Friday, February 29, 2008

Will Columbia Take Manhattanville?

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Posted on February 29, 2008

Will Columbia Take Manhattanville?

Balancing an Ivy League university’s expansion plan with a Harlem neighborhood’s needs is a tricky business, especially when eminent domain is in the mix. By Miriam Axel-Lute

The historic Sheffield Farms stable building (foreground) on Broadway, will be razed for Columbia's expansion.

In April 1968, angry students, faculty, and community members occupied several Columbia University buildings in response to the university’s plans to build a gymnasium on land taken from nearby Morningside Park, which served the largely black Harlem neighborhood. Seven hundred people were arrested, and the gym was never built.

That protest was on many people’s minds when, on Nov. 7, 2007, six Columbia students and a professor launched a two-week hunger strike that targeted the latest Columbia building project in Harlem: a new 17-acre campus planned for Manhattanville, a working-class neighborhood full of warehouses and auto-repair businesses a few blocks northwest of Columbia’s main campus.
The hunger strike sent one student to the hospital and ended with no promises from the university to change its plans. But it is likely not the end of the unrest. Tensions are running high about the proposal, which involves a dense, mixed-use urban campus with ground-floor retail and a huge below-grade complex. Opponents of the plan nearly halted a Nov. 26, 2007 City Planning Commission meeting, and Columbia employees who are already working in buildings in the new area report being harassed on the street. Are these harbingers of serious neighborhood strife, or simply growing pains?

Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, former president of Community Board 9, an advisory governmental body whose area includes Columbia’s existing and proposed campuses, seemingly threw down the gauntlet when he said, “I warned Columbia when I became president [of the community board], to be respectful of the community [in this expansion] or you will remember 1968 as the good old days.”

The fight over Manhattanville is a quintessential, if extreme, example of how difficult it is for communities to be heard when powerful institutional neighbors propose development or redevelopment. It also highlights the challenge local governments face in trying to determine what will be best for a neighborhood—and a city—in the face of such conflict. It is especially charged because the plan as Columbia envisions it will require the state to invoke eminent domain on the university’s behalf, adding fuel to debates raging locally and nationally over when, and if, eminent domain should be invoked for redevelopment purposes.

One way in which the Columbia expansion plan saga is unusual, however, is that it is not merely the story of one proposal and a community’s reaction. Columbia’s proposal happened to coincide with a grassroots land-use planning process led by the community board, giving critics of the expansion plan a chance to give a detailed answer to the perennial challenge: “Well, what do you want to happen?”

A New Urban Campus

Ivy League Columbia is an urban university located in New York City. More specifically, it is a Manhattan university. So it comes as no surprise that, like much of the island, it’s crowded.

According to an in-house 2004 study, Columbia has only 38 to 75 percent of the space devoted to education and research as seven of its top competitors, some of whom are nonetheless engaged in marked expansion projects of their own. The school has been spilling out of its main Morningside Heights campus for many years, acquiring properties and taking apartments out of rent regulation in surrounding neighborhoods in ad-hoc and often controversial fashion as need arose.

To keep up with competitors such as Harvard and Yale, in 2003 Columbia introduced an idea for a new urban campus that would accommodate all its growth for the next 30 years. The 17-acre campus would house state-of-the-art research labs; space for business, arts, and international policy schools; public open space; and street-level retail (in buildings owned by the university).

It would squirrel unsightly parking, mechanical functions, and academic support space in a vast below-grade space, keeping building heights down. The university estimates that the project will add 6,000 university jobs to the area over the next 25 years (1,200 in the first phase of construction).

Columbia’s Web site trumpets that the development will “transform what is now a largely isolated, underutilized streetscape of garage openings, empty ground floors, roll-down metal gates and chain-link fences � into a cohesive, reanimated center for educational, commercial and community life.”

On the Other Hand

But many residents, local business owners, and planners involved in the community’s own planning process don’t see it in such a rosy light. According to consultants from Pratt’s Center for Community Development, they see a functional working-class industrial neighborhood threatened with “wholesale removal” by an institution with a long history of encroaching on its neighbors. Despite its projected mixed uses and pocket parks, and promises that it will have no gates to keep the community out, the new campus will be a single-owner, mono-culture patrolled by a private security force and benefiting primarily outsiders, say local groups.

Opponents of the plan are driven by a big-picture fear of 1960s-style urban renewal, in which whole neighborhoods were lost to large-scale building projects, but they also have extensive and detailed specific criticisms of Columbia’s proposal, ranging from safety to gentrification:
The site is located on a fault line and in an evacuation zone for hurricane surges and it will include labs that work with biohazards. Could a single massive connected bathtub space under the campus be constructed with adequate safeguards?

The expansion will exacerbate an affordable-housing crunch and create displacement. Along with the direct displacement of a few hundred residents, including tenants of two city-owned buildings who have been working toward taking over as co-operative owners for the past four or five years, the expected indirect displacement is a source of much dispute and anger. Columbia acknowledges that some of this will occur, and in response has committed to building 1,000 units of university housing and funding a $20 million housing trust fund (with $10 million not to be committed until the second phase). However, this may not be enough. Community planners familiar with the project predict displacement on the order of three times Columbia’s estimates.

For example, 3333 Broadway, a massive five-tower complex across from the development site, has already opted out of the city’s Mitchell-Lama moderate-income housing program. As a result, hundreds of previously affordable units are no longer protected by rent regulations.

Jobs, demolition of historic properties (both those with landmark designations, such as the Sheffield Farms Stables, and those of significance to the neighborhood such as the current location of the famed Cotton Club), and additions to the environmental burdens of the neighborhood are also at issue. According to the Coalition to Preserve Community, a group of business owners and residents, about 1.5 percent of Columbia’s 14,000 employees live north of 125th Street in Community Board 9. If this percentage stays consistent, about 90 of the 6,000 promised university jobs would go to neighborhood residents. Given the community’s misgivings about the Columbia plan, it’s not surprising that many expansion opponents have connected with residents of two other New York neighborhoods where huge development projects—Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn and Willetts Point in Queens—have sparked backlash against the use of eminent domain.

Two Plans

Community boards in New York City can and do create their own land-use and zoning plans, called 197a plans, and CB 9 was already working on one when Columbia announced its intentions. The City Planning Commission, knowing the two plans were being developed at the same time, decided in an unprecedented move to consider them simultaneously, each in the light of the other.

This put the community planners in the unusual position of needing to develop their own alternative vision for the area Columbia was targeting, one much more specific than a 197a plan would usually entail. The community’s vision was a “mixed-use, mixed-ownership, predominantly academic uses” area that retained a manufacturing presence and still allowed Columbia to build its new campus on the land it already owns. Underground uses would follow Rockefeller Center’s model of interconnected basements. Their plan envisioned “a 24/7 live and work community, a sense of place, retention of the existing low- and moderate-income rental housing stock, and the continuation of current uses,” for one commercial corridor and a hub of arts and culture for another.

After reviewing Columbia’s plans, the community board made significant adjustments to the 197a plan to accommodate Columbia’s expansion: increasing the density allowed for community facilities, relaxing regulations for ground-floor use, and lining up their proposed district boundaries with Columbia’s.

However, there remained an overriding, apparently irreconcilable difference. The community board’s 197a plan is committed to a mixed-ownership area and an explicit prohibition on the invoking of eminent domain, while Columbia’s is committed to full site control, including asking the state to use eminent domain to transfer ownership of both holdout commercial properties and publicly owned under-street areas to the university.

An Advantage and a Disadvantage

The commission’s decision to consider the plans together had plusses and minuses. The community had to wait a year and a half after the plan was completed for it to be considered, which, according to Mercedes Narciso, a senior planner from Pratt, was unfair. She believes it could have been approved, and then Columbia’s plan evaluated in light of those guidelines. On the other hand, historically 197a plans have been ignored in the face of large attractive proposals like Columbia’s, notes Ron Shiffman, another Pratt consultant. This time, the community’s vision was on the table at the same time as Columbia’s version.

But in the end, the City Planning Commission chose Columbia’s vision. On Nov. 26, 2007, the commission passed both the community’s 197a plan and Columbia’s rezoning proposal, but it removed from the 197a plan the portion dealing with the acreage Columbia wants. On Columbia’s plan, the commission scaled back the size and number of several of the research buildings. There was one vote against Columbia’s proposal, and one abstention; the modified 197a plan passed unanimously.

“To have the 197a plan approved is a great victory,” says Narciso. But the “twisted results” of approving them both will be that “all the amenities are going to be for a community that no longer lives there. It’ll be for the Columbia community.”

In comments to the planning commission’s report, CB 9 representatives note that while the community’s larger plan was approved, the section concerning Manhattanville was turned down on the basis of not providing as much space as the university said it needed; when the commission chose to reduce the amount of academic and research space based on their own “aesthetic values,” Columbia accepted the change without a peep. This, in their opinion, shows that Columbia never negotiated in good faith with the community board and that the planning commission relied too heavily on Columbia’s assessment of the 197a plan.

Eminent Domain

More than anything else, it is Columbia’s insistence that it control the whole site, and the threat of eminent domain that hangs over the remaining properties that Columbia does not own, that is galvanizing and uniting opposition to Columbia’s plans. While few flatly oppose the idea of Columbia expanding, the general consensus (among residents, planners, business owners, and the community board) questions whether allowing the university to expand exactly when, how, and wherever it wants to constitutes enough of a public benefit to justify invoking eminent domain.

The flavor of public good that Lee Bollinger, the university’s president, has in mind as justifying eminent domain is quite general and benefits humankind as a whole. For example, their new neurosciences lab might find the cure for Alzheimer’s disease. A laudable goal surely. But does that mean that business owners who want to keep their buildings and pass their businesses on to their children are being extortionists standing in the way of the greater good, as the university has claimed?


Academic institutions are strongly rooted to place, and Columbia is no exception. Its New York location and historic campuses are a major attraction in recruiting students and faculty. In fact, the president’s letterhead reads “Columbia University. In the City of New York.” The idea that the university might leave the city is nearly absurd. Yet in the expansion’s environmental impact statement introduction, after a description of how the university is the 11th largest non-governmental employer in the city, is this interesting assertion: “Columbia has stated a strong commitment to remain in New York City.” In an era when employers routinely threaten to relocate in order to obtain public resources, it’s easy to see a mention of “commitment to remain” as a way to make the city feel it “owes” Columbia something for this commitment.

So while Columbia focuses on the big-picture effects its expansion could have on the city or the world at large, the effects of its plans on the neighborhood level are already being felt. The university currently owns as much as 90 percent of the expansion footprint, where it has been stockpiling property, and, some allege, intentionally emptying buildings. Empty buildings create area blight, which is a necessary step toward the state taking the property through eminent domain.

Ann Whitman, owner of an art transportation business located in a historic property in the footprint, told The Next American City that the university’s negotiating tactics began with a “Deal with us now, or deal with the state later,” approach. She later received a letter on Columbia letterhead telling her that her property was “eligible for eminent domain.” The scare tactics were effective. The community’s 197a plan points out that area manufacturing employment had been steadily increasing from 1991 to 2000, adding 403 jobs, but dropped steeply once Columbia started buying up property, shedding 372 jobs from 2000 to 2002.

Irwin Cantor, the planning commissioner who abstained from the vote on Columbia’s proposal, noted that it was particularly galling that Columbia’s plan explicitly says that eminent domain won’t be sought for properties in the second phase of development (15 years away) until needed.

