Tales from My Privileged Youth

I was sitting around with friends during the spring term of my senior year in college. “I want to go to Europe,” I said. “How can I get a job there?”

“Call Franco at the Red Garter in Florence,” a friend called out. “He’ll give you a job.” And he was right. Continue reading

Posted in Architecture, Beauty, Classical, Craft, Culture, divine, Education, Good Kind, Historic Preservation, Materials, My Privileged Youth, Pedestrian, Slow Streets, Urbanism, Walkability | Comments Off on Tales from My Privileged Youth

My Meals With Bob: My Mini Memoir in Common Edge


A photo of New York 1900. showing two of the four images of the Colonial Club in the book. We included so many images of the pleasant but unremarkable building because that was where we wrote the book, in the Robert A.M. Stern Architects’ first office. On the southwest corner of Broadway and 72nd Street, 200 West 72nd housed the office for many years in the former Ladies Dining Room of the club (illustrated on page 391).

After the club closed, a number of developers had offices in the building, including the prolific Paterno Brothers and the Cuban Holding Co. Architects in the building serving the developers included Rosario Candela and Geo. F. Pelham, the architect of my apartment house.

 

ONCE upon a time, long, long ago, I was lucky enough to get a summer job with Robert A.M. Stern while I was in graduate school. Stern’s new memoir, Between Memory and Invention: My Journey in Architecture (MonacelliPress, 2022), has prompted my own mini-memoir, with some relevant details not included in the book.

I arrived at the office in the early summer, not long after the dissolution of Stern & Hagmann and Bob’s divorce. I found two young architects-to-be, a sweet but disorganized secretary-receptionist-bookkeeper, and Bob. The office grew during the summer and beyond—and today there are over 200 in the office, including 16 partners in Robert A.M. Stern Architects (aka RAMSA).

Continue reading at Common Edge

Posted in Architecture, Good Kind, Historic Preservation, New York, News & Reviews, Personal | Comments Off on My Meals With Bob: My Mini Memoir in Common Edge

“Big Real Estate’s Continuing Stranglehold Over New York City”

Recently, the Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times about the causes of unaffordable housing in New York City. He blamed the crisis on a few things, including a powerful financial “monoculture” in the city, NIMBYs, and the city itself blocking new construction. That last element, however—that the city blocks new construction—is an increasingly popular myth that needs examination.

When we look at construction in New York, we see that the city is not an economic monoculture. Property taxes are the largest revenue source for the city, and both New York City and New York State work to increase property taxes by subsidizing new development with zoning changes, planning policies, new interpretations of zoning and building regulations, economic development plans for rebuilding, the use of eminent domain, tax abatements and credits, public-private capital projects, and sweetheart real estate deals for major political donors—and this is only a partial list.

It all adds up to billions of dollars in direct and indirect subsidies for billionaire developers like Stephen Ross, Steve Roth, and Gary Barnett. So much for the idea that New York “blocks” construction.

Please note: the first three rules of real estate are traditionally “location, location, location.” The following discussion about affordable and unaffordable housing is specific to New York City in our time.

Continue reading on CommonEdge or ArchDaily

Posted in Architecture, Beauty, Current, Global, Historic Preservation, New Urbanism, New York, Urbanism | Comments Off on “Big Real Estate’s Continuing Stranglehold Over New York City”

“My Open Letter to NYC DOT Commissioner Rodriquez”

Dear Commissioner Rodriquez,

I’m writing to you because I just signed up for a workshop to improve Canal Street that your department is running tonight. I met you when you were a Councilman. I know you care deeply about making New York streets safer and better for city life.

There was more carnage than usual on New York’s streets this weekend. One reaction I have is that until the NYC DOT fundamentally changes in at least two ways, most of the department’s work will be band aids.

The agency still sees its primary job as moving cars. And it does little or nothing to reduce the number of cars in the city.

The two priorities are both incompatible and bad for city life. If you want cars to move, you can’t put five pounds of cars into two-pound bags. If you want a city where the space between the buildings supports public life, you can’t take most of that space for machines.

Continue reading on Streetsblog

Posted in Bicycle, Current, New York, Pedestrian, Slow Streets, Street Design, Urbanism, Walkability | Comments Off on “My Open Letter to NYC DOT Commissioner Rodriquez”

Why GoDaddy’s Microsoft Exchange Email for Mac Users S*cks

After three years of unreliable, expensive email service from GoDaddy and Microsoft, I’ve reluctantly concluded that I have to find a new service for my domain name email. For reasons I won’t go into here, that’s a problem. GoDaddy is part of the problem.

