On Tuesday, May 3rd, the Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) unanimously disapproved the Central Park Conservancy's proposal to reconstruct Cherry Hill concourse. The proposal would change the elegantly designed circular concourse to one level and install a dark brown resin bound aggregate paving described by one critic as a black donut, and dog poo by another. Critics derided the proposed redesign as resembling a parking lot which they say is being done in part to accommodate the increasing commercial uses of the site.
The commercial uses of the area were also a focus of public testimony as critics questioned the justification of the redesign and use of materials for a more utilitarian purpose. (Vehicles and Parking.) This area is heavily used by film and advertising crews and in April the DPR issued an RFP for a food concession vending cart with a "Victorian-era" look.
The concourse was redesigned in the 1980s. Preservationists have been fighting to keep the much beloved design which includes a circular platform surrounding the fountain, paved in brick and laid out a herringbone pattern, and edged in bluestone in an interlacing star pattern the Conservancy describes as "reminiscent of the Campidoglio Plaza in Rome."
Christopher Nolan, a landscape architect and Vice President of Planning, Design and Construction Central Park Conservancy presented the $ 1.4 million dollar reconstruction plan before the Commission. The project is being funded by the Conservancy and the City.
Public testimony including Defenders of the Historic Upper East Side, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, Landmark West!, New York City Park Advocates as well as individuals who all spoke in favor of keeping the existing design. Mr. Nolan slumped further and further in his chair as every commissioner rejected the plan.
The LPC will issue an Advisory Report to the Public Design Commission, which has final say. The proposal was reportedly set to go before the Design Commission in May, with a ground-breaking originally expected by early July. No word on whether the Conservancy will withdraw the plan in light of the ruling. According to the LPC website, the next meeting is May 16th. The Central Park Conservancy would have already had to have their application in for review for that date. The following hearing is scheduled for June 6th. - Geoffrey Croft
The ornate Cherry Hill fountain - designed by Jacob Wrey Mould - is the centerpiece of the circular concourse at the crest of Cherry Hill which overlooks the Lake. The circle was designed as a scenic turn-around for carriages, and the Victorian fountain as a watering trough for horses. The Concourse was redesigned by noted landscape architect Phillip N. Winslow and complements the nearby Bethesda Fountain.
Said one commissioner: "There is no way I could support this." Another concurred, adding: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"
Cherry Hill concourse, as designed and revitalized by landscape architect Philip N. Winslow in the 1980s, is beautiful, both in terms of aesthetics and performance. It sets the stage, as many remarked at yesterday's hearing, for pedestrians to take in the views of The Lake. Cherry Hill as a "room" was an allusion heard more than once. And in terms of managing the traffic of horse-drawn carriages and pedicabs alongside pedestrians and other park users, it successfully accommodates them all!
Landmark West! - May 6, 2011 - As reported by Cristiana Pena