This leaves owners responsible for the buildings, but effectively unable to improve or sell them (except to Columbia) as a result of the threat of eminent domain hanging over them. There’s a vanishingly small chance that these owners would be able to get financing to improve their property; and in the unlikely event that there was a buyer, that buyer would also not be able to get financing. Only three property owners in the footprint of Columbia’s expansion have not sold to the university to date. No one knows how many of those who have sold felt pressured to sell by the threat of eminent domain.

This is, in fact, one of the insidious aspects of eminent domain. Just raising the possibility of its use has immediate effects, almost always to the benefit of the entity wishing to acquire property. And those benefits are not evenly distributed. Eminent domain is most often used in the name of economic development or large-scale redevelopment, which primarily benefits already powerful entities. Smaller, more incremental community-based efforts are less likely to need to assemble such huge tracts of land.

One quiet reminder of this is the fact that media accounts and activists have been regularly referring to Columbia “using” or “agreeing not to use” eminent domain. In fact, Columbia has no ability to use the power and can only ask the state to act on its behalf. For example, Newsday wrote on Dec. 6, 2007, “Although the university has acquired most of the properties in the project’s footprint, it hasn’t ruled out using eminent domain to acquire the rest.” And on Dec. 13, The Daily News quoted the testimony of Robert Kasdin, Columbia’s senior executive vice president, at a city council hearing: “Under no condition will Columbia University use eminent domain against any residential properties.” The Daily News did not clarify the fact that Columbia cannot “use” eminent domain.

In the Wake Of Kelo

In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. New London that the economic development generated by a new Pfizer plant and luxury homes would be sufficient reason for New London, Conn. to invoke eminent domain to take nonblighted residences. This touched off a firestorm of anti-eminent-domain activism and legislation nationally. What had once been mostly the concern of hardcore property-rights advocates received an infusion of support from both the left and right wing, and dozens of states passed restrictions on the use of eminent domain, especially on the transfer of condemned property to private owners. The campaigns supporting these measures often featured stories of small-business owners like Whitman, who lost their premises to redevelopment projects.

But this movement also generated concern among local development officials and community-development groups that extreme remedies for extreme cases were going to block the use of eminent domain in other situations. Public-private partnerships to renovate apartment buildings once owned by slumlords, for example, would be prohibited under laws meant to prohibit transfer of condemned property to a for-profit company if a private nonprofit ended up owning the building. Limits on invoking eminent domain for redevelopment could stymie grass-roots community-redevelopment plans if one absentee owner of a vacant property refused to sell.

Pratt’s Shiffman, who supports the community’s stance that eminent domain should not be allowed for Columbia’s project, worries that emotional reactions like these to actual abuses of eminent domain will make it difficult to use it as a tool in the future to implement true grassroots-supported plans or to mitigate the harm of absentee or negle ctful ownership. “I’m a supporter of eminent domain,” he explains, “but it should go through a public process, and start with a city plan. It shouldn’t start from a private developer. That weakens it when you need to use it for a true public purpose�. I’m afraid over time we’re legitimately going to need it and we’re not going to have it.”

New York State has so far not passed such restrictions. But in New York City, Columbia’s expansion, along with the Atlantic Yards and Willetts Point developments, are fanning the flames of anti-eminent-domain sentiment and perhaps helping to create a constituency for such legislation. “We are totally, totally, totally against eminent domain,” says Reyes-Montblanc, former chair of Community Board 9. “Most states have awakened to [eminent-domain abuse] and taken corrective action.” Reyes-Montblanc echoes many in CB 9 when he says he supports restricting eminent domain to more traditional public-use cases, such as roads, public schools, and hospitals.

Karen Phillips, a founder of the Abyssinian Baptist Development Corporation (a Harlem community development corporation) and the lone dissenting vote against Columbia’s proposal on the city planning commission, also finds this worrisome. “A lot of people want to say ‘I’m really against eminent domain.’ That’s not a realistic approach for anyone who wants to participate in comprehensive planning,” she says. Even preventing condemned property from going to a private entity is problematic, she notes: Community developers are private entities. Phillips says that instead, local officials should hold to a standard of “public benefit” where a project for which eminent domain is invoked must itself serve the whole community, not just come with concessions from the developer to fund attractive extras.

Shiffman agrees, saying that relying on negotiating a community-benefits agreement before decisions about land use and zoning are finished amounts to “purchasing” planning decisions. He says he was angry to see Columbia’s attention shift almost entirely to the local development corporation that was negotiating the community-benefits agreement for this expansion while the community board was still trying to discuss resolving differences in their zoning proposals.

Defining when a project is generally beneficial to a neighborhood and its existing residents and businesses is no easy task, not to mention balancing a neighborhood’s needs with those of anchor institutions and cities and regions at large. There will likely always be disputes, but one important step to achieving a more progressive, fairer result than in Manhattanville will be to shift the balance of power in the negotiations, says Phillips. Rather than fighting to be heard, “the community should be in a stronger role to negotiate for what they want from the private sector � and the public sector,” she says.

Going Forward

The city council was expected by many to address Columbia’s plan and the amended 197a plan in mid-January, but in a surprise move that prompted accusations of trying to avoid further public debate, the plans were brought to a vote in mid-December. Both plans were approved, though some council members noted that they appeared to conflict.

In the wake of these decisions, the remaining property owners could decide to negotiate sales with Columbia after all, giving a somewhat anticlimactic go-ahead to the expansion. Or they could, as some have threatened, go to court to try to keep their buildings. In either case, community activists, planners, and the community board will continue to try to affect, adjust, or redirect what they consider the worst aspects of the plan.

And in either case, West Harlem will change dramatically over the coming decades, possibly in ways predicted by community activists, possibly in ways predicted by Columbia, likely some of both. What exactly it will look like remains to be seen, but those concerned with the relationship between cities and their institutions of higher education, and with the search for a fair and progressive approach to eminent domain, will be keeping a close eye on its progress.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Columbia and the Affordable Housing Crisis

Columbia and the Affordable Housing Crisis
By Tom Kappner

Over and over again we hear the argument that “gentrification,” or the general upgrading in the availability of housing to higher and higher socio-economic groups is the inevitable “result of market forces.”
Columbia denies responsibility for the ethnic cleansing and economic homogenization of Morningside Heights that took place from the ’60s through the ’80s and similarly Columbia claims that the irrevocable eradication of the diverse socio-economic fabric north of 125th Street will occur without the proposed Manhattanville expansion.
It is argued that Columbia is merely a contributing factor and, in any case, the $20 million revolving loan fund the University has pledged for affordable housing absolves it of any responsibility it may have.
Though this sum is probably sufficient for less than 100 housing units at costs beyond the reach of most community residents in order to mitigate the displacement of thousands, the problem with the “invisible hand of the market” arguments is that they hide the very real actors and the concrete decisions they make that produce these “inevitable” results.

Columbia’s policies have not been a contributing factor—they have been the major cause for the critical shortage of low and moderate income housing in the area between 110th and 125th Streets, a pattern that the current plans will replicate northward beyond the immediate expansion zone.
The University acquired over 168 residential buildings, more than half of the residential real estate in the area between 110th and 125th Streets. Of the over 6000 housing units in those buildings, less than 600 long term residents remain in the rent-regulated apartments that Columbia has been deregulating.
Currently, the mere announcement of Columbia’s proposed campus in Manhattanville led the owner of 3333 Broadway, immediately North of the expansion zone, to opt out of the Mitchell-Lama subsidized housing program causing hundreds of low and moderate rental units to be vacated.
This is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Even Columbia’s Environmental Impact Statement admits that the pristine campus it plans will displace 5000 low income residents within a ten block radius. In fact, it will be thousands more, primarily working-class Latino and African American residents from 135th Street northward, who will have to make way for the more upscale condos, co-ops, and luxury rentals that will make the area “respectable” for Columbia.

Moreover, University administrators have consistently acted to prevent the success of any alternative course of action, most recently by refusing to work within the framework of the community’s 197-a Plan. This rejection of a development that would integrate Columbia and the community’s needs favors the creation of yet another exclusive campus enclave.
The University plans to push out the existing community and making the surrounding area more “amenable” to the type of people University administrators perceive to be more socially acceptable, ominously portending a direct repetition of the disastrous patterns of the past.

The brutal campaign of evictions which rid the neighborhood of thousands of “undesirables” (in the infamous words of the University’s provost at the time) and turned it into an affluent company town was the fuel that exploded with the spark created by Gym Crow in ’68. In the aftermath, anxious to clean up Columbia’s image with some good PR, the newly inaugurated President Michael Sovern agreed to an Advisory Committee on University Housing Policies made up of representatives of major community groups and elected officials of the time.
I chaired this board, which met with University VPs and the Director of Real Estate from 1980 to 19855 at Riverside Church. The idea was to find ways to meet the University’s housing needs without doing so at the expense of the existing community. A variety of formulas were put forward that would provide for the coexistence of a stable long term residential community in the same physical space as the more transient Columbia affiliates.
After five years of being strung along, Columbia came back with their counteroffer that would allow folks with more than 30 years of service the right to remain in their homes upon retirement. The community members saw no point in continuing fruitless negotiations and the Advisory Board was disbanded.

Then, as now, with the West Harlem Local Development Corporation’s practically meaningless Memorandum of Understanding, it’s all about PR and has next to nothing to do with any substance.
If Columbia wants to be serious about meeting its responsibility for the lack of affordable housing, it could honor the suggestions in the 197-a Plan by ceasing vacancy deregulation and setting aside the few remaining rent-regulated apartments it owns as low income housing for community residents in perpetuity. That is certainly a much more cost efficient way to provide affordable housing than the $20 million mentioned in the Memorandum of Understanding, an amount which does not even add up to the units Columbia wants to take over in the expansion zone.

It seems clear that Columbia is determined to ignore the lessons of the past and will continue on its disastrous course. This can only hurt Columbia and the community. There are more of us than there were in ’68 and we have learned our lessons. Sooner or later another spark will ignite the resentment from all the unnecessary pain and suffering Columbia has caused. We are entering a period when ignoring reality will no longer make it go away.

The author is a member of the Columbia College class of 1966. He is a founding member of the Coalition to Preserve Community.

Friday, February 22, 2008

City College Expansion Plans Incite Heated Debate at CB9

City College Expansion Plans Incite Heated Debate at CB9
By Daniel Amzallag

Sparks flew over City College of New York’s proposed expansion and a resolution concerning the relocation of Hamilton Grange to St. Nicholas Park at a Community Board 9 general meeting Thursday night.

City College, a campus of the public City University of New York located at 137th Street, has proposed to expand its campus in the wake of city approval of Columbia’s Manhattanville plans.
While representatives and architects for the college presented their expansion plans to the community board and promised to hear its concerns, they later announced that plans could no longer be changed. This ignited outrage among board members.

“Some time ago there was some time for community input, but unfortunately not now,” City College Director of Urban and Government Affairs Karen Witherspoon said at the meeting, responding to a question from CB9 Chair Pat Jones regarding “mechanisms for community input.”

“We do not mean to exclude the community, we don’t mean to take the community’s space, but we’re very lacking in science, so painful sacrifices must be made. As much as I understand these concerns, we are desperate for this space,” Witherspoon added.

Board members and attendees expressed frustration with what many characterized as “after-the-fact consultation.” City College should have followed City Charter regulations and consulted with CB9 years ago when change was still possible, said board member and former chair Jordi Reyes-Montblanc. “Don’t be surprised that a lot of people here are kind of upset that something is being constructed that we have very little information about and is being done in a very nonchalant way,” he said.

The expansion, which will contain new health and science facilities, will yield benefits for the community in its “health-oriented” research, said a City College administrator who attended the meeting. He called the college’s plan “a public goal, not a private one,” and maintained that the campus would remain open to the community.

