Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Looking Back: An appeal to the LPC to stop ConEd destruction of Powerhouse smokestack

Dear Chair Tierney:

As you know, a broad coalition of experts, organizations and elected officials has expressed strong support for preserving the former Interborough Rapid Transit Powerhouse, designed by Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White and built in 1904 to provide electricity for New York City’s first subway system. The Landmarks Preservation Commission has twice considered designating the structure, in 1979 and 1990; the building is “calendared," a landmark in fact but not yet law.

Now, there is a new urgency calling for the Commission’s swift, definitive action to landmark this building. The current owner, Consolidated Edison, has begun to demolish the sole surviving 1904 smokestack, a potent symbol of the building's legacy as the engine for "a new era of electrified urban transportation, illustrating the power of technology to improve urban life" (from the Commission’s own significance statement for the IRT Powerhouse).

Regrettably, it appears that the Commission signed off on the demolition of Stack #5 last year, possibly without realizing its provenance as the last remaining original stack. I understand that ConEd claims the stack poses a public safety risk.  But, were the Powerhouse an officially designated landmark, as it deserves to be, such a significant alteration would require careful review and exploration of alternatives by the full Commission.  As it is, the building is vulnerable to continual erosion that may ultimately undermine its landmark integrity.

Please act right away to preserve the IRT Powerhouse.

Kate Wood
Executive Director

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