I stopped off the other day at Chickens Gone Berserk, or Wild, or whatever it is, on Route One, to grab half a bird and some pita bread. I was sitting comfortably at an outdoor table when it hit me that I was right across the street from the entrance to the City Yard, which sits right next door to the Armory.
Since I field many calls about these places, as well as on the larger issues of what to do with the waterfront, I decided to take a post-feast stroll around the grounds. I also tried to suppress whatever biases I had.
Bias One: The outside of the Armory has the visual appeal of World War II block house. The anchor is it’s most artistic and appealing object.
Bias Two: Inside, where I have been, though not recently, the place looks like a bomb hit it. Yet the huge steel arches, with their potential grandeur, cry out for salvation and inspire dreams of a classic field house where local teams can be proud to do combat.
Bias Three: I have a soft spot for the sentiment that drives those that want to save the place as part of the city’s inheritance.
Bias Four: I have always been among those who sincerely believe that Beechwood is a good place to move the City Yard. In Brooklyn, where I grew up, it seems that half of such places are under the highway known as the Gowanus Expressway, a locale where no one would want to put very much else.
So here we go:
The Armory is an eyesore. It just is, from every angle. Sorry, it is just what I believe. While I sincerely hope that it can be saved, given a face lift and turned into my grand dream, it should be done away with if no one can come forward with a plan and the money to restore it. Take way its history, which has been its saving grace, and it is nothing more than an abandoned blight.
As I crossed the threshold into the City Yard, the first thing to strike me was its sheer size and the way the surface was undulated like the parking lot at the Cross County Shopping Center. Someone there told me that it had been a landfill for the rubble of the old Macy’s/Bloomingdale’s Mall.
As I further penetrated the yard, the obvious hit me, as it did the last time I was there. It is a disgrace. The rotting old buildings could be used selectively for a Clint Eastwood western after the man with no name burns down the sinful town. What is worse is that some of our Public Works Department men actually have to work in some of these structures.
I tossed my head around what this meant. Surely it has to be repaired or moved. More obviously, at least to this writer, is that a decision must have been made long ago to move it. What else could explain the sorry state of the place?
So on with it then. If the numbers come back showing that it is cheaper to move than to fix, do it. If not, fix it.
If I have learned anything about the state of politics in this city it is that there are few centrists when it comes to vitriol. Those that hate the current administration will still hate it if it turns Beechwood into Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Meanwhile, the men who work at the yard toil amongst the debris and, I am sure, dangerous conditions, because our city is once again locked in its David’s Island syndrome of gridlock.
Both the administration and its enemies are lucky that a “No Trespassing” sign hangs on the gate to the entrance to the City Yard. If the residents saw it on a regular basis, they and both sides of the debate, would be embarrassed. And the public would know our truly dirty little secret.