But, said board member Savona Bailey-McClain, the community should be compensated with short-term benefits and ways to mitigate potential impacts of the college’s expansion. Others took issue with aspects of the expansion plan itself, such as the demolishment of centuries-old trees and a running track that used to be open for community use.

Close to the end of the meeting, Ron Melichar, president of the Hamilton Heights-West Harlem Community Preservation Organization, switched the focus to discuss the Hamilton Grange plan. Melichar spoke of a “four-week window” during which changes to the plan to move the historic home of Alexander Hamilton from its current location on W. 143rd Street into St. Nicholas Park can be made.

A resolution regarding the Grange relocation, and concerns that its facade will face a different direction, had been tabled by CB9’s executive committee for voting at Thursday’s meeting due to what Jones said was “a lack of clarity.”

Local resident Michael Henry Adams expressed anger with the situation, accusing CB9 officers of being “sell-outs” and “doing this deliberately to destroy a great landmark.” Adams entered into a loud conflagration with other board members, and at one point had to be physically restrained.

“What was raised here was not raised at the executive meeting,” Jones said with regard to the committee’s decision. The next opportunity to vote on the resolution will take place after the end of the four-week window.
NB - Columbia University has shown more respect for CB9M than City College that under New York City Charter is REQUIRED to consult the Community Board. This lack of respect goes back many years and many Board Chairs. Fortunately Karen Whiterspoon has assidously, since assuming the position formerly held by Tony Rogers, been working to correct that situation.
Perhaps this is the dawn of a new relationship with CUNY and CCNY in particular.
Regarding the relocation of Hamilton Grange, it is worth remembering that there exists an agreement reached after long and extrenous negotiations which would result in the construction of National Parks Rangers living quarters and a community/visitors center at the current location once vacated.
The preservationists in our midst have focused on the orientation f the entrance to a house that has been relocated several times and reconfigured each time. In my opinion, this is a total waste of time, effort and ink. The Fact is that National Parks will do as they will do and that the Community opinion is not their concer.
What should be of conern to the Community is the Fact that the agreement reached with National Parks, the City, the Community and faciliated by Congressman Rangel is not being abrogated unilaterally by National Parks and the Community once more is being defrauded.
It makes me sick to the stomach to see the lack of focus and concern about the breach of the basic agreement and the nonchalant attitdue about such breach by the preservationist who seem totally fixated on the orientation of the entrance to the Grange and wondering wheter the ghost of Alexander Hamilton might find its way into the Grange.
Alec Hamilton himself would be as concerned as I am about the breach of an agreement with the Community and not all about the entrance way to his home as he was smart enough to have contributed so much to New York City. - JRM

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On history's ash heap

On history's ash heap
Wednesday, February 20th 2008, 4:00 AM

By one count, there were 638 CIA plots to kill him. But the exploding cigar didn't work. Neither did the poison pen syringe. The Bay of Pigs was a botch job. In the end, it was Fidel Castro's own aged body that removed him from the Cuban presidency - nature taking its course.

"I believe that all of us ought to retire relatively young," Castro told Playboy in 1967, nine years into his reign.

If only El Jefe had been true to his word.

Castro's fellow Cubans, on the island and in the U.S., would have been spared almost a half-century of misery. But no, he steps down at 81 after an extraordinary run on the world stage.

How very long ago it was that fiery young revolutionary Fidel Castro, joined at the hip with comrade Che Guevara, fought his way down from the Cuban mountains to overthrow Fulgencio Batista and roll victoriously into Havana.

And how easy it was to believe Jan. 8, 1959, that this athletic, Jesuit-educated, swashbuckling guerrilla would lead Cubans to a brighter future.

Indeed, he did free his people from a brutal dictatorship.

And then, immediately, he began oppressing them even more. From the start, he maintained an iron grip on power by the bullet, not the ballot.

The Cuba Archive project has documented 6,000 firing-squad executions and more than 1,000 extrajudicial assassinations since Castro took power. And in this "democracy," collecting signatures on a petition for government reform was grounds for 20 years behind bars.

Here was a proletarian paradise from which proles paddled furiously.

But Castro was devilishly smart. He made himself a global player by serving as the cat's-paw of the Soviet Union. And, 90 miles off our shore, he was the perfect distance for taunting 10 U.S. Presidents.

There was Dwight Eisenhower, who put in place the first Cuban embargoes and hatched early plans for regime change.

There was John Kennedy, who for 13 days in October 1962 stood at the brink of nuclear war because Castro had welcomed Soviet missiles onto his island.

There was Jimmy Carter, who tried to make nice, only to be flooded with Mariel boatlift refugees - many of them from prisons and asylums.

There was Ronald Reagan, who invaded Grenada to turn back Cuban adventurism.
And there was Bill Clinton, into whose lap fell 5-year-old pawn Elian Gonzalez.

All the while, to the Cuban people, Castro was a thug. To this day, agents spy on dissidents. An assembly of more than three people, including for religious services in homes, has been punishable by prison.
And, of course, trying to leave without permission is a crime - one that countless Cubans have committed in ramshackle boats.

Health failing fast, unseen in public for months, the old Cold War relic now passes the cigar to his faithful younger brother Raul- by "younger," we mean age 76 - who leads Cuba's military and runs domestic security.

It's widely believed the new boss is less hard-line than the old one. Still, expecting markedly greater freedoms under Brother Raul is doubtful.

But true change will come to Cuba sooner or later.

And someday millions will enjoy the social and economic vitality and the basic human rights that for half a century have passed them by.

Early on in his fight to overthrow Batista, Fidel Castro mounted a failed revolution and was put on trial. Before the court, he delivered perhaps the most famous oration of his life, a four-hour address in which he said:
"Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me."

We do. It does. History will not.

AIA Kills Drive for Zoning Text Amendments

February 20, 2008

AIA Kills Drive for Zoning Text Amendments
The American Institute of Architects has withdrawn "from formal consideration" its proposed zoning text amendments, according to a post on Queens Crap. The AIA's push for the amendments—which would've increased lot coverage on smaller lots and allowed taller maximum base heights for some buildings in R6 through R10 zones—were criticized by some (most vocally, Queens Councilman Tony Avella) on the grounds that the tweaks hadn't gotten enough of a public airing. In a letter to Planning Chair Amanda Burden, AIA's past and present NYC presidents wrote that they "regret that these suggestions will not come to public hearing at the Commission or at City Council, but strongly urge that efforts go forward to identify and correct inconsistencies and deficiencies in the Zoning Resolution."
Posted by Gabby at 10:34 AM Comments (23) Categories: Zoning
This proposal brought up a number of questions:
What is the role of civic organizations in the NYC public policy discourse? When should they be allowed to speak?

What is the role of community review in proposed changes to public policy? Are statutory provisions enough?

How do you reconcile city-wide needs with individual community needs?
Why is Tony Avella so angry?

What is the new role of the preservationist movement in NYC: staunch supporter of the status quo, or neo-conservative reactionary?

Will architects ever be able to transcend the Scaranno effect?
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 10:57 AM

The comments by 10:57 are probably the most intelligent ones I've seen during the whole back-and-forth. I read the response by the HDC and it was as brief and unilluminating as the material from the AIA. If we're (the royal "we") not capable of a comprehensive conversation about changes to the zoning resolution, does it matter that there wasn't greater public discourse?
Or are we going to develop the zoning code based on fear and other ill-informed emotional responses. So far the latter, to my disappointment.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 11:20 AM

"Or are we going to develop the zoning code based on fear and other ill-informed emotional responses. So far the latter, to my disappointment."

You may blame that on the non-transparent way the AIA went about this entire charade.
IF they had wanted to truly improve the text for the benefit of all of NYC, then all of NYC should have been able to be better educated by the AIA, not left in the dark.

Knee-jerk reactions form CBOs, Community Boards and City Council were due to the lack of public review that normal zoning changes go through.

Shame on the AIA and DCP for even allowing this to proceed past the drawing board stage without review from outside their insular lobbying group.

Nice of them to withdraw the application. Now let's see how they handle a better informed public whom have many questions and criticisms.
Posted by:
Action Jackson at February 20, 2008 11:58 AM

"Knee-jerk reactions form CBOs, Community Boards and City Council were due to the lack of public review that normal zoning changes go through."

The review process was the same 60 day review that is statutorily required by ULURP. All this language describing the proposal as a behind the scenes effort and "sneaky" was just a red herring from community activists that were too lazy to try and understand the substance of the proposals.

If additional review is necessary then change the statute that requires a 60 day period after a project is certified or referred by the CPC to CBs. But lets be honest and quit trying to make out like the AIA had some affirmative obligation to reach out to you and your cousins 11:58. Thats just wrong.

Now practically, speaking, 10:57 raises a good point "are the statutory provisions enough?" Practically speaking, it doesn't seem like it. The AIA might have had a better reception had they done some pre-application outreach. Its certainly not required, but it might have helped. Then again, most CBs didn't take the time to understand the project in the 60+ days they had. Whos to say they would have tried with more time? Its much easier to assume the worst case scenario and just vote against it because your sick of new buildings in your neighborhood.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 12:08 PM

You couldn't be more wrong about the CB's involvement, or at least my CB, which voted it down.The AIA came to our CB and gave a detailed explanation, point by point of the plan.We asked the AIA rep detailed questions about the proposal and on each and every point they had it wrong (save the bulkhead and rear dormer provisions, which might have been OK).You can blog and generalize all you want about how uninformed and biased you think the CB's are ... but that's all in your ltd. imagination and under your own preconceived bias.

Plain and simple, the AIA proposals left a LOT of room for unscrupulous developers and architects, of which NYC has a proven stock of, to cheat their way to overdevelop neighborhoods and reverse many changes that the community fought hard to win thru successful rezonings.

If you want to talk about it in details (and not sweeping generalizations) then by all means, go at it.
Posted by: guest at February 20, 2008 12:57 PM

12:08 stole my thunder. (Some of the phraseology even reads like I write; it's kind of spooky.) The review of the AIA-sponsored text amendment followed the same process as the recent yard and street tree amendments proposed by the Department of City Planning. I didn't hear any howling about "process" then, which suggests that it's a false argument now.

As a former member of a community board, and someone who still attends many community board meetings, I can state without equivication that, in general, community boards are poorly informed and frequently biased, often in ways they don't even see.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 1:22 PM
12:57PM, thank you.

Not only did the AIA present to our Board CB7 in Bklyn), which has several architects and tradesmen on committees (so stuff it! 12:08), I also attended the Brooklyn Boro Board meeting as saw the FIRST presentation.

Both places the AIA members (the lead guy at the Boro Board meeting) could not answer basic questions and were completely defensive.

Basic questions were asked by layman and tradesmen alike, and the AIA had no answers.

Ultimately (and the only honest thing they did) was to admit to the fact the text changes would allow their customers (developers) greater flexibility in maxing FAR (not increasing, maxing) and avoid the costly and time consuming process of going before the BSA. Period, end of story.

The fact that they listened to CBOs, our CB and City Council is a good thing, but too little to late.
I give them credit for withdrawing the application, but that was only after they came under severe pressure and scrutiny. That tells me something was wriong from Day 1.

And to add to 12:08's BS post, zoning text changes do not go through normal ULURP review, that was part of the issue. CBs and BPs are not required to hold public hearings like normal ULURPS, thank God our did (and others in the City).

Just by the fact the AIA was attempting to skate by without due process or review (regardless the application type) was the reason CB7 voted it down on principle, not even going into the detailed flaws of the text changes.

