The latest news on New York architecture.


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Post Sandy Assistance

Dear Clients, Business Associates, and Friends:   I am writing with the hope that you and your families are safe and dry, and that power has been restored to your homes and offices after our two most recent storms.  Our offices were without power for a week, a minor inconvenience compared to what many suffered throughout our region.  We are lucky enough to be back up and running, and we remain on call to help with any recovery effort you may require at this time.  Our architects, staff, and network of trusted and reliable contractors and trade professionals are available to assist you with any emergency property assessments and repairs resulting from the strong winds and flooding sustained in our area, including façade damage, roof damage, or any other building related issues that you may be faced with at this time.  If we can be of any assistance, please let us know. We can be reached at our offices, (212) 995-2464 or send email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Sincerely,  Scott Henson 
August 08, 2012 01:30PM   1155-1205 Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint Nearly all of Brooklyn’s large manufacturers have left the borough, chasing locations with less regulation, and cheaper labor and real estate. Sometimes, the massive warehouses and factories they leave behind are renovated into luxury apartments, as will be the case at the former Domino Sugar factory. But, according to the New York Times, there is a flowering niche manufacturing industry in Brooklyn that is keeping some of these forgotten buildings in their original industrial intent. The scale of the manufacturing in Brooklyn’s industrial buildings has become smaller and more specialized. One building, at 1205 Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, has been divided into more than a dozen micro-factories, producing everything from specialty metal and wood pieces to artisanal glass. The small scale gives entrepreneurs an affordable alternative to outsourcing their product’s manufacture, keeping production costs low. “We think this is the future of urban manufacturing,” Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center CEO Brian Coleman, said. “There is a highly skilled work force making products for local consumption.” However these tiny factories are not employing anywhere near the number of New Yorkers the traditional factories employed. In 2011 Brooklyn businesses averaged 11.2 workers per business in 2011. The average in 2000 was 16.8 workers. [NYT] – Christopher Cameron Go to THE REAL DEAL
May 01, 2012 04:30PM By Katherine Clarke
From left: City Council member Leroy Comrie, who chairs the City Council's land use committee, Landmarks Preservation Commission Chairman Robert Tierney and Simeon Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council
The New York City Council is set to review a package of 10 bills relating to the workings of the Landmarks Preservation Commission tomorrow morning, according to the council’s website, some of which have garnered significant support from the Real Estate Board of New York but elicited concern from preservation groups. A few of the bills seek to impose a timeline on the LPC’s deliberation of potential landmarks and historic districts, including one that introduces a time limit of 180 days for LPC to respond to requests for evaluation and another that institutes a fixed deadline of 33 months for landmark and historic district designations. Detractors such as Simeon Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council said the restrictions are “almost ensured to create paralysis at the agency.” It’s not all bad, the Historic Districts Council said. If passed, three of the bills would empower LPC to intercede in cases where unused Department of Buildings permits are still active on landmark buildings and require better monitoring of construction near landmarked buildings — both bills supported by the Historic Districts Council. But other bills, which address the timeline for designation, mandate a publicly accessible online database of requests for evaluation and allow for replacement materials on landmark buildings to be those present at time of designation, have caused some discontent within the preservationist community. “If these bills are adopted in tandem as written, they would risk overwhelming the LPC’s scant resources and could result in thousands of potential buildings in dozens of historic districts being rejected,” Bankoff said in an email blast to members of the Historic Districts Council yesterday. He argued that the success of the bills “would result in thousands of buildings being permanently prevented from becoming landmarks based on a mandated schedule rather than merit.” A spokesperson for the Real Estate Board of New York, which supports a selection of the bills, argued that the proposals, including