Eavesdrop Issue 12_07.13.2005
MORE ON COLUMBUSGATE
You may have heard about the rather chummy e-mail exchanges between NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission chair Robert Tierney and Laurie Beckelman, who represents the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), about the museum’s plan to take over and unrecognizably alter 2 Columbus Circle. (She’s a former Landmarks Commission chair herself.) Several snippets from the e-mails—like one in which Tierney tells Beckelman, “Let me know how I can help on the trouble ahead”—have been published in both The New York Times and New York magazine. They were obtained by the preservationist group Landmark West under the Freedom of Information Act and easily lead one to think that Tierney, who has refused to even call a hearing to designate (and thus preserve) the original Edward Durell Stone structure, is in cahoots with MAD. Some might call that a conflict of interest.
And so, as a public service, we’d like to refer you to www.landmarkwest.org, where you can see transcripts of the lot. Some of our favorites? There’s one in which Tierney forwards to Beckelman a letter from an opponent of the MAD plan (get it? MAD plan?) along with the note “Do you want to see some, all, or any of these letters?” “I would really appreciate seeing all of them,” Beckelman replied. On May 8, 2003, before Community Board 5’s final vote to approve the sale of the building to the museum, Tierney wrote to Beckelman, “Good luck tonight.” And “Call anytime…in office now,” he later offered. Cute, huh? As it happens, we hear Landmark West, which has filed a lawsuit under these new circumstances, has retained the legal services of Whitney North Seymour, Jr. He’s the former U.S. attorney who in 1971 tried to block publication of the Pentagon Papers. Welcome to the other side.
THE NYU BRAND: DOWDY
New York University may finally be discovering what everyone else has known forever: Its facilities are pretty ugly. So could the institution, which continues to produce more dogs than a breeding kennel, actually be building something that doesn’t, as one architect recently put it, “look like an abortion”? Kinda sorta. We hear the university’s Stern School of Business is planning a bit of a makeover. “They realized that in order to remain competitive among business schools, they needed to pay attention to their physical image [no kidding!],” says one source, referring to Stern’s homely complex of buildings on West Fourth Street, the latest of which was completed in only 1993. Nevertheless, only baby steps are being taken for what requires a giant leap: The proposed renovations, being designed by Margaret Helfand of Helfand Architecture, would largely be limited to a new entrance and lobbies, lounges, and other interior public spaces. But, hey, it’s a start.
A MEMORIAL TEAM SPIN-OUT
When it comes to the Ground Zero memorial, Michael Arad is definitely in the driver’s seat. Arad, who designed its competition-winning scheme, recently won a MINI Cooper at the AIA convention in Las Vegas. But when we heard rumors that landscape architect Peter Walker, who has also been brought into the memorial project, was claiming the car for himself, we braced for yet another power struggle. However, “Not true,” Arad told us, joking that Walker has so far resisted steering the wheel from the passenger’s seat.