The final design has been approved for Central Park’s first statue honoring real women. A six-year effort spearheaded by the non-profit Monumental Women has resulted in a composition depicting women’s rights pioneers Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton gathered around a table drafting a document. The statue will be unveiled on August 26, 2020, celebrating the centennial of the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote. “With this statue, we are finally breaking the bronze ceiling,” said Pam Elam, president of Monumental Women in a press release. “It’s fitting that the first statue of real women in Central Park depicts three New York women who dedicated their lives to fighting for women’s rights.” The 166-year-old park is a tourist mecca in the center of Manhattan, attracting 42 million visitors each year. But amidst the foreign war heroes, presidents, and animals erected in marble and bronze around the park, not one has ever been a named female. Only the fictional Alice in Wonderland boasts her own statue. Monumental Women began its work on securing a site and design for the women's suffrage statue back in 2014, identifying Central Park’s Literary Walk as an ideal and fitting location for a statement on women’s contributions to New York City and the United States at large. The non-profit has collected over $1.5 million in funds for the statue and has support from local community boards, other non-profit arts commissions, and gender equality activists. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has also been an instrumental figure since the beginning, declaring this week when the final design was revealed a "monumental moment." Renowned sculptor Meredith Bergmann, who will tackle the historic project, has been working with Monumental Women to edit the design over the last few months. The process of approvals has been difficult and the initial versions of the statue have drawn immense criticism. But the project has also generated discourse on the historic trends and precedents for public sculpture. Historically, only men have been granted permission to exist in the public realm, to be seen and heard. Women were relegated to the domestic sphere and left out of politics—notabley voting—which is strongly connected to the NYC Public Design Commission’s decision to unveil the statue on the centennial of this event. Throughout the entire United States, there are fewer than 400 statues of real women, excluding representations of metaphor, myth or ‘type’ models. It’s about time that women get their spot on a pedestal to celebrate real, tangible achievements that changed the course of the country’s history. The Bergmann statue is one step closer to bridging the gap and gives the millions of girls who visit Central Park a figure to physically and figuratively look up to.
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The northern end of Central Park is slated to get a major upgrade by 2024. Today the Central Park Conservancy and the New York City Parks Department unveiled its plans for a $150 million restoration of the long-damaged landscape surrounding the Harlem Meer. Envisioned by the conservancy’s design office, led by chief landscape architect Christopher J. Nolan, in collaboration with Susan T. Rodriguez Architecture | Design and Mitchell Giurgola, the project aims to repair the land, restore the local ecology, and revamp access to a new recreational facility that will replace the 53-year-old Lasker Rink and Pool. Built like a concrete box, the building has blocked views of the Harlem Meer towards the south and diminished the size of the 11-acre landscape since it opened in 1966. The project is the final piece of the puzzle that is the conservancy’s 40-year renewal plan to update Central Park. In 2016, the group completed restored the Ravine landscape next door to the Lasker Rink, and the Loch watercourse in the North Woods. Pedestrian circulation was improved, infrastructure was updated, and the deteriorating rustic bridges and stone steps that populated the landscape were rebuilt. The design team wants to build upon that project by further enhancing access to all the recreational activities available at this end of the park. By removing the rink building, they will build a new, sustainable, light-filled facility that shows off the surrounding landscape rather than obstructing it. The building will be embedded into the topography of the site along its eastern slope and feature a green roof that doubles as a pathway and gathering place. It will boast views of the park, pool, and rink below, which will be lowered slightly than its existing location and reshaped into an elongated oval to maximize its impact on the site. All of these design moves, big and small, will allow for water from the Ravine to flow more easily into the Meer. Visitors will be able to observe this transition as they walk around a curvilinear boardwalk that extends over the freshwater marsh and across a series of small islands. Other upgrades to the project will include a new pool deck, bathrooms, locker rooms, and concessions area. Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2021.
