Thursday, January 31, 2013

New City-Wide Policy Makes Generation Of Real Estate Deals The Library System’s Primary Purpose

Library Trustee meeting Tuesday night at Brooklyn Heights Library proposed to be sold to a developer
Do we want a shrinking library system for a growing, wealthier city? . .

. . .  It’s what we are going to get as the principal purpose of the library system becomes the generation of real estate opportunities for developers.  This new city-wide policy has, in a very harmful way, turned into a perverse incentive for the city to defund libraries and drive them into the ground.

Read Michael Kimmelman’s article on the front page of the New York Times this week to learn more about the plans to shrink, and consolidate into each other, three of the most important midtown libraries, a plan that involves irreversible elimination of the irreplaceable research stacks of the main library at 42nd Street.  See: Critic’s Notebook- In Renderings for a Library Landmark, Stacks of Questions, January 29, 2013. Mr. Kimmelman is the New York Times new architectural critic.  At the time of her recent death, Ada Louise Huxtable, the first Times architectural critic, for whom that post was created, had gone on to write for the Wall Street Journal.  Her very last column in December is also stingingly critical of the plan to shrink and consolidate Manhattan's main libraries:  Undertaking Its Destruction, by Ada Louise Huxtable, December 3, 2012.

Meanwhile, the same thing is going on elsewhere in the system.

Brooklyn Heights heard of parallel plan this week, also to create real estate opportunity for a developer (the library system's spokesman for the plan said that envisioned deal could quite possibly be made with Forest City Ratner, owner of the adjoining site, through a no-bid arrangement with the city).  Once again system libraries would be shrunk for consolidation purposes, this time Brooklyn’s Downtown Business Library would be moved out away from the business district and to move into already existing library space the main branch would have to give up at Grand Army Plaza.  A much smaller library of more limited purpose would remain in Brooklyn Heights built into what a developer builds on the site.  (See: FIRST PUBLIC AIRING: Plans to rebuild Brooklyn Heights library, move Business branch, face a skeptical audience, by Mary Frost, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 30, 2013 and also LIBRARY SHAKEUP: Business library quits Downtown; questions shroud future of Brooklyn Heights branch, Carnegie libraries, By Mary Frost, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 16, 2013 and Tale of the Tweets: Brooklyn Heights Library Hearing, By Homer Fink on January 29, 2013.)  The Brooklyn Heights library is at 280 Cadman Plaza West at the corner of Tillary Street.

At the same time,1.2 miles away the system is proposing to sell the Pacific branch library in Boerum Hill next to another Forest City Ratner property, the very highly subsidized "Barclays" arena spearheading the Ratner mega-monpoly.   That library is at 25 4th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217, on Pacific Street right near the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush Avenue.  (See:  Brooklyn Public Library plans to sell two dilapidated  branches and move them into smaller locations, Brooklyn Heights and Boerum Hill branches on the block, by Reuven Blau, New York Daily News, Tuesday, January 29, 2013.)  Presumably, Forest City Ratner will have the inside track to expand its government-assisted mega-monopoloy at that location.

Josh Nachowitz in the Brooklyn Heights Blog
At the meeting this week in Brooklyn Heights Josh Nachowitz, the spokesman for the library's plan, denied that the system was looking at real estate deals system-wide and had been doing so for some years.  This was despite the fact that I interjected that system had been looking at doing such deals for a number of years.  In 2007 I was interviewing with a developer for a position and was given by them a list of library sites in Brooklyn (not otherwise discussed in this article) the city was reaching out to developers about.  Instead, the representation made at the meeting was that the library system was responding to a recent and unanticipated financial crisis.

But that crisis is a manufactured one.  The Brooklyn Heights Library usage has gone up 77% in circulations and 41% in attendance between 2002 and 2011, but funding was cut 20% since 2008.  Kimmelman in his New York Times article discussing representations made by library spokesmen about the condition of the stacks at the central library and said that it suggests to him “a kind of demolition by neglect.”  Demolition by neglect is time-honored but nefarious strategy real estate development-oriented people use to achieve indirectly what they could not do directly.  Cutting off funds to libraries in this fashion allows library officials to promote sale of the libraries by saying, for instance, “The two libraries on the block, the Brooklyn Heights and Pacific branch in Boerum Hill, are in need of crippling repair costs the system can't afford.”

While there is an eagerness and real estate deal incentive to make such representations, the veracity of such representations with respect to the condition of the stacks 42nd Street was challenged in an interview Scott Sherman and Caleb Crain did on The Leonard Lopate Show: Controversy at the New York Public Library, Monday, March 12, 2012.  I highly recommend that interview (click below to listen) in which you can hear an incredulous Mr. Lopate sound increasing convinced that library system representatives were giving misinformation to his show's reaserchers.

Scott Sherman, participating in that interview, wrote an article that appeared in The Nation about the planned consolidation and sell off of the Manhattan library real estate:  Upheaval at the New York Public Library, Scott Sherman November 30, 2011.  

However eager system officials are to close libraries for real estate deals, real estate deals don't always proceed smoothly.  The heavily used and much loved Donnell Library across from the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street in Manhattan was closed in the spring of 2008 to make way for a real estate deal.  That deal fell through, although the library remained closed.  The last projection is that if all goes as now hoped, the library will be replaced with a new building, a ritzy high-end hotel including some library space (29,000 square feet) sometime in 2014The new policy of pressing for real estate estate deals isn't system wide?  Ironically, collections from the Donnell Library were sent to and consolidated into the Mid- Manhattan branch library which is now, in turn, proposed to be one of the three Manhattan libraries consolidated into the 42nd Street library building behind behind the lions named Patience and Fortitude by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.    

The last time the site for the Brooklyn Heights library was bulldozed (urban renewal) part of the larger site, right next to the library, remained vacant and was used as a parking lot for the better part of three decades.  Then, that part of the site that had been vacant for so many years was given to Forest City Ratner on a no-bid basis, together with subsides and incentives.

The property being sold in Brooklyn Heights is not actually an asset of the library.  At the meeting in Brooklyn Heights this week Mr. Nachowitz said the building has been managed in such a way that it now needs $9 million dollars in capital investment, but if the building is sold that money goes to the city and it is already established that the Bloomberg administration has a policy of cutting back on library spending.  There is a theoretical promise that the library system will be allowed to have more funds if this deal is consented to by both the library system and the public but that promise is unenforceable.  Even if a pot of money X is put on deposit somewhere, money is fungible and, as with parks (see Parks Commissioner Benepe's remarks), the city can take away with one hand what it gives with the other.  (This is very similar to the same game played in cutting back of state college funding to encourage sale of school land for hydrofracking.  See:  Monday, October 15, 2012, Do They Really Think People Just Don’t Know What `Fungibility’ Is?: A Good Question To Ask As The Fracking Industry Tries To Pull Another Fast One.)

Let's put some of this in financial perspective.  Mr. Nachowitz says the entire Brooklyn Public Library system “has $230 million in capitol needs systemwide, and we get $15 million a year from the city.”  (Even though the real estate sell-offs are city-wide there are technically separations between the Brooklyn and Manhattan library systems.  This becomes less relevant if you take into account city funding and, for example, the fact that Mayor Bloomberg appoints eleven of the trustees to the Brooklyn system. The Brooklyn borough president whose "charities" are funded by the mayor appoints another eleven and the balance are elected.). . .  Bloomberg is sending $350 million of his personal funds to Johns Hopkins University this year (he's over one billion dollars now including past gifts to Johns Hopkins), but he's going to withhold $150 million in taxpayer money from the libraries unless they consent to the sell-off of the midtown properties?  The closing of the Donnell Library reportedly grossed a $67.4 million purchase price (that is not net of expenses) and yet the city still starves the library system for money.

The consolidation plan for the Manhattan libraries involves irreplaceable elimination of the research stacks of the Main library at 42nd Street.  In other words research that could be done in a day might take weeks as each additional book you request as you realize that you need it would now take a day or more to retrieve rather than being immediately available.- And, no, there isn't a digital solution or reason to be doing this.  Perhaps in the future researchers will be better off taking a train to Baltimore to do their research in Johns Hopkins libraries.

At one point Mr. Kimmelman makes these points in his article:
As for those alternatives, the Mid-Manhattan site at present has the potential to be redeveloped as a 20-story building. The library could also sell some 100,000 square feet of unused space at the site, or seek city permission to transfer air rights (there may be more than a million square feet) from 42nd Street. A new Mid-Manhattan branch should cost a fraction of gutting the stacks and could produce much better architecture. 
Not mentioned by Mr. Kimmelman is that the the Bloomberg administration recently unveiled plans to almost double-- starting in 2017-- the density of Manhattan’s already very dense Midtown business district, that entire district surrounding Grand Central and the MetLife (formerly Pan Am) building, from 39th Street to 57th Street on the East Side.  The Mid-Manhattan site is just barely outside of the tentative proposed boundary lines.  (See map, click to enlarge.)  Want to make a bet about whether somebody tries to change that?