Do a wee-bit of research before you make accusations that CB's (heck BPs) were ill informed and CBOs had no right to weigh in. If I still remember correctly, this is still a democracy were under...for better or worse.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 1:26 PM

I forgot to add above (to my 1:26pm post) I (and my CBO and CB) were proud to stand beside CM Avella, HDC, MAS and other CBs against this trojan horse. Glad it did not have a change to get through the gates of CPC.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 1:28 PM

12:57 and 1:26 are obviously the same person. Just another reactionary NIMBY member of the "community" that hates new housing and development, and opposed the proposal based on fear of more "change".

I hope City Planning does the right thing and pushes the proposal forward. A minority of anti--everythings should not dictate the face of the city against the wishes of the majority.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 3:02 PM

"I hope City Planning does the right thing and pushes the proposal forward"
Uh, have you not read the post? It has been withdrawn. At least us supposed nimbys can read, jeese.

And no, I'm not both 12:57 and 1:26, just like minded.

And who said anything about hating change or new development.
I think you are confusing issues 3:02pm
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 3:09 PM

CCGH, you are hilarious. It's obvious you haven't bothered to read the letter, nor do you have any background knowledge of the situation.

The reality is that City Planning is getting heat from the anti-everythings, so they are backing off for now.

Here's the relevent letter exerpts for the NIMBYs:
Regarding the withdrawal,"We do so at the specific suggestion of City Planning Department staff, to allow for more time for public discussion of the portions of the Zoning Resolution which limit the ability of architects to create good design."

Translation: City Planning is revisiting this in the near future.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 3:23 PM

12:57 and 1:26, right on. 12:08 is an ignorant hack.
3:02 loses to Godwin's Law by crying NIMBY! NIMBY! NIMBY!!!!!!!!!1!!!ONE!!
I'm so goddamn sick of that crybaby whine.
Posted by: guest at February 20, 2008 3:35 PM

Translation: AIA got such heat from Community Boards and City Council, Recommendations from Borough Boards to change the text, pressure from CBOs and Preservation Organizations (who are also for intelligent design in the City) that City Planning felt forced to ask them to withdraw the application.

I don't know I would add 18 Community Boards, several City Councilmembers, the Brooklyn Borough president, Historic Districts Council, Municipal Arts Society, Queens Civic Congress...etc. in with nimby's who "hate everything."

While I do find myself funny at times, I'm not sure you realize who's doing the laughing now.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 3:36 PM

CCGH: Of course you are laughing. You live for this. NIMBYs like yourself have no lives and get pleasure out of blocking things and preventing buildings from being built.

I love your laundry list of "talking points", as if the QCC or HDC is influential, representative of the public, or has ever supported anything having to do with design or good government.
You are lying about MAS. They are not in opposition.

18 Community Boards? That means 41 Community Boards did not sign up for your crusade. One Borough President? That means four did not sign up for your crusade. Community Boards are not representative of their communities; they are Boss Tweed zones for political hacks, with a few senior citizens thrown in for good measure. The Bushwick board, for example (Vito's board), is dominated by an ethnicity that departed forty years ago.

The fact that a few "community" groups have the ear of Tony Avella means that there will be further delays, and the issue won't be put to a vote until there is more "community" consultation, which means many months of "reaching out" and appeasing voting members of the council.

Once this consultation ends, the plan will be passed in modified format, and you can commence your crying about more "consultation" and "input", because of course you think we need machine Commnity Board hacks, not architects or planners, to guide the city's zoning text and built form.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 4:04 PM

Wrong as usual ccgh. See section § 201 of the City Charter.
"Applications for changes in the zoning resolution may be filed by any taxpayer, community board," etc... and "the commission prior to taking action upon any such application shall refer it to the affected community boards or borough boards for a public hearing and recommendation."

The AIA brought it to you and about 30 other CBs to review pursuant to the due process described in the charter and you denied it because they didn't bring it to you sooner. But more importantly you denied it because your a MORON!
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 4:05 PM

The Brooklyn Borough Board voted 16 yea, 6 nay, 3 abstentions to approve the text amendments with modifications. Not quite sure who exactly "ccgh" is referring to.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 4:07 PM

A. that zoning reso does not apply to text changes. I checked. With the BP's office and DCP.

B. the Borough Board did vote YES, with substantial recommendations on all 6 of the texts.

C. AIA made presentations to 18, not 30 CBs and only after the CBs asked for them. They did not do it voluntarily. I was there.

D. again, this was not a typical ULURP so they were not required to bring it to the CBs, nor did the CB's Land Use Committee have to take it up. Again, check that reso again.

Enough back and forth. We all know they screwed up, could have handled it better and now have withdrawn the app. Hopefully they will have listened to the BP's recommendations and those from the CBs and CBOs.

If so, then they might actually be doing the City a service , and not just their clients. And that's the bottom line here folks. $$$
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 4:51 PM

re: item C ^above^
-and DCP didn't volunteer to make presentations on the yard and street tree text amendments, so your point here is...?
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 5:26 PM

"DCP didn't volunteer to make presentations on the yard and street tree text amendments"
That is the point. text amendments are not full ULURPs.
Thank you for clarifying what I was saying.
Posted by:
guest at February 20, 2008 5:54 PM

Queens Civic Congress is the foremost community group in Queens and proves rather effective at building coalitions. Some of the foremost activists enjoy leadership roles there.
Posted by:
guest at February 21, 2008 12:38 AM

Posted by:
guest at February 21, 2008 8:19 AM

Ew, cut me to the quick with your anonymous comments. Roll and burn shmucks. This proposal screwed the pooch for community-based planning.
Windsor Terrizen
Posted by:
guest at February 21, 2008 8:40 AM

Increasig lot coverage was a bad idea but facade height alignment is a good idea.
Most noteable is R6b, which has a maximum 40ft streetwall - used by DCP to be in context with brownstones. However, most brownstone facades are 42ft-46ft so the infil development is out of character.
Posted by:
guest at February 21, 2008 10:03 AM

Monday, February 18, 2008

Government abuses eminent domain

Date: Sat, 23 Feb 2008 12:39:35 -0800 (PST)
From: "Anne Z. Whitman"
Subject: Fwd: Government abuses eminent domain
To: "Jordi Reyes Montblanc"

Note: forwarded message attached.

Anne Z. Whitman, President

This story was sent to you by: aw
Government abuses eminent domain

Raymond J. Keating

February 18 2008

How did downtowns - or any set of buildings - ever get built on Long Island
without government development plans and politicians threatening property owners
with condemnation?

The complete article can be viewed at:,0,6403009. column

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Home > Top News > Columnists

Government abuses eminent domain
Raymond J. Keating
February 18, 2008

How did downtowns - or any set of buildings - ever get built on Long Island without government development plans and politicians threatening property owners with condemnation?

Well, it turns out the private sector works pretty darn well.

Entrepreneurs, businesses and property owners actually have the incentives to bargain, buy, sell and build. They earn profits by serving residential and commercial markets.

Raymond J. Keating

Recent columns

Matters go awry when government gets in the way with high taxes and costly, unnecessary regulation, including inflexible zoning. Government also needs to keep the streets clean, fill the potholes, and protect people and property.

But this Economics 101 lesson is lost on many politicians. They think that government plans lead to prosperity, and abusing eminent domain powers is crucial to development. They mistakenly believe that government violating property rights - by taking property from one private entity and handing it to another that is politically favored - is good for the economy.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court somehow upheld such blatantly unconstitutional actions in its 2005 Kelo decision. Subsequently, assorted members of the political class have argued against measures meant to stop eminent domain abuse. Still, many states have passed positive reforms, with New York not among them. So, the abuse continues here. Consider what's going on in Riverhead.

Early this month, the town board gave Vintage Square Properties, a private developer, thumbs up to start negotiating with property owners to build a $70-million project. Newsday reported that this "would level an existing block of stores, offices and homes." A stationery store owner noted that uncertainty has stopped him from making investments to transform his store into a luncheonette. He asked: "What if they come to me two months later and say this building is coming down to dust?"

Meanwhile, Apollo Real Estate Advisors, a firm undertaking a different, $120-million downtown Riverhead project, has requested that the town condemn property it needs from four owners. On Tuesday, Newsday noted: "Riverhead Supervisor Phil Cardinale said he was excited to get Apollo's request last week and predicted that just beginning the condemnation process would encourage the current owners to sell."

Excited? Is government coercion really something to get excited over? Funny how a threat from government to take your property might encourage a sale.

Is any of this necessary? Of course not. Consider two reports recently released by the Institute for Justice. A January 2008 study found that states passing eminent domain reforms have suffered no negative economic consequences in key areas cited by reform opponents - construction jobs, building permits, property tax revenues.

Even more powerful, though, is a report titled "Development Without Eminent Domain: Foundation of Freedom Inspires Urban Growth," written by Curt Pringle, mayor of Anaheim, Calif.

Pringle details how a dramatic economic revitalization in a district called the Platinum Triangle is being accomplished "without the government violating the property rights of our residents and business owners." City officials decided not to provide public subsidies, and not to use or threaten the use of eminent domain. They have protected the property rights of landowners, made zoning requirements more flexible and relied on market forces. Permitting, environmental impact requirements and regulations have been streamlined.

"The development of private properties," Pringle said, "has been completely at the discretion of the individual property owners.

"The result? Pringle reports that "the area is blossoming with more economic activity than ever imagined." He concludes that "Anaheim is flourishing and becoming a place where freedom is not just a phrase but also a practice." Pringle's report should be required reading for every elected official on Long Island and across New York State.

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Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.,0,6403009.column

Moving the Grange, and Twisting It Around, Too

Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2008 07:50:57 -0800 (PST)
From: "Anne Z. Whitman"
Subject: Fwd: NYTimes: "Moving the Grange and Twisting It Around Too"
To: "Jordi Reyes Montblanc"
fyi Anne

Note: forwarded message attached.

Anne Z. Whitman, President
Forwarded Message [ Download File ]

Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2008 06:27:30 -0800 (PST)
From: "J Thomas"
Subject: NYTimes: "Moving the Grange and Twisting It Around Too"

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N.Y. / Region

Moving the Grange, and Twisting It Around, Too

David W. Dunlap/The New York Times
The Grange, Alexander Hamilton’s country home in Upper Manhattan, is squeezed between an apartment house and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. This spring, it will be moved a few blocks to the edge of St. Nicholas Park, although a debate continues about which way it should face.

Published: February 18, 2008
Correction Appended

The idea is to restore Alexander Hamilton’s country home, the Grange, to a state that Hamilton himself would recognize.

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Boundaries of the Grange

Enlarge This Image
Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York
Alexander Hamilton's country home, the Grange, in its original location, approximately on what is now West 143rd Street, between Convent Avenue and Hamilton Place. The front entrance faced southwest.

The question is: Would he be able to find the front door?

This spring, the National Park Service plans to move the Grange from a cramped nook on Convent Avenue to a far more generous setting in a hillside corner of nearby St. Nicholas Park in Upper Manhattan.

In doing so, the service will swing the house around to face West 141st Street. That means that the Grange’s front door will end up oriented northeast rather than southwest, as was intended by Hamilton and his architect, John McComb Jr., when the home was completed in 1802.
This is a grave concern to some preservationists, who believe the government is squandering a chance to authentically restore the home of a towering founding father.

“It’s Preservation 101 that the house should be retained in its original orientation,” said Ron Melichar, president of the Harlem Heights-West Harlem Community Preservation Organization.

Orientation affects not only the exterior appearance but the way that light plays within the house’s octagonal parlor and dining room.

Darren Boch, a spokesman for the park service, said a southwest orientation “would defy common aesthetic sense” because it would leave the house facing the steep ridge from which City College rises.

