Howard No. 4 Tower Clock threatened at 346 Broadway, NYC

Discussion in 'Tower, Monumental & Street Clocks' started by Jeremy Woodoff, Nov 23, 2014.

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  1. Jeremy Woodoff

    Jeremy Woodoff Registered User
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    I thought I would share with followers of this board a proposal currently before the Landmarks Preservation Commission in New York City that concerns the original Howard No. 4 tower clock in the clock tower of the former New York Life Insurance Co. building at 346 Broadway. The building, as well as a number of interior spaces including the clock machine rooms and the mechanism itself, are all designated New York City landmarks, and any changes to them require approval of the Landmarks Commission. The building was city-owned for many years, and the city's official clock master restored and maintained the 4-dial clock in full operating order. The building was recently sold to a private developer, who wants to convert it into condominium apartments, including the clock tower rooms. Although his current proposal would leave the movement in place, it clearly could not be kept operating without regular attention. It would also appear that physical alterations to the movement, such as removal of the eye-level hand shafts, would be required if the space were to be essentially someone's living room. A public hearing on the proposal was held on Nov. 18, but no decision has been made.

    Here are links to a recent New York Times article and a CBS-TV news segment about the controversy:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/13/nyregion/a-landmark-tower-clock-will-stay-but-its-tick > > tock-could-be-silenced.html?ref=nyregion&_r=0

    http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/new-yorkers-want-to-save-clock-from-march-of-time/
    Clock_Tower_Building.jpg IMG_5913.JPG IMG_5921.JPG IMG_5916.JPG IMG_5924.JPG IMG_5925.JPG IMG_5914.JPG IMG_5915.JPG
     
  2. gvasale

    gvasale Registered User
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    "progress' sucks, doesn't it. Some bas tard buys a historic building & wants to ...

    City should tell him the clock stays as is, and get over it.
     
  3. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
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    Part of the condo fees should be dedicated to the maintenance of the clock, as a condition of purchase. And whatever room is needed for the clock should not be someones living room, but a separate area.
     
  4. scottmiami

    scottmiami Registered User

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    Has an official letter been sent by the nawcc protesting the action? If not, was the organization aware of it in time to do such? Was a petition drive started (I assume it's too late now). Perhaps the nawcc should attempt to gain control / possession of it, maybe ask the city or the developer to donate it to the museum if it things go the wrong way.
     
  5. prideofmatchingham

    prideofmatchingham Registered User

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    I second Harold's suggestion. Petition may be a late thing now as also the fact that petition is just a protest rather than concrete action plan. Wonder if the onslaught and collective might of builders' lobby can be withstood by the city!
     
  6. Jeremy Woodoff

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    Several local people involved in horology and/or historic preservation spoke at the hearing and have written follow-up letters to the Landmarks Commission. They also generated the interest by the news media. I wish I had posted to the board sooner; however, written testimony is still being taken, and no decision has been made yet, that we know of.

    There are many nuances to the local landmarks law, the relationship between preservation and development, etc. If you are moved to write to the Commission, I would suggest talking about the importance and rarity of the clock as an artifact that remains intact and functioning in its original location, and expressing a desire that the Commission do its utmost to keep it that way. You can email Meenakshi Srinivasan, Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, at MSrinivasan@lpc.nyc.gov . It would be best not to refer to me by name, as I have already submitted testimony, but you could indicate you heard about the issue through the NAWCC or the news organizations that have reported on this.
     
  7. pmiddents

    pmiddents Registered User
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    No. 4 Howard's are indeed rare. We don't have one in the Pacific Northwest. I think the nearest is the Ferry Building in San Francisco.
    Paul Middents
     
  8. Jeremy Woodoff

    Jeremy Woodoff Registered User
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    Last December the Landmarks Commission voted to allow the conversion of the clock tower rooms into part of a private residential apartment, to partially disassemble and disconnect the clock mechanism, and install electric motors to operate the hands. This would have the effect of rescinding the designation of the clock tower rooms and clock mechanism as a landmark. A lawsuit was just filed against the Commission on several procedural and substantive grounds. There will hopefully be news coverage soon, and I will post links here.
     
  9. Jeremy Woodoff

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  10. JDToumanian

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    Wow. Thank goodness for lawsuits! I think the NAWCC should get involved on an official level...

    Jon
     
  11. John Hubby

    John Hubby Senior Administrator Emeritus
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    I have just learned about this, and have posted the following email to the NAWCC ED, BOD Chair, BOD Vice Chair, and several past BOD Chairs asking for support in the protest:

    John Hubby
    Principal Administrator
    NAWCC Message Board
    Past Chair NAWCC BOD 2009-11
     
  12. John Hubby

    John Hubby Senior Administrator Emeritus
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    #12 John Hubby, Jul 9, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 31, 2017
    Just received from Noel Poirier, NAWCC Museum Director:
    I have responded with thanks for the action taken, and repeated my recommendation that this be published in the NAWCC Happenings email newsletter with requests for member support. That would include providing contact info to lodge protests with the Landmarks Commission and support for the plaintiffs, as well as status updates in each issue.
     
  13. JDToumanian

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    Good to know that we're already involved! It's disheartening to know that the thought of decommissioning such a clock is even crossing people's minds these days. So little respect for history...

