As anyone who spends a few months watching a New York neighborhood knows, things change. Buildings disappear or suddenly spring up with glass and steel towers. This fall, a few of the city’s more interesting places are in danger of disappearing completely, including a mid-century futurist airline terminal and a graffiti-covered warehouse. The city has already lost some architecture that arguably should have been preserved, particularly Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hoffman Show Room, and you’ve likely seen some small detail vanish from your personal cityscape. For me, it was this delicate white façade of a building on 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn that’s now been ripped off in favor of bland bricks. Change isn’t always bad, but no matter what it’s worth appreciating this visible history before it’s gone.
This one you better hurry to, as on-the-tarmac Instagrammers already have documented its demolition that’s underway right now (see its roof off here and another angle on the disappearing building here). As we reported back in March, the clock has been ticking down on the JFK Worldport, a futuristic, UFO-shaped Delta airline terminal that was once Pan Am’s flagship at the New York airport. The building opened in 1960, and although Save the Worldport made a valiant effort to preserve its Googie-style, it closed for good in May and will slowly be demolished into an airplane parking lot. Meanwhile, its fellow mid-century neighbor the TWA Flight Center designed by Eero Saarinen is facing problems with the plans to turn it into a hotel with a recent delay in construction, although if you want to see it without 150 hotel rooms, now is the time.
As was recently announced, the “institute of higher burning” 5Pointz will soon be razed. Last month the plan to tear down the massive Long Island City warehouse that has been a graffiti center since the 1990s was given a unanimous mark of approval by the City Planning Commission. Now, as LIC Post reports, the only thing that could prevent its being replaced by a towering new complex of apartments by its owner the Wolkoff family is the City Council not approving the decision within the next 50 days. However, there will be some art space in the new building, although as Jerry Wolkoff told WNYC: “It will have some space within there for some artists, not graffiti, but regular artists in there.”
The stately Second Empire officer houses at the Brooklyn Navy Yard have long been slowly falling to pieces without any efforts for preservation. Since ownership of the 19th century Admiral’s Row was transferred to the city in 2012 a new plan has finally emerged to preserve at least one of the houses that’s in the best shape and the timber shed where the towering masts once used on ships were dried. Nine of the houses, however, will be destroyed, although for now you can view them through little diamond windows in the fence that blocks them from the street. Yet it’s not all loss, as the development will include a badly needed grocery store for the surrounding neighborhood. However, their old world beauty will be missed. Here’s Curbed’s ongoing coverage with plenty of photographs from inside and looks at the proposed development.
Former Folk Art Museum
It seemed like the former location of the Folk Art Museum with its stern bronze façade was doomed earlier this year in MoMA’s proposed expansion. Yet after major outcry by architects and others interested in preserving the building that was just over a decade old, in May MoMA said it would be reconsidered in the design by Diller Scofidio + Refro. (Here’s Hyperallergic’s discussion of it earlier this year.) As the architecture firm’s statement read: “We have asked MoMA, and they have agreed, to allow us the time and flexibility to explore a full range of programmatic, spatial, and urban options. These possibilities include, but are not limited to, integrating the former American Folk Art Museum building, designed by our friends and admired colleagues, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien.” However, it’s still in limbo, and nothing official has been decided on the building at 45 West 53rd Street. For now, you can just appreciate it from the street, which is really the best perspective on this uniquely metallurgic design in the glassy Midtown cityscape.
Murals of the Bronx General Post Office
As Hyperallergic reported back in April, the Bronx General Post Office was proposed for sale in February. The building itself has been a city landmark since 1976, yet that doesn’t include the interior, which was 13 murals by Ben Shan and his wife Bernrda Bryson celebrating laborers in social realism executed in egg tempera. There is no protection of them under new ownership. The sale seems likely, but in August it was announced that the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission would be holding a public hearing for the murals (the date has not been decided).
The cornices of Harlem, meaning the little architectural details on the tops of the building designed to keep water off, were on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 1994 list of Most Endangered Historic Places. However, almost two decades later and they’re still disappearing. For example, the landmark Queen Anne Revival and Romanesque Corn Exchange Bank Building might lose a whole two floors from the top of its 125-year-old structure. Many other buildings that aren’t even landmarked might lose their distinct character in the coming years. So this fall, take the A train up to Harlem and move your eyes to the sky to appreciate these delicate, often overlooked, details that are disappearing.
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