historically, the preservation community has been the Commission’s ally. In my over 30 years of work in the preservation field (partially as a former Chair of the Commission as well as a Commissioner of City Planning) I have rarely seen such a division between the public and the Commission.”
September 14, 2004
New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo lambasts “elitists” for blocking the renovation of 2 Columbus Circle. “The vacant eyesore at 2 Columbus Circle continues to blight all around it – thanks to a campaign of civic vandalism masquerading as enlightened preservationism.” Cuozzo cites Joyce Purnick’s June 2004 New York Times piece about cozy relationships among preservation groups as evidence that the “vast public outpouring” of support for 2 Columbus circle is “bogus.”
September 16, 2004
LW! sends a letter along with a package of 2 Columbus Circle materials to Mayor Bloomberg, including Anthony Tung letter and the “Silent Majority” petition of over 1000 supporters, and also sends copies to all Landmarks Commissioners, elected officials, etc. LPC responds on October 5, 2004, explaining that its designation committee “decided not to recommend to the full Commission that the property be considered for designation,” and furthermore, “The building has undergone the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which included a public hearing on the proposal.”
September 30, 2004
Former LPC Chair Gene A. Norman writes a letter to current LPC Chair Robert B. Tierney, urging him to schedule a public designation hearing on 2 Columbus Circle. “Except for three prior instances, I have declined from making public statements before the Commission or writing to its Chair, since the end of my tenure as Chairman of the LPC fifteen years ago. On each occasion I was prompted by a desire to prevent the Commission, in my opinion, from bringing harm to itself or to the Landmark Law….Don’t let the “Owners Opposition” issue become a standard in determining when to hold a Designation Hearing.” LW! email
October 1, 2004
DOCOMOMO US sponsors a talk entitled, “Thin Skinned: Conservation and Stabilization Challenges in the Postwar Architecture of Edward Durell Stone.” LW! email
LW! files its appeal of Justice Tolub’s decision. Copies of appeal brief and City and Museum responses are available in LW’s files.
October 4, 2004
Recently appointed New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff (who replaced Herbert Muschamp) weighs in on 2 Columbus Circle (“Taming the Beast from 1965”): “Whatever you think of 2 Columbus Circle, that odd marble curiosity designed by Edward Durell Stone to house a supermarket heir’s art collection, it certainly incites passion….the focus of one of the most volatile preservation battles in recent memory.” Ouroussoff criticizes the interior functionality of 2 Columbus Circle, but concludes that “the building’s importance has less to do with its design than with the role it has played in New York’s architectural landscape. Stone was a major figure in American architecture, and his Columbus Circle building, completed in 1965, is among a handful of works that represent a turning point in his career, when he rejected some of the tenets of late Modernism in favor of a more overt historicism. For us, it is a reminder that Modernism did not always follow a straight, unbroken path.” He continues, “More critically, the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission continues to refuse to hold a public hearing to determine the building’s historic importance. Could that be because the Bloomberg administration, which has offered the museum a $2 million incentive if it completes the project by 2007, sees it as a major feature of its plans for redeveloping Columbus Circle? It seems that private interests are once again being favored above the broader public realm. Stone’s design, and the people of this city, deserve more respect than this.” “The real aim of [MAD’s] design is to cleanse the site of uncomfortable historical memories and thereby make it more palatable for powerful real estate interests. And this is a dangerous sign for the future.” LW! email
October 9, 2004
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art opens an exhibition, Glamour: Fashion, Industrial Design, Architecture, which “…traces the transformation of glamour during the last seventy years, from the civic architecture of Edward Durell Stone to the high-end couture of Gianni Versace.” Included in the exhibition is one of photographer Ezra Stoller’s famous prints of the lollipop base of 2 Columbus Circle.
October 20, 2004
Prompted by the Women’s City Club and others, the Landmarks Subcommittee of the New York City Council holds a special oversight hearing on the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The hearing is held in a small conference room at 250 Broadway, sparking anger among members of the overflow crowd, many of whom were turned away in the building’s lobby. LW! holds a press conference, with featured speakers Council Member Bill Perkins and Tom Wolfe, on the steps of City Hall prior to the hearing. Testimony on the LPC’s shortcomings comes from former Landmarks Commissioners, including former Chair Beverly Moss Spatt and Anthony M. Tung. LW! emails
On October 21, 2004, Laurie Beckelman emails Robert Tierney: “It is nice when you have friends from within, cantbelieve [sic] it former chairs and commissioners, outrageous…”
October 21, 2004
The Daily News reports, “Landmarking’s Blasted: Lollipop, Harlem in Jeopardy.” “Author Tom Wolfe wants New Yorkers to know the city Landmarks Preservation Commission is a bunch of spineless bureaucrats – and he held a press conference yesterday to say so. Then he went in to tell City Council…And he’s only one of many who think the commission has become a tool of big money and big developers – from midtown to mid-Harlem.” St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church is the Harlem example cited as evidence of LPC’s negligence.
Other press related to oversight hearing: Metro (October 21, 2004)
October 26, 2004
LW! submits Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to LPC for documents pertaining to 2 Columbus Circle.
October 31, 2004
Fred Bernstein writes a piece for the New York Times called “The End of 1960’s Architecture,” placing the threats to 2 Columbus Circle, among other buildings, in the context of the charge led by baby boomers to eliminate mid-century buildings. “In a society otherwise enamored of the styles of the 1960's, the architecture of that decade is rarely loved and frequently reviled. All over the country, 60's buildings are being torn down while much older buildings survive. Functional problems, like leaky roofs and inadequate heating systems, are often to blame. But just as often, the buildings are simply disliked by institutions that have enough money to replace them.” “Yet while wealthy institutions are erasing 60's buildings, architecture professionals and 20-somethings consider them hip…For preservationists, the challenge is to separate the masterpieces from the mediocrities before the wrecking ball takes both. Politicians, developers and philanthropists will have to decide which buildings are worth going to bat for.” LW! email
Preservation magazine cover story is entitled, “Taste Matters: What To Do With 2 Columbus Circle?” Phillip Lopate, Robert A.M. Stern, Theodore H.M. Prudon, and Witold Rybczynski respond in essays. Lopote writes, “…all buildings, even bad ones, if allowed to remain standing for generations, can become cherished members of the neighborhood, like dotty uncles at a family gathering…Still, I see no reason to protect this clunker.” In contrast to Lopate, Stern writes, “…why should we save only the orthodox, the easily comprehended, the abundantly clear? Two Columbus Circle stands proudly outside the canon; it forces us to examine its decorative flourishes multiple times and asks us to linger over its quirks.” Prudon notes that the perennially misunderstood 2 Columbus Circle now has both passionate defenders and detractors. Rybczynski comments that “Architecture may be for the ages, but it has always been ruled by taste… Which is why it would be such a shame if 2 Columbus Circle were given a terra-cotta wrapping, or any other up-to-date alteration. Stone’s building, though not a masterpiece, is something equally valuable—a rarity, representing an unusual and interesting moment in the history of architecture. It would be sad to lose it.”
Fiber artist Stanley Bulbach writes the first of several emails and letters to LW!, raising issues about museum ethical guidelines and MAD’s pursuit to re-design 2 Columbus Circle.
November 4, 2004
Landmarks Commissioner Richard Olcott emails Robert Tierney regarding 2 Columbus Circle: “I just received this invite to a symposium organized by the Museum of Arts and Design next weekend. Im’not [sic] attending, but I think it worth noting that it has a list of very prominent avant-garde architects and designers in lots of disciplines. There people are really at the cutting edge of design, like Zaha Hadid, Liz Diller, Aaron Betsky, and Hani Rashid. They are exactly the kind of voices who need to speak out against designation of this pathetic building. I think you should call Laurie Beckelman up and get her to strongarm every invitee on this list to write a letter about it. The design community needs to speak up and stop the madness put for [sic] by the Taliban (HDC/Lanmarks [sic] West).”