It’s been less than a month since the Monumental Women’s Statue Fund announced it would add Sojourner Truth to its Central Park suffragist monument, and after the redesign was unveiled this week, the New York City Public Design Commission (PDC) put the project on hold. In a public meeting on Monday, September 16, the commission voted unanimously to save the “Women’s Right Pioneer Monument” vote for another hearing. They asked the Fund and sculptor Meredith Bergmann to get letters of support from community boards and independent opinions from historians on the accuracy of the design—which the professional artist, who has over 20 years of experience, reportedly already did, according to Hyperallergic. Even Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer has chimed in with support for Bergmann, saying the road to a female-centric statue in New York has been long enough.
"A statue is a work of art—in this case, designed by a remarkable artist who relied heavily on history and the views of the top historians. Her art does not, nor is it meant to, depict an actual historical moment. "Furthermore, placing a statue of Literary Walk comes with many restrictions and obligations. The design must harmonize with the other statues there; it cannot represent an entire movement; it must be allegorical; the subjects must be from the 19th century."In the above comment, which appeared in a New York Daily News editorial by Brewer, she alluded to the recent criticism raised by civil rights scholars and leading local academics that likely played a big role in the commission’s decision to postpone the motion. In August, a group of 20 experts asked the Fund in a letter to reconsider putting Truth alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, over the fear that the representation could “obscure the substantial differences between white and black suffrage activists.” Despite this, Bergmann revealed a new rendering of the statue at the meeting that included Truth standing over a table where Anthony and Stanton sat. The suffragists’ scroll that was featured in the original design was removed and an inscription at the bottom of the pedestal now reads “Women’s Rights Pioneers.” Hyperallergic reported that in an effort to address the critics’ concerns, Bergmann told the PDC she used body language and facial expressions to convey the tensions that might have been going on between the three women at the time of their discussions. For the commission and those who signed the letter, that wasn’t enough. Jacob Morris of the Harlem Historical Society co-wrote the letter and issued another statement at the meeting, asking the Fund to place a plaque on the statue to give further historical context should this design move forward. In addition, landscape architect Signe Nielson, chair of the PDC, told Bergmann and the Fund that they will need to provide the approval letters and address some minor “aesthetic concerns” before next month’s meeting. Pam Elam, president of Monumental Women, told amNewYork that the team expected these results, saying, “it’s just another delay.” Over the next few weeks, members of the academic community and other stakeholders expect to be more thoroughly involved in the second redesign. Todd Fine of the Washington Street Historical Society, one of the signees in attendance on Monday, tweeted that though historians might accept the redesign, "the problem is the lack of outreach and the secrecy."
Harlem’s La Hermosa Christian Church is proposing a major building move to save its congregation. Earlier this summer, it submitted an application to the New York City Planning Commission asking to rezone part of Central Park North to make way for a 410-foot-tall residential tower and community center run by the church. This week it unveiled further plans to integrate a fin-covered music school and cultural center into the structure, all designed by FXCollaborative. Located at 5 West 110th Street, the existing three-story building that houses the La Hermosa Christian community is in poor condition and the congregation, which has been in the area since 1960, hopes that building vertically on the church-owned land will allow the institution to secure its future permanence in the neighborhood. As the oldest Latino church on the East Coast, many residents see it as a mainstay resource in Central Harlem. FXCollaborative has designed a striated, 160-unit tower rising 33 stories above the corner of Central Park North that would be built on the church's current site. It would include 50 units of affordable housing and 38,000 square feet of mixed-use space. According to 6sqft, La Hermosa aims to use the money it earns from the building’s tenants to fund its new sanctuary space, a music school, and an art school. The Manhattan School of Music has already offered to partner with the church and host free classes for local children at the site. The low-lying community center, as envisioned by FXCollaborative, features a curved facade (similar in concept to the studio's Circa Central Park) made of crystal-like glass and a narrow, horizontal cutout spanning from one corner of the building to the opposite edge. If built, it would stand in stark contrast to La Hermosa’s current church building, a red- and creme-colored cement block structure that's slated to be demolished. Though the designs have already been released, no developer has signed on for the project yet and the City Planning Commission says it won’t vote yes on a rezoning decision until that happens. Until then, the La Hermosa community must keep waiting, but the future looks fairly bright given its ample support in the neighborhood and the fact that the church is already neighbored by other high-rise buildings. Not only that, but since Central Park South and a few streets below have been building higher and higher for the past few years, the proposed project may face less criticism than similar projects, given that it's much smaller than any of the supertall skyscrapers ringing Central Park's borders.