Why do I have to move my email? Because,

  • I have a Mac desktop, a MacAir, an IPad, and an iPhone. At least 10% of my email never syncs across all four “devices.”
  • Another 20-30% of the email can take up to an hour to go to any device.
  • At least one of the GoDaddy support people suggests I would be better off switching to Windows. But he can sell me tech support for $50.

Microsoft’s email is moderately expensive, but the problem is that I have 30,000+ emails in my account. Three years ago GoDaddy told me they would transfer all my old messages into the new account.

“We can’t guarantee any other provider will be able to move it all,” they said.

I’ll be glad to leave.

Posted in Current, Personal | Comments Off on Why GoDaddy’s Microsoft Exchange Email for Mac Users S*cks

Take Back The City

On a recent episode of Billions, the New York Attorney General stands on the roof a car in the middle of a New York City street with a bullhorn. Why? Vecause he’s positioned himself near a meeting on the Highline where the Mayor is announcing a plan to bring the Olympics to New York City. With the Mayor is the billionaire behind the plan, a man whom the AG wants to thwart. Through the bullhorn he yells,

So they want to revitalize the city? These plutocrats? Have they thought about the unintended consequences to the average citizen.? Do they think about the average citizen at all?

A cabal of billionaires remaking the city. What the hell do they know about the real New York? How many will be displaces, so they can build an Olympic stadium? Have they at all considered what real New Yorkers want for our city?”

Maybe we should remind them who we are. What do we do when the carpetbaggers and the land barons try to shove us out of the way? We shove back. We shove back!

That’s right! And together, the people, and those who represent the people, we will take back our city.

Take back our city!
Take back our city!
Take back our city!

Repeat, fade to credits and the Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man”

Posted in Architecture, Culture, Current, Local, New York, Quote of the Day, Urbanism | Comments Off on Take Back The City

MSG

Two MSG quotes: “In animal studies, injecting high doses of MSG into the brains of rats made them fat.” – Wikipedia

“Through Pennsylvania Station one entered the city like a god…. One scuttles in now like a rat” [under Madison Square Garden]* – Vincent Scully

PS: Archpaper called Governor Cuomo’s proposed Penn Station replacement “less soul-deflating” than its predecessor. The Empire State can do better than “less soul-deflating.”

Here at massengale.com, we support ReThinkNYC’s plan to rebuild McKim, Mead & White’s great station.

McKim, Mead & White Bonus: Spoke Up at the Hotel Pennsylvania

* McKim, Mead & White’s Pennsylvania Station is the best building ever torn down in New York City. Its destruction is widely said to be the turning point for historic preservation in the city.

The second greatest building ever torn down in New York City was McKim, Mead & White’s Madison Square Garden. Ironically, it is the current Madison Square that is the biggest impediment to recreating the old Penn Station.

Posted in Architecture, Beauty, Classical, Craft, Culture, Current, New York, The Other Kind | Comments Off on MSG

Spoke Up at the Hotel Pennsylvania

CNU NYC is a member of the Empire Station Coalition that opposes Governor “Demo Dan” Cuomo’s plan to declare the blocks around Pennsylvania Station “blighted,” as part of an urban removal scheme for the area. Yesterday, several members of the Coalition spoke in front of the Hotel, supporting the Hotel Pennsylvania Preservation Society.

Here are my remarks:

The great Jane Jacobs wrote in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, “Streets and their sidewalks the main public places of a city are its most vital organs. Think of a city and what comes to mind? Its streets. If a city’s streets look interesting the city looks interesting if they look dull the city looks dull.”

Well, look around you. Look behind you. Continue reading

Posted in -, Architecture, Beauty, Classical, Culture, Current, Good Kind, Historic Preservation, Joke, Live from New York, Local, New York, Urbanism | Comments Off on Spoke Up at the Hotel Pennsylvania

A Halloween Story

Almost forty years ago, I successfully “flipped” a tiny old house in north Greenwich. The house was a little under two miles from the Westchester Airport, which is on the Greenwich border.