November 11, 2004
Gotham Gazette publishes a piece by LW! Executive Director Kate Wood called “2 Columbus Circle and the Need to Preserve Preservation,” which describes the battle to save 2 Columbus Circle in the context of LPC problems. “The point is that the commission’s lack of transparency and responsiveness stymies community-based preservation efforts and leads directly to the loss of irreplaceable historic fabric. This loss and the growing chasm between the commission and its natural allies – the citizen-stewards of the historic city – must not become the legacy of our generation.”
Blog responses to the article continue for several months.
November 17, 2004
The New Yorker reports on MAD’s gala fundraiser honoring Kenneth Himmel, CEO of Related Urban Development, developer of the Time Warner Center.
November 22, 2004
New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo criticizes LW’s court challenge before the Appellate Divison: “It’s time for the city, the museum’s co-defendant, to come off the ropes and fight back in kind.” Cuozzo recounts “Tolub’s detailed and meticulously reasoned ruling” and the Borough Board’s almost unanimous vote. “The radical preservationists…led by the Landmarks West group, care less about winning in court than about bogging things down indefinitely…In seeking to sabotage the recapture of the blighted site for productive public use, they are trying to run roughshod over the city’s imperfect but indispensable landmarks law and the administrative procedures set up to implement it. The city had better wake up to what’s at stake. A campaign that undermines the sale of 2 Columbus Circle—even if it succeeds by delay rather than judicial ruling—will open the door to challenging every decision by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.”
Tom Wolfe responds with a letter to the editor on November 26, 2004.
November 29, 2004
City Council holds second oversight hearing on the LPC. LW! email
British Vanity Fair magazine features a profile of Huntington Hartford and cites 2 Columbus Circle as one example of Hartford’s lost wagers.
December 1, 2004
LW! files a lawsuit against the Manhattan Borough Board for failure to provide adequate notice of its August 2004 meeting, at which it approved the sale of 2 Columbus Circle. City responds with a Motion to Dismiss. More court papers pertaining to this case are available in the files of LW! and Corporation Counsel.
December 8, 2004
New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo reports on latest 2 Columbus Circle lawsuit. “The zealots trying to prevent the city from selling 2 Columbus Circle – that white-marbled eyesore perched on lollipop sticks – to the Museum of Arts & Design have taken the nuisance suit to a new level of absurdity” by filing a lawsuit the crux of which is the August scheduling of the Manhattan Borough Board hearing, “a time when New Yorkers traditionally take summer vacations” coinciding with “anticipated disruption of the Republican Party National Convention.” “We hope the court will recognize such obstructionism for what it is…The museum would do well to counter-sue, seeking substantial damages – and an enforceable court order prohibiting further obstructionism.”
December 9, 2004
The New York Times reports on a line of tableware produced by Mikasa and inspired by 2 Columbus Circle.
December 23, 2004
LW! files lawsuit against the LPC calling for the release of public documents requested under the Freedom of Information Law in October 2004. The LPC responds by making the files available in January 2005.
January 10, 2005
In an article entitled “Suing Over 2 Columbus Circle,” the New York Sun reports on series of lawsuits filed by preservationists against MAD.
January 11, 2005
In an article about Brad Cloepfil, New York magazine poses the question, “If no one loves 2 Columbus Circle, why stop him from redesigning it?” The piece calls the preservation battle a “cause celebre for city’s cognoscenti.”
January 18, 2005
LW! sponsors a talk by architect Raymond Gomez, the “last surviving partner from [Edward Durell] Stone’s firm.” The lecture, including a reception afterward at the home of architect Alan Wanzenberg, is a fundraiser for the preservation campaign.
February 17, 2005
A New York Times article about Brad Cloepfil notes, “Thanks to the Columbus Circle dust-up and praise for the firm’s completed projects, interest in Allied Works, as Mr. Cloepfil put it, ‘has just exploded’ recently.” A rendering of Cloepfil’s re-design for 2 Columbus Circle is shown.
February 24, 2005
New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, rules unanimously against LW! et. al. in case against Amanda Burden et. al. According to a February 25, 2005, New York Times article, the court found no merit “to the contention that the Landmarks Preservation Commission was obligated to hold a public hearing before declining to calendar a request for the property’s designation…Robert B. Tierney, the commission chairman, said the decision affirmed the integrity of the landmarks laws and the way the commission conducted its business.” LW! email
On the same day, New York State Supreme Court Justice Howard Beeler issues a decision denying LW’s petition against the Manhattan Borough Board. LW! appeals on March 16, 2005.
LW! runs an ad in the West Side Spirit congratulating the paper on its 20th anniversary and proclaiming that “The fight goes on to save 2 Columbus Circle…”
Other press related to court decisions:
February 28, 2005
Writing for Bloomberg News, architecture critic James S. Russell reassures readers that “Columbus Circle Museum Loss Is No Tragedy for Architecture.” Comparing the 2 Columbus Circle battle to preservationists’ efforts to save Lincoln Center and two brownstones adjoining the Whitney Museum of American Art on the Upper East Side, Russell notes, “The battle over 2 Columbus Circle mirrors the conflicts that are fast developing as the historic-preservation movement goes populist…Today’s activists care far less for those marble palaces of Carrere and Hastings or McKim, Mead & White that motivated a social elite to found the historic-preservation movement…The degree of preservation obsession today threatens to smother the very dynamism that not only nurtures New York, yet is at the heart of its identity.”
The newsletter of the Recent Past Preservation Network Bulletin cites 2 Columbus Circle as a “Threatened” Modern building. Calling for pressure on New York City government, the bulletin states, “Regardless of one’s personal aesthetic opinion of 2 Columbus Circle, it is indisputably an important, paradigmatic example of the latter phase of Edward Durell Stone’s career.”
March 2, 2005
In its July 16-17, 2005, issue, the New York Observer discusses the Chazen collection and the couple’s donation of $12 million towards MAD’s “controversial new home in Columbus Circle.” Simona Chazen is quoted, “‘My husband is a high energy man. He also has the patience to resolve this matter.’”
March 14, 2005
New York Sun architecture critic James Gardner mourns the imminent demolition of the Morris Lapidus-designed Paterson Silks building on Union Square and the Landmarks Commission’s simultaneous action to landmark the “urban eyesore” Summit Hotel (also designed by Lapidus) on Lexington Avenue instead. “Though I have been sitting on the fence as regards 2 Columbus Circle, I would not hesitate to say that if the Summit is worth preserving, then so too – 100 times over – is that unfairly maligned Venetian palazzo on the southwest corner of Central Park.”
March 15, 2005
LW! invokes 2 Columbus Circle during testimony at a LPC public designation hearing on the Jamaica Savings Bank.
March 16, 2005
LW! et. al. file a lawsuit against EDC, calling the sale of 2 Columbus Circle to MAD a “sweetheart deal” and a violation of the public trust. LW! email City’s papers More documents pertaining to this lawsuit can be found in the files of LW!.
Press related to lawsuit: Daily News (March 22, 2005)
March 18-19, 2005
At the request of the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation, Kate Wood gives a presentation about 2 Columbus Circle advocacy to participants in the annual Preservation 360 conference in Saratoga Springs, New York. The focus of the conference is preserving the recent past.
March 24, 2005
“In Preservation Wars, a Focus on Midcentury” is the title of a major article by Robin Pogrebin in the New York Times Arts section. “Arguing that significant buildings are not getting their due, advocates of mid-century architecture are stepping up pressure on the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to hold full public hearings on proposals to raze two movie theaters on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.” Her examples include 2 Columbus Circle, Cinemas 1, 2 & 3 and the Beekman Theater. Pogrebin cites the LPC’s low, $3.5-million budget and staff cuts as part of the problem and mentions other issues raised in testimony at the October 2004 City Council oversight hearing as well as the November 2004 Women’s City Club report, “Problems Experienced by Community Groups Working With the Landmarks Preservation Commission.”
March 28, 2005
LW! submits a National Register nomination for 2 Columbus Circle (prepared by architectural historian John Kriskiewicz).
