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BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Is that it? Unfortunately, basically — yes!
The fake facade being erected around an M.T.A. fan plant at Mulry Square looks incomplete, but actually that’s pretty much what it’s going to look like.
The phony facade will conceal emergency exhaust fans for the Seventh and Eighth Ave. subway lines that run underneath it.
Jessica Seigel, a lifelong Villager who teaches journalism at N.Y.U., recently was passing by the strange structure, at the intersection of Seventh Ave. South, Greenwich Ave. and W. 11th St., and was shocked at what she saw — and even more shocked at what the construction workers there told her about it.
According to Seigel, two hard hats on a break said they were perplexed at the unfinished cement facade, so contrary to their experience in construction, in which exposed, pocked cement generally goes underneath an exterior finishing layer.
“We can’t believe it either,” one man, who identified himself as a supervisor, told Seigel, declining to give his name for fear of repercussions.
Repeatedly asked if they were sure the design was complete, both men said yes because they had worked erecting the structure — and felt bad they had to execute such an ugly plan.
“It’s really something, isn’t it?” the supervisor asked, both men snickering at the hulking, raw cement shell.
“It is hideous beyond words and outrageous,” Seigel told Downtown Express. “I don’t understand how any licensed architect could design and any agency approve what looks like a cement bunker wearing a brick Mardi Gras mask on one side of its face. It’s bizarre that the Landmarks Preservation Commission is charged with protecting our historic community, down to even the color of the mortar on my own family’s 1835 brownstone renovation, yet the M.T.A. is allowed to build what looks like an unfinished, three-story fallout shelter in the heart of Greenwich Village with no oversight whatsoever.”
Shirley Secunda, chairperson of the Community Board 2 Traffic and Transportation Committee, sadly confirmed the workers’ report.
“It pains me to say, this is it,” she said. “Horrendous, right? In 2011 we asked M.T.A. NYC Transit to go to the Landmarks Preservation Commission to review the latest iteration of the plan at that time. L.P.C. hated it and suggested, more or less, that a design that reflects what the building’s doing would be better.
“NYC Transit used that as an excuse to go ahead with the current barebones, cement-block-like ‘fauxcade’ design,” Secunda said. “Never mind that in 2010 we had submitted a beautiful, industrial-type alternative housing designed by architect and C.B. 2 member Anita Brandt that would be more in keeping with the purpose of the building. Never mind that in 2014 we again implored NYC Transit to withdraw the fauxcade design — to no avail.”
Ironically, the M.T.A., since it’s a state agency, didn’t even need L.P.C. approval.
Basically, the earlier design included brick facing around the whole structure, but this was then later modified, leaving large expanses of exposed concrete. The new design provoked an outcry, but NYC Transit wouldn’t budge.
And it doesn’t end there. Secunda said the transit agency is now even resisting the community board’s efforts to try to “soften” the Brutalist-Federalist mash-up facade, plus determine what will go on with the small amount of open space in front of the fan plant.
“We suggested using Boston ivy vines, which hardly need any maintenance, or a mural,” Secunda said, adding despairingly, “I don’t think this thing even qualifies as a fauxcade!”