The nonprofit behind building Central Park’s first-ever monument dedicated to women’s suffrage announced last week that it’s including abolitionist and activist Sojourner Truth alongside suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in the bronze cast slated for Literary Walk. Critics who previously said the Monumental Women’s Statue Fund was whitewashing women’s suffrage are already saying it’s has made another major mistake by grouping the three historic females together and is calling for a redesign.
“If Sojourner Truth is added in a manner that simply shows her working together with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in Stanton’s home, it could obscure the substantial differences between white and black suffrage activists, and would be misleading.”That’s an excerpt from a letter sent to the Fund that was signed by 20 leading academics on African American history and black culture, including professors from Barnard College, NYU, Brown, and Yale, among others. Leslie Podell, creator of “The Sojourner Truth Project” signed as well. They noted that while Truth did have a relationship with Stanton and Anthony and that they did all attend the May 1867 meeting of the Equal Rights Association, it’s not actually known whether or not they all were at Stanton’s house at the same time. It was previously announced that the design of sculptor Meredith Bergmann, which featured just Stanton and Anthony, was approved as the official suffragette statue by the Public Design Commission (PDC) if the Fund made an effort to acknowledge women of color and their role in the movement in a future project. A model of the statue is now on view at the New York Historical Society through August 26. Though the addition of Truth to the piece shows that leadership behind the project is listening, their move feels less than transparent to some. Hyperallergic spoke with Todd Fine, president of the Washington Street Advocacy Group and co-organizer of the letter with Jacob Morris of the Harlem Historical Society. He said he’s confused as to why the nonprofit didn’t include an image of the new proposal with the public statement. That would have given people the opportunity to weigh in on the final product before it was presented to the PDC. According to the article, the Fund has already submitted the new idea. Those in opposition don't want the process to be rushed, or that a new design be chosen in haste. Either way, the piece is expected to be placed in Central Park one year from next Monday, so a dialogue to redesign it must begin now. And the signees want to talk.
“We believe that there may be elegant ways to memorialize the full scope of the suffrage movement to incorporate these challenging differences,” the letter reads, “but they will require careful consideration, explicitly including black community voices and scholars of this history.”
Last year, New York City’s Parks Department announced plans to build a statue honoring women’s suffrage movement leaders Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The monument, designed by sculptor and human rights activist Meredith Bergmann, will be the first non-fictional female statue in Central Park. In a city where roughly 90 percent of its public monuments depict men, Bergmann intended for the sculpture to celebrate women and pay homage to those who actively fought for women’s rights, yet since it's unveiling, the piece has been met with a wave of online controversy over its subject. In January, the New York Times noted that women’s rights activists and historical scholars were among the first in recent years to call out Anthony and Stanton’s problematic history with race and more specifically, their focus on white women’s suffrage over voting rights for all women. Both figures were prominent abolitionists, but the passing of the 15th Amendment created a huge rift between those who fought for black men’s rights and those who strived for women’s rights. The frustrations voiced by white women like Anthony and Stanton, who were told to “wait their turn” as black men won the right to vote following the Civil War, often conveyed distasteful, racist undertones, according to History.com. In 1866, the two women formed the American Equal Rights Association (AERA) with Frederick Douglass, an organization whose goal was to grant equality and voting rights for both women and African Americans. But after just three years, the AERA disintegrated over debates about whether to support the 15th Amendment. The Villager wrote that at a 1869 convention, Stanton delivered a hateful speech filled with "classist, racist, and xenophobic" remarks against former slaves and immigrants, saying that uneducated and illiterate men should not be making laws for affluent women’s suffrage leaders. Bergmann, while aware of Stanton and Anthony’s shortcomings, created the sculpture to recognize their tireless efforts to mobilize an entire country toward acknowledging women as a powerful and resilient demographic. “It’s unfortunate that these two women did not transcend those prejudices,” Bergmann said in an interview with The Villager. “These things should be brought to light for sure.” The statue will feature a lengthy, 22-foot-long scroll, which will recognize the contributions of African American women, such as Mary Church Terrell, Sojourner Truth, and Ida B. Wells, who helped promote the advancement of all women’s rights. Bergmann told The Villager she hopes the presence of these black, Latina, and white women's names will "mitigate the [widespread and common] prejudices of Stanton and Anthony." The monument will be installed on Central Park's Literary Walk next year on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment's passing.
