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OHNY Executive Director Gregory Wessner, far left, testifies in the New York City Council chambers on December 1st, 2016.

Yesterday, Open House New York’s Executive Director, Gregory Wessner, testified at the New York City Council Committee on Parks and Recreation’s hearing on increasing public access to NYC Department of Parks and Recreation properties that are currently inaccessible to the public. Led by Councilman Mark Levine, the chair of the Committee on Parks, the hearing began with testimony from our friends at the Parks Department, who cited their long partnership with OHNY as evidence of their ongoing efforts to provide access to off-limits buildings like the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial and the Little Red Lighthouse, when possible.

In addition to those two important landmarks, Councilman Levine and his colleagues on the Committee on Parks spoke passionately in support of providing access to everything from the Washington Square Arch and the New York State Pavilion to Hart and North Brother Islands. Once the hearing was opened up to testimony from the public, Wessner joined the Regional Plan Association’s Moses Gates, a dedicated advocate for increased public access to important sites around the city, on the first panel.

“We get information about our civic life second and third hand,” Wessner noted during his testimony, “and I think we are beginning to realize how that lack of direct experience–with one another and with the places where we live–can lead to an eroding of the public sphere. I am not so naïve to think that simply letting people climb the Washington Square Arch or visiting Hart Island will reinvigorate citizenship, but I do think that the degree to which the city makes itself open and accessible to its citizens communicates a great deal about this city’s values. And there is no more tangible expression of a welcoming city than the simple act of opening a door.”

“I ask of the city as a whole,” Gates said, in his testimony, “that this becomes a value—when we renovate or build things, that the public should be able to access these places, and that this is as much a consideration as stability or safety.”

Wessner and Gates were followed by dozens of advocates for public access, and public space in general. Many longtime friends of OHNY were on hand to speak in support of the value of direct experience of place, including the Trust for Public Land, Untapped Cities, NYC H2O, the Historic Districts Council, WHEDco, and the Municipal Art Society. It was inspiring afternoon; public support for access was clear, with so many people in attendance that the hearing was moved from its originally scheduled venue, the Committee Room, into the full Council Chambers. Testimony went on for several hours, and presented a wide range of viewpoints on why access is so important to New York City’s civic life.

All of us at Open House New York thank Councilman Levine and the Committee on Parks and Recreation for holding this hearing, and for giving us the opportunity to speak about the work that we do, and the impact that we believe it has on New Yorkers from all walks of life. It is wonderful to see public access championed and spoken of as a civic value in no less important a venue than the City Council Chambers. We will continue our work to increase access, wherever and whenever possible, and look forward to opening more and more of the city each year.

Click here to read the full text of Gregory Wessner’s remarks to the New York City Council Committee on Parks and Recreation on December 1st, 2016. [PDF]

In 1965, in the wake of the destruction of Penn Station and with Grand Central Terminal threatened, Mayor Robert F. Wagner signed New York City’s groundbreaking Landmarks Law, the first legislation of its kind in the country intended to protect and preserve historically significant buildings. In 1973, with the owners of Grand Central still eager to gut the building’s beloved interior, a set of amendments to the original law granted the Landmarks Preservation Commission the authority to designate interior spaces as historic landmarks as well.

Four Seasons  U:Campus Planning100 Campus Buildings200 DrawingsTEMPLATEST

Over the course of 2015, well over a hundred arts, cultural, and civic organizations have joined the NYC Landmarks50 Alliance to organize an incredible array of public programs, ranging from exhibitions and festivals to walking tours and lectures, in celebration of the Landmarks Law’s 50th anniversary.

What qualifies an interior as a historic landmark? Like all landmarks, an interior must be at least thirty years old and have significant historic or aesthetic interest or value. In the cases of interiors, they must also be “customarily open or accessible to the public, or to which the public is customarily invited,” and the designation applies to the “architectural style, design, general arrangement and components,” but does not include movable furnishings.

Morgan  Woolworth

During this year’s OHNY Weekend, Open House New York takes part in this ongoing celebration by opening the doors of two dozen of the 117 designation interior landmarks across all five boroughs.

Except where noted, all Interior Landmarks are Open Access and may be visited during the days and hours listed in the OHNY Weekend Event Guide. To make Advance Reservations for sites that require them, please visit ohny.org/reservations on Wednesday, October 7 at 11am.

Participating sites:

570 Lexington Avenue Lobby
Midtown, Manhattan. Built 1931, designated 1985.

72nd Street IRT Station (Reservations required)
Upper West Side, Manhattan. Built 1904, designated 1979.

Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House
Financial District, Manhattan. Built 1909, designated 1979.

AT&T Long Distance Building Lobby
Tribeca, Manhattan. Built 1932, designated 1991.

Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum
Pelham Bay Park, Bronx. Built 1942, designated 1991.

Bronx General Post Office (Reservations required)
Lower Concourse, Bronx. Built 1937, designated 2013.

Brooklyn Historical Society
Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn. Built 1881, designated 1982.

City Hall
Civic Center, Manhattan. Built 1812, designated 1976.

Cunard Building Lobby
Financial District, Manhattan. Built 1921, designated 1995.

Federal Hall National Memorial
Financial District, Manhattan. Built 1842, designated 1975.