The zoning for the Brooklyn Heights library site (C6-4) currently has an FAR of 10 (for residential equivalent of an R10), which is fairly high, but it could be increased still further, something a developer would be interested in seeing happen.  Because there would be a condominium unit for a small library in the new building (a community facility), the entire permitted structure could be bigger than normally permitted under R10.  Mr. Nachowitz represented at the meeting this week that it would not be possible for the library system to sell air rights rather than selling the site itself.  Right now some of the site is open space, a small bit of decorative park that has unfortunately (and ill-advisedly) been closed to the public for years, and space that has been used for parking.

Move the business library out of downtown Brooklyn?  Judy Stanton, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, commented to the Brooklyn Eagle:  “This is the third largest business district in the city. . .It seems odd to move the business library further away.”

The reason to move the business library out to the boonies (away from all the downtown transportation) is that Downtown Brooklyn/Brooklyn Heights real estate is more valuable to developers and the site also has the higher density zoning.  (The 60,000 sq ft Brooklyn Heights library would shrink to 16,000 sq ft in a new building.)  The Pacific library site is also being targeted for a sell-off because of the value of that site to real estate developers.  Other sites are further down the priority list for sale because the real estate is less valuable, building at high density is likely more problematic and large-scale endeavors are likely to require the mobilization of more subsides.

It should also not be overlooked that local neighborhood libraries also provide community space with all its potential value.

Can the trustees and the librarian administrators of the system be counted upon to stand up and speak out to tell us what truly ought to be happening?  I already mentioned that many of the trustees are appointed by the mayor and, under his influence, the borough president.  About the Manhattan consolidations Kimmelman says this:
The parties in charge are earnest in their conversations. While remaining hard to pin down on the dollar amounts, they are eager to demonstrate that every conceivable alternative strategy has been explored, weighed, re-examined and rejected. Proceeding in any other way than by investing in this potential Alamo of engineering, architecture and finance would be irresponsible, they’ve concluded. I have found this to be a not-uncommon phenomenon among cultural boards, a form of architectural Stockholm syndrome.
If you listen to the Scott Sherman and Caleb Crain interview on the The Leonard Lopate Show it sounds far worse, with browbeaten librarians concerned about being fired and losing their pensions as the system lays people off to contract.  Obviously, management can try to sell their ideas to the workers.  Those who buy into the spiel can be brought to the fore.

One of the very worst things about what is being proposed is the idea that it is being promoted as a "public private partnership" as if this were a desirable thing.   Such things are better thought of these days as "private public partnerships" because public officials habitually put private developers in the driver's seat and compromise their integrity as inter-tangling motives mix.

These arrangements create situations where it becomes impossible to assure that the public has benefitted from fair deals and honest bids.  It probably no accident that this is the kind of environment in which Forest City Ratner chooses to operate almost exclusively and, as an example of how it can be abused, Forest City has repeatedly taken advantage of these situations to blackmail the public by threatening to withhold a promised benefit unless it is delivered more favorable terms than originally agreed upon.  One situation was quite comparable to what is envisioned here occurred with Ratner's Gehry-designed building on Spruce Street on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge: The Ratner organization was given a site in exchange for the promise of building a school in it (like promising to include a library) but it then threatened to halt construction unless the local community board agreed to confer greater benefits upon it.

One possible hint that Forest City Ratner may have its sights set on being given the Brooklyn Heights library property is that it just managed to obtain a lowering of its real estate taxes (its second) on its adjacent property, something that could have relevance later on: Monday, January 28, 2013, Daily News: Ratner's One Pierrepont Plaza office tower gets taxes lowered $160K/year in reassessment.  Will it also be going after the Pacific library site that is next to its arena property?

When people running charitable organizations take their eye off the ball and get distracted with real estate instead, disaster can befall: St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village was in the middle of a distracting real estate shell game when it suddenly declared bankruptcy.

Can the public help by contributing the funds needed to close the gap?  When the real estate development bug takes hold it is hard to defeat: Further south, Brooklyn Heights and neighboring Cobble Hill are facing the loss of another charitable institution, Long Island College Hospital.  Not long ago LICH received a huge donation increasing its endowment but that funding was raided and taken away.  Th fact that it now stands depleted of funds is being used in the arguments to allow closure of the hospital and sale of its property for real estate development.

There is one remaining piece of very bad news for those* trying to figure out what to do in Brooklyn Heights.  Sometimes there can, indeed, be good rationales for redeveloping or further developing a site.  If there are such rationales one inevitably is going to face very slippery slopes in defending the public's interest.
(* There is a new committee of citizens being formed to oppose the real estate deal.)
Irrespective of whether there could be some good rationales for developing the site further (as there actually likely are) there is a problem putting trust in those whose bad judgement can be seen in the bad priorities behind effectively eliminating Manhattan's central 42nd street research library to create a real estate deal.  There is also a problem with rewarding the strategy of defunding libraries by authorizing the deals as a result of such calculated behavior.  Let's start by insisting on what we want and properly need in terms of a library system and properly funding it first, before anything else is done.

Handing out real estate deals should not be the priority.
Some of those who heard about and turned out for Tuesday night's Brooklyn Heights Library meeting 
* * *
PS (added February 9, 2013): The following recent article (with links to others) that ends with a link to a petition to stop the defunding and skrinkage of the library system for the sake of creating real estate deals: Saturday, February 9, 2013, Libraries That Are Now Supposedly “Dilapidated” Were Just Renovated: And Are Developers’ Real Estate Deals More Important Than Bryant Park?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Haberman Interviews Kent Barwick: Grand Central Terminal As An Important Battle Won. . And The Battles To Be Won Today

Kent Barwick: From 2006 StreetsBlog Interview
I am very fond of Kent Barwick, former president of the Municipal Art Society (among many important roles) and highly appreciative of the extraordinary amount of good he has done in the world.  Clyde Haberman frequently writes some of the best commentary about the New York scene.  Therefore I was reasonably appreciative of Mr. Haberman’s interview of Mr. Barwick that appeared in the New York Times a few days ago.  It focused a lot on what many are paying attention to right now: The arrival of Grand Central Terminal’s 100th birthday and the fact that the terminal is still here with us providing us great pleasure and in better condition than ever.  (See: Breaking Bread- Kent L. Barwick- Looking Out on Grand Central, and Looking Back on Saving It, By Clyde  Haberman, January 27, 2013.)

As recounted in Mr. Haberman’s piece, Kent Barwick was involved in the terminal’s rescue.  The whole thing was nearly destroyed like Pennsylvania Station before it.  Its rescue almost didn’t happen and might not have happened without Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis intervening, in almost deus ex machina fashion, to insist that there is no such thing as a “done deal” and that despite what everyone tells you things can be changed even at the “eleventh hour.”  

The Haberman article amounts mostly to a feel-good taking stock of the very good thing that happened, the very important battle that was won in 1975.  That’s all important enough and quite necessary but the article also briefly addresses the battles that are important to win now.

Mr Barwick offered the following about Atlantic Yards as quoted by Mr. Haberman: “The public should be at the table with a stronger hand in shaping the project.”

That’s entirely true but it doesn’t inform the reader that the Atlantic Yards mega-monopoly needs to be taken away from, the developer, Forest City Ratner, because you can’t negotiate effectively with a monopoly.  Despite Mr. Barwick's advice, the public will never have a strong or effective hand in shaping the project if the developer is not deprived of the government’s continuing backing that assures his monopoly.  The mega-project needs to be bid out amongst multiple developers.  (See: Saturday, September 29, 2012, Report: How The Times Expunged Its Own First Draft Of History On “Barclays” Center Opening To Replace It With The Pro-Ratner Narrative It Favors and Friday, September 30, 2011, Could the Atlantic Yards Monopoly Be Even Less Regulated Than It Is? Why A Mega-Monopoly Continuation Isn’t Workable.)

By the way, with respect to Atlantic Yards and the ability to take the project away from Forest City Ratner, we are hardly at the eleventh hour, especially if the project takes, as has been envisioned, another forty years or so to complete.  Public hearings on what to do with the mega-project are upcoming.*
(*  A public scoping meeting has been scheduled to obtain comments on the draft scope of work for the DSEIS.  The meeting will be held on February 27, 2013 from 5:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. at St. Francis College, Founders Hall, 182 Remsen Street, Brooklyn, New York.  Copies of the draft scope of analysis may be obtained from ESD’s Web site,, or may be requested through the contact information provided below.  Comments on the draft scope of work may be presented by members of the public or any interested party at the public scoping meeting or submitted in writing to: Empire State Development (Attn: Atlantic Yards), 633 Third Avenue, 37th floor, New York, NY 10017,  Written comments will be accepted until 5:00 P.M. on March 14, 2013.)
 Mr. Barwick’s statement quoted above also falls short of his previous characterization of the mega-project as the “poster child for what goes wrong when process is ignored.”  (In a Streetsblog interview, see: Wednesday, November 29, 2006,  What Went Wrong With “Atlantic Yards?” An Interview With Kent Barwick, President of the Municipal Art Society, by Ezra.)

Here is more from that previous interview:
Barwick says that the people of Brooklyn and their elected representatives have been shut out of planning for Atlantic Yards and all major decisions have been made behind closed doors. The result is a poorly designed project that has polarized the community and that squanders both opportunity and public trust.

The project can be saved, he says, but only if people are given the chance not just to speak but to be heard. That would happen if the state recognizes that, properly, its client at Atlantic Yards is the citizens and government of New York City, not a private developer.

