ASL Building Doomed: 100 Years or Less

Open Letter to the Art Students League Membership and The Resistance


As the proposal stands now the ASL is turned into an artifact.   It is being readied for placement in nothing more than photographs of where it once was. I have three ideas for addressing the problem faced by the membership of the ASL. Each one recognizes the status of the existing conditions.  Each has an outside chance of keeping ASL a part of the New York City artist community.  All three would be a slam dunk.


A concern of every institution of learning is to reflect effectively on its experience. This responsibility now remains posited firmly before the entire membership of the ASL. At present, to “not vote” or to vote “NO” has been predefined as an act of futility, if not the essence of an”absurd vote”. This has made the members of the ASL part of a radically changed society, but more importantly it is now required to fully assess the terror of this new condition, but look on the bright side. The coalitions of those who resist “the project” have an opportunity to establish new principles for adoption by a more innovative, possibly energized ASL board and membership. These principles arise from the three new realities embedded in the project and revealed in the ongoing evaluation of its proposals.

Without doubt the members of the ASL are of “the 99%” of citizens of this city and nation.  The ASL will therefore re-dedicate its aesthetic vision, art and talent to the recognition of social inequality and to the best of its ability, take the steps needed to move toward its eradication as a social pathology in this city and this nation.

  • Never has the seriousness of this issue been more clearly revealed than in the value of residential and commercial floor area defined by this project.   Over one third of all renters (2/3 of all residents) in NYC now pay over half of their income for rent.  Rent has increased by 8.6% from 2007 to 2011 while the cities median-income decreased by 6.8% in the same period. [1]  The income gap in Manhattan is comparable to areas of great social distress such as Sierra Leone.  None can present the beauty and dignity of being poor with greater clarity than the artist.  This truth must remain in the heart of ASL.


The second fact revealed by “the project” is equally disturbing to any rational observer not blinded by the ways gold can darken our future. The nature of membership in the ASL society has been revealed as a token, each participant a mere actor on a stage of their choosing, but damned by their will to lead.  In the face of this great change the value of the ASL society is strained by clouds of tradeoffs, exchanges and quid pro quo rationalizations.  If there is to be art, the artist must see the truth.  The leaders of the ASL have delivered nothing more than a sense of hopelessness and for this the members of the resistance should be saddened, yet resolved to move forward with new leadership.

  • The resistance to “the project” recognizes the capacity of great wealth to overwhelm the old and weak with its power.   With this knowledge the resistance to “the project” will pledge their unyielding energy to a new purpose.  The resistance to the project and membership of the ASL therefore call for the resignation of the board, not in distrust, but with common recognition that new leadership is the only chance the members might have to recover from the overwhelming sense of worthlessness bestowed upon the history and legacy of the ASL by the current board.


The third strategy has value in two ways, first, if heard by the developers and deemed reasonable, it offers an overwhelming motive to maximize the projects potential and therefore give pause to re-evaluate.   This may yield the time to assess the ability of “the resistance” to move the following proposal forward.   It offers the possibility to acquire a briefly postponed vote in order to obtain a serious review of a wholly new future for the ASL.

A innovative proposal has yet to be fully considered.  It is one that is equally controversial, but it suggests a vision for art in our society is now required to leap into the future as opposed to being “bought out” of it.   In reviewing the literature and the law, the only way to assure that the ASL will survive as an institution is to completely reinvent itself.

  • The resistance therefore offers to yield to “the project” all of the land held by the ASL in trade for a doubling of the equivalent floor area in perpetuity and in a manner that will meet the needs of artists for the next millennia.   Charge the developers with the responsibility to provide for the ASL a superior space, dedicated to the future of fairness and to the truth that art brings to life and society.  The ASL has the opportunity to weave its belief in this unique part of human energy into the mission of urban development.  The opportunity for a rebirth is the rarest of all gifts.  This is the true offer; it is not in the few coins now tossed on the table.

A personal note:

In reviewing the literature and the law it is highly unlikely this option could inject the ASL into the future, it is however one that must be reviewed.   The reasons for the “unlikely success” of this option is that half of the resistance to the proposal as it stands is resistance to change itself.  It is therefore extremely difficult to establish a majority view toward inclusive forms of change.