The steeply-pitched mansard roof of 150 Central Park South, an iconic copper patinaed topper that stands out among its West 57th Street neighbors, will eventually be home to more than storage and HVAC equipment. SPAN Architecture is converting the previously-unused roof floors into a triplex condo unit with surround-views of Central Park, and AN got to tour the raw space before construction begins. 150 Central Park South, also known as Hampshire House, was completed in 1937 after six years of delays caused by the Great Depression. The 37-story, limestone-clad building is instantly recognizable owing to a cascading series of terraces on the northern face, and the two chimneys that bookend its massive copper top. Despite its age and famous tenants, the tower isn’t a landmarked building, allowing for significant interior alterations with the permission of the co-op board and Department of Buildings (DOB). Among them? Two floors could be added, punching 40-foot-tall windows into the roof (after a restoration), and a terrace could be built on the Central Park-facing side. According to SPAN principal Peter Pelsinski, the “eureka” moment came during a survey for the (then) top-floor apartment on the 37th floor. Questioning where the mechanical systems were held, SPAN discovered that the space inside of the roof directly above—also used as storage—could be converted into two new floors with 14-foot-tall ceilings. A tour of the current space revealed ample exposed terra-cotta block insulation (commonly used for fireproofing in older buildings), anchors connecting the copper cladding to the raw concrete walls inside, and a soaring vaulted ceiling reminiscent of a cathedral. With so much height to work with, SPAN ran through over 15 different schemes before arriving at their current layout, though it was also noted that any potential buyers would have the ability to customize the triplex. Some of the wilder schemes for the 39th floor involved leaving it out entirely and opening up the full height of the ceiling, running a pool from one end of the building to the other, or turning it into a gym, an office, or a full cinema. The current plan as approved by the DOB would see the renovation of the current 1,100-square-foot 39th-floor unit, the addition of living rooms on both the 38th and 39th floors, a bedroom and bathroom at each end of the 38th floor, a family room, and a full kitchen and dining room. The nearly-floor-to-ceiling windows in the top-floor living room will also have the ability to open up to the 39th-floor terrace facing the park and create a seamless indoor-outdoor space. When fully built out, the triplex will hold 8,585 square feet of interior space and 1,225 square feet of accessible outdoor space. SPAN went with a neutral palette for the interior, in part as a response to the colorful backdrop that Central Park presents. As the seasons change, so does the color of the foliage, and with so much of the penthouse’s view oriented towards the park, the firm didn’t want to lock themselves into a color or material scheme that would only sync up some of the time. With white walls, herringbone floors in light wood (already found in the 37th-floor unit), and white marble in the bathroom, the aim was to enhance, not detract from, the view.
