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.

In 1955, Jacobs was already saying that the new glass boxes on Park Avenue were making that unique and beautiful street boring.

And here’s the most-quoted line in architecture: “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” That line from Winston Churchill is repeated so often because it’s true. Neuroscientists, psychologists, and sociologists confirm that architecture affects our happiness and well-being.

McKim, Mead & White, the architects of the Hotel Pennsylvania, were known across America as the best architects in the country. They designed the best building ever demolished in New York—I’m talking, of course, about the old Penn Station that used to be right over there—and it’s fair to call them the best New York architects of all time.

Combine all that with the fact that the greenest building is one already built. Regardless of their LEED ratings, the glass towers sprouting all over New York are energy hogs now and in the future. So the conclusion seems simple: from here on, let’s preserve ALL buildings in New York designed by McKim, Mead & White.

Yeah — let’s hear it for McKim, Mead & White!

Cities and the buildings and streets and squares that make them are among the greatest achievements of humanity. We want to pass them on to our descendants. We don’t want to pass on inhumanly-scaled, climate-killing cities that make the world worse now and in the future.

PEnnslyvania 6-5000
Numbers I’ve got by the dozen
Everyone’s uncle and cousin
But I can’t live without buzzin’
Pennsylvania Six, Five Thousand!

About John Massengale

Architect, Urbanist, Author, Educator
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