Inspecting LPC’s Salvage Warehouse
Images of the warehouse contents.
The planned auction of the contents of the long-ago-shuttered Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) salvage warehouse caused some controversy among colleagues and the public. There were fears that important pieces of the City’s architectural history would be lost.
Responding to these concerns, Conservancy staffers Jim Mahoney, Colleen Heemeyer, Blaire Walsh and Alex Herrera went to Williamsburg on July 12th to examine the warehouse contents and learn the Commission’s rationale for selling off the items at this time.
John Weiss, Deputy Counsel for the LPC, was at the building along with two other LPC staffers. They had the warehouse open for viewing by potential responders to the sealed auction they are conducting. The auction bids were due last week and opened at the offices of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS).
The auction covers all the contents, with the exception of the artifacts from the demolished Helen Hayes Theater and the demolished Audubon Ballroom. Those pieces, which are of historical importance, are not for sale. They will be retained by the City although it is not yet clear where or how they will be stored. Additionally, the warehouse contains hundreds of architectural drawings and other overflow documents from the LPC files. Those items will be sent to the Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS).
Most of the items for sale in the warehouse came from buildings that were demolished or gutted by City agencies such as HPD in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. The items were meant to be sold to the public. The warehouse has been closed since the mid nineties when budget cuts made the continuation of non-mandated services impossible to sustain, especially for a small agency like the LPC.
Mr. Weiss explained that at first, they wanted to have an “open house” and sell the contents piece by piece but the legal staff at DCAS informed them that every piece would need to be appraised –this evidently to prevent “sweetheart deals” and other types of corruption. The estimate to perform the appraisal was in excess of $100,000. So LPC’s other option was to place all the contents, as one lot, for sale through a sealed auction, which is what they are pursuing.
The collection consists of a variety of building parts including wooden stair banisters and railings, doors, marble slabs, cast iron balusters, wrought iron fences, bathroom fixtures, terra cotta ornament, etc. The items vary in condition from good to broken. Among the most interesting are massive stone cattle heads from a former slaughterhouse that stood on Eleventh Avenue near the Convention Center. The heads and other stone and metal objects weigh thousands and thousands of pounds. Although the items are interesting and definitely possess potential to be reused, there was little of huge dollar value in the collection. Unfortunately, the LPC does not have a record of where most of the pieces came from.
HPD wants to use the warehouse site for new affordable housing. The LPC hopes that the bids will be competitive and that of course the artifacts will be hauled away at private expense.
While it is regrettable that the City no longer wants to support a retail operation selling recycled building components, the collection in the current warehouse is of no use unless it can once again be made available for sale to the public.
Bids were due on July 21. LPC staff is currently reviewing bids, and, as required by the City’s bidding process, will make a decision within 45 day s of the due date. The Conservancy will continue to follow the outcome of the auction and the plans for storing those items which are not included in the sale.