That is no radical notion, argues Barwick. It is law and policy embedded in regulations and the city charter, thanks in large part to agreements he and the MAS helped hammer out two decades ago after a prolonged battle with the Koch administration over the proposed sale to a private developer of publicly owned land on Columbus Circle.
On another topic of critical importance today, Barwick commented to Haberman on Mayor Bloomberg’s desire to rezone the area around Grand Central for increased development of almost double the density before the year is out.  Haberman quotes Barwick saying quite sensibly: “I don’t think something like that should be rushed into in the final hours of somebody’s administration.”

For more history of the area and recent discussion about the density around Grand Central here in Noticing New York see: Tuesday, January 22, 2013, October 1963, An Historical Snapshot: Ada Louise Huxtable, Jane Jacobs, Robert Moses, Cars, Density, Bulldozers, Preservation.

Latest (Early) Update On Bloomberg’s “Charitable” Giving- A Preview Of 2013? (Added to Info For Years 1997 to 2011)

Bloomberg looking skyward.. . . .The image above is from the November 1, 2012 press conference when Bloomberg made faces behind FEMA’s Secretary Napolitano, who was in New York to provide Superstorm disaster relief assistance.  See: Friday, November 2, 2012, Despite Expected Kudos, Bloomberg Tires of Hurricane Relief Administration Role: That, Or He Tremendously Disrespects Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano.  Video is available on Youtube.
An article came out in the New York Times with information about such a large beginning-of-the-year donation that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is making to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, $350 million, that it is worthwhile to use that number to do a quick footnoted fill-in and update the information available about how much Bloomberg has “given” to charity every year.  All told, Bloomberg has now sent $1.1 billion to that university.  See: $1.1 Billion in Thanks From Bloomberg to Johns Hopkins, By Michael Barbaro, January 26, 2013.

As a reference point, consider that Bloomberg is making the contribution of $150 million in New York taxpayer money to the New York Library system contingent upon the system’s transfer of significant real estate to developers, shrinking the system to consolidate three main branches and essentially dismantling and decommissioning the main 42nd Street library from its intended purpose since afterwards it will no longer be the research library it was designed to be.  See: Critic’s Notebook- In Renderings for a Library Landmark, Stacks of Questions, By Michael Kimmelman, January 29, 2013, Undertaking Its Destruction, by Ada Louise Huxtable, December 3, 2012, The Leonard Lopate Show: Controversy at the New York Public Library, (audio interview with Scott Sherman and Caleb Crain) Monday, March 12, 2012, Upheaval at the New York Public Library, Scott Sherman November 30, 2011.

For more information about Bloomberg’s escalating wealth over the years since declaring his interest in politics (now up to $25 billion) and how he deploys it, including for political purposes and the conflicts of interest in his dealings, see: Friday, January 25, 2013, Bloomberg’s Increasing Annual Wealth: 1996 to 2012 Plus Updates On His Annual “Charitable” Giving.

Below in chart form is updated information about Bloomberg’s level of giving and the years of associated Bloomberg political campaigns. (There is a gap in the chart below because information about the amount of Bloomberg’s 2012 giving is not yet available but should be available very soon.)
$26.6 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 1997 (when he distributed to 433 groups). Handouts have increased every year since - Press mentions of Bloomberg philanthropy begin this year 
$45 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 1998 - Year Bloomberg started talking publicly about running for mayor 
$47 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 1999 
$100.5 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2000 (579 organizations)- Year before first mayoral election campaign 
$122.5 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2001 (540 groups) Was elected mayor in November 
$130.9 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2002 (655 groups) Became mayor 
$135.6 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2003 (653 groups) 
$138/139.9 million*:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2004 (843 groups) 
$143.9 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2005 (987 groups)- Second campaign for mayor in connection with the 2005 election 
$165.3 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2006. (1,077 groups) 
$205 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2007.- The year he started to run for president.- The year he left the Republican party 
$235 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2008 (1,221 recipient groups)- The year that Bloomberg started running for his third term as mayor and overthrew the city’s term limits restrictions.
 $254 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2009 (1,300 organizations).  2009 was the year that Bloomberg was elected in November to his third term as New York Mayor after spending approximately $105 million in acknowledged direct spending on his campaign (many multiples of what his challenger could raise from the public) and, in addition, Bloomberg's political aides (also holding public posts) get fabulously huge bonuses for campaign work.
 $279.18 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2010 - Bloomberg ranked the #2 American "giver", "giving" to "arts, human services, public affairs, and other groups".  2010 was the year that Bloomberg shifted his charitable spending,which had always concentrated on New York City recipients, to focusing on recipients connected to issues of national significance.
 $311.3 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2011 - Bloomberg ranked the #5 American "giver," "giving" to "1,185 arts, human-services, public-affairs, and other groups".
$Unknown now:- Coming soon- 2012
$350 million*:-  (* to Johns Hopkins as of 1/27/13 and increasing) 2013

Early available figures coming out for 2012 giving don’t yet mention a figure for Bloomberg or where he will be in the rankings.

* (difference between Times and Chronicle of Philanthropy figures)

(Figures for calendar years1997 through 2008 available from:
•     The Chronicle of Philanthropy
•     Mayor's $weet Charity, by David Seifman, January 27, 2009
•     Bloomberg’s Gifts to Charity Exceeded $165 Million in 2006, by Diane Cardwell, September 17, 2007
•     Nearly 1,000 Groups Gain From Bloomberg’s Largess, by Sewell Chan, October 18, 2006
•     2003 tax year? For Bloomberg, 'Rich' Is Just Too Weak an Adjective, By Leslie Eaton, July 3, 2004.
•     In 2002, Bloomberg Lost a Bit (for Him) and Gave a Lot, by David Johnston (Correction: David Cay Johnston), June 14, 2003)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

More On Jay-z And Beyoncé- Criticism of Beyoncé’s Morality In Lip Syncing . . . A Distraction From Real National Issues

The issues involved (do you know which ones?) were of national concern so I posted an article I've written to address the kerfuffle concerning Beyoncé’s lip syncing of the National Anthem after Obama's second inaugural speech as a National Notice article.

You can get to it here: Tuesday, January 29, 2013, Tsk, Tsk: Criticism of Beyoncé’s Lip Syncing . . A Distraction From More Serious Issues And Moral Choices.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sports Glummery: Goodbye To Professional Sports Teams Like Dem Dodgers Bums Doesn’t Mean Riddance To Paying For Them, Now Says The Times

It’s front page news today. . .

Many bemoan the Dodgers unceremoniously departure from Brooklyn, New York back in 1957, but the New York Times tells us that due to an impending deal with Time Warner Cable the company's subscribers in Southern California are going to be paying “between $4 and $5 a month” more even if they don’t watch the Dodgers.  And because Time Warner Cable won’t be able to charge enough to cover the entire cost of the Dodgers deal it is very possible non-sports watchers may see a degradation of the quality of the rest of their cable service as Time Warner figures out how to absorb the shortfall it will be swallowing.

The Times didn’t say that New Yorkers will themselves see a rise in cable prices due to the Dodgers deal, only that New Yorkers (along with Los Angeleans) are already in some cases paying a “$2 to $3 monthly surcharge” to pay for “regional sports networks.”  Since I expect Dodgers games will sometimes be played on New York channels I bet the cost somehow factors in to what is paid although I couldn’t discern from the Times article for certain that either the existing arrangement or the impending deal means that New Yorkers pay much for Dodgers team games they don’t watch, only that they pay a lot, in general, for professional sports games even when they are not watching them.

One piece of good news reported in the article is that, “Verizon FiOS, perhaps testing the waters, announced a sports-free package of channels this week that is $15 cheaper than a similar package with sports.”

The New York Times has now caught up with and put on its front page something Noticing New York was writing about last July: how those of us who don’t watch and otherwise shun having anything to do with professional sports are paying a lot for them anyway in our cable TV subscription packages.  The Times article is here: Rising TV Fees Mean All Viewers Pay to Keep Sports Fans Happy, by Brian Stelter, January 25, 2013.

Noticing New York’s article in July, which went into more detail about what options (or the lack thereof) New York City residents have to try to avoid the extra amounts they are having to pay for sports they don’t watch (and may actually consider not all that great to have around in other ways), is here: Monday, July 9, 2012, More Sports Glummery.

The topic of the Times article and my earlier Noticing New York article is variation on a theme that I made the subject of independent research I did with my professor (Charlotte Price) when I was studying economics at Sarah Lawrence: how and when it can become possible for people to wind up paying for and buying things they don’t want.  It’s sort of a challenging set of propositions that run counter to the standard expectations and intuitions that generally ensue from and accompany normal economic theorems.

This is what the Times said in its article today sounding like the subject that drew me to research it back then:
For the most part, all of these networks are requirements, not options for cable customers. (Some distributors charge extra for packages of sports channels for die-hard fans, but the big networks remain in the packages that most customers get.) [Even though the Times says Dodgers games ] . . . were lucky to garner 100,000 viewers on any given day.

    * * * *

“The cable industry has done everything it can to bundle programming and force consumers to buy things they don’t want,” said Gene Kimmelman, a former Justice Department antitrust lawyer.
When I was trying to figure out these paradoxes of people paying for what they did not want back at Sarah Lawrence I kept coming back to models that involved collective decision-making and found myself often getting into the realm of political decision-making.   This was when my professor assisted me by introducing me to the work of Kenneth Arrow.