one which mandates the City Planning Commission to analyze the potential economic impact of designation on the development potential of proposed landmarks, are necessary in order to prevent the LPC from becoming a tool for preservationists in regards to planning. Preservationists are inclined to use the bill to prevent new development in prized areas, he said, as opposed to protecting existing beauty or history. “The landmarks laws are in place to protect cultural heritage, but we’ve been seeing [the landmarking] of properties of questionable merit,” said Michael Slattery, a senior vice president at REBNY, referencing the recent designation of an “unexceptional” gas station at West Houston and Lafayette streets. “[The laws] are being exploited by the preservationist community. It seems clear to us that planning agendas have been directing [the activities of Landmarks.]” In a statement issued earlier this month to the New York Post, Landmarks spokesperson Elisabeth de Bourbon defended the move to designate the gas station: “As the gateway to Soho, West Houston Street was determined to be so critical to its character that the vacant lots there… ought to be under [LPC's] purview,” she said. The replacement materials bill proposes revoking an LPC requirement stipulating that building owners making changes to their properties use historically appropriate materials even when those materials were not in place at the time the owner purchased the building. It has been particular contentious, sources said. Preservationists argue it undermines the basic benefit of LPC oversight in helping to gradually return areas to their historic condition, while building owners and some members of REBNY contend that the provision currently in place makes it too costly for owners to renovate or alter their properties. While De Bourbon declined to comment on the bills pre-hearing, she said the commission would discuss the merits of the legislation at tomorrow’s event. Meanwhile, City Council member Leroy Comrie, who chairs the Council’s land use committee, did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
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Penney shines image with Lafayette lease

Last Updated: 12:24 PM, May 2, 2012 Posted: 11:50 PM, May 1, 2012   Lois Weiss BETWEEN THE BRICKS: EXCLUSIVE JCPenney just got a fair and square deal of its own with a lease for all 130,000 square feet of 200 Lafayette St. at Broome Street. The move is designed to attract a hip workforce and continue the corporate culture shake-up under relatively new CEO and former Apple executive Ron Johnson. “They will build out a spectacular rooftop deck,” said our SoHo spy. The fate of the 11,500-square-foot retail space being marketed by Susan Kurland of CBRE is still under discussion. A CapitalOne branch is in the building, which is otherwise vacant and being renovated. Kurland did not return calls for comment, although she worked on the office deal along with leasing agents David Falk, Jason Greenstein and Daniel Levine of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, who also declined comment through a spokeswoman. The SoHo building was snapped up by Jared Kushner and CIM Group in January for $50 million from John Zaccaro, who was the husband of the late vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro. Marketing brochures say the new owners are doling out $30 million more to upgrade every corner of the seven-story building and its numerous arched windows. Kushner and CIM did not return calls for comment, and JCP declined comment via e-mail. While others saw residential condos, Kushner, from his experience with the nearby Puck Building, had an eye on renovating the loft building and renting updated offices to the techies being drawn to Midtown South. Indeed, Falk, who spoke at Bisnow’s Silicon Alley Real Estate Summit yesterday without revealing the tenant, said they were conducting about seven space tours a week before a lease went out for the entire building. Sources said the fully signed 15-year lease took just 45 days to complete and had an asking rent of about $68 a square foot. The net effective rent will be less as Penney will be responsible for all expenses, including property taxes that are running now at about $280,000 a year. Among the companies that kicked the sandy-colored bricks were Restoration Hardware, Facebook, Armani and ad agency Droga5, which has 23,000 square feet at 400 Lafayette St. and is growing rapidly. Penney was headquartered in New York from 1914 until they fled to Dallas in 1987, and sold their 1.5 million square-foot tower at 1301 Sixth Ave. Go to New York Post  
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Best-Kept Homes

Taking Guardianship of a Historic Home