March 29, 2005
April 18, 2005
Gotham Gazette includes 2 Columbus Circle on a list of 10 threatened New York City historic sites. LW! email
April 26, 2005
Paul Goldberger gives a talk on “Landmarks Preservation at Forty” (recognizing the 40th anniversary of the Landmarks Preservation Commission). “I suppose I ought to say a word about New York’s most celebrated amiable but distinctly not great building, which the old Huntington Hartford Gallery of Modern Art on Columbus Circle. I view that building as a likeable but somewhat dim-witted friend, a foolish building that people understandably have some affection for. I have affection for it, too…But I am worried that we have begun to confuse worthiness and benign appeal with genuine greatness and architectural distinction, and that is dangerous. Yes, this building is historically important, and yes, it has value. But no, it isn’t great, and if we keep it and in so doing prevent the creation of a new and potentially more significant work of architecture, I think we have tilted the balance in the wrong direction. Now, by saying this I do not mean to endorse the Landmarks Commission’s odd refusal to hold a public hearing on this building. I do find this inexplicable. This building may not be the strongest case for landmark designation, but there is an absolute case for a public hearing about it, and the decision not to hold one was not, in my view, one of the commission’s prouder moments.”
April 27, 2005
EDC writes a letter to Ruth Pierpont of SHPO, stating, “The Empire State Local Development Corporation anticipates authorizing funding through the Port Authority Transportation, Economic Development & Infrastructre Renewal Program in support of [Museum of Arts & Design at 2 Columbus Circle].” The anticipated funding equals $1.5 million.
April 28, 2005
The Hartford Advocate reports on a campaign to prevent new construction on the site of a historic building in Hartford, CT. Suggesting that the primary opponent to the project is anti-development rather than pro-preservation, the reporter points out that the opponent is not aware of the preservation battle over 2 Columbus Circle.
LW! hires the Advance Group, a government relations firm, and Source Communications, a public relations firm, to work on getting LPC to hold a public hearing on 2 Columbus Circle. Crain’s New York Business covers the hire in its May 16, 2005, issue: “The battle between preservationists and the city over 2 Columbus Circle is about to get noisy again” now that LW! is working with the Advance Group, “the consulting firm that helped union workers at the Plaza Hotel rescue more rooms from condo conversion.” LW! email
May 10, 2005
Participating in a panel discussion on the LPC’s 40th anniversary organized by Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel at the 92nd Street Y, Robert A.M. Stern comments that “…in some crucial ways the Commission has not kept pace with its mandate” (Stern’s full statement). The New York Times picks up on Stern’s further remarks to his co-panelist, LPC Chair Robert B. Tierney, about 2 Columbus Circle: “Not to preserve the building is shocking, but not to hear it is criminal.” Tierney responds that he sticks by the LPC’s 1996 decision not to recommend 2 Columbus Circle for a public hearing. LW! email
May 12, 2005
Robert A.M. Stern mobilizes colleagues including Thomas T.K. Zung of Buckminster Fuller, Sadao and Zung Architects, Dietrich Neumann, Professor for the History of Modern Architecture at Brown University, and structural engineer Leslie E. Robertson to write letters in support of 2 Columbus Circle. Robertson writes, “First, it seems to us that the building should either be razed or rehabilitated to its former self…that the proposed modifications are demeaning to the building and, in our view, are mere strivings to create something that cannot be created….The ‘slotting’ of the walls and floors is said to not weaken the building. Perhaps so…perhaps there is enough ‘extra’ in the structural system to allow this frivolous carving. Even so, while we’ve not analyzed the structural systems, it seems clear to us that the short- and the long-term vertical deformations associated with the slotting of the walls, unless prevented, will likely result in serious issues associated with vertical offsets in the floors, with distress in the glazing and with other forms of excessive deformation.”
May 15, 2005
The New York Times Magazine devotes an entire issue to the question, “Is It Time for the Preservation of Modernism?” Two Columbus Circle and the preservation struggle crops up in several articles. A letter to the editor appears in a follow-up issue, faulting the issue for not focusing more on the battle. “The real tragedy is that those entrusted with the preservation of our architectural patrimony—Mayor Bloomberg, Robert Tierney (the present chairman of the Landmarks Commission) and Laurie Beckelman, the previous chairwoman, have conspired with the so-called Museum of Arts and Design to condemn 2 Columbus Circle as not Modern enough for preservation. Shame on them.”
May 17, 2005
The New York Times covers another City Council oversight hearing on the LPC, this time chaired by Council Member Bill Perkins before the Government Operations Committee. Former LPC Chair Gene Norman’s testimony is quoted: “…if people are preventing things from moving in a forward direction, they should be replaced.” LW! email
May 25, 2005
MAD issues a press release, “Museum of Arts & Design Signs Contract with City for Purchase of Two Columbus Circle.” “The sale of Two Columbus Circle to MAD marks the culmination of an extensive public review process which was required prior to the Museum’s acquisition of the building – which has been vacant since 1998 – from the City. MAD was designated by the City to redevelop Two Columbus Circle in June 2002. The Museum subsequently embarked on a comprehensive series of public hearings to seek input on its plans from neighbors and community boards, state and city agencies, and elected officials.” Contract
Press related to contract signing:
Working with attorney Whitney North Seymour, Jr., LW! files a lawsuit against LPC Chair Robert B. Tierney and MAD, calling on the New York State Supreme Court to take action “Barring and prohibiting respondent Robert B. Tierney from any further involvement or communications of any kind relating to the evaluation, consideration or hearing on 2 Columbus Circle as a New York City Landmark.” The petition alleges that MAD “entered into a conspiracy to defraud Petitioner and these other organizations and citizens, by obstructing and subverting the lawful governmental functioning of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to prevent it from performing its responsibilities in considering and determining whether 2 Columbus Circle should be designated as a protected Landmark.” The lawsuit also raises the issue of MAD Chair Jerome Chazen attempting to enrich himself by creating a showcase for his collection at 2 Columbus Circle. Exhibits More documents pertaining to this lawsuit can be found in the files of LW! and Corporation Counsel.
On May 27, 2005, the New York Times picks up on the lawsuit. Robin Pogrebin writes, “A preservation group filed a court petition yesterday accusing Robert B.Tierney, chairman of the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, of colluding with the buyer of a building at Columbus Circle to prevent the structure from winning landmark status, and seeking his removal.”
In its July 13, 2005, issue, The Architect’s Newspaper (“More on Columbusgate”) provides link to LANDMARK WEST’s website where “chummy emails” were published.
May 26, 2005
New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff writes “Commission Preserves the Past at the Cost of the Future,” lambasting the LPC’s “weak-kneed decision….to approve a scaled-back expansion of the Whitney Museum.” “[T]he overreaching goal is saving what’s old – as if the loss of an undistinguished brownstone parallels the razing of a beloved landmark.” “Aside from weakening a promising design, the commission’s stubbornness proves that it is unable to distinguish between preserving the city’s architectural legacy and embalming it. This is particularly galling given that the commission steadfastly refuses to meet on Edward Durell Stone’s endangered 60’s ‘lollipop’ building at 2 Columbus Circle – a building that is far more essential to the city’s historical fabric….Evidently, our preservation policy now favors simplistic rules over thoughtful debate on the city’s architectural heritage.”
On June 1, 2005, the New York Times prints a letter to the editor from LW! President Arlene Simon, underscoring the importance of the LPC’s Whitney decision: “The threat to this and all of our city’s beloved historic districts is death by a thousand cuts, not by a single blow.”
The back cover of the West Side Spirit runs a full-page ad, paid for by the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, stating, “We Think 2 Columbus Circle Deserves a Landmarks Hearing,” and invoking Mayor Bloomberg’s refusal to listen to opponents of the West Side Stadium. The ad also publicizes upcoming mayoral candidates breakfast forums, co-sponsored by LW!, HDC, New York Landmarks Conservancy and MAS, suggesting that 2 Columbus Circle will be an issue in the November 2005 mayoral election.
May 31, 2005
About 100 demonstrators protest outside MAD’s 53rd Street headquarters during the party celebrating the official opening of “Dual Vision, The Simona & Jerome Chazen Collection.” LW! organized the rally and advertised it using automated phone messages sent to thousands of New Yorkers. NY1 covers the event. Photos LW! emails
MAD applies for a permit to remove the façade of 2 Columbus Circle. LW! email
LW! hires expeditor to investigate legitimacy of DOB permits.
