Thursday, May 5, 2011

Landmark Preservation Rejects Central Park Conservancy's Cherry Hill Design

"If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” - Landmark Preservation Commissioner.

"There is no way I could support this," said another.

Cherry Hill Concourse photographed in 1982, following restoration. Photo Courtesy: Landmark West!


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

Cherry Hill concourse today (May 2011).

In 1980, with the founding of the Central Park Conservancy, our City's first Scenic Landmark--Central Park, designated in 1974--began a miraculous transformation. Decades of neglect were slowly and carefully reversed and, after 30+ years, Central Park is the entrancing destination many of us know it to be today, according to Landmark West!

And the work continues! The Central Park Conservancy and the Parks Department, the two bodies who administer the Park, regularly undertake park improvement projects. But they are not alone in their vision to sensitively restore and preserve Central Park. Advocates such as LANDMARK WEST! and our colleagues celebrate the Park not only for its English Romantics origins, but for the incredible changes it has experienced over the decades. At times, administrators and preservation advocates don't see eye to eye on "what's best" for the Park today, for its users, and for the Park's future. The proposal to reconstruct the Cherry Hill concourse is a perfect example ... and it happens to be an advocacy "win" as well!

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.

The LPC at public hearing on Tuesday (May 3rd) unanimously disapproved the Central Park Conservancy's proposal to reconstruct Cherry Hill concourse. LW! stood strong on the issue of preserving Cherry Hill's layered history; we illustrated it's effective design and good condition; we spoke to the proposed design's degradation of the space to a parking lot (read LW!'s statement here). And the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) stood strong as well!

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!

Historic Districts Council summed it up this way:

Spring has sprung and what better time to think about Central Park! The Central Park Conservancycame to the LPC Tuesday with a plan to remove the decorative paving at Cherry Hill (installed with LPC approval in 1980) and to replace it all with a dark brown resin aggregate. The CPC argued that the new material would better reflect the area’s historic use as a scenic turnaround and parking spot for horse-drawn carriages. HDC testified in favor of keeping the existing paving as it is an attractive addition to the park that recalls the beginning of its restoration and rebirth in the early 1980’s.

Defenders of the Historic Upper East Side, Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts, Landmark West!, New York City Park Advocates and individuals also spoke in favor of the existing design. Much to our delighted surprise, commissioners all voted to retain the brick paving and replace just the damaged asphalt area with the new material. As one commissioner put it, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Read More:

UPDATE from the FIELD Elegant 1980s at Cherry Hill, Central Park

Landmark West! - May 6, 2011 - As reported by Cristiana Pena

Central Park's Cherry Hill to Close This Summer for Redesign

DNAinfo - April 19, 2011 - By Jill Colvin

1 comment:

  1. i love cherry hill it is perfect when i want to walk with my friends.. and make rest on the grass.. yeah!!!..
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