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Critic: There Are More Pressing Preservation Battles Than Frick

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Yesterday, the Frick Collection announced that it would be abandoning its neighbor-hated plans for an expansion that would have eliminated the museum's viewing garden, marking another recent victory for preservationists. As New York magazine critic Justin Davidson points out, in the last few weeks, preservationists have succeeded in partially halting the view-blocking Pierhouse and stopping developer Aby Rosen from revamping the Four Season's restaurant. To which Davidson says: so what? He calls these causes "puny battles" that are "unworthy of the passions they have aroused, especially at a time when vast swaths of New York's fabric and history are under more urgent threat."

Davidson concedes that he loves the Frick and agrees that the expansion plan needed to be scrapped—he hopes the Frick ditches Davis Brody Bond and chooses an entirely new design team, as does Times critic Michael Kimmelman—but is fighting for a "minuscule and inaccessible garden" really for the greater good of the city? Davidson would rather see these passions directed toward improving gardens and parks that are actually public and stopping soulless glass boxes from overtaking New York's neighborhoods.

The de Blasio administration is pushing a grand affordable housing program but doesn't seem to care whether the buildings that result will do the city proud. Public-housing projects are deteriorating faster than they can be repaired. While landscape architects defend the minuscule and inaccessible garden that Russell Page wedged in alongside the Frick as a placeholder in 1977, parks all over the city are turning into dust bowls and sinkholes. A plague of glass eats away at the city's masonry muscle, and a bloom of stupid midsize towers goes unnoticed. These are preservation issues, too, even though they don't fall under the narrow purview of the 50-year-old Landmarks statute, and even though they are too big and broad and existential to excite the cilia of those who care only for authentic period detail.With neighborhoods like Long Island City, Williamsburg, the East Village, and many more, swimming in bland new development, it's hard to disagree with him.
· Fiddling With the Frick While New York Burns [NYM]
· Critic's Notebook: Frick Collection Spares a Prized Garden [NYT]
· All coverage of the Frick Collection [Curbed]


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