Looks like women are finally getting honored for their monumental achievements in both American and New York City history thanks to two initiatives pushing for more female representation in the city’s statues. The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund and She Built NYC are setting precedents for bringing permanent public works depicting women to the streets in monument form. Last month, The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund announced the winning design for an upcoming statue of the famed female suffragettes by sculptor Meredith Bergmann, whose piece will be erected in the park on August 26, 2020, just in time for the centennial anniversary of the establishment of women’s right to vote. Gothamist reported that the statue will showcase the figures cast in bronze and writing out arguments for women's rights on an elongated scroll. The pair is well-known for penning the lady’s liberation paper, The Revolution, which ran in print from 1868 to 1872. According to Gothamist, the organization said in a press release that they’re proud “to have broken the bronze ceiling to finally start the creation of the first statue of REAL women in Central Park’s 164-year history.” A monument for the women's suffrage movement has been in planning for several years. A request for proposals went out last November, to which 90 sculptors submitted designs. As Bergman's chosen design awaits approval by the New York Public Design Commission, a model of the statue is on view at the New York Historical Society through August 26. Another program helping to elevate women’s historical contributions to New York is She Built NYC, a new advisory panel put together by the De Blasio administration that’s dedicated to preserving and highlighting female figures in New York from 20 years ago or more. Through the City's Percent for Art program, She Built NYC will select nominated figures for public works projects to go up over the next four years. This fall, the panel will vote on the first submitted nominations, which were collected during an open call this summer. The Department of Cultural Affairs has already committed up to $10 million for these new public monuments. The chosen subject and site of the first project will be announced in January. “There are big gaps in our City’s public art, with few statues of women, trans, and gender nonconforming people,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray in a press release. “The message that lack of representation sends is that these people have no value and did not make contributions to our city. This first step we are taking will help us more accurately show the diversity in the people who helped make New York City so great.” The upcoming Elizabeth C. Stanton and Susan B. Anthony statue will mark the sixth statue in all of New York depicting a female historical figure. The others depict Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman. It will also be the first statue in Central Park’s 840 acres to honor real women. The other 23 statues are of men while the only two female statues are fictional characters Juliet and Alice in Wonderland.
The Central Park Conservancy is embarking on a big fundraising campaign: The nonprofit is seeking $300 million for the care and upkeep of Manhattan’s largest park. The Central Park Conservancy receives only about a quarter of its funding from taxpayers, leaving the other 75 percent to be funded by private donations. Even with a yearly budget of $65 million, many necessary repairs are now long overdue. Its crews must maintain a 693 acres of parkland filled with 20,000 trees. The program is called “Forever Green: Ensuring the Future of Central Park,” and the money it raises will go towards improvements like replacing the pipes in the Conservatory Garden fountain, a new facade for the Naumburg Bandshell, and the restoration of Belvedere Castle. It also seeks to restore Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux's original vision for the space, and will focus on on historic features like The Ramble and the North Woods. While upkeep is costly, the Conservancy claims they help generate over $1 billion in economic activity yearly. The park now gets 42 million visitors, compared to 12 million a few decades ago. That booming number of guests has been hard on the park’s infrastructure. Luckily the conservation effort has no lack of donations from residents who have benefited from having the park in their backyard, including $100 million from hedge fund manager John A. Paulson and $25 million from the Thompson Family Foundation. The fundraising effort, having raised $112 million so far, is already more than a third complete.
