Tuesday, December 30, 2008

US Postal Service Says - Mail it with Groucho !

In the midst of this eerily quiet winter of discontent, there might seem an impulse to fast forward through the cold, dark days of the calendar's cruelest months and jump straight away into the magical bliss that is the dog days of summer.

And now there's even more reason to want to quickly cast off the chilly ghost of 2008 and hurry to greet the new year yet to be born !

While NYC's Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, has been slow to embrace the sheer historic magnitude of East 93rd Street's own Marx Brothers, the intrepid U.S. Postal Service has doggedly refused to allow rain, snow, ice, wind or Mayor Mike to blur its grand and wonderful vision of celebrating one of the most recognizable legacies of these lovable comic geniuses.

In August 2009, the U.S. Postal Service plans to introduce a Groucho Marx postage stamp evoking the anarchic humor of the Marx Brothers as it worked its way into the American culture through the small screen that brought "You Bet Your Life" into living rooms all across the nation in the early days of television.

So now, every time we send a letter through the U.S. Postal Service, we'll have a chance to collectively say, "You Bet Your Life" we want to save Marx Brothers Place !

Please look for the Groucho Marx postage stamp this summer:

and be sure to use it on all of your letters to NYC's elected officials who have the power to protect and preserve the childhood block of these, the most beloved comic siblings on the planet !

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Top Ten Reasons Mayor Bloomberg Should Grant Holiday Wish for Marx Brothers Place !

The Top Ten Reasons NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg Should Grant the Holiday Wish for Marx Brothers Place:

10. It might get Woody Allen to drop his bid to run against the Mayor in '09 !

9. Free supply of Groucho glasses for life !

8. It would guarantee the Mayor a cameo in the new PBS documentary on the Marx Brothers.

7. Chico would finally call-off da boyz from da hood !

6. Folks might start believing the Mayor actually has both a heart & a sense of humor.

5. After the meltdown on Wall Street, all we've got left is the entertainment industry.

4. If they were good enough for Salvador Dali, T.S. Eliot & Harry Truman, who's this Bloomberg guy to stand in the way of the Marx Brothers ?

3. A cottage industry of Marx Brothers memorabilia could single-handedly underwrite the completition of the 2nd Avenue subway.

2. It will give people something to smile about this holiday season !

And the Number One Reason the Mayor Should Grant this Holiday Wish for Marx Brothers Place:

1. Because We The People said so !

(Thanks Dave)

Please help us inspire NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to use his considerable influence over the NY City Council - to honor the legacy of the world's greatest comic geniuses and NYC's cultural heritage by co-naming the Marx Brothers' childhood block - Marx Brothers Place !

YOU can help make this happen by clicking on this link: http://the-marx-brothers-place-report.blogspot.com/2008/12/all-we-want-for-christmas.html and cutting & pasting & sending the message to: ljackson@cityhall.nyc.gov (with a copy to: garodnickoffice@gmail.com and 93rdst.beautification@gmail.com) TODAY !

Please make sure the Subject Line of your email reads: Marx Brothers Place !

Or just call the Mayor @ 212.788.2958 or 212.788.3245 and ask him to get everybody on board to grant this holiday wish for Marx Brothers Place !

And while we're at it, please don't forget to click on this link: http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?coname&1 so that YOU can sign the petition to co-name the block Marx Brothers Place !

Many thanks for your continued interest in historic Marx Brothers Place !

Sunday, December 14, 2008

All We Want For Christmas & Chanukah !

The Honorable Michael R. Bloomberg
Mayor of the City of New York
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Dear Mr. Mayor,

We humbly ask you to use your considerable political power to grant this simple holiday wish and ceremonially co-name East 93rd Street between Lexington and Third Avenues Marx Brothers Place in honor of the extant childhood home of the world's greatest comic geniuses !

This block's distinct sense of place and historic significance is, in part, defined by the immortal words of Harpo Marx who, in his critically acclaimed memoir Harpo Speaks, lovingly describes the wonderful 19th century houses on both sides of the street that he and his famous brothers called their first real home-sweet-home.

By "officially" dubbing this block with the name by which it is already informally known, your holiday gesture would not only delight proud NYC residents; Marx Brothers fans all across the globe and NYC historic preservationists (it was the celebrated Preservationist Tony C. Wood who first came up with the name Marx Brothers Place!), but it would also bring a smile, and much needed sigh of relief, to neighborhood businesses who would greatly welcome the foot traffic associated with becoming a true destination !

