The New York Landmarks Preservation Commission has almost hit rock bottom. It has approved a restoration project that preserves a building – and its graffiti. The website New York YIMBY reports the ruling in “Landmarks Approves Restoration and Conversion of 190 Bowery With Graffiti.” Darn low, but not rock bottom.
Rock bottom would have entailed barring the restoration project unless the graffiti were also preserved. But there is a preservation architect even more idiotic than the commission itself. He is called Jørgen Cleemann, of Higgens Quasebarth & Partners, assisted by MdeAS Architects.
Excuse me. I am being daft. The real idiot here is Aby Rosen of RFR Realty. He is the client. Even if the idea of retaining the graffiti was Cleemann’s, as one must suspect, Rosen is responsible. YIMBY does not report whether tenants for the office space have been found, but apparently a first-floor tenant remains to be found. Good luck with that!
It is long past the day when adult behavior can be expected from boards and commissions charged with overseeing decisions from within the very broad realm of design. In this case, it seems that the entire commission was just bully about “saving” the graffiti.
Commissioner Frederick Bland called 190 Bowery an “extraordinary building” and applauded the “gentleness” of the proposal. He praised retention of the graffiti as an “interesting show of art.” Commissioner Diana Chapin called the proposal “very sensitive.” Commissioner Michael Goldblum said the building would be a “jewel box” and called the proposal “fantastic,” adding that it will be a “real testament to the layering that preservationists seek.”
Especially droll was Goldblum’s applause for the “layering.” He refers to the idea that, say, if the owner of a 18th century Colonial adds a Beaux Arts canopy above the entry to his house, and subsequent owner in the 21st century wants to restore it to its original 18th century appearance by removing the canopy, a “politically correct” landmarks commission might turn down the application on the grounds that “history” of the house – its layer-by-layer evolution through “periods” – must be respected.
Thus, in the case of 190 Bowery, the commission was able to approve the retention of graffiti – a literal attack of vandalism against the building – as part of its history. Reductio ad absurdum run wild!
Graffiti that tags beautiful buildings such as 190 Bowery is more than vandalism. It is censorship. In this case, authority has privileged one work of art over another, and a grafarttist over an architect at that.
Take a bow, Jørgen Cleemann!
No dissenting voices were reported by Evan Bindelglass, the who wrote the piece for New York YIMBY. It apparently stands for “Yes In My Back Yard.” Cute! Perhaps the neighbors remain advocates of NIMBYism regarding this extremely vexing proposal, but who the heck are the neighbors anyway?
What’s next? The retention of that recent pile of doggy dung? An addition every bit as significant as any other! Wouldn’t want to obliterate the historic fragrance! Don’t laugh. The commission has already passed beneath that demarcation. Idiots who own buildings must be lining up around the block.