Today as usual I was reading my morning newspaper on the subway. There was a great article about historic preservation in New York, featuring Village Preservation’s Executive Director Andrew Berman. Reading it made me feel happy (and proud!) that I work at Village Preservation and that the work we do is important, and that people like and appreciate it.
Rather than toss my newspaper into a trash can once I have finished reading it, I like to put it in a dedicated recycling bin, and if there isn’t one available, I do that here in the office instead. And I started thinking about recycling, and the mounds of trash and recycling that have piled up on our curbs because of all the snow we’ve had this winter. And I thought about our good friend and colleague Robin Nagle, who did a program for us last month about the history of snow removal in New York City, and how the Department of Sanitation has to handle both snow removal and trash & recycling pick-up. (You can see pictures and video of this lecture if you missed it.)
And so the theme of my morning became “recycling.”
I paid a visit to the HB Studios on Bank Street and met with Executive and Artistic Director Edith Meeks. She showed me the theater space there, and when I commented on the seats, she told me that they were given to HB by another theater. “Recycling at its best!” I remarked. And in the lobby was an old photo of the building we were in, before it became part of HB – it used to be a garage.
Which made me think of a program we did back in December, with architect and preservationist Françoise Bollack, who is an expert on adaptive re-use of historic buildings (which, to me anyway, is also recycling.) (You can see pictures and video of this lecture if you missed it.) Last June, Françoise took some of our GVSHP members on a walking tour of the Far West Village, and pointed out a wealth of buildings that are examples of creative adaptive re-use, from the well-known Archives building, to some private homes, to Westbeth, and to the Diane von Furstenberg headquarters. And let’s not forget the High Line Park.
Which reminded me of gardens, and another of our good friends, Bert Waggott. Bert is the driving force behind the beautiful little Sir Winston Churchill Square, one of last year’s Village Award winners. Once when I asked Bert about the beautiful flowers that were growing in the garden, he told me that they were acquired when a nearby park was being re-landscaped, and certain flower would have been discarded, but Bert showed up with his wheelbarrow to give them a new life. Um…recycling at its best? You bet!
So when you put your paper, plastic, metal and glass in a recycling bin instead of a trash can, you know you’re doing the right thing for our environment. But think about the built environment for a moment and ponder the wisdom of saving and re-using historic buildings. I think you’ll realize they are both the right thing to do.