Sep 242014
 

Welcome to the beginning of the Autumn programming of the Morningside Heights Historic District Committee! We will be sponsoring a talk and tour about architectural terra cotta led by:    

Susan Tunick, President, Friends of Terra Cotta

Saturday October 11th: 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Community Room of the New York Public Library,
Morningside Heights, 2900 Broadway (at W. 113th Street)
Suggested donation: $25 
Limited capacity/ R.S.V.P required
E-mail info@morningsideheights.org for reservation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 10:29 am
Sep 022014
 

On Tuesday, July 8th the MHHDC hosted a walking tour of Teachers College & Union Theological Seminary led by Columbia University professor, community expert and author of “Morningside Heights: A History of its Architecture and Development,” Andrew S. Dolkart.

The tour began on the windy corner of Broadway and 120th Street.  Professor Dolkart then guided us through the chapels, hallways and court yards of TC & UTS where he unveiled the history and stories behind each of our stops.

Our first stop was to see the Casavant Organ and the five “Clayton Bell of London” glass windows in Milbank Memorial Chapel. As Professor Dolkart taught us about the history of this remarkable place everyone couldn’t help but stare, captivated by the Chapel’s  beauty. Endless camera shutters echoed throughout the room as attendees and committee members alike rushed to take pictures of this stunning auditorium, gilded in “Tiffany” blue and gold stenciled decor.  Thompson & Grace Dodge Halls were full of wonderful pictures and marble reliefs lining the hallways. In the latter hall was artwork that had been gifted to Teachers College by Jean Claude & Christo of the 2005 Central Park “The Gates” exhibit fame.

Before we continued on to the “Russell Courtyard,” we stopped to acknowledge the five relief tiles that marked the school’s original entrance. Each tile depicted a different task of the colonial housewives’ home industries such as: sewing, spinning, churning, weaving and cooking.

On we went, leaving Teachers College to see the architectural jewels inside Union Theological Seminary.

Our first stop in UTS was the lobby, which was domed by Guastavino ceiling tiles which continued all the way down the left hallway. As we stood outside The Burke Library we all looked up at the circular marbled staircase before we continued on down more Gothic hallways towards the James Memorial Chapel.

The chapel houses the “Holtkamp Organ” which was installed in 1980 after the space was renovated in the late 1970’s to “allow more flexible space for grace.”

Finally, after what felt like miles of Gothic hallways, we found ourselves in the large inner courtyard. Trees lined the archway, forming the perfect amount of shade and the city seemed to slip away. Allen & Collen’s academic quadrangle was quite peaceful, their amazing English scholastic Gothic style design took our breath away. It came as no surprise when we learned that many T.V. shows and movies film at this location.

The tour ended on 122nd Street and Broadway where we stopped to admire the corner’s cityscape complete with the Manhattan School of Music & the Jewish Theological Seminary buildings, the submerging subway, and some ongoing road repairs.

- Betsy Lind,
Executive Committee Member

 Posted by at 1:12 pm
Sep 022014
 

On Thursday, May 1st the MHHDC hosted a history talk with noted local historian, Jim Mackin, whose topic was “What do Riverside Church, Union & Jewish Theological Seminaries have in common?”

The event was held at Riverside Church on the 10th floor at 7PM in the evening.  The setting sun was shining through the arched windows showing stunning views of the upper west side.  We were just across from the two seminaries where one could step outside onto the narrow open balconies and see all around the locale.

Mr. Mackin gave an informative talk and look with Power Point pictures of the many views of each different building.  Some of the pictures at the locations were before and after shots and during the construction.  The Riverside Church Tower was able to be built so tall because of the Manhattan schist rock it sits on that can support its height and girth of the cement, metal and stone that it is made from.

The neighboring seminaries also benefit from this bedrock foundation while harboring so closely together with other notable institutions such as Grant’s Tomb, The Manhattan School of Music, The Interchurch Center, Barnard College and Columbia University.  These great institutions have gathered here over the centuries to be in our historic Morningside Heights community as well as being in our rock solid neighborhood.

- Betsy Lind,
Executive Committee Member

 Posted by at 12:18 pm
Apr 142014
 
15 story high rise feet from the Cathedral. Sandwiched between the historic buildings of the Cathedral and St. Luke's Hospital and looming over Morningside Park - Harlem's only scenic landmark.

With large community support and all of the elected officials that represent Morningside Heights, a successful protest was held on Saturday, April 5, 2014 in front of Saint John the Divine.

In addition to all the elected officials, also joining us were Brad Taylor, President of Friends of Morningside Park, Noah Kaufman of the 113/ABC Block Association and numerous other supporters from all over the area.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler, joined by state and city elected officials and neighborhood activists, protested the Cathedral of St. John the Divine’s plans to build two luxury apartment towers immediately adjacent to its landmark church that will desecrate one of the city’s most important architectural and cultural centers.