By Iyna Bort Caruso for Sotheby's International Realty Entering a home from a bygone era is like crossing a threshold in time. “Historic residences are profound works of both art and craft,” says Katherine Malone-France, director of outreach, education and support at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C. “They tell us a lot about ourselves, what people liked, what was important to them and how their lives were structured.” Across the board and around the globe, buyers have long been drawn to the pleasures of owning a moment in time. Not every older home can measure up. Only those deemed to have historical, cultural or aesthetic value are eligible for special designation. That “value” can be based on architecture, of course, but it can also be tied to an event associated with the home or to an individual who once lived there. More than anything, owners of historic homes buy for love. Love of the artisanship, architectural details and even the quirks. Still, it’s a smart investment. A landmark plaque on a residence increases property value. It assures buyers the qualities that attracted them to the home in the first place will endure over time. What’s more, “historic homes are incredibly sturdy and solidly built,” says Malone-France. “They have so many more hand-driven fasteners, they contain woods that are no longer available to us but were specifically selected because of their strength and properties for different elements, whether as rafters or floor joists. They were built to breath, to adapt, to last.” Yes, there are some unconventional layouts in older homes and, yes, owners must follow certain prescribed guidelines when making changes or improvements. That comes with the territory. Preservation guidelines are intended to safeguard character-defining elements and protect against inappropriate alterations. Owners are tasked with keeping the structure in good repair and obtaining prior approval before performing work. Based on the governing body, the guidelines can be as specific as the choice of paint colors and the selection of foliage. Would-be buyers are sometimes intimidated by the prospect, feeling they may be required to spend exorbitantly on the maintenance of a landmarked home. Not so, says Malone-France. “The best preservation work is often the most economical. You basically strengthen the places that need to be strengthened and make sure the exterior envelope is solid. It doesn’t have to be a tremendously expensive or invasive process.” Historical preservation organizations are a good source for architect, contractor and artisan referrals. Eran Chen is the founder and creative director of ODA–Architecture in New York, a firm with an extensive portfolio of historic projects. He considers the city’s preservation commission a partner in the design. The firm worked on a Union Square condominium building discovered to have been designed for Tiffany & Company in the late 19th century. Encased—and forgotten—behind brick walls were beautiful cast-iron arches. That finding “changed everything” about the development of the project, Chen says. “There’s always a lot of discovery,” he says. “The process is full of surprises. In some old structures, there are really treasures hidden in the walls and in the floors.” There are historic homes and then there are homes located in historic districts like the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego, Calif., and the French Quarter of New Orleans, La. In New York City alone, there are dozens of historic districts. Louise Beit of Sotheby’s International Realty in New York frequently handles properties with landmark designation. The homes are typically located on gracious, tree-lined streets. Many were designed by prominent architects of the 1920s. “They are a fabulous investment,” Beit says. “They go up in value exponentially.” While buyers don’t necessarily seek out landmarked properties, she says they consider it a bonus when a home they love happens to be designated as one. It means that a governing entity, in this case the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, is looking out for the property’s—and neighborhood’s—best long-term interests. “Buyers can be assured the residence will always be saleable and in excellent architectural and aesthetic taste.” Most countries have programs intended to protect buildings of architectural or historic distinction. Like the U.S., homes of exceptional interest in Mexico, for instance, have registries at the federal, state and local municipal levels. Residences in historic districts such as Mexico City’s downtown Zócalo neighborhood, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mérida and Querétaro are in especially high demand, says Graciela Zamudio Conde of Guadalajara Sotheby’s International Realty in Mexico. Read more...  
Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times
Derrick Taitt and his neighbors tried to save the graffiti-covered building at 58 East 126th Street.
Published: April 15, 2012
Gentrification, or at the very least prettification, has reshaped block after block in Harlem, but it has not fully arrived at East 126th Street between Madison and Park Avenues.
