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This is “Forging Ahead”? Whitney Must Cough Up $18 Million for City-Owned Site

The one section of the large site for the planned Downtown Whitney that has thus far been cleared for construction, as seen from the High Line

Carol Vogel optimistically reported in Monday’s NY Times that the Whitney Museum is “forging ahead with plans to build a second museum at the entrance to the High Line, the abandoned elevated railway line that has recently been transformed into a public park.”

But the city’s Economic Development Corporation, not the Whitney, appears to be doing most of the “forging ahead,” having at last forged an agreement for the Whitney to pay $18 million to purchase the city-owned land.

Vogel writes:

The Whitney has up to four years to close on the purchase of the land and five years to begin construction of the building, designed by Renzo Piano. The museum will make nonrefundable monthly payments of $50,000 to the city until the closing date, which has not been determined.

“Five years to begin construction of the building”? This project was supposed to have begun construction last spring and opened in 2012. The capital campaign for this project has been in the “silent phase” since the Downtown Whitney was conceived in late 2006. The Whitney still won’t say how much it has actually managed to raise towards the $680-million goal.

When I visited the High Line on Labor Day Weekend, I observed that demolition of the building at the end of the Whitney’s site adjacent to the High Line had at last been completed (above). I sent an e-mail a couple of weeks ago to Stephen Soba, the Whitney’s press spokesperson, inquiring about the status of the project. Soba wrote:

The empty lot next to the High Line is part of the Whitney site; the support building for the High Line will be located on the northern part of it. Demolition of a building on the site was completed by the City [i.e., not by the Whitney] in June. As for next steps, we are in the midst of reviewing our timetable.

Here’s another view of the cleared lot, as seen from street level. The High Line is above it, to the right:


I hope that the Whitney has included funds for pigeon abatement in the capital campaign. There’s a large avian population currently in residence on the former Gansevoort Pumping Station (to the west of the now empty lot), which will be demolished if and when the Downtown Whitney truly does “forge ahead”:


Not amusing at all—the displacement of this woman, also perched on the Downtown Whitney’s site, to the right of the orange portrait of a nude (which we last saw here):


As one who drives into Manhattan from the suburbs, I still wonder what museum visitors are going to do about parking. The Environmental Impact Statement says the Whitney doesn’t expect many people to arrive by car, but I don’t believe it. What I do know is that the owner of this garage, directly across from the site, may eventually get very lucky:


While wandering around the Downtown Whitney’s site, I revisited my beloved Premier Veal (Lamb Too) building, also slated for demolition. But for the first time, I walked around to its north side and discovered some artistic treasures that I’d previously missed.

An eponymous lamb:


And an adorable precursor to veal:


Someone took great pains to embellish this Meatpacking District facility, now fallen on hard times and awaiting its (possible) demise.

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