Nevertheless, it is highly important to retell and remind all who can hear, that the history of New York City is filled with the energy of institutions in buildings that are no longer here.  Far too many of them remain lost to a hope that parts of the human spirit cannot be crushed forever. Like MAS, the ASL should be an institution capable of recognizing its fate and therefore return to the challenge of art.

[1] See report released by New York University’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, the “State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods 2012”

One Bryant Park

In thoughtful research reporting the requirement to sum up should become a responsibility of participation.  In Skyscrapers and the World of Tomorrow posted to Planetizen on September, 1 2011 by editors Jeff Jamawat, Kris Fortin, Tim Halbur and Victor Negrete, the questions sought to define the place for very big buildings, but the article ends by suggesting, the problem lies in a lack of a clear, agreed-upon vision for the future. Lots of luck with that one, but they give it a try.

According to the article, the content of this vision requires data that confirms the efficacy of the following steps.

  1. add full life cycle analysis (e.g. embodied energy) to LEED certification (McEeaney, Toberian)
  2. advance smart building technologies (Black, Leung, Appel)
  3. remove barriers to high (even ultra) density in the right places (Glaeser)
  4. prevent bottom-feeding architecture and beware the onset of tower blight (Kunstler)
  5. remove political gridlock (everybody)

Top of the line sellers provide the data needed for the first two steps thanks to high-end buyers of the technology (see video below).  Much of the data from these systems is proprietary and slows the rate of change, but at least it is pay-it-forward change. These investment institutions are strong and global.

The remaining three define the lack of clear vision problem less optimistically.  All of our democratic institutions face demands for NASA-style investment goals amidst fix-it-first philosophies.  How do we dissolve the contradictions of these two different approaches?

In our recent national history, we attacked a similar problem from the top-down and the grass-roots-up with top end ideas such as the Hreat Society and things like Headstart in a local precinct. Part of it included an investment in demonstration cities, later renamed Model Cities while another part vociferously disagreed with an America entering a permanent state of war.  All of this began a process that forever changed the vision of the urban world.

Today, envisioning the a city and our future is inseparable but this begs the question.  The vision that will remove the barriers, release unlimited wealth for growth, and break the gridlock is one of the city and a wilderness that is separate and inviolate. That is what is missing, that is what we need.

Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park from Cook+Fox Architects on Vimeo.

INWOOD: Just another zoning change…or is it?

The Re-Zoning Sherman Creek and Inwood

The rezoning of the Sherman Creek waterfront and the core area of Inwood began at the behest of the Economic Development Corporation in 2001. Details are found on the EDC website here and on the DCP website. The reasons for this particular initiative may be generalized to three political influences.

First, New York City’s bid for the 2012 Olympic games and beyond stimulated a massive search for “sites”. Failing this, (even though it was a valiant effort) the work retained its second value as a strategy within an overall plan to fulfill the Bloomberg administration’s interest in the production of affordable housing, largely through tax expenditure investments and zoning changes.

Changing the zoning and adding in some bonus floor area minimizes the use of the city’s expense and capital budget to the greatest degree possible. The Japanese call this “minkatsu” to “stimulate the private sector” as a partner.

Third and ultimately, a local interest in wealth creation is satisfied. It is a small but influential group of investors with substantial land holdings in this area that need the boost in land value.

This entire effort will begin to play out in the Fall of 2007 and its effects might begin to show almost immediately, by the time it gets to the City Council 120 ULURP days later.

The area is predominately composed of immigrants of the Dominican Republic who are steeped in family but stilledgy poor.x  The area is also dominated by a high grade stock of art deco architecture perched for the most part on a hill with a median household income that dwarfs that of the residents just below.

This community of the hill and the valley of Inwood is just north and east of the Inwood Hill “wilderness” the last of the original growth of Manhattan and only known home of the Golden Eagle in New York City.

