Thursday, September 25, 2008

93rd Street Beautification Association Pushes the Demolition Review Bill

This just in --

John McCain is suspending all Social Security payments and flying to New York to make sure the City Council passes the Demolition Review Requirement that the 93rd Street Beautification Association is proposing.

Here is an email that I received today on this issue. Interesting read.

93rd Street Beautification Association
Keeping Our Block Historic & Green

Anybody who thinks that the NYC Demolition Review Bill (which is now making the rounds in the New York City Council) is bad for business, just isn't paying attention at all. Over the last several years, NYC has gone from being a mere image projected against a Green Screen in a Hollywood Back Lot (which generates $0 revenue to our town) to being an actual physical location, syphoning production crews; entire casts; staffs of writers and stables of stylists along with producers, directors and stunt coordinators away from the traditional cost-effective fare, offered by Los Angeles and Toronto, and transplanting a string of hot TV Series (eg., Ugly Betty, Entourage, Fringe, 30 Rock) and countless movies (both independent and Hollywood Studio Feature films) to the Big Apple, instead.

To our good fortune (and not a moment too soon), along with these shows and movies comes a much-needed financial boon for a city, first shell-shocked by the tragedy that befell us all on September 11, 2001, and now reeling from the more recent fallout from an insatiable appetite for junk securities, which at first looked like a life-line out of the unimaginable shock of the first tragedy, but now, just like the Emperor himself, stand naked before us all (without so much as a price tag discreetly dangling before its modesty).

The welcome shift in the Film & Television Industry, back to NYC and its Boroughs (which had all enjoyed an earlier heyday thanks to filmmakers and artists like The Marx Brothers), has happened, in part, because of the generous tax incentives offered to TV & Film projects, a shrewd calling card in a budget-conscious climate such as ours. But the real draw for New York City has always been its incomparable photogenic complexion: eclectic, storied and stunning. The incontrovertible fact remains - there is no other place like it on earth.

When Hollywood Locations Scouts and Managers, the people that actually see the scenes in their minds eye before the scenes ever get produced, talk about New York City, they can't help but gush about its remarkable historic architecture. The New York City that is a magnet for the creative juices of the Film & Television Industry is not the bland-box-condo-complexes that developers have been allowed to ram through with sleepy Community Boards looking the other way, but the New York City that is as distinct and unmistakable as a fingerprint. It's the New York City whose architectural inventory and residential neighborhoods spell out, in the visual vernacular widely memorialized in film and video, a town whose mise-en-scene couldn't possibly be mistaken for that of a Canadian surrogate (as in the recent excellent, but very oddly set film, Elegy).

Much has been written about the phenomenon of Hollywood East (which stretches well beyond Manhattan into Long Island City, Coney Island and Jackson Heights, Queens, to name but a few well-trod locations). But an article in The New York Times today vividly illustrates the critical, and therefore fragile, symbiotic relationship between historic preservation and the sustainability of this still nascent industry (which is always a mere boarding pass away from LA and Toronto).

What is most striking to us about this article is how it so clearly connects the dots between the economic windfall NYC is currently enjoying, from the glare of the spotlights, and the specific premium placed on a real-life backdrop of HISTORIC ROWHOUSES in particular, just one of the many architectural treasures we are campaigning to save on Marx Brothers Place in Carnegie Hill.

At this unpredictable moment in NYC's economic narrative, Members of the City Council, Melinda Katz and her powerful Land Use Committee in particular, have a fortuitous opportunity to make an historic contribution to the health and future of our great city by protecting that which helps to sustain its residential neighborhoods; its tourism; its much vaunted history and its long-term economic muscle. With only 1% of NYC's vast building stock triggering even the most cursory review before a demolition permit can be issued, a vital economic resource (the rest of the historically significant structures in our town) that is helping to stem our city's current financial hemorrhage, remains dangerously vulnerable to summary demolition.

It is the confluence of tough times, practical measures and leaders with true vision that make great moments in history. And Members of the New York City Council are standing at that very nexus right now. Before our city looses the historically significant catalogue of architectural structures that help define its character, and now contribute to its wealth, members of the New York City Council should embrace the Demolition Review Bill before them, and adopt this important piece of legislation into law, today. It's time for our elected officials to step up to the plate and protect New York City's economic future.

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