As for non-sports fans being forced to pay for that which they are not fans of, when politics and their manipulation come into play in decision-making, the examples of what results are probably all the more extreme.  That’s when you get the example of the so-called “Barclays” arena where every non-sports loving New Yorker is being forced to pick up the costs of subsidizing tickets for every game to the tune of perhaps $20.00 a seat every game.  A couple of games can easily come to $700,000.00 and there are many more games than that.  And then we have the hoggish Yankee Stadium to pay for too.  The list, of course, goes on.

Still the Times has been cheering the arrival of the “Barclays” arena without pointing out that many, many New Yorkers don't want to pay those extra taxes they are being forced to pay to heftily subsidize it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bloomberg’s Increasing Annual Wealth: 1996 to 2012 Plus Updates On His Annual “Charitable” Giving

How much will Bloomberg’s wealth go up?  Bloomberg looks skyward.. . . .The image above is from the November 1, 2012 press conference when, with multiple counties in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut declared disaster areas due to Superstorm Hurricane Sandy, Bloomberg couldn't have looked more bored or been more disrespectful to FEMA’s Secretary Napolitano, who was in New York to provide help.  See: Friday, November 2, 2012, Despite Expected Kudos, Bloomberg Tires of Hurricane Relief Administration Role: That, Or He Tremendously Disrespects Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano.  Video is available on Youtube.
Groundhog Day (also known to some of us as the Celtic Midwinter Celebration), the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox will soon be upon us.  That means that Forbes, in just a few days more, will be unearthing its new individual wealth calculations, and we will find out whether Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s wealth has again escalated by a startling amount.  In September we learned that Bloomberg’s wealth, as estimated by Forbes, had jumped from $19.5 billion in 2011 (and as late as February 2012) to $25 billion for 2012.

The 28% jump in Bloomberg's wealth in 2012 was ascribed to Forbes estimating "the growth of the mayor’s fortune based on a rise in revenue at Bloomberg L.P.", Bloomberg L.P. being the mayor's company that does business with virtually every significant business that interacts with the city in any way, important or otherwise.

So that useful background is available to everyone when the new figures are announced this seems like a good time to update how astoundingly Bloomberg's wealth has increased every year, especially since taking an interest in, and entering, politics.  See the update below (Forbes publishes figures in September and again in February):
1996 - $1 billion
1997 - $1.3 billion
1998 - $2 billion
1999- $2.5 billion
2000- $4 billion
2001- $4 billion
2002- $4.8 billion
2003- $4.9 Billion
2004- $5 Billion
2005- $5.1 Billion
2006- $5.3 Billion
2007- $11.5 billion
2008- $20 billion
2009- $16 billion (interim March figure)*
2009- $17.5 billion (A year of $105 million in direct campaign expenditures, plus. .)**
2010- $18.0 billion (Bloomberg surpassed by David H. Koch)
2011- $19.5 billion
2012- $25 billion
 * For more on how Bloomberg's wealth declined (because he didn't see the financial crisis coming?- And how the press missed it) see: Bloomberg Update: Fire and Ice (Sunday, April 12, 2009)

** Respecting this: Direct campaign expenditures were about $105 million. Bloomberg, in his three bids for mayor, easily burned through more than $250 million in direct campaign expenditures. Taking into account funds Bloomberg spent indirectly for political purposes you get into billion dollar figures.

*** Bloomberg was still reported to be New York City's richest New Yorker in March of 2010 but in September 2010 was surpassed by David H. Koch, one of the two equally wealthy brothers providing substantial funding to the Tea Party. It is to be observed with some interest that Bloomberg's accretion of wealth substantially accelerated when Bloomberg got involved in politics. In August of 2010 people began writing about how David Koch and his brother Charles were funding the Tea Party, which emerged starting in the beginning of 2009 (i.e. just weeks after Obama’s January 2009 inauguration.) Looks as if it can be very good for one’s financial status to get involved in politics! (Though to be fair the Kochs were involved in politics before the advent of the Tea Party.) The brothers' privately-owned Koch Industries is a diversified conglomerate that had its origins in crude oil refining and still has substantial investment in pipelines and refineries. Consequently, Koch Industries has a history of accidents, spills and pollution of the environment.

Noticing New York previously published and commented on running tallies of the mayor's escalating wealth.  See:  Sunday, October 16, 2011, Bloomberg’s Increasing Annual Wealth: 1996 to 2011 and Tuesday, February 3, 2009, Bloomberg’s Increasing Annual Wealth: 1996 to 2008.

Noticing New York has also reported on the history of the mayor's "charitable" giving, which is important because the mayor is at the very top of the list of such spenders in this country.  It also seems like a good time to provide updated figures in this regard.  The 2012 calendar year has closed, tax returns are due and new lists and information about what people have given and deducted will also be published soon.

Below in chart form is updated information about Bloomberg’s level of giving and the years of associated Bloomberg political campaigns. 
$26.6 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 1997 (when he distributed to 433 groups). Handouts have increased every year since - Press mentions of Bloomberg philanthropy begin this year 
$45 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 1998 - Year Bloomberg started talking publicly about running for mayor 
$47 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 1999 
$100.5 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2000 (579 organizations)- Year before first mayoral election campaign 
$122.5 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2001 (540 groups) Was elected mayor in November 
$130.9 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2002 (655 groups) Became mayor 
$135.6 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2003 (653 groups) 
$138/139.9 million*:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2004 (843 groups) 
$143.9 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2005 (987 groups)- Second campaign for mayor in connection with the 2005 election 
$165.3 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2006. (1,077 groups) 
$205 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2007.- The year he started to run for president.- The year he left the Republican party 
$235 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2008 (1,221 recipient groups)- The year that Bloomberg started running for his third term as mayor and overthrew the city’s term limits restrictions.
 $254 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2009 (1,300 organizations).  2009 was the year that Bloomberg was elected in November to his third term as New York Mayor after spending approximately $105 million in acknowledged direct spending on his campaign (many multiples of what his challenger could raise from the public) and, in addition, Bloomberg's political aides (also holding public posts) get fabulously huge bonuses for campaign work.
 $279.18 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2010 - Bloomberg ranked the #2 American "giver", "giving" to "arts, human services, public affairs, and other groups".  2010 was the year that Bloomberg shifted his charitable spending,which had always concentrated on New York City recipients, to focusing on recipients connected to issues of national significance.
 $311.3 million:- Bloomberg’s charitable gifts in 2011 - Bloomberg ranked the #5 American "giver," "giving" to "1,185 arts, human-services, public-affairs, and other groups".

Early available figures coming out for 2012 giving don’t yet mention a figure for Bloomberg or where he will be in the rankings.

* (difference between Times and Chronicle of Philanthropy figures)

(Figures for calendar years1997 through 2008 available from:
•     the Chronicle of Philanthropy
•     Mayor's $weet Charity, by David Seifman, January 27, 2009
•     Bloomberg’s Gifts to Charity Exceeded $165 Million in 2006, by Diane Cardwell, September 17, 2007
•     Nearly 1,000 Groups Gain From Bloomberg’s Largess, by Sewell Chan, October 18, 2006
•     2003 tax year? For Bloomberg, 'Rich' Is Just Too Weak an Adjective, By Leslie Eaton, July 3, 2004.
•     In 2002, Bloomberg Lost a Bit (for Him) and Gave a Lot, by David Johnston (Correction: David Cay Johnston), June 14, 2003)
The 1997 through 2008 figures were originally consolidated to go along with this Noticing New York article about Bloomberg's "charitable" giving: The Good News IS the Bad News: Thanks A lot for Mayor Bloomberg’s “Charity” (Monday, February 2, 2009). For more on what those numbers mean in context click to read the article.
It is important to keep track of Bloomberg's wealth and "charitable" spending because Bloomberg is a public official and the earning of his wealth is subject to many conflict of interest concerns.  At the same time, cycling around, that wealth is deployed for political purposes that include the "charitable" spending above.  The charitable spending above does not reflect the non-tax-deductable augmenting amounts the Bloomberg donates to political campaigns and causes.

The news of what Mayor Bloomberg was `donating to charity' used to be big news in the local New York City press and it was clear that Bloomberg was pressing to get that information out to local reporters as part of his image.  Since 2009, the year that Noticing New York published a chart of Bloomberg's donations, that information has not been as readily available in the local press.  As you will note from the links for calendar years 2009, 2010 and 2011 above, it is still available.  Previously, news of exactly what Bloomberg was "giving" to charity would surface in news, usually reported in May, about Bloomberg's tax returns.

I am not sure whether there has actually been a change in what gets revealed to New York reporters at tax return time in terms of his business dealings or “charitable” contributions, but Bloomberg does not provide his actual tax returns for review by the public.  Instead he allows reporters to come and view redacted tax information for less than three hours.  No copying is permitted.

In early 2010 a New York Times story observed that the mayor doesn’t like talking about his money, although he “swells with evident pride at how his charitable contributions, topping more than $200 million a year [much closer to already topping $300 million a year by then], have helped to boost the arts in New York, and finance antismoking and traffic safety endeavors in poor countries.”  See: February 22, 2010, Bloomberg Doesn’t Want to Talk About His Money, by David W. Chen.