    Jon
     
  14. Jeremy Woodoff

    Jeremy Woodoff Registered User
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    A Facebook page has been set up with information on the clock and progress of the lawsuit. There are links to articles and a video:
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/346-Broadway/1453877034931668. You will find on the left side of the page an essay I wrote called "Why We Are Suing the Landmarks Commission."

    Thanks for all the kind words of support in the posts above. We are expecting a legal response from the city to our petition at the end of August. We then have a month to respond, and a hearing before the judge is currently scheduled for Oct. 19.
     
  15. Jeremy Woodoff

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    Legal documents on this lawsuit have been traded and oral arguments are scheduled for October 19. If anyone is close enough to NYC to attend the court session, that would be helpful, as public interest can make a difference. The location is 60 Centre Street in lower Manhattan, courtroom of Justice Hagler, room 335, beginning at 9:30 AM.

    Here is an article from the NY Times on the clock, with pictures and a very nice, short video: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/13/nyregion/a-landmark-tower-clock-will-stay-but-its-ticktock-could-be-silenced.html
     
  16. Jeremy Woodoff

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    DATE CHANGE ALERT!! Oral arguments have been postponed to Wednesday, Oct. 21, 10 AM, same place. We will be alone on the calendar rather than one of many cases, and a thorough discussion of the case should therefore be possible. Please attend the court session if you can!
     
  17. Jeremy Woodoff

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  18. Jeremy Woodoff

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    The judge handed down her decision in the case today, and WE WON A RESOUNDING VICTORY! The judge annulled the permit that had been issued for work in the clock tower rooms and on the mechanism and for any work in the building that would compromise the ability of the public to access the landmarked clock. She said that the Landmarks Commission cannot approve changes to interior landmarks that would prevent public access. This is a huge win not just for this landmark clock, but for all the hundred-odd interior landmarks within the city. The judge also found that, even though the Landmarks Commission has the power to approve changes to the clock mechanism, in this case she annulled that approval as well, finding that electrifying a clock that had been designated a landmark for its rare and important mechanical operation was arbitrary and irrational. Here is a link to the just published New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/01/nyregion/a-manhattan-clock-tower-will-keep-what-makes-it-tick.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fnyregion&action=click&contentCollection=nyregion&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront
     
  19. gvasale

    gvasale Registered User
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    Where's the "Like" button...
     
  20. novicetimekeeper

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    That's great news and all round very sensible decisions on the part of the judge.
     
  21. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Incredibly good news!
     
  22. Warren Brook

    Warren Brook Registered User
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    FANTASTIC! A WIN for the good guys!
     
  23. Jeremy Woodoff

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    The lower court ruling was just affirmed by the Appellate Division! It was a split decision, 3-2, increasing the likelihood of appeal to the state's highest court by the developer and/or the city. But for now the clock and public access to it are secured. Of several quotable findings by the court, I think this is the best:

    "When the Landmarks Law was enacted in 1965, no one could have imagined the incredible technological advances in the decades to come, and the resulting vast aesthetic impact on our environment. Objects once thought of as ordinary become increasingly rare, and the technologies once thought of as modern become obsolete. Their physical existence and functioning take on new meaning as connections to our history. This majestic clock, and its historically significant functioning mechanism, is a perfect example of the very reason the Landmarks Law exists, because the 'protection,…perpetuation and use of [objects] of special character or special historical or aesthetic interest or value is a public necessity.' The actions of the LPC in this case are contrary to that purpose."

    When the court uses language like that, you know they "get it."
     
    scootermcrad and PatH like this.
  24. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Oh! I love that!
     
  25. Jeremy Woodoff

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    I am sorry for not following up on this thread, but the news following our Appellate Division victory has not been good. On March 28, 2019, the New York State Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, reversed the opinion of the trial court and appellate court and upheld the New York City Landmarks Commission's decision to allow electrification of the Howard No. 4 tower clock and privatizing of the formerly public space which contains it. The vote was 4-2. The dissent, which was longer than the prevailing opinion, was eloquent. The majority of the judges didn't have a clue and seemed to be representing real estate interests. The decision was so preposterous that our counsel requested to be allowed to re-argue the case, but that request was denied. Subsequently, we believe that Elderhorst Bells was asked to disconnect the hand shafts, silence the bell strike, and install four electric movements, one for each dial. Of course, the clock has not worked properly since, with the dials all telling different times. But we have not been able to access the space to see exactly what has been done.

    It is remarkable to read the stories in this forum about people's extraordinary efforts to protect and restore tower clocks that have no formal landmark protection at all, and here in New York, with the strongest landmarks law in the country and a clock whose mechanism is actually designated as a landmark, we could not save it.
     
  26. PatH

    PatH Registered User
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    So sorry to hear this, Jeremy. Unfortunately too many of the historical clocks have been/are being destroyed. I am always glad to hear the stories of the ones that have been rescued, as well as to see the wide variety of tower clocks that have been rescued and made their way to the NAWCC Museum for everyone to see.
     
  27. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    That REALLY SUCKS! This is really frustrating. The lack of patience, education, and just the willingness to preserve kills so many of these installations. The question will be, can the clock movement itself be preserved and put on display somewhere where people can see it?

    I suppose another luxury clock tower suite will be built. :(
     

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