There, handsome rows of century-and-a-half-old brownstones line the north and south sides of the street, just as they do one block west, on a pristine tree-lined stretch where homeowners keep polished doorknobs and spotless front stoops. But along East 126th Street, vacant buildings are interspersed among the inhabited ones. Their windows are boarded up or bricked over with cinder blocks. Chicken wire encircles a couple of the front stoops. One brownstone is fronted by ribbons of razor wire, though neighbors said people still lived there legally, they just went in through the back. In the middle of the block, on the south side, sits No. 58, scrawled over with graffiti, stricken with a caving roof and collapsing floors, and deemed structurally unsound. The building is slated for demolition this month by the city, despite a nearby resident’s efforts to buy it and neighbors’ laments that the seamless row of houses will be punched through with a gap-tooth hole. “Historical buildings should be saved,” said Michael Henry Adams, an architectural historian and the author of “Harlem: Lost and Found.” “If a property is more valuable with its historic resources intact,” he said, “why would you let it get to a state where the only recourse is to demolish it?” No. 58 has not been designated a city landmark, but, according to Mr. Adams, it has the potential to be, sitting on a brownstone block comparable to others with historical designations. It is also about a block and half from the former home of the poet Langston Hughes, 20 East 127th Street, which is a city landmark. Despite a strong overall community sentiment that city money should go to restoring such buildings before they degenerate and become structurally dangerous, the city says it is not in the business of rescuing unsound, privately owned buildings. “It’s always the private property owner’s responsibility to maintain the property,” said Eric Bederman, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which is overseeing the demolition. “It is a critical part of what being a responsible owner is about.” Property records show a troubled financial history for No. 58, which, according to Mr. Adams, was most likely built in the late 1860s for upper middle class whites. It was advertised for a sheriff’s sale in 1970, acquired by the city in 1980 through a tax foreclosure, sold at public auction two years later, and in 2006, was bought for $950,000 by a corporation called Parade Place LLC, of Brooklyn. Messages left with Saadia Shapiro, who is listed in public records as the corporation’s managing member, were not returned. One neighbor, Derrick Taitt, who owns a brownstone on the north side of the street, said that No. 58 had sat empty for over two decades. In recent years, neighbors began calling the city’s 311 line as conditions deteriorated. Debris was falling. The roof was collapsing. Squatters were sneaking in and out of a large hole in the street level wall. “It’s gotten worse in the last eight or nine months; street dwellers have been coming in,” said Michael Peterson, 44, who lives with his family in the top floor of No. 56, next door. “All of us collectively have been complaining.” The brownstone on the other side of Mr. Peterson’s building is also vacant, which is troubling to him and his neighbors. No. 52-54, a double-wide, has long been a gathering point for vagrants, drug users and prostitutes, Mr. Peterson said. He and other neighbors recently bought supplies from a hardware shop and hammered together a wooden barrier with nails sticking out of the top to block the basement stairwell. They also lined the front fence with chicken wire. “Prior to the sealing, it was really bad,” he said. “But we shouldn’t have to do that.” (According to property records, the building is owned by the William M. James Housing Development Fund Corp. Reached by phone, Mr. James, who is 96 and a former minister at Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church, across the street, said that there were plans to convert the building into a seniors’ center). But though the buildings on either side have vexed Mr. Peterson, he does not want to see them torn down. “It’s just going to bring in more issues,” he said. Mr. Taitt, who said he was on the board of the Community Association of the East Harlem Triangle, said he had tried repeatedly to contact the owner of No. 58 to make offers on the place, sending certified letters that got no reply. “Another neighbor said, ‘Why don’t we get together and buy it?’ ” Mr. Taitt said. “The owner doesn’t want to talk.” After inspections by the city departments of housing and buildings found further problems at No. 58 — a teetering rear brick wall, more roof cave-ins, a collapsed floor — they issued a declaration to demolish in late March. A spokesman for the housing department said that demolition work would most likely begin in two weeks, and that the property owner would be billed. Neighbors suspect, warily, that after the building is torn down, a bland, boxlike structure will rise in its place: the property owners may build whatever they please, so long as they comply with zoning requirements and the building code. Already, neighbors are girding for the loss. “These buildings have personality,” said E. Wayne Tyree, 70, a poet who lives nearby. “This will change the whole beauty of the thing.”
Jack Begg contributed reporting.
A version of this article appeared in print on April 16, 2012, on page A17 of the New York edition with the headline: On Block in Harlem, Neighbors’ Push for Restoration Will End in Demolition.