“To the greatest degree possible, we’re trying to retrieve what has been lost to history: the character of Hamilton’s home as a freestanding mansion,” Mr. Boch said. He added, “The reasons for McComb’s orientation had to do with views and natural light, neither of which can be replicated, regardless of orientation, on the new site.”

Of course, there is a chance that visitors will be misled into thinking that the house was designed to front 141st Street, even though the gridiron street plan was drawn up a decade after the Grange was built. If the house instead turned its back on the street, there could be no such mistaken assumptions.

There may be more accommodating spots in the 23-acre park, but the 141st Street corner is particularly appropriate because it was once part of Hamilton’s estate, meaning that there is a 200-year-old connection between the building and its new setting.

One could argue that the Grange and the neighborhood around it are so transformed that orientation is scarcely a defining characteristic any longer. Or one could say, as preservationists do, that because so many changes have taken place, the government is obliged to maintain whatever original qualities can be preserved.

The case of the Grange illustrates an abiding tension in preservation between accommodating the public (in the interest of exposing as many people as possible to a historical structure) and striving for pinpoint accuracy.

The Grange is especially important because it is both a city landmark and a national memorial, a rare survivor from a time when Upper Manhattan was largely farmland, and a tremendous — though often overlooked — cultural resource in Harlem.

More than just a pretty face on a $10 bill, Hamilton served in the Revolutionary War, wrote many of the Federalist Papers, served as the first secretary of the Treasury and founded the Bank of New York and The New York Post.

He was mortally wounded in a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804. The house was acquired in 1889 by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and moved two blocks south to its current site at 287 Convent Avenue, abutting the church. The entrance was moved to one side of the house. It came under park service stewardship in 1962.

The missing original entranceway, the front and back porches and other architectural features are to be restored as part of the $8.2 million project. When the house reopens to the public in the fall, it will occupy a verdant setting, visible from all four sides, for the first time in 119 years.

“Even given the differences of opinion on orientation, it’s going to be a happy day for the house when it finally moves,” said Adrian Benepe, commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation Department, which supports the park service plan.

So does the Landmarks Preservation Commission, saying that “the orientation of the house relates to its original siting as a mansion on a promontory.”

Robert B. Tierney, the commission chairman, is left with only one small concern.
“When the ghost of Alexander Hamilton returns to the Grange,” Mr. Tierney said, “I hope he doesn’t go in the back door by mistake.”

Correction: February 22, 2008 An article on Monday about plans to move and restore the Grange, Alexander Hamilton’s country home in Upper Manhattan, attributed an erroneous distinction to that home. At least one other house associated with Hamilton survives: the Schuyler Mansion in Albany (also known as the Pastures), where he was married. The Grange is not the only one associated with him that still exists.

NB - It is incredible what for osme people is so important and totally disregard the real question. Not whether the Founding Father's ghost can find its way into the house but
what will happen to the vacant lot left on Convent Avenue after the Grange is moved.

After long and ardous negotiations an agreement was reached with the Community faciliatated by Congressman Rangel and involving the Federal government in the form of National Parks Service, the City of new York Parks Dept. and Community board 9 Manhattan.

Under that agreement NPS would build a housing facility for the NPS Rangers and a Community/Visitor Center in the lot vacated by the Grange.

Now NPS has renege and will not do anything of the agreed buildings.

Yet the preservatinists are fixated on the orientation of the Grange at its new location and very little is said or done about the broken agreement. I have no doubts that Alec Hamilton, if he were alive would be more concerned about the breach of an agreement with the Community than he would about which way the house is oriented.

But then that is the way things are for preservationists and an uninvolved community.

When someone comes aroung and builds a tower condominium in that space you will hear the crays and moans of the preservationists, but then it will be too late. - JRM

High Rise Condos Divide West Harlem Residents


High Rise Condos Divide West Harlem Residents

By Kevin Shin
Created 02/18/2008 - 3:03am

A new development rising into the West Harlem skyline is also raising the tempers ofsurrounding residents.

The project, which will be located in what many consider the last residential neighborhood in Manhattan untouched by redevelopment­, has divided West Harlem residents. Though developers and architects claim the building will be welcomed, new plans for 2201 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. have already alarmed many living nearby.

The six-story, 35-unit residential condominium at 130th Street, with its concrete and glass modernist facade, brings a new look to an old street lined with brownstones and pre-war walk-ups. The development’s construction continues in the midst of new state and city initiatives aimed at creating affordable housing.

“To capture the spirit of the Harlem Revitalization, this West Harlem mid-rise condominium developer wanted a building that would celebrate the fabric of city life and the spirit of the community,” lead architect Marc Spector explained in a statement.

But some residents are concerned that the building’s construction, like that of other recent developments in West Harlem, will lead to higher rents and the flight of longtime residents who could be replaced by students and white-collar professionals.

“I’m not against improving the community,” said Donny Ochs, who has lived in his rent-stabilized apartment in a nearby building for over 20 years. “I just wish there were some way to do it without completely changing our neighborhood, although I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

According to the developers, WA Design and Development, apartments will be priced at $900 to $1,100 per square foot. The building will feature a gym, 24-hour doorman service, two levels of parking garages, and rooftop swimming pool surrounded by a terrace and a running track.

Recently proposed state and city legislation seeks to put vacant lots—like 2201 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.—back on the market for residential development.

These laws would remove an existing tax benefit for vacant residential sites above 110th Street and require property owners to register vacant properties with the city, outlining plans for those properties’ futures. Owners would also have to pay the government a fee of up to $5,000 for each year the property remained vacant.

NB - Once again let me educate an Spectator reporter and hopefully the Spectator editorial staff.

WestSide Harlem commonly called West Harlem boundaries are the same as those of CB9M.

In the south, West 110th Street from the Hudson River to Manhattan Avenue.

In the north, West 155th Street from the Hudson River to Edgecombe Avenue.

In the west, the Hudson River.

In the East Edgecombe Avenue into Bradhust at West 145th into St. Nicholas Avenue and at West 123rd into Morningside Avenue into Manhattan Avenue.

Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard aka 7th Avenue is completely in Central Harlem or "Harlem" or Black Harlem. - JRM

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Manhattanville and New York City’s Milk Supply

Date: Wed, 13 Feb 2008 17:31:24 -0800 (PST)
"Anne Z. Whitman"
Subject: Fwd: Dairy Opus and Timeline
To: "Jordi Reyes Montblanc"

Jordi: Maybe you would like to post the history and timeline on your Grey Wolf Howl blog.

Dairy Opus and Timeline
To: whitmananne

Manhattanville and New York City’s Milk Supply
By Mary Habstritt

Death by Milk
During New York’s colonial period and into the 1800s, cows were kept in town and grazed on public pastures or squares. As the city grew, farmers on the outskirts supplied milk to vendors who carried it to town and peddled it from house to house, filling pitchers from buckets hung from shoulder-borne yokes or carried in horsedrawn carts. Due to its perishability, milk had to be delivered to the city twice a day in summer from farms in Brooklyn and the Bronx. As pastures were pushed further and further from the city in the days before refrigeration it became impossible to transport milk without spoilage and other means had to be found to provide a milk supply to a rapidly growing population.1

One effort brought the cows back to the city, but not to graze on the village green. Beginning in the 1820s or 1830s, distillery owners created a market for the grain mash left from the distilling process by selling it as cattle feed. Farmers could rent stalls at the distillery and feed their cows this slop at minimal cost. Although cows gave more milk on this high-calorie diet, it was of poor quality, in part because the animals got no exercise and lived in filthy conditions. The thin blue “swill” milk was often doctored with additives, such as starch, plaster, chalk, eggs or annatto (a dye derived from the seed of a tropical plant), to give it a more attractive color. Although other cities also had swill dairies, nowhere was the infamous beverage more prevalent than in New York.2

The swill milk soon launched a pure milk movement. One of the leaders was Robert Milham Hartley, an activist probably more interested in impoverishing the distillers as part of the temperance cause than in lowering the death rate caused by the unhealthy milk. He was instrumental, however, in bringing public attention to the problem which was profound. One of every two children in the city died before the age of five in 1841, many from tuberculosis, typhoid or diarrhea-causing bacteria carried in milk. An investigation launched by the New York Academy of Medicine in 1848, an exposé in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly in 1858, and an ensuing investigation by New York City’s Board of Health resulted in the swill milk being denounced by scientists as detrimental to the health of children. Eventually, an 1875 law outlawed the sale of milk from distillery-fed cows. Zealous enforcement by Dr. Samuel R. Percy of the Academy of Medicine and others led to eradication of the swill dairies in Manhattan, yet in 1904 a new city health commissioner found upon taking office that thousands of cows were still being fed distillery slop in Brooklyn.3

The “certified milk” movement was one response to the need to safeguard milk for infants. It was initiated in 1891 by leading physicians of the Harvard Medical School working at the Walker-Gordon Laboratories in Boston. Its goal was to provide milk for which the production and processing were carefully controlled from cattle feed to city distribution. It was found that even moderate precautions taken on the farm reduced bacteria count in fluid milk dramatically. Inspired by the work in Boston, Henry L. Coit of Newark, New Jersey coined the term “certified milk” to describe milk whose quality was supervised by a commission made up of physicians. The doctors inspected not only the cows, but the land, buildings, and water at the dairy farm and put all collecting and handling procedures under the severest scrutiny. Dozens of milk commissions were established around the country in the early 1900s, but it was a cumbersome and expensive way of obtaining pure milk. Pasteurization, on the other hand, lent itself to factory application and was therefore a more practical and economical method for protecting the milk supply.4

The campaign for universal pasteurization by force of law began in New York City in 1889. This was done through street-level campaigns by activists to educate the public. Dr. Henry Koplik opened the first milk dispensary to distribute pasteurized milk and teach mothers about infant hygiene. The campaign gained momentum when Nathan Straus, head of R.H. Macy’s, New York’s largest department store, decided the time had come to stop the terrible waste of human life. He felt the clinical approach of dispensing pure milk in an apothecary atmosphere was not effective in reaching the masses. In June, 1893, he opened his first milk depot on the East Third Street Pier. It was a combination laboratory and recreation center where a small pasteurizing and bottling plant was adjacent to a pavilion with tables and chairs. Mothers could come with their children for rest and refreshment and attend twice-weekly lectures on child care and nutrition. A pediatrician was always on duty to give free medical examinations. And always, “the best possible milk for children could be obtained at a nominal price.”5

Straus opened six depots the next year and had 17 in operation by 1906. Eventually he developed a central milk plant to meet demand but realized he could never reach everyone in the city so he merchandised the “Nathan Straus Home Pasteurizer.” Ironically, some of the women living in tenements on the Lower East Side were pasteurizing before many milk plants were.6

The effect of the milk dispensaries was dramatic. Before Straus began, the death rate was 96.2 per 1,000 children under the age of five and in the hot summer months it leapt to 136.4 per 1,000. The mortality rate by 1906 had fallen to 55 per 1,000 and the summer rate to 62.7. A scientific experiment in 1898 had already proven the point. Abandoned and orphaned children institutionalized at Randall’s Island were fed the best milk from a carefully selected herd kept on the island from 1895 to 1897. This resulted in a death rate of 42 percent. Then, Straus opened a pasteurization plant there and mortality dropped to 28 percent. No other change in diet or hygiene was made.7

In 1895, Straus launched a national campaign with letters to mayors of major cities offering to establish his depots anywhere he was asked. By the early 1900s many milk depots patterned on the Straus dairies had been opened in Brooklyn, Yonkers, Newark, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Boston and Baltimore. Citizen leagues were formed to support establishment of such depots, including the East Side Pure Milk League which lobbied New York City aldermen to fund booths in city parks to dispense pasteurized milk to the poor.8

