Wednesday, October 03, 2007

THE SOCIETY FOR THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE CITY Statement for the City Planning Commission Hearing, October 3, 2007


Statement for the City Planning Commission Hearing, October 3, 2007, On the Zoning Map Amendment (C 070495 ZMM), the Zoning Text Amendment (N 0704976 ZRM), the related DEIS (06DCP032M), and the Community Board 9 197A Plan

It is tragic to see the return of the slash and burn ideology of the 1950s which we know as “urban renewal.” No city is truly renewed, with the destruction of its historic fabric is coupled with the mass eviction of its residential and commercial communities. The DEIS concedes that Manhattanville is a “potential environmental justice area,” an area where issues of racial and economic discrimination may arise (Appendix L), but still the city is moving to eliminate Manhattanville with massive demolition, which will dig a gigantic pit, two million square feet below grade construction, up to 120 feet deep, stretching for blocks, removing and replacing the roadbeds, and building a phalanx of 200 foot glass towers above.

However futile it may be, we are here to express support for the Community Board 9
197-A Plan, and for the concept of preserving the history of manufacturing and industry in New York. Manhattanville has a long and distinguished history, but its earlier life was superceded by industry, as population explosion and growth of railroad traffic coincided with something we now take for granted: the bottling, and subsequently the pasteurization of milk. The Sheffield Farms Dairy Buildings-the pasteurization plant and the stable from which the milk wagons departed-are historically significant, and should be preserved. “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Any More,” but we might want to remember that it did, that there actually was a milk train, starting in 1850, on the New York and Harlem Railroad, and that by 1933, 25 milk trains a day were arriving in New York City. The 130th Street rail yards had the special facilities for milk. Manhattanville was a center of that industry, with Borden’s and the Sheffield’s Sealtest competing, and other dairy companies, Clover Farms, and the Hamilton Dairy Co. nearby.

According to the DEIS, Columbia has examined and rejected the idea of incremental
development that could preserve such history and the variety and human scale of
neighborhoods like West Harlem: we are expected to believe that Columbia’s needs are
so great and so urgent that the state must intervene and sweep away every obstacle, even using eminent domain against small business owners. We are expected to believe that “continuous below grade space” for the university will “stimulate intellectual
achievement” (DEIS 1-19). Now that universities are viewed as engines of economic
growth, their traditional role in scholarship and education seems forgotten. The
authoritarian architecture and the ruthless expansion plan for which the new zoning was devised lacks common humanity and common sense. It does not deserve the support of government.

45 CHRISTOPHER STREET, APT. 2E, NEW YORK, N.Y. 10014 (212) 741-2628
Ronald Kopnicki, President Matt McGhee, Treasurer Christabel Gough, Secretary
The Society for the Architecture of the City, Inc. publishes the review, Village Views.

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