Architect Rolf Olhausen circulates an open letter “TO COLLEAGUES & FRIENDS IN THE ARCHITECTURAL COMMUNITY,” challenging LANDMARK WEST! and 2 Columbus Circle. “Landmark West, which had no history of supporting the landmarking of modern buildings, has gone to the barricades to save the sad, idiosyncratic, dysfunctional and lifeless building that Edward Durrell Stone designed in 1964….We, as architects with a strong stake in the planning and design of our city, believe that the best prospect for a viable future for 2 Columbus Circle is to allow the Museum of Arts & Design to proceed with its plans. We also support and defend the Landmarks Commission, which has declined to hold a public hearing to consider this building for landmark designation, during the tenure of 3 Commission Chairpersons and two Administrations.”
Simultaneously, Olhausen sends a personal letter to LW! President Arlene Simon, charging, “Your recent attack on Bob Tierney is a thinly disguised attack on the Landmark [sic] Commission. The Commission, and at least three Administrations and Chairpersons, have seen fit not to elevate 2 Columbus for landmarking.” This is a refrain that was repeated by LPC Chair Robert Tierney and former LPC Chair Sherida Paulsen. Arlene Simon responds.
June 7, 2005
LW! invokes 2 Columbus Circle in testimony at the LPC’s public designation hearing on the Plaza Hotel interiors. The New York Times reports, “Meanwhile, another building’s fate caused some witnesses to question the integrity of the commission itself. They criticized what they called the commission’s foot dragging in not scheduling a public hearing on 2 Columbus Circle, a building not on yesterday’s agenda, or any agenda for the last 10 years, since it has been eligible for preservation.” The article quotes LW! board member Bruce Simon: “Unless you act – and it must be you, because your chairman for some unknown reason is incapable of acting – 2 Columbus Circle will join Pennsylvania Station in the pantheon of lost treasures, lost without even a hearing.”
June 8, 2005
LW! sends a letter to SHPO Commissioner Bernadette Castro asking for a response to its National Register nomination of 2 Columbus Circle, since the 60-day window for Castro to respond has expired.
June 16, 2005
New York Times write Eve M. Kahn notices Curbed.com rants against “preservationists trying to save 2 Columbus Circle.”
LW! volunteers station themselves on Columbus Circle, passing out flyers and asking passers-by to make cell phone calls to Mayor Bloomberg asking him to get the LPC to hold a public hearing on 2 Columbus Circle. The New York Times picks up the story, with the headline, “Telling It to City Hall, 21st-Century Style.” “Landmark West, a neighborhood advocacy group, passed out prepaid cellphones yesterday morning in front of 2 Columbus Circle, urging passersby…to call Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to request a hearing on the 1960’s building.” About 200 people made calls, including one woman who actually got through to mayor. Script
June 21, 2005
The World Monuments Fund includes 2 Columbus Circle on its list of 100 Most Endangered Sites. (Copy of LW! application, endorsed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and DOCOMOMO US, plus letters of support from Robert A.M. Stern, Tom Wolfe and Barry Bergdoll.) The first line of the New York Times article covering the list states, “Edward Durell Stone’s porthole-studded building at 2 Columbus Circle, Mexico City’s historic center and every ‘cultural heritage’ site in Iraq have been added to the World Monuments Fund watch list of most endangered sites, to be released today.” The article’s primary illustration is a photograph of 2 Columbus Circle. According to the World Monuments Fund, “The listing of 2 Columbus Circle highlights the widespread failure of public authorities to recognize the architectural merit of postwar buildings and sites as part of our collective cultural heritage.” A History Channel public service announcement highlights the endangered sites. LW! email
June 22, 2005
The Poughkeepsie Journal covers the listing of a Newburgh, NY, church on the World Monuments Fund’s 100 Most Endangered list, citing the fact that the church is listed “along with New York City’s hotly debated ‘lollipop building’ at 2 Columbus Circle and the entire country of Iraq.”
Other press related to World Monuments Fund listing:CBC Arts (June 22, 2005)
June 23, 2005
LW! organizes “Hands Around 2 Columbus Circle” rally during which supporters numbering in the hundreds wrapped themselves around the entire “lollipop” base of the building. Statements of New York City Council Members (and Manhattan Borough President candidates) Margarita Lopez and Bill Perkins. Photos. LW! email
MAD distributes its own handouts at the rally.
June 27, 2005
New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo speculates that preservationists may cause the MAD deal for 2 Columbus Circle to fall through by pursuing their “cowardly war-by-nuisance suit.” “Either the city will show some spine against a few pesky preservationist zealots who want to tie the sale up in court forever; or the museum will find the guts to buy the damn building and commence reconstruction even while lawsuits drag on…[T]he unthinkable alternative – that the deal falls apart and the city is stuck with Edward Durell Stone’s useless architectural abomination forever – looks ominously possible.” MAD clearly feels the heat since Cuozzo writes, “…the museum is getting steamrollered in most of the media—especially in The New York Times, which has a cozy relationship with Upper West Side radicals…[T]he city and museum seem unaware they are in a knife fight. They are playing patty-cake against switchblades. They seem surprised by each new court action, oblivious that the preservationists mean to go on suing until kingdom come…If Bloomberg can’t push through the sale of one small building, his vastly more ambitious schemes for stadiums and the far West Side have to be taken as a joke.”
June 29, 2005
The New York Times runs an editorial entitled, “The Case of 2 Columbus Circle.” “It’s one thing to doom this building…after a hearing by the landmarks commission. No one expects that a proper hearing would automatically lead to a vote for preserving Stone’s original design…Yet dooming this building without a hearing is an enormous mistake, one that seriously erodes the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s purpose and whatever political independence it has managed to attain since it was first created…The point of preservation, as the landmarks commission once understood, is to protect the complexity of the past, not to iron it out.”
On the same day, the New York City Department of Buildings issues a permit allowing work to begin to alter the façade of 2 Columbus Circle, “effectively defeating the decade-long effort by preservationists,” reports the New York Times. “Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has stood steadfastly, if quietly, behind the chairman [Robert Tierney].” Bloomberg’s spokesperson stated, “‘Three different landmark chairs under two mayoral administrations have carefully considered this issue, and each determined not to proceed with the designation process.’” LW! emails
June 30, 2005
Because of continuing litigation by LW!, the City commits not to authorize work under the DOB permits issued in May 2005 or to close on the sale of 2 Columbus Circle until July 15, 2005. The City later extends its commitment until September 2005.
July 4-11, 2005
New York magazine runs “The 2 Columbus Circle Game,” by Tom Wolfe, who refers to the FOILed emails between LPC Chair Tierney and Laurie Beckelman as the “Bob and Laurie Letters.” These emails “have suddenly converted the fate of 2 Columbus Circle…from a forgone conclusion—it’s a dead duck—into the hottest landmark battle since Jackie Onassis rode a train dubbed ‘The Landmark Express’ to Washington and saved Grand Central in 1978.”
New York prints a letter to the editor from MAD Director Holly Hotchner in response to Wolfe’s article: “It’s craziness indeed to use one’s bully pulpit to harm a project that could bring great benefits to the city and its citizens.”
Also in the July 4-11 issue, New York’s weekly “Approval Matrix” rates “2 Columbus Circle gets a boost from preservationists” (citing World Monument Fund listing) as “High-Brow/Brilliant.”
July 5, 2005
SHPO Commissioner Bernadette Castro sends a letter to LW! acknowledging receipt of the National Register nomination proposal for 2 Columbus Circle. She writes, “Although 2 Columbus Circle does appear to meet the criteria for listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, the draft nomination form, in its present state, fails to make a coherent argument for its exceptional significance.” Kathleen A. Howe of SHPO issues detailed comments on the nomination.
On July 8, 2005, Howe follows up with a letter to LW! containing feedback for revising the National Register nomination.