Manhattanville citizens were also active in the pure milk movement. Ethel M. Wagoner Hooke (better known in the society pages as Mrs. Edward W. Hooke) and Minnie M. Cook, both residents of 552 Riverside Drive, along with other society women, incorporated the International Pure Milk League in 1910. The league’s mission is “to foster and encourage the production, and consumption of pure milk and pure food generally; to foster and promote the common interests of producers, dealers, and consumers of milk, and all other articles of food; to foster and promote methods of cleanliness in the handling of milk and all other articles of food from the producer to the consumer throughout the civilized world; to foster and promote local and foreign organizations of similar purpose with or without the league as a central or parent body.” The International Pure Milk League maintained a Babies’ and Children’s Welfare Station and a Mother’s Club at 2378 Old Broadway in Manhattanville. During the summer and winter of 1913, the league’s milk station dispensed pure milk to sixty babies, and provided outings in Van Cortlandt Park to a great many children under 5 years.9

The New York City Health Department had begun the first municipal laboratory in the country in 1893. Its head, Dr. William H. Park, focused on the practical application of methods to diagnose, prevent, and treat common infectious diseases. Among the plagues which received his attention was the high infant mortality rate from contaminated milk. An appropriation from the Rockefeller Institute in 1901 assisted researchers in studying the relation of pure and contaminated milk to the heath of infants. By 1905, the Department of Health had full control of all milk sold in the city by requiring all milk traders to be licensed and as a condition of licensure, traders had to allow inspection of his suppliers’ creameries and farms. It was an innovative way to control contamination at the source even though the sources were outside the city’s jurisdiction. Further experiments in comparing certified milk to pasteurized milk and a milk-borne typhoid epidemic in 1913, finally made pasteurization compulsory in 1914. Procedures to reduce bacterial contamination in milk production at every stage and the introduction of refrigeration and pasteurization eventually provided New York with the safest milk supply in the world and set standards for other cities to duplicate.10

New York Entrepreneurs to Conglomerates
Enterprising dairy farmers outside the city advertised the purity of their fresh country milk to compete with the swill dairies. One of these was Thompson W. Decker who, after a job milking cows on an estate in Morrisania and delivering the milk to the city, began his own milk route in 1841. Founded as T.W. Decker, it was re-named T.W. Decker & Sons in 1890. Thompson Decker drove the first route himself and opened his first store at 309 E. 27th Street. That store became the company’s headquarters for 40 years until it moved to 63rd Street and Park Avenue by which time it had 19 city routes. Decker headed the company for 61 years, signing consolidation papers on his deathbed in 1902 to merge it with Slawson Brothers, Sheffield Farms, and two other dairies to form Sheffield Farms-Slawson-Decker. By that time, T.W. Decker & Sons had 33 delivery routes and three stores as well as its original dairy in Morrisania.11

In the 1860s, Decker had purchased 400 acres in North Salem, New York and stocked it with 150 cows, buying milk from other farmers as the business grew. He is credited in company history with being the first New York City milk dealer to use the railroad to bring milk from Westchester by convincing the New York and Harlem Railroad to carry it by trains. He had a keen sense of the value of advertising and public relations, inviting reporters to view operations and showcasing the safeguards in place to keep milk pure. The importance of opening facilities to public inspection became a key trait of the company through the 20th century.12

L. B. Halsey, a lawyer who married Ann Maria Sheffield, became interested in the dairy business when called upon to help deliver his widowed mother-in-law’s butter. Through careful selection and breeding the Sheffield herd of Mahwah, New Jersey produced superior milk, which in turn made fine butter. He began marketing the butter in his spare time in the city and by 1880 had given up the law to devote himself to the dairy trade. His first innovation was to design a a covered milk wagon that protected the milk from dust. Halsey trained other farmers to improve the quality of their milk and bought milk only from the best herds.13

In 1892, he installed the first pasteurizing machine in the United States, imported from Germany, at Sheffield Farms’ Bloomville, New Jersey plant. The following year, pasteurization was demonstrated at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Commercial milk pasteurization was introduced in Baltimore in 1893 but Cincinnati is credited with the first large scale pasteurization program in America. New York followed in 1898 although pasteurization was not yet required for some years.14

Slawson Brothers entered the milk distribution business in 1866. Loton H. Horton, a Slawson on his mother’s side, began driving a milk wagon for his uncle when he was 16. He quickly rose to lead the company, becoming a partner at the age of 21 and principal owner in 1898. When the company merged with T.W. Decker and Sheffield Farms, he became the new firm’s president, a post he held until his death in 1926. At that time, Sheffield Farms Co. (the name was eventually shortened from Sheffield Farms-Slawson-Decker) was the largest dairy products company in the world with nearly 2,000 retail routes and over 300 stores, mostly in New York City.15

Just before his death, Horton had sold the company to the National Dairy Products Corporation. National Dairy Products was formed in 1923 as a merger of several dairy concerns and continued to grow through acquisitions, the most important of which was the addition of Sheffield Farms. Others included Breyer Ice Cream, also purchased in 1926, and Kraft-Phenix Cheese Corporation in 1930. All of the companies continued to operate independently, marketing products under their recognized brand names. In 1969, National Dairy Products became Kraftco and then Kraft in 1976.16

Gail Borden, like many of the pure milk reformers, was inspired by children’s deaths to create a method for improving the safety of milk. A native of Norwich, New York, he led a peripatetic life, living in Kentucky and Indiana and holding such jobs as a surveyor in Mississippi, a newspaper publisher in Houston and a land agent in Galveston, Texas. He was also a tireless inventor, his creations including a sail-powered wagon and the lazy Susan. The difficulties of procuring and storing food experienced by travelers across the plains led him to develop a type of dried meat biscuit. Said to be unsavory but serviceable, it was a commercial failure but recognized as a scientific breakthrough. He was invited to receive the Great Council Medal at the London World’s Fair in 1851. During his passage back to America, he saw several children die on board ship from drinking contaminated milk.17

Working with a method based on vacuum pans used by the Shakers to preserve fruit, he was able to remove most of the water, which he felt was the reason for milk’s spoilage. It was actually the heat used in the evaporation and canning processes that killed the bacteria and preserved the milk. After patenting the process in 1856, he opened a sales office in New York City but the public took little notice of canned milk at the time so he returned to Texas in search of capital. Borden resumed production the following year in Connecticut under the name Gail Borden, Jr., and Company. He continued to struggle financially until he formed a partnership with Jeremiah Milbank, a wholesale grocer, banker, and railroad financier. The New York Condensed Milk Company fortuitously took out its first ad in the very issue of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly in 1858 that denounced the swill dairies and the company was soon delivering condensed milk to lower Manhattan and Jersey City. In 1861, the U.S. government began ordering condensed milk for its troops and business increased so that Borden had to license the process to other manufacturers to keep up. After the Civil War, the company had a ready-made customer base in war veterans.18

After Borden’s death in 1874, his sons managed the company and diversified into delivery of fluid milk in 1875. Ten years later, the company pioneered the use of glass bottles for milk distribution. In 1899, as profits from fresh and condensed milk operations grew, the company was incorporated as the Borden Condensed Milk Company. William J. Rogers, the first president from outside the family, took over in 1902. He was succeeded by S. Frederick Taylor in 1910 who oversaw the building of new evaporation and canning facilities as well as pasteurization and bottling plants in the company’s strongholds in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. In the decade after World War I, the company saw explosive growth and the Borden Company, as it was re-named in 1919, went on a buying spree that turned it into a multinational conglomerate. The company purchased more than 200 companies around the country between 1927 and 1930, becoming the nation’s largest distributor of fluid milk.19

These acquisitions included well-established dairy products companies, such as J.M. Horton Ice Cream, and food manufacturers outside the dairy industry, such as the Merrell-Soule Company which made None Such mincemeat as well as Klim powdered milk, and launched its chemical division with the purchase of the Casein Company of America, which made an adhesive from casein, a by-product of skim milk. When the economy stalled in the 1930s, profits were further eroded by new price regulations for milk. Dairy farmers formed cooperatives to set prices, states established milk-control boards to ensure adequate supplies and low cost for the consumer. Distributors like Borden were forced to pay more for milk but prevented from passing the cost on to the consumer. Perhaps this was one reason that Borden began to concentrate on building its adhesives and chemical businesses through the 1950s. It did not neglect its food divisions, continuing to acquire such well-known brands as RealLemon lemon juice, Crack Jack candied popcorn, and Wise potato chips into the early 1960s. In the late 1960s, however, all the divisions were trimmed of unprofitable facilities during an austerity program and the 1970s saw a period of slow growth.20

The Milk Trains
Until the mid-19th century, dairy farmers converted most of their milk into butter which could be shipped without spoiling and stored for relatively long periods. Fluid milk was consumed only very locally in the days before refrigeration. Milk trains transformed dairy farm production in the milkshed as farmers had a new and growing market for fluid milk, which was more profitable and less laborious than making butter.21

The first rail-carried milk to reach New York City, in fact, reached the city by ferry. The Erie Railroad was the first in the country regularly carry milk beginning in 1842. It began as an experiment for the year-old railroad conducted by Thaddeus Selleck, the station agent in Chester, New York who convinced farmers in Goshen, a town famed for its butter, to try shipping milk. It took five or six hours to reach the city. A number of select families were present to taste the milk when it was delivered to a room specially rented for the purpose on Reade Street near the Erie station. This shipment met with such success that milk quickly became an important component of the freight carried by the Erie. In 1843, it carried 4 million quarts of milk and in 1884 nearly double that amount. By 1847 a regular milk train had been established on the Erie which delivered milk to Jersey City, and then ferried it across the Hudson River to a special depot in lower Manhattan.22

The Erie’s competitors were also carrying growing quantities of milk. The New York and Harlem Railroad, which had bridged the Harlem River in 1840 to provide the first direct freight service to Manhattan, carried 16 million quarts of country milk to the city in 1847. The New York, Ontario & Western inaugurated a daily milk train to the city via its terminal in Weehawken in 1871 and by 1902 was the largest shipper of milk, supplying one-eighth of the city’s supply.23

The Hudson River Railroad bridged Spuyten Duyvil Creek and had trains running into Manhattan by 1851 from as far north as Rensselaer County. It merged in 1869 with the New York and Harlem Railroad and others to form the New York and Hudson River Railroad under the leadership of Cornelius Vanderbilt. This consolidated all rail access to Manhattan with one railroad. In 1871, Vanderbilt re-organized NYC&HRRR traffic into Manhattan by moving all freight service to the tracks along the Hudson and all passenger service to the Harlem line ending at the original Grand Central Depot. The plan was not fully realized, however, until the rail service within the city was electrified and the current Grand Central Terminal was built beginning in 1903.24

In 1933, the Museum of Science and Industry produced a pamphlet related to exhibits on the milk industry, providing a snapshot of milk train commerce. At this time, milk was the second largest perishable product handled in the New York market. It was carried by special milk trains that arrived each night after trips averaging 250 miles. Twenty-five regularly scheduled milk trains served the city with the Pennsylvania Railroad making the longest trip from upstate New York to Brooklyn in 29 hours. Manhattan was served by the New York Central which continued to hold the monopoly on freight service into Manhattan. Since its trucks had the shortest haul from the terminal, its trains were scheduled to arrive last. The New York and New Haven Railroad milk trains terminated at freight stations in the Bronx and Long Island. Other railways terminated in New Jersey and unloaded milk at platforms at their waterfront terminals and the milk finished its trip into the city on barges or ferries.25