By:Edward Keegan
Frank Lloyd Wright’s campus at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Fla.—the largest single collection of Wright buildings in the world—is just one of a baker’s dozen of new National Historic Landmarks designated earlier this week by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
  Other architecturally significant structures that made the distinguished list include the Romanesque Revival-styleGardner Earl Memorial Chapel and Crematorium in Troy, N.Y., and the Braddock Carnegie Library in Braddock, Penn., which is the oldest intact library funded by Andrew Carnegie.   Two colonial-era projects in Virginia also made the cut. St. Peter’s Parish Church in New Kent County, Va., exemplifiesearly 18th-century brick architecture in the Chesapeake Region. Eyre Hall in Northampton County, Va.—“a rare vernacular architectural ensemble and rural landscape of the Colonial and early Federal periods,” according to the Interior Department’s press release—was landmarked for its historical significance as a “significant physical remnant of Chesapeake society” whose economic and social reliance was based on slavery.   The National Historic Landmark program was established in 1935 and is administered by the National Park Service. “These new listings will join approximately 2,500 other sites in the National Historic Landmark Program,” National Park Service director Jonathan B. Jarvis says. “These places not only showcase our rich and complex history—from prehistoric time right up to the modern era—but they help drive tourism and boost local economies.”   The 13 new National Historic Landmarks Montauk Point Lighthouse (Long Island, N.Y.) Town Hall (New York, N.Y.) Destroyer escort USS Slater (Albany, N.Y.) Gardner Earl Memorial Chapel and Crematorium (Troy, N.Y.) Braddock Carnegie Library (Braddock, Pa.) Fort Apache and Theodore Roosevelt School (Fort Apache, Ariz.) Deer Medicine Rocks (Rosebud County, Mont.) Akima Pinšiwa Awiiki (Fort Wayne, Ind.) St. Peter’s Parish Church (New Kent County, Va.) Eyre Hall (Northampton County, Va.) Meadow Brook Hall (Rochester, Mich.) The campus of Florida Southern College (Lakeland, Fla.) The Carrizo Plain Archeological District (San Luis Obispo County, Calif.)


Contact: Adam Fetcher, (DOI) 202-208-6416 David Barna, (NPS) 202-208-6843 Hampton Tucker, (NPS) 202- 354-2067
  WASHINGTON -- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced $46.9 million in historic preservation grants to the 50 States, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Territories, and three affiliated Pacific island states. The grants will enable the states to preserve and protect our nation’s historic sites without expending tax dollars. “National Preservation Grants invest revenue from oil and gas development into telling the story of America by enabling the people of each state and territory the opportunity to preserve the places that are unique to their heritage,” Secretary Salazar said. “These grants leverage private investments in historic preservation activities and help spur tourism, create jobs, and build pride in communities across the nation.” The Historic Preservation Fund is supported by revenue from federal oil leases on the Outer Continental Shelf. The National Park Service administers the fund and uses the majority of appropriated funds to distribute matching grants to State and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers. “Throughout the country, historic preservation fund grants and other federal historic preservation programs help sustain and revitalize communities,” Director of the National Park Service Jonathan B. Jarvis said. “Historic preservation promotes heritage tourism and can transform under-utilized and often-vacant historic buildings into revenue-generators for local economies. The National Park Service is honored to be invited into so many communities and is proud to assist in saving and sharing history.” States officials use the grants to fund preservation projects, such as survey and inventory, National Register nominations, preservation education, architectural planning, historic structure reports, community preservation plans, and bricks-and-mortar repair to buildings. Grants and programs funded by the HPF encourage private and nonfederal investment in historic preservation efforts nationwide. Recent achievements of the HPF can be found in its annual report at For more information on the Historic Preservation Fund, please visit: Amounts made available to each jurisdiction are listed below.