The Richard Dattner–designed Adventure Playground, one of New York City's most beloved recreational spaces, recently reopened after a yearlong renovation by the Central Park Conservancy. A companion Dattner park, Ancient Playground, underwent extensive renovations in 2009. Despite Ancient's ostensible claim to primacy, Adventure Playground opened in May 1967. Though the playground, at Central Park's well-trafficked West 67th Street entrance, has been popular since its unveiling, adventure playgrounds are an old idea. First conceived by modernist landscape architect C.Th. Sørensen, adventure playgrounds are quirky spaces that engender curiosity and encourages a range of passive and active recreation. In sharp contrast to mass-manufactured playsets, the playgrounds feature tree forts, mounds, tunnels, raw dirt, and water. Adventure playgrounds encourage prosocial behavior like cooperation and planning: children are given tools and materials for contributing to, and reshaping, the space. Emphasis is on calculated risk in a loosely controlled environment. The Land, Europe's newest adventure playground, permits children to use sharp tools and start fires under the watchful eyes of trained play facilitators. In Europe, adventure playgrounds incorporate more natural and found elements, while their U.S. counterparts are more designed. For his playground, Dattner was inspired by Isamu Noguchi's landforms, as well as the work of M. Paul Friedberg, one of the first architects to put the idea of "linked play" into practice. Dattner looked to Noguchi's 1933 proposal for Play Mountain, a block-long sculptural installation that could be used for sunbathing, lounging, and sledding in the wintertime. (Over 40 years later, Noguchi did get to build a playground, of a different design and scale, for Piedmont Park in Atlanta.) As part of a plaza design at the Jacob Riis Houses in the East Village, Friedberg conceived of the playground as an immersive environment, creating mounds, pyramids, and treehouses that would intrigue and engage children. In the 1960s, Central Park was a small forum for the larger fight against encroaching decay that occupied much of the city. Activists and parents, dissatisfied with the quality of the park's play spaces, agitated for the rebuilding of nine of Central Park's 18 playgrounds. With help from a Lauder Foundation grant, Dattner designed five of these. Adventure playgrounds fell out of favor as a growing culture of litigiousness prioritized safety over the risk inherent in the adventure playground's design. Consequently, the renovations align with contemporary standards of safety and accessibility, while restoring features lost over time. The renovation of Adventure Playground is part of the Central Park Conservancy's comprehensive plan to renovate or rebuild all 21 of the park's playgrounds. The grade of the maze will be changed, and railings modified or added. Tunnels that were closed in the 1970s on the conical climber will be reopened, and a new wood climber that aligns closely with the original design will be installed. The water feature will be rebuild, based on its original design. New fences are lower, integrating the playgrounds with the surrounding park. Adventure playground enthusiasts can visit the park's four other adventure playgrounds, as well as the one uptown, in Highbridge Park.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has announced that David Chipperfield has been selected to "develop a new design for the Southwest Wing for modern and contemporary art, and potentially for adjacent galleries for the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, as well as additional operational spaces." In a statement, Thomas P. Campbell, the director and CEO of The Met, said Chipperfield's firm was selected after a year-long process because of its global experience and sense of collaboration. Campbell also noted the firm's extensive museum work, calling it "brilliantly coherent, elegant, and accessible." Chipperfield's team is now tasked with increasing gallery space, enhancing visitor circulation, doubling the Roof Garden, and creating accessible on-site storage. “We are delighted to have been selected for this extraordinary commission," David Chipperfield said in a statement. "During the competition we developed an understanding and fondness for this amazing institution and we look forward to working with Tom Campbell and his colleagues on the development of the design.” While the design process is just beginning, the Met said the renovation will support "a more open dialogue between the Museum and Central Park." The potential impact of this renovation on the park itself could be the most controversial aspect of this project and will surely be closely watched. While construction is underway, the Met's collection will be temporarily moved to the Breuer Building, the former home of the Whitney, which is moving into a new Renzo Piano–designed space near the High Line. The old Whitney building will open to the public next spring as a satellite campus of the Met.
Preservationists watchful as New York's American Museum of Natural History taps Jeanne Gang for addition
Last year, Chicago-based Studio Gang Architects opened a New York office, and now it is clear they made a smart decision in doing so: the firm has been selected to design a six story addition to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The current museum complex is an eclectic jumble of architecture styles, and it's most recent addition is the Rose Center for Earth and Space by the Polshek Partnership (now Ennead). The project is likely to be controversial, as it will encroach on Theodore Roosevelt Park, a small neighborhood park immediately adjacent to Central Park. Preservationists and neighborhood advocates are watching the project closely. "Because the 'plans' announced by the American Museum of Natural History are long on laudatory sounding goals but short on details, Landmark West! (LW) is in a wait and see mode regarding the expansion plan. Once the full details of the plans are known, LW will carefully review them and formulate a response. However, the AMNH's publicly stated intention of encroaching on the surrounding park land is of serious concern to LW. We would prefer that the AMNH use the park land to further the study of natural history and redouble its commitment to conserve it," wrote Arlene Simon, the president of the board of Landmark West!, in an email to AN.