Most milk was transported in 40-quart milk cans, about 300 cans to the railcar. It was kept cool either by ice bunkers at both ends of the car or ice placed directly on top of the cans. The introduction of tank cars to the New York market in 1926 is credited to Borden’s Farm Products. The cars were constructed like a Thermos bottle, not refrigerating the milk, but holding it at approximately the temperature at which it was pumped in. Later tank car models had two tanks which could be transferred directly to a truck at the yard. Each tank could hold the equivalent of 300 cans, doubling capacity per car. In 1933, about 17 percent of the milk supply came in via rail tank cars. Although use of tank cars increased, milk cans continued to be used through the 1940s.26

A small amount of milk, pasteurized at country plants, arrived already in bottles packed in cases but most milk was pasteurized and bottled at plants in the city. In 1933, there were 12 pasteurization plants in Manhattan, two in the Bronx, and 15 in Brooklyn. A typical schedule had milk arriving by train at 130th Street at 11:00 p.m., at the pasteurizing plant at 12:00 a.m., and ready for local distribution by 2:00 a.m. From the plants, the milk was taken by wagon or truck to branch distributing stations or delivered directly to consumers along established retail routes.27

The Manhattanville Connection
It was quite typical for the New York Central Railroad to establish freight yards, large and small, throughout its system and this was reflected in the several yards it established along Manhattan’s West Side. “Industrial yards” served particular industries, holding railcars until they could be unloaded or loaded and often providing specialized facilities for perishable freight. In the 1930s, the port of the 60th Street rail yard lying east of the main tracks was known as “the milk yard” and contained 10 tracks capable of handling up to 87 cars. This was adjacent to the main New York Central freight yard which stretched from W. 60th Street to W. 72nd Street. Milk trains were scheduled to arrive between 11:30 p.m and 3:30 a.m. daily carrying a total of 225,000 quarts of milk and cream. These rail deliveries represented about one-third of New York City’s milk deliveries. Manhattan milk plants were also served by the Manhattanville yard at W. 130th Street.28

A number of dairy companies, as well as meatpackers and automobile dealerships, parts and service centers, located facilities in the Manhattanville neighborhood in the early 20th century to take advantage of the West Side Freight Line. The 130th Street yard was a team yard, a type of industrial yard with space to transfer freight from railcars to wagons or trucks. Special facilities included a “milk platform” which allowed easy transfer of milk cans from railcars to wagons or trucks. As part of Robert Moses’ massive West Side Improvement, which included downtown’s “High Line” viaduct, tracks were also elevated in Manhattanville. Three tracks (one main through-track in each direction and the siding) were placed on a viaduct between St. Clair Place and W. 135th St. to serve the meatpacking houses in the district at the second story level. This viaduct, now used by Amtrak, is sandwiched tightly between the backs of buildings along Twelfth Avenue and the viaduct carrying the Henry Hudson Parkway. The freight facilities at the 130th Street yard were enlarged and improved to provide adequate team track and driveways as well as additional special facilities for the handling of milk, automobiles, and heavy freight.29

In addition to being near the New York Central’s incoming milk trains, the Manhattanville location gave dairy companies, which before the 1940s made most of their income from home delivery, easy access to major thoroughfares for delivery to residents in upper Manhattan. That meant that the dairy companies had large stables or garages in the neighborhood in addition to depots and processing plants. The companies had similar facilities downtown, especially near the 33rd Street and 60th Street rail yards on the West Side, for distribution of fresh milk to central and lower Manhattan.30

Several depots and stables belonging to lesser-known dairies appear on insurance maps, but Sheffield Farms and Borden occupied the greatest number of buildings, dominating the business in Manhattanville and reflecting their importance in New York City and the nation. In a 1916 article announcing the end of a dairymens’ strike, the largest milk distributors were referred to as the “Big Three.” These were Sheffield Farms, which controlled 20 percent of the city’s milk distribution, Borden, and Mutual-McDermott, all of which had dairies in Manhattanville.
Combined, they held 61 percent of the milk distribution business in New York City at the time. By 1939, Borden and Sheffield Farms were still two of the “Big Three of the Dairy Industry,” but the third member was The Dairyman’s League, which began as a bargaining association for dairy farmers. At that time, these three controlled one-third of the milk business in the New York City metropolitan area and were shipping about 60 percent of their milk by rail.31

Sheffield Farms first entered Manhattanville with a two-story stable and milk depot in 1903 at 3229 Broadway. The depot was probably for staging milk cans coming in by train and transferring them to wagons for home delivery in upper Manhattan. Although “depot” was used by reformers to describe the booths and pavilions where milk was distributed to the public, dairy companies used it to describe facilities for storage and transshipment.
The McDermott-Bunger Dairy, later Mutual-McDermott, built a plant in 1903 at 527-535 W. 125th Street. Based on the description of the Sheffield Farms pasteurization and bottling plant built a few years later to the west, the two archways at each side of the building were undoubtedly arranged so that milk wagons could be loaded and unloaded efficiently at the back of the building. The McDermott-Bunger building was acquired by Sheffield Farms in the 1920s and by Muller Dairies in the late 1930s or early 1940s. Muller Dairies at the same time occupied the building that backed on it at 518-526 W. 126th Street and the garage next to that building at 528-532 W. 126th Street. Muller Dairies and Sheffield Farms, along with Borden, were fined in 1943 for conspiring to fix milk prices so the building transfer may have reflected a very close business relationship.32

Borden’s Condensed Milk Co. built stables at 623-625 W. 129th Street and 628-630 W. 130th Street in 1906, its first documented appearance in the neighborhood. Although these addresses are on different streets, the buildings are actually side by side, running all the way through the block.
Clover Farms Co., a smaller distributor had 175 routes in the city in 1916. The company moved to a one-story wood frame building formerly occupied by the Manhattan Construction and Trucking Co. at 618-620 W. 130th Street around the same time (between 1916 and 1925) that it left a much larger brick stable at 614-618 W. 131st Street, which it had leased since at least 1913. The elegant five-story stable appears on insurance maps beginning in 1911. It is now one of several buildings used as warehouses by Tuck-It-Away storage. Columbia University’s consultant has identified it as built in 1896 and designed by architect Henri Fouchaux. This architect was quite prolific in upper Manhattan and some of his residential buildings are included in the Hamilton Heights Historic District. He also designed the expansion of Tribeca’s Powell Building by Carrère and Hastings in the Tribeca West Historic District.33

On July 11, 1909, the New York Times announced that Sheffield Farms Slawson-Decker would construct a $500,000 sanitary building for pasteurization and bottling on Manhattan Street (later W. 125th Street) just west of Broadway. It was to supplement the plant at 57th Street near Tenth Avenue designed just two years earlier by architect Frank A. Rooke who would also design the new plant. The 57th Street depot served central Manhattan but was already taxed to its capacity. The new plant on Manhattan St., later re-named 125th Street, was larger than the 57th Street plant, covering twice as many lots. It occupied part of the site of the former the D. F. Tiemann & Co. paint factory, once the major industry in the area.34

The new plant was to be eight stories and faced in white glazed terra cotta. It would be as vermin-proof and fireproof as possible with brick walls on a steel frame covered in concrete. Emphasizing purity, all the machinery was to be finished in white enamel and all the staff were to wear white uniforms which would be laundered daily on site. Even shower-baths were to be provided for the staff. The entire process would be open for public inspection with viewing balconies provided for this purpose. Contamination would be prevented by shielding equipment behind plate glass.35

Two driveways with platforms running into and around the building were to allow a continuous stream of wagons to load and unload. 75,000 quarts of milk were expected to arrive daily. The milk cans would be emptied into the latest in pasteurizing machines after which it was cooled on its way to the bottling machine where already sterilized bottles were filled 12 at a time. The bottles were place in cases with cracked ice and moved to cold storage rooms. The basement was to house the steam engines to power the machinery, including the compressors for refrigeration, as well as ice-making machinery, pumps and bottle-washing machinery.36

This magnificent plant was supported by a newly large stable at 3229 Broadway to house the horses and delivery wagons. The location between 129th and 130th is closer to the plant than the addresses would indicate as 125th Street angles northward from Broadway. At 400 feet, it was close enough for efficiency and distant enough for sanitary purposes. Also designed by Frank Rooke, the alteration called for four stories to be added on top of the existing two stories. Like the plant, its material bespoke purity with near-white terra cotta and matching brick used to clad the façade. The ornamentation has been described as echoing the accoutrements of the routemen who drove the wagons with the four tassel-like forms at the top of the pilasters tentatively identified as stylized horses’ tails, but looking much like ears of corn.37

Stables were essential at the turn of the 20th century when some 7,000 work horses were in harness in New York City pulling everything from streetcars, fire trucks, vans, and wagons. Sheffield Farms in 1914 used 1,163 horses in its business compared to the 2,200 men it employed at all its locations. The company’s stable in Manhattanville appears to have held as many as 108 animals. It was stoutly built with walls over 12 inches thick as thin walls let in the damp. Ensuring that the horses were warm and dry was economical as a warm horse ate less. Large windows ensured good ventilation. The second, third, and fourth floors were for the horses and the upper floors for the milk wagons. The outline of stalls can still be seen in the concrete floors, a material used for ease of cleaning. All edges the horses might brush against were rounded to prevent injury and the ramps leading out of the building as well as the stall floors were scored to improve traction. Some of the ramps still retain remnants of fire hoses laid down to assist the horses in climbing up and down.38

The stable has been re-used as a warehouse for Hudson Moving and Storage, a firm specializing in handling works of fine art and custom-made items The company has owned it since 1972. Springing from its specialty, some of the floors are now leased to artisans who do fine framing and furniture finishing. The one-story milk depot next door appears to have been demolished or dramatically altered to make way for the automobile service station completed in 1940.39

In July of 1920, Sheffield Farms announced that it had purchased a vacant lot to the east of the 125th Street plant to enlarge it. In 1934 the company filed alteration plans for two four-story warehouses at an address the New York Times gave erroneously as 614-44 W. 126th Street, but which was 125th Street property. In comparing 1934 and 1955 insurance maps, it is clear that a four-story addition on the east end of the plant was built during this period. It is apparent when looking at the building that this addition consists of the eastern three bays and explains why the building’s cornice appears off-center. A re-configuration of one-story structures at the same time seems to reflect the garages seen today east of this extension.40

Borden was more inclined to use buildings built by others for its Manhattanville facilities. It did replace the frame building it acquired from Clover Farms, perhaps during its post-World War I buying spree, at 618-620 W. 130th Street with a brick building in 1934. The company used one of the stables of the former Yuengling Brewery at 470 W. 128th Street from at least 1930 to 1935. And it acquired the garage at 646-652 W. 132nd Street at the corner of Twelfth Avenue around 1934. It expanded that garage into the lots at 640-644 probably to increase garage space to serve its new plant just up the street. In 1937, the Borden’s Farm Products Division announced its acquisition of the six-story garage formerly owned by the Studebaker Corporation at 615 W. 131st Street for conversion to a milk pasteurization and distribution plant. It served as a dairy plant for far longer that it was an automobile parts and service center. About the same time, Borden vacated the stables it owned on 129th and 130th Streets as well as the brewery stable. Presumably with the transition to trucks and the expanded garage at 132nd Street the stables were no longer needed.41