ALABAMA $822,991   MONTANA $785,522
ALASKA $1,012,985   NEBRASKA $785,932
AMERICAN SAMOA $396,261   NEVADA $746,194
ARIZONA  $857,460   NEW HAMPSHIRE $620,598
ARKANSAS $753,650   NEW JERSEY $924,707
CALIFORNIA $1,494,229   NEW MEXICO $788,226
COLORADO $885,222   NEW YORK $1,361,060
DELAWARE $528,258   NORTH DAKOTA $681,157
DIST. OF COLUMBIA $525,361   CNMI $410,831
FLORIDA $1,031,826   OHIO $1,105,786
FSM $412,161   OKLAHOMA $830,447
GEORGIA $911,695   OREGON $865,309
GUAM $409,123   PALAU $238,866
HAWAII $574,945   PENNSYLVANIA $1,180,736
IDAHO $732,243   PUERTO RICO $645,071
ILLINOIS $1,143,960   RHODE ISLAND $578,929
INDIANA $916,252   SOUTH CAROLINA $760,507
IOWA $847,320   SOUTH DAKOTA $704,651
KANSAS $840,849   TENNESSEE $850,118
KENTUCKY $814,083   TEXAS $1,334,882
LOUISIANA $828,743   UTAH $772,697
MAINE $709,070   VERMONT $574,034
MARSHALLS $238,866   VIRGINIA $895,405
MARYLAND $797,793   VIRGIN ISLANDS $415,115
MICHIGAN $1,113,476   WEST VIRGINIA $706,619
MINNESOTA $942,010   WISCONSIN $950,369
MISSISSIPPI $744,073   WYOMING $688,885
MISSOURI $935,314       
      TOTAL $46,924,800
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Market Nears A Landmark .


Whole Foods Market Inc. faces a series of City Council votes starting next week to win final approval for construction of a 52,000-square-foot supermarket next to a 140-year-old landmark in Gowanus, Brooklyn.
Eric Haugesag for The Wall Street JournalThe Coignet building today next to the planned Whole Foods grocery site
The new store is planned to wrap around two sides of the vacant Coignet building, the city's earliest known concrete building, at the corner of Third Avenue and Third Street. After expected council approvals, the grocery chain would be allowed within five feet of the old building and wants to have its first Brooklyn store open in 2013. Built in 1872 for the New York & Long Island Coignet Stone Co., the 2½-story building is the sole survivor of a five-acre industrial park built along the Gowanus Canal in the early 1870s. The elegant Italianite mansion provided office space for Coignet and subsequent companies, including its longest-running tenant, the Brooklyn Improvement Co., from which Coignet leased the land for its stone works. "It's a lonely little building," said Jennifer Gardner, a researcher at the Gowanus Institute, a local think tank. "To some degree, the plans for that site will limit the opportunity for the [Coignet] building, but also provides a potential draw for people to see it and appreciate it in a different way." The building received city landmark status in 2006. Two City Council panels overseeing landmarks and planning will vote next week on whether to reduce the Coignet building's lot size to about 1,720 square feet from 6,250 square feet, a measure that's already been passed by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. If approved, a full City Council vote on the measure is slated for April 18. Some residents and preservationists still fear the landmark building will lose its prominence as it is enveloped by the store,
Marlene Donnelly, Friends & Residents of Greater GowanusAn undated rendering of the Coignet building in Gowanus
"It's strange to be shrinking a landmark site; it allows any site to be looked at as a development," said Nadezhda Williams of the Historic Districts Council, a preservation organization lobbying for rejection of the variance. "We need something more sympathetic, that doesn't take away its prominence." Ms. Williams and others point to the Fairway supermarket in Red Hook—which integrated unlandmarked Civil War-era warehouses into its design—as a model for treatment of the Coignet. The Brooklyn Navy Yard faces a related issue with its recent acquisition of Admiral's Row, which abuts the parcel designated for a 74,000-square-foot supermarket. Whole Foods doesn't own the Coignet building, but the food retailer plans to "give it a facelift" approved by the landmarks commission, said company spokesman Michael Sinatra. The grocer has no plans to rehab the interior or to use the historic building, whose owner, Richard Kowalski, couldn't be reached. Designed by William Field & Son, the curious building was a showcase for Beton Coignet, a new concrete developed in France by François Coignet in the 1850s. The Brooklyn mansion was built of the very material it championed and displayed various architectural features and ornament cast from molds, showing that concrete could replicate the stone-and-chisel method of old. "It was definitely an advertisement [for the company]. They put it on the most visible position on the lot," said Matthew Postal, a landmarks commission researcher who studied the Coignet building, "This is a building that was testing a new