2010 was also the year that the mayor was taken to task in the spring because a 2009 tax return for one of his private foundations (which was subject to disclosure) showed that Bloomberg had offshore investments.  See: The Mayor's Money: Bloomberg Pressed on Offshore Investments, Saturday, April 24, 2010, by Bob Hennelly.  For more discussion of this, together with information about how Bloomberg was restructuring his giving patterns in 2010, redirecting it to national charities, and also information about the new board with political overtones Bloomberg set up headed by his First Deputy Mayor and chief political strategist, Patricia Harris, see: Monday, May 24, 2010, Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth? An Examination of Brooklyn Bridge Park in Terms of the Politics of Development, Part I.

For a long time and until just recently, Bloomberg was not only the mayor but also the city's richest individual (now he is only the second richest), his wealth having skyrocketed after he announced his interest in politics. For more about the unprecedented peculiarity of that and Bloomberg's conflicts of interest as mayor while his wealth accumulated see: Thursday, October 22, 2009, This Is Rich! Looks Like Bloomberg is Making History and Sunday, November 1, 2009 Bloomberg vs. Thomson (54% to 29%?): It’s Not What You Think. (For Instance the “P” is Missing and What Might “P” Stand For?). The image above is from, and explained in, those posts.

For an older story about how the media is not keeping up with the story of Bloomberg's wealth, the conflicts of interests involved in where it comes from and his so-called "charitable" giving see: No Real Debate About It: Press Remains Way Off Track in Presupposing Bloomberg’s “Charity” (Friday, October 2, 2009)
For Noticing New York's remarks on Bloomberg's term limits extension see: Challenging Bloomberg Unlimited (Sunday, October 18, 2009)

The Occupy Wall Street protesters whom Bloomberg evicted from Zucotti Park didn't have a very good relationship with the mayor.  Many of the placards on display when you visited the protest were critical of Bloomberg, including the one below that suggested that Bloomberg be spoken to "about the looting." Conversely, Bloomberg was critical about what the protesters have to say.  It hardly seems as if much time has gone by since the mayor's November 2011 eviction of the protestors from Zucotti Park, but if the protestors ever retake the space their signs will need to be updated. With Bloomberg's wealth last estimated at $25 billion the sign below from that time putting his wealth at a mere $18 billion is sorely out of date.
Above, just one of the many now very outdated  Occupy Wall Street placards addressing the subject of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's wealth.
I thought it might also be useful to provide Bloomberg's wealth and "Charitable" giving information in another form, so below is a consolidated chart that shows both:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

October 1963, An Historical Snapshot: Ada Louise Huxtable, Jane Jacobs, Robert Moses, Cars, Density, Bulldozers, Preservation

One of Ada Louise Huxtable's first articles in the Fall of 1963 dealt with Jane Jacobs, car congestion in midtown Manhattan, density, the New Planning Commissioner and a whole lot more
Buckle your seat-belts for a bit of time travel.  I hope we might return from this trip more appreciative of aspects of where we stand in New York City today.  Our embarking point?: Obituaries provide a sense of history absent from the rest of the news dished up for us, especially when the person who has died lived a long and vital life.

I recently read the wonderfully written New York Times obituary for Ada Louise Huxtable (Ada Louise Huxtable, Champion of Livable Architecture, Dies at 91, by David W. Dunlap, January 7, 2013).  It took me back to the beginning of Ms. Huxtable's career, when she was hired by the Times as “the first full-time architecture critic at an American newspaper.”  One thing I found myself immediately wondering was how likely it was that her hiring in September 1963 might have been motivated, at least in some part, by the influence of urbanist Jane Jacobs’ 1961 book, “The Life and Death of Great American Cities.”  Though unmentioned in Dunlap's obituary for Huxtable, Jacobs’ book and activism, particularly in New York, were at that point in time raising the public’s consciousness of how building and development were shaping the city environment surrounding us.

What made me all the more curious about this possibility was that Mr. Dunlap wrote his obituary for Ms. Huxtable almost as if he intended to emphasize characteristics of Ms. Huxtable that were similar to Jacobs.  I wound up writing about this (plus a great deal more, including the social responsibility of artists and architecture) here: Tuesday, January 15, 2013, Andrea Fraser, Frank Gehry, Ada Louise Huxtable, Art, Artists, Urban Renewal, Mega-Monpoly And The “Barclays” Arena.

Doing research to explore the possible interrelationships vis–à–vis Huxtable and Jacobs at the time Huxtable was appointed, I found that Huxtable wrote mentioning Jacobs and her influence in one of her very first columns.  The Times announcement of its appointment of Huxatble ran September 9, 1963. The Times article in which Huxtable wrote about Jacobs appeared October 16, 1963.  It was Huxtable's welcoming interview with William F. R. Ballard, newly appointed as the new chairman of the City Planning Commission.  (See: Planner Defends Cars in Midtown.  . . .  The article shows up with several possible alternative Times titles, including this longest version: “Planner Defends Cars in Midtown; New Chief of Commission, Sworn by Mayor, Backs Municipal Garages Begin Duties Today” and “Planner Defends Cars in Midtown Theories Much Sought Caution on Bulldozers”.)

Hindsight Insight on Urban Renewal

The Ballard interview article provides a wonderfully instructive snapshot of what was going on at a key moment in time, especially as we can now look back at that moment in the context of what we know in hindsight.  In 1963 the city was still several years away from committing itself to a program of historic preservation, several years before establishing Brooklyn Heights as its first historic district (1967), quickly followed by Greenwich Village, and though the tide of public opinion was turning against Robert Moses and his urban renewal and massive road-building programs those programs were still being strongly urged upon the public.  Demolition and destruction were on the public's mind.  Demolition of the original  Beaux Arts Pennsyvania Station (announced July 1961) began in October 1963.  Hot topics under discussion, shades of today, were the desirability of automobiles in Manhattan and the subject of urban density.

Huxtable’s interview with Commissioner Ballard reads like her model for writing might be straight reporting, not the kind of criticism with which we now strongly associate Ms. Huxtable.  Its seemingly neutral bent actually comes across as being the opposite of critical.  Huxtable describes Ballard as “ruggedly handsome” with a demonstrated technical competence and  “optimistic, persuasive, energetic,” equipped with a vision for a “bigger, better, more comfortable New York” based on planning theories that Huxtable characterizes as “safely somewhere to the right of center, involving a new kind of civic-togetherness.”  She finishes off the article on this tritely upbeat note about Ballard’s view of the city:
He summed up his views with a statement few new Yorkers would contest: “This is the greatest City in the World.”
There is in the tone of her writing no whiff of the insight you hear from her in a 2008 interview with Leonard Lopate:
The chairman of almost every commission we have is always a political appointee.
In 2008 she was discussing whether appointees like Chairman Robert B. Tierney of the city Landmarks Preservation Commission should be expected to have professional expertise relevant to their appointments.  Huxtable’s answer was to say she puts her faith in the professional expertise of others such as the actual commission members.  Ballard had a certain amount of expertise relevant to the position to which he had been appointed: He was an architect who had been involved in shaping the zoning code. But in Huxtable’s interview Ballard clearly comes across as a politically conscious individual, apt to dutifully address the pros and cons of both sides of an issue.  I suspect that it is only in retrospect we realize how harsh some of his sentiments sound.

Addressing the subject of Jane Jacobs, Ballard provides counterpoint, arguing for urban renewal even while demonstrating his ability to give lip service to contrasting views.  Here is Ballard on the subject of the increasingly disfavored “bulldozer approach to urban renewal”:
When you destroy an old neighborhood completely, you are wiping out something that, sentimentally, I think should be preserved, if it can.  It may run counter to sensible planning, but that’s one of the things that makes the whole operation of planning fascinating.
More revealingly, Ballard criticizes Jacobs, who had just succeeded in preserving the West Village (1961) from bulldozer urban renewal, defeating efforts by Ballard’s predecessor:
She is unnecessarily negative in wanting to preserve everything exactly as it is. . . This is a lack of imagination.  But she is right about the loss of humanity in acres of identical housing.  The solution is not to freeze things.  You go ahead, enlivening, softening, and humanizing the new plans.  We’re learning as we go along.
Huxtable, who specifically mentions the title of Jacobs "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" book in the article, dubs Jacobs the bête noire of Ballard’s predecessor, James Felt.  Ballard was then the new planning face to the Mayor Robert F. Wagner administration, which might have suggested some softening compromise with Jacobs’ views, but here he still sounds apparently eager to get on with the large-scale, pulverizing churns of neighborhood demolition the real estate industry was backing.  One wonders how far we have come when Amanda Burden, the city’s current city planning commissioner, similarly speaks coyly of blending Jane Jacobs’ style values with a rehabilitated veneration for Moses-scale disruptions:
    . .  our plans therefore have been as ambitious as those of Robert Moses, but we really judge ourselves by Jane Jacobs standards.
(See: Saturday, November 5, 2011, Now Appearing In Gary Hustwit’s New Documentary “Urbanized”: Amanda Burden, New York’s High Line and Community Protest.)