Boom and Fade-Out
As the city and the New York Central Railroad progressed with the West Side Improvement, Sheffield Farms announced it would build the world’s largest milk depot alongside. In preparation it would begin motorizing its fleet of milk wagons as far north as 100th Street, using a leased garage, until the plant was completed. By that time the entire fleet would be converted over to trucks and housed in the new plant. The depot was to fill the entire block from W. 57th to 56th and Tenth Avenue to Eleventh. It would connect underground to the rail line. In an update on the West Side Improvement on July 4, 1937, the New York Times noted the Sheffield Farms depot was under construction.42

“Milk Horses Are Doomed,” the headlines predicted on March 17, 1938, as the first unit of Sheffield Farms new depot neared completion. In May, all horse-drawn wagons on routes below 125th Street in Manhattan would be replaced with motor trucks. By the end of that year, the company expected to replace all its horses. The new vehicles were said to be cheaper to operate and much more quiet. The dairy company, and its competitors, had already equipped its wagons with rubber tires and its horses with rubber shoes as a noise-reduction measure. Soon the Sheffield Farms stable in Manhattanville would no longer be needed.43

The largest milk depot and distribution plant in the world opened on June 5, 1938. It adjoined the company’s headquarters at 524 W. 57th Street and spanned the underground tracks of the New York Central where insulated tank cars arrived each evening. The plant could process 24,000 to 32,000 quarts per hour. Milk was unloaded into three stainless steel storage tanks, each able to hold 22,000 quarts. The plant featured stainless steel equipment wherever milk touched metal and this was designed to be easily dismantled for sterilization. Pasteurizers were able to raise the temperature of the milk from 40 to 144 degrees F. in fifteen seconds. After being held at this temperature for 30 minutes, it flowed over coolers to reduce it to 38 degrees F. on its way to the three bottling machines which each filled 132 bottles per minute.44

All delivery equipment for the milk routes formerly served by the three plants at W. 57th Street, W. 28th Street, and W. 125th Street were consolidated at the new distribution plant to reduce costs. All delivery routes below 145th Street would be served by motorized trucks from this point. In August 1948, Sheffield Farms still had 200 horses delivering milk in Brooklyn but had trucks on order to replace them. The Borden Co. had retired its last horse in the U.S. the previous month.45

In just a few years, Sheffield Farms would be shedding its city processing plants in addition to its stables. Columbia University acquired the former pasteurization plant on 125th St. in 1949 as part of a $12,000,000 expansion planned for its Engineering School due to rapid growth in the field. An on-campus site was ruled out as it was estimated that at least three additional buildings would be needed. The Sheffield Farms building was to be remodeled and equipped for use as a laboratory and was to be retained even after the main research building was erected on other nearby lots also purchased at the time at 36-48 St. Clair Place and 556-564 Riverside Drive below the viaduct at the end of Riverside Park. The Sheffield Farms building could be readily adapted for the engineering operations which required steam, water, refrigeration, and sewer drainage and it was. The Heat Transfer Facility was opened in 1950 to test fuel assemblies for nuclear power plants. When it closed in 2003, it was the only laboratory of its kind in the country.46

Sheffield Farms sold its enormous depot at 524-556 W. 57th St. (517-551 W. 56th St. and 806-820 Eleventh Av.) in 1952. The plant consisted of a three-story high basement with an eight-car rail siding and a sub-basement. Eleven truck entrances on 56th St. served the building which held two and one-half acres to the floor, comprising over 400,000 square feet. All the floors were connected by ramps. A six-story office structure integral to the depot with 50,000 square feet of office space. The company said it would seek executive office space elsewhere. It was sold to Webb & Knapp which did not announce plans at the time but said the high ceilings, wide column spacing and rail and truck facilities would lend themselves well to another industrial use. It still stands today and has been re-used as broadcast studios for CBS.47

The reason for the sale given by a company spokesman was that bottling and pasteurizing operations had been dispersed to plants in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Westchester and the plant was already operating at a reduced capacity. The company foresaw greater efficiency and better coordination of facilities by the dispersal to outlying areas. But the sale probably reflected a rapid decline in home delivery of milk and competition from supermarkets. Milk companies had done nearly 75 percent of their business in home deliveries in the years before, but it had been reduced to 25 percent. These reasons certainly also applied to the Manhattanville facilities.48

Borden soon was divesting itself of its New York City properties too. This included moving its corporate headquarters from New York City to Columbus, Ohio in 1969. By the late 1960s, the disappointing performance of the dairy division meant that scores of unprofitable dairy facilities were closed. It is supposed that it was during these cutbacks that the buildings in Manhattanville were disposed of.49

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Milk Supply of New York: From Dairy to Consumer. [New York]: Department of Education, New York Museum of Science and Industry, 1933?.
Mohowski, Robert E. New York, Ontario & Western Railway and the Dairy Industry in Central New York State: Milk Cans, Mixed Trains and Motor Cars. Laurys Station, PA: Garrigues House, Publishers, 1995.
The National Cyclopedia of American Biography. New York: The Press Association Compilers, Inc., 1918-1931.
National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Sheffield Farms Stable, prepared by Tamara Coombs. New York State Historic Preservation Office, 2005.
Nehrich, John. Rensselaer Model Railroad’s Milk Train Data Pack. [n.p.:n.p.], revised June 1, 1994.
New York Central West Side Improvement in New York City. New York Central Lines, 1934. Reprint, New York: West Side Rail Line Development Foundation, Inc., 1984.
New York City. Department of Housing and Buildings. Certificate of Occupancy, No. 26995, November 26, 1940 for 3235 Broadway.
New York Times
“Pasteurized Milk in Parks,” April 27, 1907.
“$500,000 Building for Sanitary Milk,” July 11, 1909.
“Pure Milk League Formed,” October 8, 1910.
“The Real Estate Field: Deal in Manhattanville,” August 9, 1913.
“Chatter from Here and There,” May 10, 1914.
“Milk Deadlock Seems Broken,” October 7, 1916.
“Big West Harlem Sale,” July 13, 1920.
“Alteration Plans Filed,” February 27, 1934.
“Sheffield’s to Build Big Milk Depot Here,” October 4, 1935.
“Buys Harlem Garage: Borden Company to Alter Building for Milk Distribution,” January 17, 1937.
[no title, map and photos of West Side Improvement], July 4,1937.
“Milk Horses Are Doomed; Trucks to Replace Them,” March 17, 1938.
“$2,500,000 Depot for Milk Opened,” June 5, 1938.
Frank W. Crane, “Street in Harlem Linked to History,” November 3, 1940.
“Milk Distributors Fined: Plead Nolo Contendere to Price-Fixing Indictment,” August 6, 1943.
“Site is Acquired for Columbia Unit,” October 16, 1949.
“Drive for $12,000,000 Started by Columbia,” January 11, 1950.
“Sheffield Sells West Side Plant,” May 16,1952.
Powell, Richard. The Pioneers Who Stayed at Home. Sheffield Farms Company, Inc., 1941.
“Road-Rail Units Capture Milk Traffic for N.Y.C.,” Railway Age, April 5, 1941, p. 604.
Schaeffer, Morris. “William H. Park (1863-1939): His Laboratory and His Legacy.” American Journal of Public Health 75, no. 11 (November, 1985): 1296-1302.
Sheffield Farms-Slawson-Decker Co. Bulletin 1, no. 2 (March, 1915).
Sheffield Farms-Slawson-Decker Co. Bulletin 1, no.3 (April, 1915).
Sheffield Farms-Slawson-Decker Co. Bulletin 1, no. 4 (May, 1915).
Selitzer, Ralph. The Dairy Industry in America. New York: Dairy & Ice Cream Field and Books for Industry, 1976.
Washington, Eric K. Manhattanville & Public Health Timeline. Typescript, 2007.
Washington, Eric K. Manhattanville: Old Heart of West Harlem. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2002.
White, Norval and Elliot Willensky. AIA Guide to New York City, fourth edition. Three Rivers Press, 2000.
1 Selitzer, p. 32-34.
2 Selitzer, p. 34-39.
3 Selitzer, p. 38, 125-126; National Register, section 8, p. 3.
4 Selitzer, p. 132-133.
5 Selitzer, p. 133-135.
6 Selitzer, p. 133-135.
7 Selitzer, p. 133-135.
8 Selitzer, p. 135; New York Times, April 27, 1907.
9 Washington, Timeline, p. 3-4; New York Times, October 8, 1910; New York Times, May 10, 1914.
10 Schaeffer, p. 1297, 1299; Selitzer, p. 156-157, 160-162.
11 Sheffield Farms-Slawson-Decker, Bulletin, May, 1915.
12 Sheffield Farms-Slawson-Decker, Bulletin, May, 1915; Powell, 9-10.
13 Powell, p. 13-14.
14 Selitzer, p. 131-2.
15 National Cyclopedia of American Biography, s.v. “Horton, Loton;” Powell, p. 11.
16 National Cyclopedia of American Biography, s.v. “Horton, Loton;” “Milk & Cheese,” Time, March 10, 1930; International Directory of Company Histories, s.v. “Kraft Foods, Inc.;” “Breyers – An American Brand,”, consulted September 15, 2007.
17 National Cyclopedia of American Biography, s.v. “Borden, Gail,” International Directory of Company Histories, s.v. “Borden, Inc.”
18 International Directory of Company Histories, s.v. “Borden, Inc.”
19 International Directory of Company Histories, s.v. “Borden, Inc.”
20 International Directory of Company Histories, s.v. “Borden, Inc.”
21 Selitzer, p. 20.
22 Selitzer, p. 38-39; Encyclopedia of New York State, s.v. “Dairy Industry.”
23 Nehrich, p. 3, 30-31; Selitzer, p. 39; Encyclopedia of New York City, s.v. “Railroads.”
24 Encyclopedia of New York City, s.v. “Railroads.”
25 Milk Supply of New York, p. 1.
26 Milk Supply of New York, p. 1-2; Brainerd, p. 10.
27 Milk Supply of New York, p. 2.
28 Doughty, p. 92; Hassett, p. 17.
29 New York Central West Side Improvement in New York City, [15], e-mail from Thomas Flagg, railroad historian, August 28, 2007.
30 New York Times, May 16, 1952.
31 Mohowski, p. 335; New York Times, October 7, 1916.
32 New York Times, August 6, 1943.
33 Bromley, Atlas, Plate 39, 1911; Bromley, Atlas, Plate 144, 1916; Bromley, Land Book, Plate 144, 1925; New York Times, August 9, 1913; New York Times, October 7, 1916; AIA Guide to New York City; Guide to New York City Landmarks.
34 New York Times, July 11, 1909; Bulletin, April 1915; Bromley Atlas, Plate 39, 1897; Bromley, Atlas, Plate 39, 1911..
35 New York Times, July 11, 1909.
36 New York Times, July 11, 1909.
37 National Register, Section 8, p. 6-7.
38 National Register, Section 8, p. 7-8; Bulletin, March 1915.
39 National Register, Section 8, p. 6; NYC Department of Housing and Buildings, Certificate of Occupancy, No. 26995, November 26, 1940.
40 New York Times, February 27, 1934; Bromley, Atlas, Plate 144, 1934; Bromley Atlas, Plate 144, 1955.
41 New York Times, January 17, 1937.
42 New York Times, October 4, 1935; New York Times, July 4, 1937; New York Times, June 5, 1938.
43 New York Times, March 17, 1938; New York Times, August 9, 1948; “Borden’s Adopts Rubberized Horseshoes….”
44 New York Times, June 5, 1938.
45 New York Times, June 5, 1938; New York Times, August 9, 1948.
46 New York Times, October 16, 1949; New York Times, January 11, 1950; Hutchinson, p. 46-47.
47 New York Times, May 16, 1952.
48 New York Times, May 16, 1952.
49 International Directory of Company Histories, s.v. “Borden, Inc.” (updated).