Ford Foundation
Midtown, Manhattan. Built 1967, designated 1997.

Four Seasons Restaurant
Midtown, Manhattan. Built 1959, designated 1989.

General Grant National Memorial
Morningside Heights, Manhattan. Built 1897, designated 1975.

Gould Memorial Library
University Heights, Bronx. Built 1899, designated 1981.

King Manor Museum
Jamaica, Queens. Built 1730, designated 1976.

Marine Air Terminal
LaGuardia Airport, Queens. Built 1940, designated 1980.

Morgan Library & Museum
Murray Hill, Manhattan. Built 1906, designated 1982.

Morris-Jumel Mansion
Washington Heights, Manhattan. Built 1765, designated 1975.

The New School Auditorium at 66 West 12th Street
Greenwich Village, Manhattan. Built 1931, designated 1997.

New: Seventh Regiment Armory* (Reservations required)
Upper East Side, Manhattan. Built 1881, designated 1994.

Snug Harbor Cultural Center
Randall Manor, Staten Island. Built 1878, designated 1982.

Thurgood Marshall Courthouse (Reservations required)
Civic Center, Manhattan. Built 1936, designated 1975.

New: TWA Flight Center
Jamaica, Queens. Built 1962, designated 1994.

Woolworth Building Lobby (Reservations required)
Civic Center, Manhattan. Built 1913, designated 1983.

Bronx Post OfficeCunard

 

OHNY thanks and applauds the owners of these participating sites for making public access possible, as well as for their ongoing stewardship of the city’s most significant interior spaces.

Images (from top): Four Seasons Restaurant/Jennifer Calais Smith; The New School Art Collection/The New School; The Morgan Library & Museum/Graham S. Haber; Woolworth Building/Nicolas Lemery Nantel; Bronx Post Office/Studio V Architecture; Cunard Building/Cipriani

 

*Part of the Preservation Design in Practice tour

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OHNY is pleased to announce a special collaboration with the Designers & Books Online Book Fair, which allows OHNY Members to receive up to 50% off on new, rare and out-of-print books about architecture, art, design and photography. Books from major publishers are currently part of this program, with new publishers and books added to the Online Book Fair each month. Current discounts, which vary by publisher, are listed below.

As an OHNY member, you can begin using this special discount today. Simply visit the Online Book Fair here, and use our unique partner code when checking out on the website of each publisher. If you are a current member, check your inboxes for an email from membership@ohny.org with the OHNY code. If are joining for the the first time, a code will be sent to you via email in your membership confirmation email.

Over 800 books are currently part of the fair. Available discounts include:

AMMO Books: 50%
Applied Research + Design: 50%
Carnegie Hill Books: 10% (rare and out-of-print)
DoppelHouse Press: 40%
F.A. Bernett: 10% (rare and out-of-print)
Gestalten: 35%
Goff Books: 50%
Interior Design Books: 80%
Lars Muller Publishers: 35%
Laurence King Publishing: 50%
MIT Press: 40%
Modernism 101 (rare and out-of-print): 10%
Optos Books: 10% (rare and out-of-print)
ORO Editions: 50%
Paintbox Press: 20%
Prestel Publishing: 35%
Princeton Architectural Press: 50%
RIT Press: 80%
Schiffer Publishing: 35%
Wolfsonian-Florida International University: 40%

The Online Book Fair is a Designers & Books project. Those involved in organizing the Fair hope you will find it to be an enjoyable place to browse and discover books, and to buy new additions for your library.

This benefit is available to OHNY members. To learn more about membership, click here.

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The majority of sites participating in the 12th Annual OHNY Weekend will provide “open access” hours on Saturday, Oct. 11, and/or Sunday, Oct. 12, when visitors can explore at their own pace, on a drop-in basis.

Wondering what there is to see? Here are some fantastic Open Access sites where New Yorkers go to LEARN.

 

Photo: Albert Vecerka/Esto

Photo: Albert Vecerka/Esto

Blue School

Once the Seamen’s Church Institute, the space was completely re-designed by the Rockwell Group in 2010, and now holds the Blue School’s 18 classrooms and many shared and flexible learning spaces. The Blue School will be open to visitors on both Saturday and Sunday, with free guided tours at 10am and 1pm both days. Click here to read more!

Q-NYSCI Great Hall (webonly)_credit Jeff Goldberg-Esto_full

Photo: Jeff Goldberg/Esto

The New York Hall of Science

Included in this sprawling science center campus is the Great Hall, a 100-foot-high space with no corners or straight segments that was originally designed for the 1964-65 Worlds Fair. The Hall has been under renovation since 2008, and will open for a special “sneak peek” with Ennead Architects during OHNY Weekend! Right downtstairs, don’t miss the Maker Space + Design Lab, designed by Situ Studio, who will also be on-site! Both spaces will be open on Saturday and Sunday. Click here to read more!

Photo: Jeff Goldberg/Esto

Photo: Jeff Goldberg/Esto

The Rockefeller University

On Saturday, tour the 14-acre riverfront campus of this world-renowned center for research and graduate education in the biomedical sciences, rarely open to the general public, with a rich architectural legacy that includes historic Modernist buildings; landscape by Dan Kiley; and the 125,000-square-foot Collaborative Research Center, with its dramatic conical atrium. Click here to read more!