July 11, 2005
Seven preservation groups (DOCOMOMO, HDC, MAS, National Trust for Historic Preservation, New York Landmarks Conservancy, Preservation League of New York State and World Monuments Fund) co-sign a letter to Mayor Bloomberg and issue a press release regarding 2 Columbus Circle: “We regret that the debate over this controversy has become so prolonged and embittered. We believe it would be beneficial for all parties if the Commission would act to resolve this matter once and for all…”
On July 27, 2005, New York City Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo responds to the letter, stating, “While the Mayor appreciates your request that the building be preserved in its existing form, he has asked me to inform you that he will be unable to meet to discuss your concerns due, in part, to pending litigation that challenges [renovation plans.]” The letter also cites the 1996 LPC decision not to hold a public hearing on 2 Columbus Circle, reconfirming that the Commission’s decision has not changed.
July 12, 2005
Beth A. Cumming of SHPO issues a memo to the file, stating, “We have been notified that the state funding for this project has been withdrawn. As such there appears to be no Federal or State funding or permits at this time.”
July 14, 2005
LW! files for permission to appeal its lawsuit against Amanda Burden et.al. to the Court of Appeals. Permission is denied.
Over 100 people participate in the “People’s Hearing” for 2 Columbus Circle at the General Society for Mechanics and Tradesmen, offering testimony on why the building should, or should not, be designated as a landmark (AIA/NY President Rick Bell was the only speaker to testify against designation). Lined up at the front of the room are 11 empty chairs, one for each Landmarks Commissioner. Program Transcript Photos Testimony
On August 8, 2005, Robert A.M. Stern writes a letter to Rick Bell questioning his authority to speak on behalf of all of AIA’s members, of which Stern is one.
July 20, 2005
Preservationist Michael Henry Adams speaks on The Brian Lehrer Show in a segment called “Slamming Part Deux” in which he has 2 minutes to make his case about 2 Columbus Circle. Adams lays blame for the building’s peril with Mayor Bloomberg. In a critique, Daily News columnist Errol Lewis confesses that does not understand the connection between 2 Columbus Circle and the need to get rid of Bloomberg, although he is interested Adams’s invocation of the word “sell-out.” Lehrer responds that he wants to know more about why we should care about 2 Columbus Circle.
July 26, 2005
Responding to a letter dated July 21, 2005, from LW!, Bard Graduate Center President Susan Weber Soros writes, “I have long admired 2 Columbus Circle and have been an advocate for keeping it exactly as it is. I would definitely be interested in restoring and using the building for the Bard Graduate Center if the Museum of Arts and Design decides to drop out.” She attaches a copy of a letter that she sent to Mayor Bloomberg to the same effect. The Architect’s Newspaper
July 30, 2005
Former LPC Chair Sherida Paulsen publishes an Op-Ed in the New York Times called “The Black Hole of Columbus Circle.” Explaining why 2 Columbus Circle has not been scheduled for a public landmark designation hearing, she writes, “2 Columbus Circle simply doesn’t qualify. That is the professional judgment of the 19 people, myself included, who have served on the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission since 1996….On the historical, cultural and architectural merits, then, 2 Columbus Circle doesn’t make the cut for landmark status. But rather than accept this judgment, preservationists have accused the Landmarks Preservation Commission of ignoring their requests and concerns. But we’ve done no such thing. When we receive a request to evaluate a site, every one of our commissioners is required to consider the building’s importance, determine its probable status and recommend thethe review process that should follow. The review of 2 Columbus Circle has been conducted under the stewardship of three different chairmen and reflects the opinions of 19 commissioners, including six architects, four historians, two planners and three realtors….The building at 2 Columbus Circle was so unlikely to qualify for landmark status, however, that after careful consideration, the commission determined that it did not merit a public hearing. If we were to hold such hearings simply upon request—rather than reserving them for buildings that meet the criteria—they would become exercises in theater that would not fulfill the intention of the New York City landmarks law.”
August 9, 2005
Writing for the New York Times, David W. Dunlap reveals that “Unanimity on a Building Is a Façade, Insiders Say.” “But on Saturday, Roberta Brandes Gratz, one of several members who have joined the commission since the 1996 decision, said in a letter to The New York Times, ‘Neither I as an individual commissioner nor the current commission as a whole has rendered a “professional judgment” on whether there should be a hearing or a designation.’…Her letter suggested that at least some of the 11 commissioners favor a public hearing, as did telephone interviews yesterday with several members.” LW! emails
Former LPC Chair Beverly Moss Spatt also wrote a letter to the editor of the Times (published).
August 18, 2005
In a follow-up story for the New York Times, David W. Dunlap reports on 2 Columbus Circle’s “Growing Fan Club.” “The Landmarks Preservation Commission seems to have painted itself into a corner over 2 Columbus Circle. Its refusal to hold a public hearing on whether 2 Columbus Circle merits landmark status—to receive testimony pro and con, to debate the matter openly, to reach a decision with a vote recorded next to each of the 11 commissioners’ names—is based on a consensus reach nine years ago by its designation committee that the building did not possess enough historical or architectural significance to warrant a hearing.” However, “…a growing number of landmarks commissioners past and present are joining preservationists in urging the commission at least to hear the case for saving it.” Dunlap quotes an August 14, 2005, letter to Chair Tierney from Vincent Scully, the Sterling professor emeritus of art history at Yale University. “‘Something rather wonderful has occurred, by which the building, rarely anyone’s favorite in the past, is looking better every day…Its own integrity, its uniqueness, the indomitable determination to make a point that produced it, are coming to the fore and are powerfully affecting the way we see it…It is in fact becoming the icon it never was, one about which the city now cares a great deal.’”
Dunlap also refers to a bill recently introduced by City Council Member Bill Perkins, Intro. 705. LW! starts a coalition called “Citizens for a Responsive Landmarks Law,” signing on citywide preservation and civic groups in support of Intro. 705. (The bill is subsequently amended as Intro. 705-A.) LW! email
August 21, 2005
CBS Sunday Morning (television program) features 2 Columbus Circle and footage from the June 23, 2005, “Hands Around 2 Columbus Circle” rally. LW! email
August 22, 2005
The Committee for Environmentally Sound Development sends a questionnaire to “All Manhattan Borough Candidates” asking, “Do you support landmark status for 2 Columbus Circle,” and “Do you support the request that the Landmarks Commission holds public hearings to determine whether 2 Columbus Circle should be landmarked?” Westsider Advertisement
August 27, 2005
The Daily News publishes pro/con Op-Eds on 2 Columbus Circle. LW! email
“Landmark 2 Columbus Circle? No,” by Rolf Olhausen: “2 Columbus Circle is a sad, idiosyncratic and dysfunctional building.” He offers the ultimatum, “If MAD does not proceed with its plans, then 2 Columbus Circle will continue in its dormant, lifeless existence, waiting for a viable use that has eluded it all these years. This is a building with great potential public benefit, but not in its present state.”
“Landmark 2 Columbus Circle? Yes,” by Richard Moe: “[T]he building is admittedly quirky – but it’s also very much a product of its time, an important part of the fabric of our culture and, in the opinion of many critics, an icon of mid-century modernism….It would be a tragedy to lose places such as 2 Columbus Circle just as we are beginning to appreciate them.”
Superlawyers publication includes an article called “Historic Resonance” that features images of 2 Columbus Circle and starts off, “Perhaps no city in the country resonates with more passion over historic preservation than New York. Two Columbus Circle, a post-WWII modernist building adjacent to Central park, has become the poster child for the landmark preservation battle that has run throughout New York City the past few years….New Yorkers have loved to hate it.” The article discusses the LPC’s decision not to hear the building in 1996, the city’s sale of the building in 2002, and public concern about “decreasing amount of public input into LPC decisions.” Because the LPC is understaffed and underfunded, “public access to the LPC’s decisions has eroded, making it hard to discern how, when, and on what basis the LPC makes its decisions. As a result, a participatory decision-making process has become an administrative maze.” One response is the “Landmarks Hearing” bill (Intro. 705). “Will such a move clarify the murky waters or simply add another layer of bureaucratic muck to the historic-designation issue?”