In retrospect, fifty years later, (notwithstanding Amanda Burden's vision of kinder, gentler editions of Moses ambitions) most of us are probably absolutely clear about how incredibly valuable Jacobs’ preservation of the West Village was (as well as the preservation of the rest of Greenwich Village, SoHo and Brooklyn Heights, etc.).  We see, also, the insufficiency of Ballard’s vision of preserving only some things within an overall environment rather than the “rich tapestry of time and style” (Huxtable words in 2008), or saving just some “celebrated monuments” in lieu of retaining “the city’s historic fabric and neighborhood character” (Huxtable words in 1966).

A City For Automobiles?

Library of Congress image of Lower Manhattan Expressway via Wikipedia
In her 1961 book Jane Jacobs had taken on another fight, the primacy of the automobile, arguing for the restoration of space back to the pedestrian use.  In this respect, Jacobs’ battle to save the West Village was intrinsically connected to her fight to defeat Moses's plans for a ten-lane Lower Manhattan Expressway that would have destroyed Greenwich Village, SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown. - That plan (cancelled in 1962) would have involved a huge ramped clover-leafing midtown access smack-dab in the middle of Greenwich Village.  It would have been just south of Washington Square Park.  Under the Moses plan, the extension of Fifth Avenue through Washington Square Park, fought over by Jacobs and Moses (1955-1956), would, although it was not revealed at that time, have led directly to the clover-leaf acess. (See Jan Gehl's essay "For You Jane" in "What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs.").

In her 2010 book, “The Battle for Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs,” Roberta Brandes Gratz, a longtime friend, colleague and disciple of Jane Jacobs, writes about how it was only after she wrote her 1961 book that Jacobs discovered and fully understood that the Moses long-term plans for automobiles in Manhattan (dating back to a 1929 regional plan) involved a network of highways lacing the borough up and down ( a “Los Angelizing” the borough, a“net catching Manhattan”) with a series of crosstown highway crossings connecting a surrounding oval of major roadways.

In a conversation with Roberta Brandes Gratz years afterward, Jacobs explained how the proposed Westway along the Hudson (ultimately defeated) should be considered part of the materialization of this overall scheme.  The multiple highways going across Manhattan under the plan?: The Lower Manhattan Expressway downtown crossing, a crossing at Thirtieth Street (the Mid-Manhattan Expressway), roadway extending “from Forty-second Street north and from Battery south around and up the East Side” and a Cross Harlem Expressway at ground level at 125th street was also proposed, while the Trans-Manhattan Expressway at the very narrow northern tip of Manhattan up at 178th Street was actually built.

1964 Regional Plan Association map of expressways proposed to traverse Manhattan
In close up
In Huxtable's 1963 interview Ballard has some interesting quotes about his view of automobiles.

Even though Commissioner Ballard made it clear when he left office that he still advocated highways in Manhattan, it may be less than fair play to furnish the preceding information prior to supplying you with his 1963 remarks since: 1.) Ballard's most immediate focus when speaking was on parking garages, and 2.) as Jacobs made the point to Ms. Brandes Gratz, Moses always kept the full scale of his plans under wraps;  “only pieces of it” kept “surfacing.”  Commented Jacobs, Moses made his proposals piecemeal because, “Nobody would ever consent to the insanity of doing the whole thing.”

This is what Commissioner Ballard said of the automobile in mid-town Manhattan in that inaugural interview with Huxtable:
The better and fuller life includes the free use of the automobile. . .  Planners who try to discourage its use make me sick.
His standard for whether too many cars are being added?: Whether the traffic still moves.  He says:
I believe in direct transportation.  The apartment house garages required by our new zoning haven’t affected the streets.  Our traffic still moves.
Addressing Density

Our traffic still moves?  Ballard's criteria for evaluating acceptable density sounds remarkably similar: Whether people are trampling each other.  At the time of the interview the giant new Pan Am Building, (now the MetLife Building) was a public concern (a ‘running argument’ says Huxtable). Only months later, April 14, 1963, Huxtable wrote her official Times review negatively critiquing the completed building.  Part of her critique was of the building’s density: Architecture Stumbles on; Recent Buildings Are Nothing Much to Brag About Other Newcomers "Sixth" Avenue Coming Up (Retitled: Pan AM: “The Big, the Expedient, and the Deathlessly Ordinary” in her book of collected essays “On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change.”)  But as we will return to in a moment, even before the building’s completion, even before starting as the Times official architectural critic, Huxtable had already participated in the “running argument,” speaking out against the social irresponsibility of the building’s size.

In the interview, Ballard (with little hint of personal contradiction by Huxtable as she is quoting him) defended the density the enormous building would bring to its key location:
I think it’s great.  I can’t think of a better place to have a big building. . .  It’s at the focus of all midtown commutation and transportation; the best place for it.  I don’t think concentration is such an evil. . . It’s the essence of cities; it can be a good thing.  Architects don’t pale at the handling of the problem.  I don’t see the disasters that the weepers and wailers predicted.  A park there would have been an absurd idea.  Rush hour? Nobody’s been trampled yet.
As noted, in April Huxtable weighed in officially when the building was completed, confirming her view as the New York Times critic that the building put too much density on the site:
Of  these new buildings, Pan Am has by far the greatest impact on the city scene. Criticism which has been plentiful since the building’s inception, is directed largely at is physical and sociological implications: the effect of seventeen thousand new tenants and 250,00 daily transients on the already crowded Grand Central area and its services and the unresolved conflicts and responsibilities of the city and private enterprise in control of urban densities and master planning.
She simultaneously assaulted the building's aesthetics: “a colossal collection of minimums. . . minimum good materials of minimum acceptable quality executed with a minimum of imagination. . .” penultimately ending up:
This is a prime example of a New York specialty: the big, the expedient, and the deathlessly ordinary.*
(* Although Ms. Huxtable has said she didn’t change or update her essays for publication of her book, the very last quote above I only find in the version of her essay appearing in  “On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change”.)

Previously, before being appointed official Times critic but writing in the Times and perhaps auditioning for that role, she wrote critically of the building while it was still under construction, “it continues to cause consternation among those who believe that such an oversized structure will overtax our already burdened midtown facilities” and she asserted it was a “depressing sight” in contrast to the exceptionally pleasant sight the public had been presented with when the old Grand Central building had been demolished to make way for it: Our New Buildings: Hits and Misses; A survey of the construction that has given New York a new face shows too few departures from the characterless and the imitative, April 29, 1962.

Huxtable's criticism published in the Times at that time was mild compared to what Huxtable wrote in 1961  “In Four Walking Tours of Modern Architecture in New York City” which she put together for the Municipal Art Society (ultimately partly quoted in the Times as part of her Times obituary and quoted more fully in The Pan Am Building and the Shattering of the Modernist Dream):
The erection of such an overwhelming structure— the largest single office building in New York— will radically alter the scale of the buildings along Park Avenue.  It will also add an extraordinary burden to existing pedestrian and transportation facilities, and in these aspects its antisocial character directly contradicts the teachings of Walter Gropius, who has collaborated in its design.
Writing a memoriam piece upon the death of Walter Gropius, Huxtable, a hard taskmaster at least when it came to this building, reiterated her social responsibility criticism:
The final irony was the betrayal of his own teaching of social and urban responsibility in one of his last jobs where he acted as consultant with Peitro Belluschi, for the "smoothing up" of the urban outrages of New York's notorious Pan Am Building.  This still saddens his admirers. 
(See: He Was Not Irrelevant, July 20, 1969.)

The building's aesthetics aside, it can be easily argued that Ballard was more correct in his defense of the building’s density than Ms. Huxtable was in her criticism that the density consigned the building to socially irresponsibility.  The Pan Am now MetLife building has now been up for fifty years and it remains true that no one has yet been “trampled.”   (Although flights to the helicopter pad atop the buildings were discontinued after an accident in which five people were killed.)  Ballard's observation that the building is over a transit hub and making it efficient is correct.

There are caveats, however, before jumping to conclusions about who was right or how right they were. Huxtable was talking in part not just about a single building, but the alternation of the scale of Park Avenue (which the Pan Am building surely did).  When she said it would add an “extraordinary burden” to services and facilities in the area one must also think in terms of the burden that all the bigger buildings add to the area when additional development ensues to match that alteration of scale.  Irrespective of whether Ms. Huxtable was entirely correct that the particular building’s density was unsupportable or burdensome it made sense that she was wary of the density then.   And now?  . .   Recently the Bloomberg administration has unveiled plans to almost double-- starting in 2017-- the density of Manhattan’s already very dense Midtown business district, that entire district surrounding Grand Central and the Pan Am building, from 39th Street to 57th Street on the East Side.

Should we not now wonder if the criteria for Bloomberg officials as to what constitutes the acceptable upper limit for density is literally the standard Commissioner Ballard imagined: That you keep building until people get “trampled.”

Ballard might have been surprised to learn that Jane Jacobs, whom he criticized as too negative when speaking to Ms. Huxtable, considered herself a fan of density.  But Jacobs believed in adding density gradually, not in an overwhelming rush.  If the density of the Pan Am building works reasonably well now, fifty years after the fact, another appropriate test to apply was how well its addition to the neighborhood worked right after it was built, something that we must think back through our foggy memories to assess.

