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The 10 Biggest Battles Waged in NYC Neighborhoods This Year

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It's time to make up a bunch of awards and hand them out to the most deserving people, places and things in the real estate, architecture and neighborhood universes of New York City! Yep, it's time for the 11th Annual Curbed Awards!

If there's two things that are true of New Yorkers, it's that they stand up against things that piss them off, and they're passionate about dominating those battles. To that end, 2014 was not a quiet year in New York City: beloved buildings were threatened and some were lost (not without hell being raised first), community gardens were dragged to the forefront of land ownership disputes, and affected neighbors—not to mention the state's attorney general—enacted an all-out campaign to bring down the great disturber of the peace, Airbnb. Although New Yorkers didn't always come out on top—like a shitty, self-possessed roommate, bureaucracy's a jerk—they didn't give up without a fight. Here now, the ten battles that most possessed New Yorkers this year.

1) MoMA Expansion: The Museum of Modern Art's expansion into and razing of the American Folk Art Museum has been an issue at the forefront of preservation battles since it was announced in April 2013, but it was in 2014 that the plan gained traction. In January, MoMA unveiled its glassy redesign of the space, which so noticeably did not include the Folk Art Museum's Tod Williams and Billie Tsien bronze facade. From journalist appeals to architect's free verse, preservation-minded folks lobbied the modern art institution, and finally won a small concession; the Folk Art Museum's facade won't be tossed, but dismantled and stored (probably in a dark dingy room, never to see the light of day again.)

2) Picasso Curtain: This might have pissed people off mostly because it involved an entitled, unspeakably wealthy developer (Aby Rosen) demanding that a priceless and fragile Picasso painting, that for the past 55 years hung without contest on the wall of the Four Seasons Restaurant, be moved. Words were exchanged (Rosen reportedly called the curtain a schmatte, the Yiddish word for rag. The curtain exercised immense restraint and said nothing), preservationists were up-in-arms, but ultimately, Rosen got his way and the curtain was moved and crumbled into a million little pieces upon being touched without a problem by a few gingerly-handed Landmarks Conservancy workers. It's now being restored and will come to live at the New York Historical Society.

3) Community Gardens: Several community gardens throughout the city were threatened by development this year, often in a situation wherein a formerly-absent landowner would show up to assert their claim on the property whilst destroying, at least in spirit, the beloved community space. The Lower East Side's Siempre Verde Garden was defended from new development by the community, Crown Heights' Roger That Garden is trying to scrape together funds to buy the property back from a soulless developer, and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens' Maple Street Community Garden is facing adversity from its ostensible owners that actually can't prove their claim to the land.

4) Airbnb: Airbnb, the short-term rental service that borders so dubiously on the illegal, is firmly one of the most contentious battles waged throughout the city this year. In theory, Airbnb is great, but in practice, especially in New York City, not so much. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman continued to wage his epic battle against the service, filing the city's first lawsuit against landlords illegally using Airbnb to line their pockets. Airbnb continued to scandalize New Yorkers caught using the service too much to their benefit and lost any favor once afforded by their competition (hotels). Consider Airbnb the Quaaludes of real estate: too tempting to be used properly, and probably illegal forever in a few years.

5) The Frick Expansion: In June, the operators of the Frick Collection announced that they would like to add a substantial addition to the historic Upper East Side Gilded Age mansion that houses the former collection of Henry Clay Frick. The expansion involves adding additional gallery and conservation lab space at the cost of removing a 1970's-built viewing garden designed by landscape architect Russell Page. The expansion is attracting praise and harsh criticism from neighbors and architecture critics alike, but before moving forward, needs to gain the support of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

6) Rizzoli Bookstore: Oh Rizzoli, that formerly majestic space that was destroyed to make room for—wait for it—a "seven-star" hotel. The former institution had the bad luck of being on 57th Street, home base of the city's collection of supertall towers, another (light-blocking, shadow-casting) issue riding the hearts and minds of city residents. Although its original storefront does not, Rizzoli still lives, now on Broadway in the St. James Building.

7) Pier 6 Housing: The city and a few vocal residents are duking it out over two residential buildings proposed for Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6. The multitude of housing rising in and planned for the park was former mayor Bloomberg's idea to help fund the beloved green space. Some of the last to be built, the 31-story and 15-story towers are now being eyed as potential contributions to de Blasio's ambitious affordable housing plan. The variety of local opposition are concerned with and skeptical over BBP Corporation's lack of transparency in determining the site's developers and their quickness in voting down the need for a full environmental review ahead of building at the area. It goes without saying, Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation stands to make a whole lot of money from the towers, but at what cost?

8) Poor Doors: 2014 was the year of the "poor door," the colloquial name given to the separate building entrance for those living in apartments priced below market rate in mixed-income buildings. The poor door burst onto the scene in July (though West Side Rag first reported it, and coined the term, in August 2013), when developer Extell managed to get the city to approve its plans for a residential tower at 40 Riverside Boulevard with a separate entrance for affordable housing tenants. The approval outraged the community and local politicians alike, and was of course followed in suite by other poor door plans by big-shot developers, like one for Silverstein's 1 West End Avenue.

9) New York State Pavilion: The Parks Department finally faced its obligation to begin determing the fate of the 1964 World's Fair structures in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park this year. Amidst broad community support—including that of none other than billionaire supermarket owner John Castimatidis—to save the structures, the National Trust For Historic Preservation added the pavilion to its register of national treasures. While the Parks Department has yet to commit to whether they will stabilize or restore the structures, it seems that razing them has been cast from the picture entirely.

10) The Palisades: In June 2013, LG Electronics announced their plan to build a new headquarters so tall that it would mar the unspoiled view of New Jersey's Palisades from the Manhattan's Cloisters. Not so fast. Cue preservationists, whose cry to protect the view was acknowledged by the World Monuments Fund when it named the river-adjacent areas to its endangered sites list, bringing more attention to the issue. After drumming up support from a host of politicians, the New Jersey Senate is moving ahead with legislation to protect the cliffs by enforcing a building height.
· Preservation Battles archives [Curbed]

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