technology; it would be an engineering landmark." Noteworthy commissions using the new building material included portions of St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cleft Ridge Span in Prospect Park, the oldest such arch in the country. Coignet also supplied concrete for new residential developments, simultaneously rising to prominence with the Brooklyn Improvement Co., founded by Edwin Clark Litchfield. Indeed, the Coignet stone works was the impetus for Mr. Litchfield to reactivate the Gowanus creek as a working waterway for transport of raw and finished materials. "It was a fully integrated site. One can only imagine the scale of that operation when it was fully activated," said Gregory Dietrich, a preservation consultant who is surveying the site for possible inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Despite its successes, the Coignet company filed for bankruptcy in 1873 and the factory closed in 1882. The Coignet building housed the offices of Mr. Litchfield's company until 1957 and a variety of tenants until its final occupants left in the mid-1970s. "It's quite lovely and by any objective standards it represents an important architectural element in the Gowanus corridor that resonates with neighbors," said Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board Six, which includes Gowanus and which has supported the new Whole Foods store. "It is so highly distinctive I could see it easily being a museum—it has such an interesting story," Mr. Dietrich said. "It's a diamond in the rough." A version of this article appeared March 29, 2012, on page A24 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Market Nears A Landmark.
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
The Orange County Government Center in Goshen, N.Y., has been closed since it was damaged by storms in September.
Published: April 7, 2012
GOSHEN, N.Y. — As Modernist buildings reach middle age, many of the stark structures that once represented the architectural vanguard are showing signs of wear, setting off debates around the country between preservationists, who see them as historic landmarks, and the many people who just see them as eyesores. The conflict has come in recent months to this quaint village 60 miles north of New York City — with its historic harness-racing track, picturesque Main Street and Greek Revival, Federal and Victorian houses — where the blocky concrete county government center designed by the celebrated Modernist architect Paul Rudolph has always been something of a misfit. “I just don’t think it fits with the character of the county seat and the village of Goshen,” said Leigh Benton, an Orange County legislator who grew up in the area. “I just thought it was a big ugly building.” Completed in 1967, the building has long been plagued by a leaky roof and faulty ventilation system and, more recently, by mold; it was closed last year after it was damaged by storms, including Tropical Storm Irene. Edward A. Diana, the Orange County executive, wants to demolish it, an idea that has delighted many residents but alarmed preservationists, local and national, who say the building should be saved. The county legislature is expected to decide whether to demolish or renovate it next month. Those who want to save it call it a prime example of an architectural style called Brutalism that rejected efforts to prettify buildings in favor of displaying the raw power of simple forms and undisguised building materials, like the center’s textured facade. “Preservation is not simply about saving the most beautiful things,” said Mark Wigley, the dean of Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. “It’s about saving those objects that are an important part of our history and whose value is always going to be a subject of debate.” A similar debate is going on in Chicago, where preservationists have been fighting to save Prentice Women’s Hospital, a concrete, cloverleaf-shaped 1974 structure designed by Bertrand Goldberg that the National Trust for Historic Preservation has placed on its endangered list. In New Haven, the 1972 Veterans Memorial Coliseum was demolished in 2007 despite a campaign to rescue it. In Manhattan, 2 Columbus Circle, the 1964 “lollipop” building by Edward Durell Stone, escaped demolition but was renovated in 2008 in a way that stripped away its original facade. Preserving charming confections from the 18th- and 19th-century can be a struggle; convincing people to keep more recent, decidedly uncute structures built from 1950 into the 1970s can be a battle of an entirely higher magnitude, especially if they’ve sprung leaks. “The phenomenon of a building that’s about 30 to 40 years old being severely out of style and leading to people wanting