Friday, April 1, 2011

municipal outing

Last week, I got to go on a little field trip with my boss Hope and coworker Eric. We made an appointment to meet with a director at the Landmarks Preservation Commission about a current project we have on the Upper West Side. I prepared drawings a few days before but one item that would really aid the meeting was a tax photo of the property. I find it fascinating that back in the 1940s, the city had every single building photographed. When making judgments about what changes are permissible, the LPC often looks at the tax photos in order to maintain what was there. You can order pretty high quality prints of the tax photos but they take close to 6 weeks to receive. We are in a bit of a time crunch, so I was sent down to the Municipal Archives before our Landmarks meeting to see if I could get some sort of copy.

The buildings down near City Hall are incredible. They are huge and ornate with intricate stonework on the exterior. Unfortunately, all the interiors were redone in the 70s with bad fluorescent lights, drop ceilings, and icky carpet. I eventually found the archives and was totally out of my element. I had to ask the grumpy old librarian a million questions. How do I find my building?! How do I put the film on the machine?! (I thought microfiche was a thing of the past!) How do I turn it on?! Why does my print out look like fuzzy blob and not a beautiful townhouse?! I bet he was so happy to see me leave but I like to think he's a softie underneath his harsh exterior :) In the end, the photo wasn't entirely crucial to our meeting but it was fun mission! I don't see myself going to hang out at the archives for fun, but it's great to know all those records and resources are right at my fingertips.

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