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NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Denies Guggenheim's Food Kiosk Application
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Think it's your last chance to grab a cheap pretzel, kebob or hot dog before heading into the Guggenheim museum? Think again. On Tuesday, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission denied the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum's application to install a permanent teardrop-shaped food kiosk made of stainless steel and resin. The commission ruled that the museum's proposed kiosk would not fit with Frank Lloyd Wright's 1950s spirals and cantilevers in the museum's entry area.
"I'm sympathetic with the problem but I'm not at all sympathetic with the solutions that are being brought forth," said Frederick Bland, one of the commissioners on the Landmarks Preservations Commision. "And I just question whether the whole endeavor is really worth doing."
Marc Steglitz, the Guggenheim's chief operating officer, was one of the few people making the case for the kiosk at the commission's hearing. Steglitz argued the museum needed a permanent food kiosk to offer art-goers fast food at a lower price, and to declutter the area in front of the museum. "We think by putting up a structure like this, we will be able to minimize some of the carnival-like atmosphere that goes on on 5th Avenue with all of the street vendors."
Brendan Connell, head of security at the Guggenheim, agreed. "There were some days over the summer that we had three ice cream trucks—the Mr. Softee—on 88th Street, 89th Street and 5th Avenue."
Connell added he hoped that the Guggenheim could also make some money from the proposed permanent food kiosk and that the cart could offer fast food beyond hot dogs. "A nice sandwich, rather than a hot dog and a pretzel. I mean, some of our visitors would like a nice sandwich."
Nadezhda Williams, director of preservation and research for the Historic Districts Council, spoke at the hearing against the application. "There's already a restaurant and a cafe in the museum, and as has been pointed out, food carts are no stranger to the stretch of museum mile," Williams said. "This isn't going to change the situation of the sidewalk. It will just add more clutter, but in a very permanent way."
Others also spoke out against the plan including John Arbuckle, a board member of the New York chapter for the historical preservation group, Docomomo International: "It would obstruct the most iconic view of the structure from 5th Avenue, interrupting the expanse of recessed and neutral-looking first floor envelope that extends between the sculptural volumes at either end of the building."
The Guggenheim museum just completed a nearly $30 million dollar restoration which included "The Wright" restaurant renovation and installing a wine and coffee bar on the museum's third floor. The Landmark Preservation Commission's ruling applies to the Guggenheim's food kiosk application alone, and not to other New York City landmarks buildings.