The National Trust for Historic Preservation devotes its entire Fall 2005 issue of Forum Journal to “Preservationists Debate the Recent Past.” 2 Columbus Circle is featured on the cover, along with other modern buildings.
September 1, 2005
New York Supreme Court Justice Michael D. Stallman issues a decision dismissing LW’s lawsuit against LPC Chair Robert Tierney. Referring to the LPC’s decision not to hold a hearing on 2 Columbus Circle, he writes, “Taste is not justicible.” Yet Stallman writes in a footnote, “Without questioning the legality of the Commission’s exercise of discretion, the litigation and larger public debate raise serious questions about the wisdom of the Commisison’s internal, essentially private and effectively unreviewable decision that 2 Columbus Circle is not a worthy subject of a public hearing. Especially in retrospect, one may questions, as petitioners do, whether that exercise of discretion may have affected the Commission’s reputation as a guardian and arbiter of New York City’s architectural heritage and undermined public confidence in the process. Those issues are fundamentally ones of public process and agency culture, not issues of law, and cannot be decided by this Court.” However, he writes, “The proceeding raises novel questions of legal and public policy significance: Under what circumstances should a Landmarks commissioner recuse or be disqualified from decision-making? As a lesser alternative to disqualification, should a commissioner be restrained from contact with persons interested in a Commission decision? Petitioner unsuccessfully attempted to present those questions under commonly understood legal theories and tried to shoehorn them into the legally circumscribed form of an Article 78 proceeding. Because existing city law apparently does not consider these questions, it would seem that they are not now subject to judicial determination.”
On the same day, Stallman issues a negative decision in LW’s lawsuit against the Economic Development Corporation.
Press related to Stallman’s decisions: New York Post (September 2, 2005)
On September 30, 2005, LW! appeals Stallman’s decision in the matter of LW! v. Tierney.
September 7, 2005
The Architect’s Newspaper compares mayoral candidates’ positions on various issues. “Alongside traditionally central issues like education, public safety, and taxes, New Yorkers will be assessing candidates on their respective policies on development, housing, and transportation.” (Candidates include Fernando Ferrer, C. Virginia Fields, Gifford Miller and Anthony Weiner.)
Ferrer: “2 Columbus Circle might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but that building is one of the things that makes this city special, and it should be preserved.”
Miller: “Our landmarks law was a model when it was passed. But that was 40 years ago. Models need to be updated. There are issues that need to be addressed and I am open to hearing suggestions on how that could be done.”
Weiner: “My administration would be committed to having a broader discussion—having hearings, allowing experts [and] amateurs to express their views…To not even have a hearing on 2 Columbus Circle is mind-boggling.”
September 15, 2005
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports on the imminent demolition of Edward Durell Stone-designed Carlson Terrace at University of Arkansas. The article makes reference to the 2 Columbus Circle fight.
September 16, 2005
MAD Director Holly Hotchner is featured in a “Public Lives” column in the New York Times called “Taking a Chisel to 2 Columbus Circle, With No Regrets.” Regarding 2 Columbus Circle, she says, “It’s not like we’re going in there at midnight with a wrecking ball. This building has more than had its day in court.” “‘I’ve never heard of anyone who likes the building aesthetically…The word ‘ugly’ comes up again and again. I think nearly every would agree that 2 Columbus Circle is a tremendous eyesore; some of us call it the world’s greatest urinal at this point.” LW! email
September 19, 2005
City Hall issues a press release, “Mayor Bloomberg Announces the Reopening of Columbus Circle.”
September 20, 2005
A letter written by artist Chuck Close and co-signed by dozens of other artists and architects is sent to Mayor Bloomberg, calling on him to save “One of New York’s great monuments of 20th-century Modern design.” “We do not oppose the acquisition of 2 Columbus Circle by the Museum of Arts and Design. However, we believe the Museum is headed down the wrong road with its plan to re-skin the building and eliminate its distinctive façade.”
September 21, 2005
Decorative arts collectors Bruce Barnes and Joseph Cunningham send a letter to MAD’s board members, responding to the New York Times “Public Lives” piece. “How have you gone so wrong? We are suspicious of your leadership.” MAD “cynically allied itself with preservationist coalitions by promising to save the building” but never intended to. “At every turn, your leaders are undermining your own institution’s future.”
In Fiberarts magazine, artist Stanley Bulbach writes about preservation protests against MAD’s plans for 2 Columbus Circle, please raises ethical questions. “The Ethical Guidelines of 2000 of the American Association of Museums call for increased accountability and transparency by its members in their operations. And what is a museum’s primary purpose, if not to preserve?”
October 6, 2005
LW! organizes a lunchtime protest in front of the Center for Architecture (536 LaGuardia Place), the venue for a private reception celebrating the opening of the new Museum of Arts and Design. Opening LW! email
October 8, 2005
The New York Post reports on the official unveiling of MAD’s $60 million plans for 2 Columbus Circle, “a far cry from the gloomy, windowless Edward Durell Stone creation currently occupying that spot,” at the Center for Architecture.
Scaffolding begins going up around the building. Soon after, LW! mounts the 2 Columbus Circle “ShameCam,”a webcam positioned in an apartment window at 25 Central Park West with a view south towards 2 Columbus Circle. The “ShameCam” stays in operation until a new building under construction at 15 Central Park West blocks its view.
October 10, 2005
James Gardner writes in the New York Sun about 2 Columbus Circle, “There are good reasons to overhaul the existing building, most pertinently that it is largely unusable and impractical in its present form. That, however, is the only case that can be made for those who seem so eager to start anew. To argue, as Sherida Paulsen, former director of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, recently did, that the 1964 building is not important architecturally, that it is basically like any other building, is not so much a misdirected opinion as an error of fact. Nothing in the city, or anywhere else, looks quite like 2 Columbus Circle…It would also be nice if, in interviews, Mr. Cloepfil were not so cavalier in dismissing, even mocking New Yorkers who happen to care about their architectural heritage. Indeed, he might have made a stronger case if his own design were better. In a previous column I wrote in praise of one of his earlier renderings for the building, which had a suggestive diaphaneity about it. That, however, seems to have disappeared from the latest renderings, which strike me as less appealing than what they aspire to replace…It may work better in practice than in the renderings, but I have a sinking feeling that we are about the replace a Venetian palazzo with a paper bag.”
October 16, 2005
New York Times columnist Christopher Gray mulls the question, “Is Old Penn Station’s Killer Significant? Or Unforgivable?” He asks, “Are you exhausted by the drawn-out battle to preserve the architect Edward Durell Stone’s 1965 art museum at Columbus Circle? Well, if you couldn’t get your head around landmark protection for that Venetian-marble fantasy, you may gulp at the next threatened work of mid-20th-century architecture to be considered important”…the 1968 Madison Square Garden, featured among a list of significant modern buildings in an exhibition co-sponsored by DOCOMOMO and the World Monuments Fund at Columbia University’s Buell Center.
Gray quotes LW! Director Kate Wood: “I’m all for a public hearing for Madison Square Garden…It would tell us a lot about where we are in our ability to evaluate the architectural and historical significance of the recent past. The Landmarks Preservation Commission needs to embrace, not shy away from, this kind of discussion.”
October 20, 2005
In an article entitled “Landmark Lunacy,” New York Post columnist Steve Cuozzo responds to Wood’s statement on Madison Square Garden: “With that mind-boggling utterance, Wood voided whatever mirage of legitimacy existed to justify her organization’s many lawsuits to block the sale of 2 Columbus Circle…But Wood’s endorsement of public hearings before the Landmarks Preservation Commission on the Garden – a universally acknowledged affront to the eye, intellect and architecture – exposes the quest for public hearings on 2 Columbus Circle for what it is: a fraud in service of pathological preservationism alienated from the real world.”
October 21, 2005
New York Times reports, “2 Columbus Circle is Sold.” City’s closing on the sale of the property to MAD for $17 million sale to MAD “ends a three-year struggle.”