This was before 9/11, and you could arrive at the airport and be on the plane in less than 10 minutes if you ran. One morning I was scheduled to fly to Florida to speak at the University of Miami. Before leaving for the airport I had a call from the organizer of the event, and we got into a conversation about content. Suddenly he said, “What time is your flight? Don’t you need to go?” Continue reading

Posted in divine, New York | Comments Off on A Halloween Story

TikTok Urbanism

TikTok Car Free Brooklyn Bridge

Car Free Brooklyn Bridge Uncropped

Posted in Architecture, Beauty, Classical, Culture, Current, Good Kind, New York, Slow Streets, Street Design, Urbanism, Video, Walkability | Comments Off on TikTok Urbanism

We Built This City To Walk And Stroll

“What if we treated historic districts historically, making the cars accommodate the city, rather than the other way around?”

Posted in Architecture, Beauty, Bicycle, Classical, Culture, Current, Good Kind, Historic Preservation, Local, New Urbanism, New York, Pedestrian, Personal, Quote of the Day, Slow Streets, Street Design, Urbanism, Video, Walkability | Comments Off on We Built This City To Walk And Stroll

Crain’s New York: Change the Streets & Change the City


My op-ed in Crain’s New York is in the magazine this week and has been online for more than a week. The online version is longer than the print version but is behind a paywall. You can buy access to both the magazine and the online articles for 8 weeks for $7. The print version of the op-ed is in a PDF (scroll down), and the full text is here:

The protest marches on our city streets demand our attention. But with Phase 1 of the Coronavirus Reopening starting today, we still need to think about how to use those public spaces to survive the fallout from the most widespread health crisis of our time. If we don’t pay attention now, it may be too late.

Even before the reopening, there were twice as many people driving into Manhattan as we saw at the lowest point in April. But when asked how we can prevent cars from coming back in higher numbers than ever in the next few weeks, Mayor de Blasio said New Yorkers will have to “improvise” how they get to work.

“I really want to push back on the notion that we can solve everything all the time,” de Blasio said.

That’s not good enough. Here’s a three-part plan for Open Streets that can help reopen and renew New York City.

Continue reading

Posted in -, Culture, Good Kind, Local, New Urbanism, New York, Pedestrian, Slow Streets, Street Design, Urbanism, Walkability | Comments Off on Crain’s New York: Change the Streets & Change the City

My Recent Op-Eds

New York Times
New York Daily News (print)
Crain’s New York Business (print)
Streetsblog NYC
City Limits

Many others in local papers and publications like the Berkshire Record and The Patent Trader. For a complete list, click here.

Bonus: Two Wall Street Journal Book Reviews (print)

Posted in Architecture, Beauty, Bicycle, Classical, Culture, Current, Global, Historic Preservation, Live from New York, New Urbanism, New York, Pedestrian, Slow Streets, Street Design, The Other Kind, Urbanism, Walkability | Comments Off on My Recent Op-Eds

“I feel like it’s 1968,” says every reporter on CNN and MSNBC watching the protest marches.

In another, less grave context, I wrote about one of my favorite Harvard professors, who back in the 1980s talked about what he thought were connections between the 1960s and the 21st century (see below). Today, like the reporters on CNN and MSNBC, I watch the demonstrations and sometimes feel like we’re back in 1968, when black Americans rioted in cities across the country.

There were other riots and marches that year too. Students famously rioted in Paris, almost bringing down the French government. Czechs marched for “socialism with a human face” during the Prague Spring, until Russian troops rolled into the city with tanks and crushed the demonstrators. American students protesting Vietnam fought Chicago police outside the Democratic convention. One year later, the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village were the beginning of Gay Pride and Gay Liberation in America.

Continue reading

Posted in -, Culture, Current, divine, Global, Good Kind, Historic Preservation, Personal | Comments Off on “I feel like it’s 1968,” says every reporter on CNN and MSNBC watching the protest marches.

#OpenBrooklynBridge

#OpenStreets + #CarFreeBroolynBridge = #OpenBrooklynBridge

Simple back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that within one year motor vehicle traffic would decrease by 100%, bicycle traffic would increase more than 1100%, and there would be twice as many pedestrians as on the High Line.

Download the Car Free Brooklyn Bridge PDF

After Move NY Comes Slow NY

Posted in -, New Urbanism, New York, Pedestrian, Slow Street of the Day, Slow Streets, Street of the Day, Urbanism, Walkability | Comments Off on #OpenBrooklynBridge