“I am deeply concerned that the construction on the grounds of St. John the Divine jeopardizes the historic nature of the Cathedral’s close and will overwhelm the surrounding neighborhood,” said Congressman Jerry Nadler. “I call on the Church to work with the community to find an appropriate use for the space.”

Nadler was joined by state Senator Bill Perkins, Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell and City Councilman Mark Levine, all of whom represent the area, in calling for the Cathedral leaders to stop the construction, which is poised to begin.“This site is simply inappropriate for a development of this size and scope,” said Assemblyman O’Donnell. “It will have a gravely negative impact not only on the historic Cathedral itself, but on our shared community for generations to come.”

Council Member Mark Levine said,” The cathedral is a precious historical structure of national and global significance.  The construction of a huge residential building along the entire northern façade will undoubtedly diminish this landmark, and will increase overcrowding on a busy street, which is the sole access point for a hospital emergency room.  We need to challenge the notion that every square inch of open space in this city should be developed for luxury housing.  I will continue to work with the community to fight this project.”

The Cathedral plans to build two 145-foot-tall towers containing 426 apartment – the overwhelming majority of them luxury rentals – and a large underground parking garage directly to the north of the Cathedral on its historic close. The towers will sit immediately across from the emergency room at Saint Luke’s Hospital.

Cathedral leaders acknowledge that the construction has no connection to their historic spiritual or social mission.

St. John’s is the largest Gothic – style Cathedral in the world, a global landmark and has been nominated as an endangered historic site. As the illustrations show, the new towers will rise up to the eaves of the Cathedral, blocking the superb stained glass windows, the beautifully detailed Gothic statuary and dramatic buttresses. The towers will darken the north portion of its glorious nave. The project will also impinge upon two other adjacent landmarks – Morningside Park and the old St. Luke’s hospital – and disrupt the hospital’s active emergency room.

Laura Friedman, President of the Morningside Heights Historic District Committee, which has collected over 1,100 petition signatures states that,

“What a legacy of shame the Cathedral administration is bringing upon one of America’s most beautiful cathedrals,” said Friedman. “No other major cathedral would even think of doing this.”

Friedman noted that Daniel Brodsky, whose Brodsky Organization is the main developer for the project, professes to be dedicated to protecting the city’s world-class artistic heritage as Chairman of the Board of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“Here he is zealously desecrating an architectural and spiritual treasure while he claims to be a champion of protecting our artistic heritage,” Friedman said. “The only way to be true to our heritage is to stop this project.”

 

Please see our photo gallery for photos of the event and in our Press section you can find links to the media coverage that the protest received.

 

 

Mar 302014
 

RALLY AGAINST THIS DEVELOPMENT.  SATURDAY APRIL 5, 11AM AT 112th STREET AND AMSTERDAM AVENUE
Help get the word out through social media and by printing and posting
this flyer

Even as construction begins on the site, the Cathedral administration refuses to live up to their promise to share renderings of their proposed towers with the public. However thanks to Council Member Mark Levine,  the Morningside Heights Historic District Committee was able to obtain copies of the architectural construction drawings submitted to the NYC Dept. of Buildings. Here is what they reveal. Note: We have added shaded areas to the drawings so that viewers can easily distinguish the new construction from the existing context.

The local Community Board overwhelming supported a call for the Cathedral and its Developer to submit an Environmental Impact Statement. They are refusing to do so.  Such a study would surely have noted the adverse effect of placing the entry/exit of a parking garage for close to 200 cars directly across a narrow two way street from the entrance to the busy emergency room at St. Luke's Hospital

The local Community Board overwhelming supported a call for the Cathedral and its Developer to submit an Environmental Impact Statement. They are refusing to do so. Such a study would surely have noted the adverse effect of placing the entry/exit of a parking garage for close to 200 cars directly across a narrow two way street from the entrance to the busy emergency room at St. Luke’s Hospital

 

 

15 story high rise feet from the Cathedral. Sandwiched between the historic buildings of the Cathedral and St. Luke's Hospital and looming over Morningside Park - Harlem's only scenic landmark.

15 story high rise feet from the Cathedral. Sandwiched between the historic buildings of the Cathedral and St. Luke’s Hospital and looming over Morningside Park – Harlem’s only scenic landmark.

 

15 story residential building on the Cathedral grounds as seen from Amsterdam Ave. Such an imposition in such close proximity to one of the great cathedrals of europe would be unthinkable.

SectionEastBldg

Note the urban canyon these buildings create along 113th Street dwarfing the pedestrians shown in the drawing above. This in a neighborhood where buildings on side streets are typically 6 floors or less.

SectionatPlaza

The West facade of the East Building is shown beyond the section cut. What appears to be a notch in the elevation is created by the elevation view of the Cathedral’s unfinished North Transept.

NorthElev

A rendering of this view was specifically requested by the local Community Board. The Cathedral said it would provide one but never did. Now we can see why. These 15 story behemoths almost completely obliterate the view of the Cathedral from the street.