This for example, is just the begininning:

Highbridge Park Trails Grand Opening Festival May 19, 2007 mountainbikes, mountain, bikers, trails Mountain Bikes … years of lobbying and meetings, and a year and a half of actual trail design and … Urban Trailblazers. The New York City Mountain Bikers Meetup Group

First Meeting: Sat, May 19 at 10:00am EDT New York, NY

Columbia’s Manhattanville

Regulatory Taking andx Columbia University

In June 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote upheld the use of eminent domain by the city of New London, CT. (Kelo vs. City of New London) by saying economic development was a public purpose thereby giving government the authority to acquire property, affirming decades of previous litigation on this issue. By the end of 2006 thirty-five states enacted eminent domain restrictions and related reform of “regulatory takingsâ€.x  In that year, three of the four takings measures on state ballots were rejected. Most notable was the way Oregon voters repealed a takings initiative, Measure 37.x  The defeat of California’s Prop 98 in 2007 signaled another setback for advocates of regulatory takings.x x x Often dubbed Kelo-plus and Kelo 3rd Round most of the initiatives seek compensation for lost value due to land-use regulation. To date only one effort in Arizona stimulated by Howard Rich, a New York real estate investor and “libertarian crusader†has succeeded.x x But the bottom line is basic.x  In most cases regulationx can be proven to increase value.x x In February 2008 the New York State Bar Association’sx task force completed its recommendations on thex use of eminent domain.x 

Community organizations throughout the country are raising money and filing proposed ballot initiatives with their state attorney general that prohibit use of eminent domain for transferring property from one private entity to another without added protections. The eminent domain debate in New York should examine its long history of condemnations for economic development.x  In this light and from a strictly legal point of view there are three areas rich with potential litigation including the use of referendum.x  These are the historical uses of eminent domain, the fairness of direct and indirect compensation, and targeting of low-income and minority populations.x  Unlike other states, the one most likely to succeed in New York will involve added protections to residential and business tenants in reassessing just compensation issues.

Would pursuing the “tenant†protection component yield valuable community economic development objectives?x  Hard to say, but both sides might be more recognizablex to the average research effort byx viewing:  This site helps to define hairline legal differences between “regulatory taking” and “eminent domain†in the proposed reforms of Oregon’s Measure 37.x  In this particular case, government becomes liable for attorney fees if court award is greater than initial government offer.x 

Headline: “Citizens call for reform of the reform.” Timothy Sandefur, Author of “Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America†www.instituteforjustice.orgx x …

This site has links to, Howard Rich is a board member (Cato).x  He likes how the term “property rights” strikes a cord among voters.x  They also have a hot selling t-shirt that reads, “blight meâ€. It all seems exquisitely hypocritical, but why?

Given the historically poor performance of government in protecting individuals in the short term for vague long term benefits, the public’s opinion can easily be brought to define Kelo as a decision that betrays them –x the small businessperson and working class residents, as well as, weakenx legitimate efforts to erase racially imposed economic disparities.x x  But, the dissent of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is probably best overall.

“Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner. . . . Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory. . . . The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.”

How Does this “big picture” Policy Fit Manhattanville?
What does it do to the design of a place?

How about seeing INTERNATIONAL HOUSE as an example (as outside chance)? Located at 500 Riverside Drive, 122nd Street) New York, NY 10027 x This is a stretch,x but Columbia offers a very nice “extra-large” apartment with private bathroom at $12,090/month and other less luxurious accommodations to full-time graduate students.x  They arex available only during thex academic year; undergraduates are welcome in the summer.x  Applications are requiredx if stays of 30 days or more are intended. x 

Columbia isx extending housingx privledges in orderx to acquire social capital within a tuition business.x  So, here is the thing, Barbara and Howard Rich are among many large real estate holders who are supporters of university sponsored Fulbright Scholarships and the programmed-education with housing market in New York City. Almost every university in New York City is a sponsor of this program as it brings in paying clients (students of all ages) to the fold. Via: .x  Suprise!x  This is a max hit zone is for housing such as the above. For Players

Is there anyother way to look at the this? There must be a way…

APA Metro Prepares Testimony on Manhattanville zoningx 
or go straight to the CPC DEISx for some real fun reading…

Seex “group discussion” linkx under FirmsBack to: Community Designx  or Urban Design