We support the application of the Frick Collection before the Landmarks Preservation Commission


June 18, 2018


Mr. Fred Bland

Interim Chair

Landmarks Preservation Commission


Mr. Bland:


The City Club of New York is pleased to support the application of the Frick Collection before the Landmarks Preservation Commission. We find the proposed design for expansion and new construction to be an elegant solution to the museum’s programmatic needs.


Many New Yorkers treasure this museum. We recognize it a jewel, and are wary of any change that might compromise the visitor experience. The proposed design promises to enhance the current functions of the Frick and does not seek to introduce new programmatic elements.


We especially note how the addition will enhance the library, providing space both for its renowned holdings and new library functions. The design promises to significantly improve the experience of library users.


While we approve of this thoughtful design in its massing, scale, and materials, we do have a few concerns.


In particular, we ask that the architects continue to refine the modernist connection between the two buildings in the expansion: it seems that the current design tries to use the window proportions in the Hope wing as a basis for what should be a hyphen in a different language, and this contradiction might be the reason this element does not feel quite right. While we are pleased that the garden is being preserved, there are questions about the greenery abutting the new addition. We trust that the addition built to the interior wall of this outdoor room will enhance and not detract from its verdant charm.


The interior is outside the scope of this application, but we take this opportunity to request that the design of the new public spaces be refined to feel more like the Frick. Yes, the entry must serve visitors, but the current iteration seems rather bland. Mr. Frick would surely demand more.


The only question before the Commission is whether this proposal is “appropriate.” We believe it is, but more than that, we believe that it will serve the needs of this museum for generations to come and still preserve the Frick we enjoy and respect.


Jeffrey Kroessler

Chair, Preservation Committee

The City Club of New York

CityLand: Designation Should Not Mean Demolition

There’s a new post at CityLand regarding the AT&T Building at 550 Madison Avenue and how, to the dismay of the architectural and preservation communities, the Commission has declined to include the lobby in the Landmarks Preservation designation.  Here’s a clip:


The Commission has offered its reasons for rejecting out of hand the AT&T lobby. None is convincing. Some are untrue.


To be clear: the lobby is just as designed by Johnson and Burgee. When the building opened, the lobby featured as its centerpiece “Spirit of Communication,” better known a “Golden Boy.” The 24-foot statue had stood atop the company’s old headquarters downtown at 195 Broadway. In 1992, AT&T sold the building at 550 Madison to SONY and removed the piece to its new suburban campus in New Jersey. The statue graced the lobby for only 8 years.


Read the full post here.


550 Madison Avenue July2015, from Wikipedia

Paying for transit

The governor is getting behind tax increment financing for transit.
Note today’s article, an important reference article for our February 8 infrastructure meeting.


Presentation to the Urban Design Committee

George Janes met with the City Club Urban Design Committee this morning to discuss the reasons for the proliferation of super tall buildings and what might help to control them.  Slides of his presentation are attached (6.9 MB pdf), and we welcome further comments.





My City Club colleague John West distributed this, December 14, New York Times article on Friday.  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/14/nyregion/mta-funding-real-estate-value-capture.html


It argues that the city’s construction of new mass transit lines, with public funds or debt, is a subsidy to property owners, who should instead be contributing.  For the first time, at a recent MTA board meeting, Carl Weisbrod, board member and former head of the City Planning Commission, argued that “some of the cost should be paid by the real estate development that new service will make possible.”  The MTA will now ask for legislation to make this “value capture” possible.



(Transit oriented development of the early 20th century,  108th Street and Broadway.)

Linking real estate development to transit charges is not a new concept.  As part of the recent Midtown East rezoning, builders of new high-rise office towers, are required to pay for improvements to designated subway stations.


These contributions may or may not be adequate, and it may or may not be appropriate to legislate some form of “value capture” tax as new transit improvements are planned.  But it is illegitimate to ask the public, or any particular constituency, be they riders or real estate owners, to stretch their pocket books unless the system is also held accountable for its costs.


A simple Google search found three articles that detailed how expensive our transit system has become.


Vox–January 2017–This article reports that the second phase of the Second Avenue subway is budgeted at $6 billion, or $2.2 billion per kilometer, with only $1 billion allocated the MTA’s capital budget.  Yet the $1billion should be adequate, with Berlin, Paris and Copenhagen subways budgeted at respectively $250 million, $230 million and $260 million per kilometer.  Labor costs are only part of the problem, as there are certainly strong unions in western Europe. The size of the stations and the depth of the subway line also drive up costs.   https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/1/1/14112776/new-york-second-avenue-subway-phase-2


Pedestrian Observations—July 2017—Vox reporting relies in part on an article in this public transit blog, written by Alon Levy.  It compares the per kilometer costs of NYC transit projects with those in other countries.  The results are shockingly negative for New York, even when compared to transit construction costs in London and Amsterdam.  Phase 1 of the Second Avenue subway is cited at $1.7 billion, with a London project cited at $450 million per kilometer and an Amsterdam project cited at $410 million per kilometer.  https://pedestrianobservations.com/2011/05/16/us-rail-construction-costs/


Curbed—October 2017—This analysis, also by Alon Levy, compares NYC subway’s operating costs to those in other cities.  New York subway’s hourly and per mile costs are exceeded by our PATH system and by the hourly cost of Los Angeles Metro Rail.  They are comparable to the hourly and per mile costs of the Boston T, but exceed cited costs in other cities, including  in western Europe. https://ny.curbed.com/2017/10/13/16455880/new-york-subway-mta-operating-cost-analysis