to alter it or demolish it is very real,” said Frank Sanchis, the director of United States programs at the World Monuments Fund page, about the Orange County Government Center here. The fund put the Goshen building on its 2012 watch list. Opinions are even stronger when it comes to Brutalism, a style closely associated with the Swiss architect Le Corbusier, and one that tends to produce weighty monoliths like the F.B.I. headquarters in Washington and Boston City Hall. In an interview Theodore Dalrymple, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute who has written about the architecture of Le Corbusier, described Brutalist buildings as “absolutely hideous, like scouring pads on the retina.” “One of those buildings can destroy an entire cityscape that has been built up over hundreds of years,” he said. Barry Bergdoll, the chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art, said: “Brutalism was supposed to bring back all sorts of things like craft — the concrete wasn’t smooth, you could feel the hand of the worker there. But it was perceived in almost the exact opposite way. It’s one of the great public relations failures of all time. Most people think of Brutalist architecture literally — as aggressive, heavy, boding and forbidding.” Rudolph, who died in 1997, was a prominent Modernist architect who also designed Yale’s Art and Architecture Building, among others. Architectural historians say the Goshen government center, which features protruding cubes and a corrugated concrete facade resembling corduroy, represents Rudolph at his best. “I would easily identify this as one of his top 10,” said Sean Khorsandi, a director of the Paul Rudolph Foundation. But Mr. Benton, the county legislator, called it “a world monument to inefficiency.” Each camp has its own estimate for how much it will cost to renovate the center — the preservation side says about $35 million, the county says $65 million. For an additional $20 million, county officials say, they would be able to build a new center (probably traditional) and to improve several other county buildings. The government offices that were in the center have dispersed around the county. “I’m a pretty modern type of person when it comes to architecture and paintings,” said Mr. Diana, the county executive. “If the building functioned in the right manner and was effective and efficient, I’d leave the building right where it is.” Economics aside, many say the Rudolph building simply has never belonged in Goshen and never will. “It’s just so out of place,” said Barbara Hatfield, a longtime county resident. “Goshen is the county seat. There’s a lot of history there.” But others argue that the building is part of the area’s history, too. “It reflects a snapshot in time in the late ’60s and ’70s, when our history was turbulent,” said Patricia Turner, a resident trained as an architect who wants to save the building. “Isn’t that just as relevant as something that happened in 1868?” John Hildreth, a vice president at the National Trust, said architectural taste changes over time and then can change again. “There was a time when people weren’t concerned about saving Victorian houses, bungalows, Art Deco buildings — all were not favored styles,” he said. “You have to focus on the significance of the building and not its style, because styles will come and go. We’re at a point where we’re evaluating the recent past and coming up against that.” Historians also say appreciating architecture can require an education. “It’s like saying, ‘I don’t like Pollock because he splattered paint,’ ” said Nina Rappaport, chairwoman of Docomomo-New York/Tri-State, an organization that promotes the preservation of Modernist architecture. “Does that mean we shouldn’t put it in a museum? No, it means we teach people about these things.” But Mr. Dalrymple said the notion that the public needs to be educated to appreciate Brutalism is like saying that people “need to be intimidated out of their taste.” No expertise is needed to decide that a building is ugly, he said, adding, “It’s an aesthetic judgment.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Correction: April 10, 2012 An article on Saturday about a dispute over whether to restore or demolish the Modernist county government center in Goshen, N.Y., designed by Paul Rudolph, misspelled the surname of an influential painter cited by a preservationist who said people should be taught to appreciate some works of modern art and architecture. He was Jackson Pollock, not Pollack.
A version of this article appeared in print on April 7, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Architecture’s Ugly Ducklings May Not Get Time to Be Swans.


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