So please, Mr. Mayor. All we want for Christmas & Chanukah this year is Marx Brothers Place !



Saturday, December 13, 2008

If These Houses Could Talk !

Because what the penthouse owner at 150E93 wants to do - construct a second penthouse atop his extant penthouse on historic Marx Brothers Place - is not legal (and was even disapproved by the NYC Department of Buildings), he must now ask the NYC Board of Standards & Appeals (BSA) for a special exception to the law. Please let BSA know that you object to this penthouse proposal: http://the-marx-brothers-place-report.blogspot.com/2008/12/email-your-objections-to-penthouse.html.

The penthouse owner, who also happens to serve as the Co-Op Board President at 150E93 and is a well-known NYC General Contractor, should finally be denied his request for a special permit. While CB8 failed to do its job by approving this controversial penthouse proposal without considering the impact on the affected neighborhood, NYC's BSA now has an opportunity to set things right.

There's a whole host of reasons why BSA should not grant this special permit, not the least of which is because the penthouse proposal is completely out-of-scale and context with the neighborhood and threatens its unique historic character.

Whether the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has yet or ever will include this block in the Carnegie Hill Historic District (CHHD) as it should, such designation, or lack thereof, in no way detracts from the actual history of the block.

Before ever approving a variance from the zoning code, CB8 is required by law to take into account the impact of any such proposal on the special character of the neighborhood to be affected. So, had CB8 actually done its job, the applicant would never have gotten as far as BSA. But alas, expecting CB8 to do its job is much like expecting snow in Gotham in the middle of August - not gonna happen !

Nonetheless, the fact remains that, as a matter of public record, CB8 and LPC were provided copies of the Request for Evaluation (RFE) asking the City to extend the CHHD one block east to include historic Marx Brothers Place (the RFE was delivered to both on September 8, 2008). So CB8 & LPC were both fully apprised of the fact that this block is the indisputable Rosetta Stone to any credible understanding of the development history of Carnegie Hill, and as such must be vigilantly protected as an indispensable chapter in NYC history.

Clearly, to grant a special permit in variance from the NYC zoning code under these circumstances would cause unnecessary and significant harm to the unique historic character of the affected neighborhood. Ergo, CB8 has no legitimate excuse for having cleared the applicant through the first hurdle in his quest to tower up above the historic skyline of Marx Brothers Place.

In addition to the fact that brownstones on this block are older than any of the brownstones that already enjoy the protection of the CHHD (in fact, they were built in 1864 even before Lexington Avenue stretched this far north!), East 93rd Street is world-renowned as a mecca for Marx Brothers fans who make regular pilgrimages to stand on the steps of the beloved childhood home of these celebrated comic geniuses.

Both CB8 and LPC also know from the RFE that the Marx Brothers are not the only famous NYC team of siblings to have a deep and abiding connection to this remarkable collection of historic 19th century homes.

The Loew Brothers, Frederick (a judge & NYC Register) and Edward (deeply involved in NYC politics & business), built 184 & 186 East 93rd Street in 1875. The Loew family continued to own both of these extant houses throughout the period of time that the Brothers' political dealings were frequently splashed across the pages of the newspapers, having become embroiled in one political scandal or another, due to their close association with the notorious Tammany Hall.

And it just might have been the well-connected Loew Brothers who prompted another well-known New Yorker, William Orth, to purchase the house right next door at 182 East 93rd Street which was designed by architect E.D. Gornsey in 1880, just one year before the Marx Brothers House was built across the street.

Sadly, the Orth house at 182 East 93rd Street was razed to rubble in March 2008. The house was one of three ornate side-by-side sister houses for which CB8 gave its blessings to a developer to demolish over the strong objections of the neighborhood.

And once the NYC DOB granted the requisite Demolition Permit, the slippery slope of zoning irregularities triggered by CB8's tacit approval, gave birth to a mid-block incursion expressly prohibited in R8B Zoning (the zoning designation to which this block belongs). Time and time again, CB8 has failed this block, failed this city's historically significant inventory, failed this city's zoning goals and failed this neighborhood.

So please don't let CB8 get away with this ! Let BSA hear from you at the Public Hearing - Tuesday, December 16th !