Was Huxtable still finding her footing when she interviewed Ballard?  What should be clear from all of the above is that despite her flattering descriptions of Ballard’s good looks, competence, and altruistic goals she couldn’t have disagreed with him more about the social responsibility of the Pan Am building.  It makes you wonder what else she was reporting of his words she personally disagreed with while not cluing in her audience . . .  although, without speaking specifically for herself, she does inform her readers that Ballard disagreed “with many professional planners not only on automobiles, also on . .  the giant Pan Am Building.”

Huxtable does not often address the issue of density.  “Density,” for instance, is not listed in the index of her collected essays despite that being one of her key criticisms of the Pan Am building.  In other essays in that collection she commented with dismay on how the city strained to keep the Ground Zero site at the same density rather than reduce Silverstein’s financial stake in the site, albeit in one of these mentions she refers to how density can be considered “the soul of the city.”   Her expression of dissatisfaction with another huge multi-acre scheme, Hudson Yards, indicates an impatience with the reflex of maximizing density: “we will get a lot of very, very big buildings that will make someone very, very rich,” she says of the Hudson Yards site proper, controlled by the Related Companies, and then notes that, similarly, the surrounding acres “have already been rezoned in part for the biggest buildings possible.”

The subject of the value of density, qua density, came up in a 2008 interview Phillip Lopate (Leonard's brother) did with Ms. Huxtable that appeared in the Times wherein Huxtable averred that she (like Jacobs) was basically a fan of density:
Lopate: I take it you’re for density but not for overbuilding.

Huxtable: How can I be against density? I’m a New Yorker! I grew up with density.
Interestingly the exchange came out of Huxtable’s commenting negatively about urban renewal (taking us back to the bulldozers we spoke of at the beginning), that:
 . . . urban renewal tried to get rid of density. It was viewed as concentrating poverty and disease. Now there’s the awareness that density is more energy-efficient and less destructive of the environment than urban sprawl.
This is something that many people may not know about old-style urban renewal: It often didn’t increase density.  It often replaced more with less, which might help emphasize the point for those of us looking back, how urban renewal was often most importantly about getting rid of things and often who was being gotten rid of.  (James Baldwin referred to urban renewal as “Negro removal.”*)  Moses’s rebuilding of New York resulted in a slowing of the city’s rate of growth and then its first huge population decline staring in the 60's.  It was partly due to the way the shift to the automobile (discussed above) exported population, but Moses’s urban renewal had to be a contributing factor.  A very important part of this exodus was the city’s middle class.
(* I found Bruce Norris's Pulitzer Prize-winning 2010 play, “Clybourne Park,” disappointingly shallow in terms of the “dissection of race, gentrification and real estate” that it was supposedly about.  Tantalizing though, it briefly raised, without pursuing, the conspiracy theories that virtually all governmentally assisted urban revitalization reflects master planning to further disadvantage racial minorities.  Remember: To dub something a conspiracy theory doesn’t mean that it lacks truth.)
These days we tend to associate the demolition of our existing city fabric with density because so often the death sentence for existing parts of the city comes with sudden changes in zoning (like in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) that include increases in density to induce the turnover of a neighborhood.  Nevertheless, when people are being dispossessed by such zoning changes or by current-day substitutes for old-fashioned bulldozer urban renewal like Atlantic Yards, it is safe to bet, just like the old days, that the people being evicted are mostly on the other side of a social divide from those conceptualizing and deciding upon the implementation of such plans.

Intersection of Traffic and Density In Current-Day Modern New York

New York City is currently reclaiming its streets for pedestrians under Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.  An essay Commissioner Sadik-Khan contributed to “What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs,” a collection of pieces that pays tribute to Jane Jacobs by working to build on her ideas, begins (p. 242) with an expression of how Sadik-Khan sees her work as a continuation of the “epic battle between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs over the streets of New York.”  Sadik-Khan’s essay is titled: “Think of a City and What Comes to Mind? Its Streets.”

“Our traffic still moves,” was apparently Ballard’s test whereby one would judge whether too much priority had been extended to urban automobiles.  Commissioner Sadik-Khan hews to Jane Jacobs perception that, many might find counter-intuitive, but which is bearing out, that if the conveniences and roadway space for automobiles are removed (“attrited” as in attrition), the traffic “still moves,” with congestion simply evaporating.  That, is in contradistinction to a city like São Paulo, Brazil which, with a street transportation plan that Ms.Sadik-Khan observes was put together by Robert Moses himself, is enduring the concomitant ultimate ramifications of such a plan: It has bumper-to-bumper gridlock and the business elite resorts to getting around by helicopter (here we are back to the kind of midtown helicopter pads discontinued at the Pan Building!).

Serving the demands of cars results in traffic congestion, but when that demand is not served, demand evaporates.  There is a reverse corollary to this: Commissioner Sadik-Khan speaks of “latent demand” for pedestrian space and plazas.  The more such space is supplied, the more pedestrians materialize to fill it.

It’s interesting how this interrelates with density and how exactly that is working out in Time Square, which with upzoning and redevelopment has become an exceptionally dense pedestrian environment.

The closing down of large portions of Broadway to vehicular traffic was, according to the Bloomberg administration, to deal with escalating levels of congestion and because people were “getting pushed out into the streets” and the sidewalks couldn’t handle it.

The Bloomberg administration is now reinforcing that increased dedication of space to pedestrians,  protecting pedestrians from traffic (and possible `terrorists’) by adding bollards and concrete barriers, see: Times Square ‘Bow Tie’ Is to Get Belts of Steel and Granite, by David W. Dunlap, January 13, 2013.

Before the pedestrian areas were expanded in the Broadway Times Square area I used to walk around carsin the streets  to get around the congestion.  The pedestrian areas have now been expanded but the on-foot congestion has grown to fill in those expanded areas so that now, if I am in a hurry and need to move fast, I eschew the experience of the flashing lights and animated screens on Broadway and walk up to 46th Street by the not-very-aesthetically-satisfying, less crowded, mid-block concourses just to the west.

This is what the congestion is like around Time Square’s 42nd Street and the Bloomberg administration wants to almost double the density of the very nearby Grand Central business district?

Historic Preservation

Although Ballard’s expression of what the goals of historic preservation should be are somewhat enigmatic, his words contain a clear recognition that the first historic preservation laws, not yet in force when he was being interviewed by Huxtable, were about to be enacted in the city with strong public support.  As noted, the appalling destruction of Pennsylvania Station was on people’s minds.  Here, from Huxtable's interview, is Ballard again:
On Historic preservation, he said: “Like food and water, I’m all for it.  I’m for landmark’s legislation.  I believe in preserving worthwhile monuments, it’s tricky to decide what’s worthwhile and what’s simply old.  How much is sentimentality and how much is good common sense?  People are more important that old buildings.”
One reason the fight for historic preservation was gaining traction, soon to take hold as official city policy (in legislation) ahead of the then ongoing fights against urban renewal, was that the Times was very actively supporting the first of those two fights.  Writes preservationist and historian Anthony Woods in “Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect a City's Landmarks”:
The New York Times would radically increase New York’s preservation consciousness by running well over twenty pro-preservation editorials between December 1961 and the passage of the Landmarks law in the spring of 1965.  This would be in addition to its impressive news coverage of the ceaseless stream of preservation stories marking that turbulent time.

In this period, preservation was blessed to have at the New York Times not only an editor of the editorial page who appreciated the importance of preservation, but a brilliant writer who also embraced its values.  That editor was John Oakes, and the writer was Ada Louise Huxtable.

    * * *

Even before Ada Louise Huxtable made history in 1963 as the first full-time New York Times architecture critic, focusing “public opinion on the city’s built environment as never before,” she was writing in its defense .  As early as 1961, John Oakes had enlisted her to write editorials for the paper.  In this capacity she authored, without attribution, a series of forceful editorials that would keep the cause of preservation front and center until and well beyond the passage of the Landmarks law.
Huxtable, trained as an architectural historian, presented her advocacy for historic preservation as grounded in practically.  In 2008 she said this in a Leonard Lopate Show interview:
This is such a complex subject. You can’t just say save your building when there is no way to save it, when there is no money, when there is no way to keep it and preservationists tend to be very tunnel vision about that. Particularly in new York preservation is a . . it’s a very complicated thing that requires a lot of tradeoffs and a lot of willingness to look at all sides of a problem. We don’t have that now. We have a preservationist movement that really alarms me a little bit because they don’t want to deal with reality. They just want to forge ahead and save buildings and it is not that simple.
But she argued that economic principles tended to favor taking the route of historic preservation  In a May 1999 article for the Wall Street Journal titled “Manhattan’s Landmark Buildings Today” (which is in her book of collected essays) she says at the outset that “Old buildings must earn their way” and then makes the case that they generally do, concluding:
Old Buildings survive because it rarely make sense in bad times to demolish, while in good times there is every incentive to invest.  The city renews and enriches itself when it reuses its landmarks in an economically sound way.  In New York, the art of architecture is inseparable from the art of the deal.
Unlike Huxtable, Jane Jacobs was not, per se, an advocate of historical preservation for its own sake.  Jacobs recognized the value of neighborhood landmarks but did not feel that being historical was a prerequisite to buildings being landmarks.  She was in favor of preserving old buildings but not because they had historical value but because a mix of old and new buildings benefitted neighborhoods in part because the economics of older, less expensive buildings were less costly than those of new buildings.  Jacobs was a preservationist, believing in the preservation of neighborhoods, but what she believed in was the preservation of the fabric of neighborhoods, their dynamics and their social interrelationships.  Seeing neighborhoods as functioning ecosystems replete with valuable street life she was not about preserving neighborhoods frozen in time because she saw them as continually evolving systems.