Other press on 2 Columbus Circle sale: New York Post (October 21, 2005) Curbed (October 21, 2005)
October 23, 2005
New York Times endorses Michael Bloomberg for mayor. “His greatest achievement has been to teach New Yorkers that good government is not a zero-sum game; that even in a city where every neighborhood, block and building jealously guards some ancient prerogative, change can make things better for everybody.” Bloomberg’s flaws include stubbornness against public opinion (e.g., West Side Stadium), which might be considered good or bad depending on what side one is on.
In the same issue, the Times brands Bloomberg’s tenure “The Arts Administration.”
“The administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has done more to promote and support the arts than any in a generation.”
November 4, 2005
LW! circulates a list of architects signed on to a letter from Chuck Close to Mayor Bloomberg in support of preserving 2 Columbus Circle. LW! email
November 14, 2005
New York City Council holds a public hearing on the “Landmarks Hearing Bill” (Intro. 705) introduced by Councilmember Bill Perkins in August 2005). Referring to the bill, New York Times architectural critic Nicolai Ouroussoff writes, “The implication is that the [Landmarks] commission cannot always be trusted to protect the public interest.” Ouroussoff recounts a history of how the Commission arrived at its current “sad reality,” that it “no longer seems willing to fulfill its role as a defender of the city’s architectural legacy. This is not solely the fault of its chairman, Robert B. Tierney, on whom much of the [2 Columbus Circle] controversy has focused. It has to do with a subtle but crucial shift in how the commission does business.” The “Perkins bill would shift the balance of power somewhat” and “add a dose of transparency to the commission’s decisionmaking process…But in the long run what is needed is a ruthless analysis of the landmark designation process.” Testimony. LW! emails
November 15, 2005
The New York Times reports on City Council’s hearing regarding the Perkins Bill, “Passion on Both Sides Of Landmark-Status Bill.” Robin Pogrebin writes, “The bill was introduced largely in response to controversy over 2 Columbus Circle.” Robert Kornfeld, Jr., an architect on the board of the Historic Districts Council is quoted in support of the bill: it is “desperately needed to bring checks and balances into the landmarking process.” Former LPC Chair (now Co-Chair of AIA/NY’s Historic Buildings Committee) Sherida Paulsen expresses opposition, saying that the “real issue” is “clarity of communication between a city agency and the citizens of New York.” LPC Counsel Mark Silberman testifies against the bill, stating that it “may run afoul” of City Charter’s limitations on the Council’s power. According to Silberman, the Perkins Bill has the “potential to significantly disrupt the commission’s ability to set priorities and meet is goals…The independence of the commission is a bedrock principle established in 1965. It should not be compromised.” The New York Landmarks Conservancy, MAS and the Real Estate Board of New York also raise difficulties with bill.
In response to the two previous Times articles, Erika Tarlin, board member of Save Fenway Park in Boston, writes in a letter to the editor, “Anyone who has ever worked to protect a building knows that the world of historic preservation is complex and at times its own worst enemy. We cannot save every building, nor should we. But every building deserves a public hearing.” Tarlin draws a comparison between Fenway Park, which was preserved, and Yankee Stadium, slated for demolition with no public discussion. “These battles don’t get won very often, but to be fought fairly is all that one care ask for. We did it, New York. So can you.”
November 18, 2005
New York Sun architectural critic Francis Morrone writes, “To use a cliché, there’s something rotten at the core of the Big Apple. And while that ‘something’ goes well beyond the chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, Robert Tierney, he certainly exemplifies it. His stern refusal to hold a hearing for 2 Columbus – a hearing that had professional support unprecedented in the history of landmarks preservation in New York – was a profound dereliction of his responsibility to the people of this city.” The LPC acts as though old buildings simply “get in the way,” as in the LPC’s decision to allow massive alterations to the front of the Brooklyn Museum. “Between that and the 2 Columbus Circle debacle, who needs a landmarks commission anyway?”
November 30, 2005
The Gothamist runs an interview with LW! Executive Director Kate Wood. She says, “The failure of the LPC to give 2 Columbus Circle due process indicates that something is deeply wrong with New York’s system for preserving its history. And because so much of New York is made up of historic neighborhoods, the LPC’s negligence is causing the character of our communities, including the Upper West Side, to erode.” Asked what message she would like to send to Mayor Bloomberg, she replied, “New York’s buildings, neighborhoods, public interiors and parks are its most abundant and accessible art forms. As the ‘Arts Mayor,’ Bloomberg should devote the next 4 years to strengthening the LPC. A great place to start is to give the LPC the budget and staff it needs to fulfill its mission.”
December 7, 2005
Architecture magazine reports, “…the impending remodel of [2 Columbus Circle] and its famous façade is a stake in the heart of preservationists, and even more troubling, public advocacy.” The author admits that he likes the planned Cloepfil redesign and believes that the building received consideration by the LPC under several changes in leadership. “But [the LPC] should also know when to listen. Architectural critics, academics, preservation groups, and past landmarks commissioners have called for a public hearing. There have been editorials, demonstrations, and rallies…When evidence like this and thoughtful calls for something as equitable as a public hearing are so bluntly dismissed, it makes one wonder what the real agenda is—and how many other buildings and neighborhoods could be lost to it.” Referring to the Perkins Bill, the author writes, “While probably too late to save 2 Columbus Circle, the bill promises to give communities more sway in landmark designations and to establish a clearly needed balance of power in the decision-making process.”
A tongue-in-cheek piece called “Landmarks Relocation” appears in “The Real Estate,” a column on the New York Observer’s website. Referring to the LPC’s decision to designate Seaman Cottage on Staten Island after it was moved, the article asserts the bright idea to “move” the Austin Nichols & Company Warehouse (a Cass Gilbert-designed warehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that had recently been designated by the LPC but overturned by the City Council) and 2 Columbus Circle.
December 25, 2005
New York Times architectural critic Nicolai Ouroussoff offers his take on the year’s architectural “Highs” and “Lows.” He praises the work of Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas, which suggests the willingness to explore architecture outside the “Modernist canon.” He continues, “The problem is how few people seem capable of such a generous view of history. Recent landmark preservation battles in New York suggest that the civic powers-that-be insist on defending a narrow view of the past and of Modernism in particular. That became apparent during the crusade to preserve Edward Durell Stone’s so-called lollipop building at 2 Columbus Circle, a landmark of late Modernism, when the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission refused to schedule a public hearing to consider its designation….This was an atrocious betrayal of the public trust.”
In another 2005 retrospective, Artnet.Com Magazine reports, “If you had to pick one word for 2005, it would be ‘cupidity,’ an ugly combination of avarice and ambition, especially when found at the very top of our most esteemed institutions.” The magazine cites the New York Public Library’s decision to auction off pieces from its art collection and the Metropolitan Museum’s run-ins with foreign governments over plundered artifacts. “And it does seem a shame that the Museum of Arts and Design took a backdoor route to get approval to destroy Edward Durell Stone’s delightful 1965 Moorish fancy on Columbus Circle, colluding with Landmarks Preservation Commission chairman Robert Tierney to avoid an official review. It’s not as if the design museum, in its exhibitions, has demonstrated what might be called good taste.”
December 2005/January 2006
A Dwell article on Edward Durell Stone highlights the A. Conger Goodyear House as a masterful work of the architect. An illustration depicts 2 Columbus Circle, with a caption describing MAD’s plans to alter the building.
January 8, 2006
Former New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp covers several full pages of the Arts section with an article that was years in the making, “The Secret History of 2 Columbus Circle.” In it, he describes an as-yet untrumpeted aspect of the building’s history and significance: its connection to New York’s gay culture and identity. “Henry Geldzahler, lacy underwear, swanky taste, Singapore slings. These are a few of the memories that didn’t get to be recollected at the public hearings that weren’t held to debate the value of 2 Columbus Circle, the white marble bonbon of a building that was not designated an official New York City landmark. And even if the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission had consented to hold hearings on the matter, many of the memories that might have weighed in favor of designation would still have gone unspoken. They were stored up by a generation of gay men who arrived in New York in the 1960’s and contributed substantially to those shifts in taste. And that generation, lost to AIDS, is no longer here to talk about them…No other building more fully embodied the emerging value of queerness in the New York of its day. If the Landmarks Commission could miss this significance, then it is reasonable to conclude that many dots in that chapter of the city’s social history have yet to be connected.” LW! email
LW! approaches the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center in Greenwich Village about the possibility of hosting a talk or panel with Muschamp discussing his article’s take 2 Columbus Circle, its significance and New York’s failure to preserve important, overlooked aspects of its cultural heritage. LW! also meets with New York State Senator Tom Duane to discuss the Muschamp piece. Discussions do not result in an event.
