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Sherman Yellen Headshot

This Library Lion Roars

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I surely hope that Mayor De Blasio puts an end to architect Lord Norman Foster's plan to reconfigure the main Bryant Park branch of the New York Public Library, set in motion by the Bloomberg administration. (Nothing will ever get me to call it the Stephen A. Schwarzman building). Except for Andrew Carnegie who built his own libraries I do not favor naming or renaming existing buildings after big donors, be they libraries or theaters. Or tampering with something that is near perfect as the Bryant Park Main Branch of the Public Library. Foster is a much honored architect who gave us the architectural atrocity on West 57th Street that is the relatively new Hearst Building -- yeah, it's famously green -- like someone smiling with a mouth full of salad lettuce on their teeth, mocking the old art deco base on which it stands. The notion of changing one of the most beautiful libraries in the world in order to put in a fancy bistro and reshuffle the research room with the lending library is outrageous. The soaring spaces of the library, the beautiful windows, its setting on the edge of Bryant Park add to its perfection.

I am well aware that Lord Foster is a "starchitect" which loosely translated means showoff. There were great starchitects like Frank Lloyd Wright, but Foster, I fear is not one of them. To be fair Foster redid the Reichstag dome in Berlin successfully -- but that needed a new dome to cover its dishonorable past. Our library has done nothing to deserve Lord Foster.

It is an outrage for the city to spend money on anything but repairs to this classic library. There is a proper place to spend that money: our branch libraries throughout the boroughs need help -- they keep shorter hours because of less funding yet serve more people in hard times -- and except for the old Carnegie libraries most of the new ones are squat and look like they were made in East Berlin in the seventies. The branches need the city's limited money to stay open and cover their costs. However, the millions that are to be squandered on "fixing" our main branch is fixing something that ain't broke and is disgraceful.

New York needs no more improvements like tearing down the old Penn Station. Oh, if only the famed library lions could come to life and bite Lord Foster in his AAA -- roughly translated as arrogant architectural ass. I suppose it is not his fault, after all some genius at the library or in the former administration thought up this scheme. Well, there are two lions, so we will release the second lion to have a go at those fools.