While there is inevitable overlap to the arguments for preserving beautiful historic old buildings and preserving neighborhoods that include a mix of just plain old buildings, one critical convergence is that both Huxtable and Jacobs would tell you that there is economic benefit to doing what each of them they advocates.  But while Huxtable observes common sensibly that old buildings often survive in economic bad times because it rarely make sense to demolish them then, under the urban renewal that Jacobs fought demolition of old buildings (and their neighborhoods) was precisely what was done when the economy was bad.  It was done on a large scale . .  And  and the buildings demolished were sometimes not replaced for decades.  No wonder that when Commissioner Ballard left office toward the end of the Moses era he was theorizing why all the jobs in a city with a declining population were disappearing.

Is there value to preserving history for history’s sake?: We ought to note that this article that concentrates on looking back to the past is, of course, all about the value of persisting artifacts to spur our memory, together with a sense and appreciation of history.

More About William F. R. Ballard

According to William F. R. Ballard's own Times obituary (appearing September 29, 1993- he died at 88), he was city planning commissioner from 1963 (October 16) to 1966 (November 24).  He was replaced by Donald H. Elliot.

Notwithstanding the negativity Ballard expressed to Huxtable about Jacobs in that first interview, the Times obituary puts Ballard’s fights with Moses, not with Jacobs, front and center in the highlights of his career:
What followed were nearly four years (sic) of political and governmental clashes of competing developmental interests. The stormiest ones involved a continuing conflict between Mr. Ballard and Robert Moses, with Mr. Ballard opposing many of Mr. Moses's most ambitious projects, such as a bridge spanning Long Island. Sound.
There is also this:
A year later, he said a proposal to build public housing in Central Park was "patently absurd."  
Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York”* (1974) has one anecdote concerning Ballard to the effect that under Mayor Wagner the battles he had with Moses were lost:
There were many times when the Mayor announced to friends that he was going to refuse a Moses demand, but the pattern following the announcement was always the same.  William F. R. Ballard, a chairman of the City Planning Commission, recalls vividly Wagner “agreeing to back me— told me he would— and then ended up backing Moses.”  And some version of Ballard’s words are repeated by dozens of officials caught in tugs of war between the two men.
(* Caro’s epic “Power Broker,” a tool often turned to by many to remember and understand much of New York's history, makes no mention of either Jane Jacobs or Ada Louise Huxtable although Jacobs’ seminal 1961 book is mentioned in his bibliography and Caro actually wrote a whole chapter about Jacobs that he ultimately did not include because of the book’s length, one third of which had to be cut.)

Public opinion was mounting against Moses and his development practices and Moses's power was about to end at the hands of the next mayor, John Lindsay, acting in concert with Governor Nelson Rockefeller.

While we remember that Moses was ultimately deposed from power in this era, in 1963 when Ballard took office, demolitions for urban renewal were still lumbering forward sometimes for projects that seemed to continue with life of their own, into the late 70's, well after Moses himself had been officially ousted from power (the key date being his departure from the Triborough Authority in 1968) and even after New York’s sobering fiscal crisis hit in 1975.  For instance, the Schermerhorn-Pacific urban renewal plan, representing a significant prime chuck or Brooklyn real estate, didn’t get underway until 1973.

Unfortunately, the ideas of Robert Moses persisted tenaciously.  While we think of Jane Jacobs’ ideas as ultimately triumphing and being a cause of Moses’s 1968 departure from Triborough, 1968 was the same year Jane Jacobs left New York for Toronto, Canada to ensure that her sons would not have to fight in the Vietnam War,* and even in 1968 with Moses departed, the neighborhood-eviscerating Lower Manhattan Expressway was not entirely dead, the Regional Plan Association urging that it be built even in August of 1969.  Under the Bloomberg administration many of Moses’s ideas were fashionable again (though not the expressways) and there was a concurrent effort to rehabilitate the image of Robert Moses an effort to rehabilitate the image of Robert Moses that included the launching of three separate museum exhibits.
(* Jacobs, in Canada, continued to write books, participate in activism and extend her influence as a thinker and respected theorist.)
Upon his departure in 1966, Mr. Ballard, unhappy that he was requested to leave his office (John Lindsay was now mayor), identified for the Times some “planning questions that remain unresolved.”  Notably these included as his first and last mentioned points:
    •    The “grinding problem” of building desperately needed highways, such as road across lower Manhattan, without displacing hundreds of people.

    •    A more effective distribution of wealth was needed as more and more jobs were eliminated by technology.
The first point makes you wonder how hard Ballard was actually fighting Moses on some of the the things Moses wanted.  The reference to the loss of jobs likely says something about the deleterious effects Moses’s policies were having.

Not everything was seriously grim during Ballard’s tenure in office: His staff gave him a Planning-by-darts game which he played with the new mayor, Lindsay, perhaps hoping to get into his good graces.  One of the game's multiplicity of fictional booby prizes was getting to walk up “six flights of stairs for tea with Jane Jacobs.”

Ballard’s Vision Of Unleashing Energy vs. Jane Jacobs' Vision

Just be before the very ending of the Ballard interview article (where Ballard makes his “greatest City in the World” remark) he offers a thought that juxtaposes weirdly with the thinking of Jane Jacobs:
I would like to promote the interest of the whole community and its future. . [pause for emphasis]  Have you ever thought of the brains and imagination stored up in New York, and what it would mean to get it working in the future?  I think there’s a way to tap it.  I want to bring these people into the planning picture.
The thing about Jane Jacobs is that despite the unnecessary negativity and “lack of imagination” that Ballard attributed to Jacobs, Jacobs had indeed thought a lot about “the brains and imagination stored up in New York” and what it means for it to be activated. Truth to tell, she believed in it more positively than Ballard and had probably thought about it a lot more. All of her work was based on her perceptions and faith that one didn’t need the pseudoscience of “planning” to mobilize that energy, that people were already very much in the picture making cities happen, that the government `city planning' interventions whereby the working fabric of neighborhoods were ripped up and destroyed were antithetical to making use of this energy and represented an expulsion of the people from that same process in which Ballard said he theoretically wanted to involve them.

More About the Hiring of Huxtable

Here is more about the hiring of Huxtable.  The day after the David Dunlap-authored obituary of Ms. Huxtable appeared, Michael Kimmelman, the current architectural critic for the Times, offered an appraisal looking back (See: An Appraisal- A Critic of the Curb and Corner, by Michael Kimmelman, January 8, 2013.)

Mr. Kimmelman does mention Jane Jacobs to put Huxtable’s engagement by the Times in context:
She emerged during the era of Lewis Mumford and Jane Jacobs, with whom she belongs in the pantheon, but as the first full-time critic writing on architecture for an American newspaper, she also had that rare journalistic opportunity to pioneer something of her own, to fill a yawning gap in the public discourse, to carve a path with moral dimensions, “to celebrate the pleasures of this remarkable art,” as she put it.
In my last Noticing New York article went back, to look in depth at a 1958 piece Huxtable did for the Times Magazine to observe that Huxtable, writing there, virtually made her own case for creation of the job the Times eventually hired her to fill by arguing that the “press which regularly reviews art, literature, movies, music and dance, ignores architecture, except for building news on the real estate page” and that “architecture as a standard feature is virtually unknown.”

Mr. Kimmelman went back one year further to note:
Ms. Huxtable’s first publication in The Times seems to be a letter to the editor in 1957, complaining about an art review of photographs of architecture in Caracas, Venezuela, that ignored the deleterious effects of those photogenic but authoritarian buildings on the fabric of the city and its people.
Kimmelman had already declared at the beginning of the article that, “She cared about public standards, social equity, the whole city.”  Even if Huxtable was ghost-writing Times editorials starting in 1961 as  Anthony Woods tells us, these would still seem to be Huxtable's earliest writings for the Times.

In a 2008 interview Phillip Lopate conducted with Ms. Huxtable that appeared in the Times Ms. Huxtable provided the following account of her 1963 hiring.  It elides revelation that she had already been ghost-writing the Times historic preservation editorials:
Aline Saarinen had been The New York Times’s chief art critic, but when she married Eero Saarinen, she thought she should not write about architecture anymore. The Times’s editors were upset; they said they needed to get someone else, and so she recommended me. I went in all dressed up with my clippings, and I remember saying: “All you’ve been doing is printing the developers’ P.R. releases in your real estate section. You have nobody covering this very important field.” So they created the post for me of architecture critic.
(See: Her New York, November 7, 2008.)

That's the end of this tour through history.

In the end, even if some hard-learned lessons are already in danger of fading from our memories, nothing we have covered here is a very far remove from the present day.  Ms. Huxtable, who assumed the role of architectural critic for the Times in 1963, wrote her last column for the Wall Street Journal just last month.  1963 was time of great jeopardy for the city with much hanging in the balance as to whose ideas would prevail.  If we forget, if we again find ourselves distracted and reading just the P.R. releases in the real estate sections, we will probably have to learn many of these lessons all over again.

So I suggest we be on the hunt for good obituaries worth scrutinizing that will allow us to maintain our consciousness of our past.