January 3, 2006
New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, denies LW’s appeal in the lawsuit against LPC Chair Robert Tierney et. al. LW! files for permission to appeal to the Court of Appeals on January 12, 2006. Permission is denied.
January 18, 2006
Robert B. Tierney is reappointed as Chair of the LPC. LW! email
The National Trust for Historic Preservation Forum News includes 2 Columbus Circle among recent “Tough Losses,” admitting defeat.
Crain’s New York reports on MAD’s victory over preservationists. Despite being “vilified” in some New York circles, MAD says the “silver lining” is “$5 million of free advertising.” According to Crain’s, “The organization paid a high price for its victory, though. The legal battles cost millions and delayed construction by two years. The project’s budget shot to $77 million from $50 million four years ago, mainly because of a rise in labor costs.”
March 22, 2006
In “The Museum of Arts and Design Prepares for Its New Home,” The New York Times offers a retrospective on the preservation battle over 2 Columbus Circle. “Jerome A. Chazen, the museum’s chairman emeritus, said that during a nearly three-year fight with preservationists – including five lawsuits and two appeals – construction costs rose to $40 million from $26 million because of design refinements and an increase in the cost of materials. The museum raised more than $50 million in a three-year campaign, but says it will need $65 million to support enhancements to the building’s design and increase the endowment.” “Mr. Chazen said that the board had held fast in its pursuit of the building. ‘It’s been a real battle, and it’s kind of too bad that it happened,’ he said. ‘We were really into the thing. There was kind of no turning back.’” “Ms. Hotchner, who was trained as a conservator, said she was generally sympathetic to preservationist concerns – just not this one. ‘A building is not a façade; a building is not a skin,’ she said. ‘The issue is this building never worked. The building has been empty much more than occupied.’”
April 8, 2006
New York Times reporter David Dunlap covers MAD’s placement of billboard-sized advertisements on the scaffolding surrounding 2 Columbus Circle. He quotes LW! Executive Director Kate Wood, “This institution supposedly dedicated to culture and stewardship destroyed the most important work of art in its collection. Then they went and replaced it with a gigantic billboard, which they didn’t even bother getting legal permits for.”
April 15, 2006
In the New York Times, David Dunlap reports, “Big ‘Da Vinci Code’ Billboard Removed at Columbus Circle” after MAD received four violations from the Department of Buildings.
Departures magazine features Robert A.M. Stern offering the “last word” on the 2 Columbus Circle debate. Stern argues for the building’s architectural significance and the need for discussion and debate about the kinds of resources we preserve for the future.
The DOCOMOMO NY/Tri-State newsletter runs a piece, “2 Columbus Circle: The Goodbye Photos.” World Monuments Fund also documented the building photographically before it was altered.
Two significant books cite the campaign to save 2 Columbus Circle a milestone in New York City’s preservation history: New York 2000: Architecture and Urbanism from the Bicentennial to the Millennium by Robert A.M. Stern, David Fishman and Jacob Tilove (The Monacelli Press, November 2006) and Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect a City’s Landmarks by Anthony C. Wood (a project of the New York Preservation Archive Project, published by Routledge Press, October 2007). 2 Columbus Circle comes up repeatedly in lectures and panel discussions related to the books.
January 26, 2007
A New York Times “Public Lives” column features LPC Chair Robert B. Tierney. “[I]t was on Mr. Tierney’s watch that no additional public hearing was convened in response to the protective flurry, and irate lawsuits, that peaked in 2005 when the so-called Lollipop Building…was sold.” The article notes “Mr. Tierney’s ties to city government and friendship with deputy mayor/mayoral confidante Patricia E. Harris, who works with the commission, hark back to the late 1970s, when he because counsel to Mayor Edward I. Koch. Mr. Tierney was appointed commission chairman by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2003 despite his lack of a formal education in architecture or urban planning.”
March 7, 2007
According to the Eavesdrop gossip column in The Architect’s Newspaper, at a Columbia University symposium on Robert A.M. Stern’s recently released book, New York 2000, “Tom Wolfe shocked everyone in the audience (including Suzanne Stephens, Mike Wallace, and Kenneth Jackson) by proclaiming that the Whitney should move “‘out of the Breuer Bunker and into the Huntington Hartford building. Then you could demolish the Brutalist, WWI marchine-gun turret and sell the land to a developer!’ This, from the man who wrote despairingly of the alleged death of the Landmarks Commission in a recent New York Times Op-ed, lamented ripping the face off Edward Durell Stone’s 2 Columbus Circle for the Museum of Arts & Design. Little did Wolfe know that tone of the ‘walking dead,’ landmarks commissioner Margery Perlmutter, was very much alive a few rows away, listening with rapt attention and taking careful notes.” The article also reminds readers, “Speaking of the devil, MAD architect Brad Cloepfil, who was allowed to brazenly demolish Ed Stone’s façade without so much as a hearing at the LPC, was seen…”
April 27, 2007
An interview with Brad Cloepfil appears in The Oregonian. “I was unconvinced by any of Tom Wolfe’s hyperventilating about the buidling’s stylistic importance. But Herbert Muschamp’s New York Times piece arguing for its significance as an important New York gay cultural icon was novel—and pretty convincing,” says the interviewer. “There was truth in that. He tends to exaggerate, but he raised way more important issues than anybody trying to establish the building as critically important architecture. Cultural significance is a whole realm of preservation that needs to be talked about more,” replies Cloepfil.
April 14, 2008
New York magazine perpetuates the discussion of 2 Columbus Circle with an article entitled, “Wolfe Whiffed On Lollipop Defense.” Architect Brad Cloepfil “is still smarting over a pair of Times op-eds Tom Wolfe wrote in 2003 attacking the project.”
April 18, 2008
New York Times reporter David Dunlap writes a piece for the Times’ City Room blog (“A New Face on Columbus Circle”), generating scores of comments. On May 2, 2008, the Times prints a story in The Metro Section comparing Edward Durell Stone’s original design for 2 Columbus Circle to Brad Cloepfil’s new design. Dunlap refers to blog comments, including one that discerned the word “HE” in the new façade. “It is the inadvertent result of a late design revision calling for a band of glass where a restaurant will be…Once one sees it as a letter form, it is hard to ignore.”
Assembled by Kate Wood for the New York Preservation Archive Project, 2007-8
"Hello, Columbus," by Paul Goldberger. The New Yorker, August 25, 2008
"Museum Date." New York Magazine, September 7, 2008
"Zigzag Glass Ribbon Lights Up Lollipop Museum of Art and Design," by James S. Russell. Bloomberg.com, September 9, 2008
"New York Facade Spells Trouble," by Christopher Hawthorne. Los Angeles Times, September 25, 2008
"Bring Back the Venetian Lollipops," by James Gardner. The New York Sun, September 25, 2008
"New Face, Renewed Mission," by Nicolai Ouroussoff. The New York Times, September 25, 2008
"'Lollipop Building' at New York's Columbus Circle Sweetly, but Imperfectly Transformed into Museum of Arts and Design." Chicago Tribune, September 26, 2008
"A Surprising Package," by Robert Campbell. The Boston Globe, September 28, 2008
"New Home of New York City's Museum of Arts and Design Opens," by Deepti Hajela. The Canadian Press, September 28, 2008
"A Halfhearted Fare-Thee-Well to a Middling Design," by Philip Kennicott. The Washington Post, September 28, 2008
"Resurrection of a Museum," by Ariella Budick. Financial Times, September 29, 2008
"Northwest Architect Brad Cloepfil Feels the Heat in NYC," by Sheila Farr. The Seattle Times, October 12, 2008