And remember, if you can't make it in person, please send your objections regarding the penthouse proposal for historic Marx Brothers Place via EMAIL by clicking on this link:

ALL OBJECTIONS MUST INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION: BSA Calendar Number - 162-08-BZ, Property ID - 150 East 93rd Street, Block 1521, Lot 51, Manhattan.

Thanks for your continued interest in historic Marx Brothers Place !

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Urgency of our History is NOW !

Unless NYC's elected officials do something fast, other than vote to extend their own term limits again, the remarkable charm, historic character and incomparable significance of the city's most storied neighborhoods will be ripped right from the pages of Gotham's much vaunted history just as though these chapters so rich in our collective cultural experience had been banned, censored or burned.Check Spelling

Clearly, we need a little magic. Perhaps a political rabbit pulled from a top hat in the eleventh hour. Seems fitting under these dire circumstances to invoke Lewis Carroll, a man who knew a thing or two about magic and rabbits, both literary and real. In a slightly different sort of odyssey, Carroll famously wrote, "the time has come the Walrus said, to speak of many things...". And here those "things" necessarily include the much-needed legal protection that the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission can and should extend to the irreplaceable historic inventory of 19th century houses on Marx Brothers Place.

Indeed, the time has come. And as you will read in this story, posted on The Clyde Fitch Report, the urgency of our history is now: http://clydefitch.blogspot.com/2008/12/could-dream-of-marx-brothers-place-be.html.

Please help Save Marx Brothers Place !

Monday, December 8, 2008

Email Your Objections to Penthouse Proposal for historic Marx Brothers Place !

So that the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals can hear everybody's strong objections to the proposal to top-off the Penthouse at 150E93 on historic Marx Brothers Place with yet another Penthouse, email messages can be sent, prior to the December 16, 2008 Public Hearing, to BSA Chair, Ms. Meenakshi Srinivasan, by simply clicking on this link and filling in the required fields: http://www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mailbsa.html.

Although our elected NYC officials allowed Community Board 8 Board Members (whom they appointed) to get away with ignoring the neighborhood's concerns about the Penthouse Proposal in direct violation of NYC law and, in the process, also denied the opportunity for the objections of Marx Brothers fans and Historic Preservationists from all over NYC, and all around the world, the BSA Public Hearing on Tuesday, December 16 at 1:30pm in Hearing Room E, 6th Floor, NYC Board of Standards and Appeals, 40 Rector Street NYC, provides another chance for your voice to be heard !

But you don't have to wait until December 16 to make your objections known, so please let BSA hear from you today !

As with all other forms of objection, EMAIL OBJECTIONS MUST INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION: BSA Calendar Number: 162-08-BZ; Property ID: 150 East 93rd Street; Block: 1521; Lot: 51; Borough: Manhattan.

All objections should be "land-use" related. So to save time, please feel free to cut & paste this sample objection:

I object to the proposal to construct a Penthouse atop the Penthouse at 150 East 93rd Street in Carnegie Hill NYC for the following reasons: the proposal threatens the historic character of this storied NYC neighborhood so rich in cultural and architectural history; the proposed addition literally faces the Carnegie Hill Historic District and thus threatens the historic integrity and property value of the CHHD; the proposal is completely out of scale & context with this historic block of 19th century houses which includes the beloved childhood home of the Marx Brothers; the proposed penthouse would completely overshadow the tiny four-story 1864 townhouses which 150E93 abuts and which are the indisputable Rosetta Stone to any credible development history of Carnegie Hill having been built prior to even the Lexington Avenue extension;

and for those who live nearby the subject property, you might want to include: the proposal threatens the quite enjoyment of my property as it would interfere with my privacy, access to light, air and views, etc.

Respectfully submitted,

(Please add your name & address)

You can also send a hard copy OBJECTION FORM via regular mail by simply printing out this form: http://www.nyc.gov/html/bsa/downloads/pdf/forms/form_for_objection_consent.pdf, filling in a few sentences explaining your objection, having it notarized and sending it via regular mail to: BSA Chair, Meenakshi Srinivasan, NYC BSA, 40 Rector St, 9th Floor, NY, NY 10006-1705 prior to the December 16 Public Hearing. If you have any questions, you can call BSA at: 212.788.8500.

Please be sure to also send a copy of your Marx Brothers Place Penthouse Objections to: 93rd Street Beautification Association, 179 East 93rd Street NYC 10128 or via email to: 93rdst.beautification@gmail.com.

But don't forget, just like all the other forms of objection, the hard copy OBJECTION FORM must also include the following information: BSA Calendar Number: 162-08-BZ; Property ID: 150 East 93rd Street; Block: 1521; Lot: 51; Borough: Manhattan.

Thanks for your continued support of historic Marx Brothers Place !

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sample Letter to BSA re: Proposal to Construct Penthouse atop Penthouse

City of NY
Board of Standards & Appeals
40 Rector Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10006-1705

Re: BSA Calendar Number: 162-08-BZ; Property: 150 East 93rd Street, Block 1521, Lot 51, Manhattan

To the Board:

Historic East 93rd Street between Lexington & Third Avenues is a very special block. In addition to the world-famous Marx Brothers House, the block boasts a row of 19th century brownstones that are older than any of the brownstones already within the protection of the Carnegie Hill Historic District. These houses date from the same year Abraham Lincoln won re-election (1864) and even pre-date the Lexington Avenue extension.

In addition to these two significant facts, East 93rd Street's unique stepped-down roof-scape, in part a function of the block being one of the steepest hills left in Manhattan, has been celebrated by architects and historic preservationists alike. In fact, Place Matters, the partnership project of the Municipal Arts Society and City Lore, is so charmed by this remarkable stepped-down roof-scape, it has devoted an entire page to this historic block on its web site. So I'm sure BSA can appreciate the fact that any project which threatens the historic character of this little neighborhood is of grave concern to many.

I am writing to express my very serious concerns about the proposed Penthouse for which the applicant is requesting a special permit. Before irreparable harm is rendered upon this block, I respectfully ask BSA to deny applicant's request for the reasons stated above and below:

1.) Applicant falsely claimed to CB8 that his existing Penthouse can not be seen from the street, thereby, deliberately misrepresenting the impact of his proposal on the character of the neighborhood. As shown in the photographs submitted by the 93rd Street Beautification Association, the existing Penthouse can in fact be seen from the street. If applicant is allowed to construct a Penthouse atop his extant Penthouse, twice as much of it will be seen.

2.) Applicant failed to provide exact specifications (height, etc.) in its request for a Special Permit before CB8, thereby, precluding any informed discussion of the zoning and safety issues raised by this proposal. When asked at the September 10, 2008 CB8 meeting, by a neighborhood resident, for the exact height of the proposed Penthouse and the exact height of 150 East 93rd Street if the proposed Penthouse were approved and added to the top of the extant Penthouse, applicant stated that he only had approximations and no exact measurements.

3.) A laundry list of Public Safety issues are raised by applicant's failure to provide exact specifications, measurements and details for his proposal to construct a Penthouse atop his existing Penthouse at the tallest peak on this block.

4.) Whether this block has yet or ever will be landmarked, it is undeniably very rich in NYC history (as set forth in great detail in the RFE filed with CB8 & LPC on September 8, 2008). And while that incontrovertible fact may not yet trigger a review by NYC's LPC, it underscores the importance of giving due consideration to the impact of this proposal on the character of the neighborhood, historic East 93rd Street.

5.) Applicant deliberately misled CB8 in its assertion that 150 East 93rd Street is surrounded by nothing but high rises. Photographs submitted separately show that 150 East 93rd Street, in fact, abuts a row of tiny brownstones that are only 4 stories tall and are older than any of the brownstones that are already within the Carnegie Hill Historic District. Because of the applicant's deliberate mischaracterization of the neighborhood that will be affected if this proposal is approved, an authentic opportunity to seriously consider the impact of this proposal on the character of the subject neighborhood has been denied.

The subject block is dramatically dwarfed by 150 East 93rd Street, already its tallest peak. If BSA were to grant the Special Permit requesting approval to add yet another Penthouse to the top of applicant's extant Penthouse, the disparity in scale would, of course, be far more lopsided, and surely stick out like a sore thumb on this block of small 19th century houses.

6.) In light of the City's recent efforts to strengthen the public’s protection against construction projects not thoroughly vetted, and the fact that even the DOB refused to approve the applicant’ proposal to construct a Penthouse on top of his existing Penthouse, BSA should deny applicant's request for the subject Special Permit so as to ensure public safety; protect the continuity of the neighborhood's distinct and historic character and to encourage the necessary construction reforms being pursued by the City.

Thank you for your attention to these concerns regarding the subject proposal to build a Penthouse on top of the existing Penthouse at 150 East 93rd Street. Please deny applicant's request.

Respectfully submitted,

(Please add your name & address)