Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Life is like a street piano. What the Bored of Works gets out of it depends on how they "nay" it.

Previously at NAC:

The same people guarding the public participation gates on behalf of those other people who blithely toss millions of dollars at lifeguards and Indy property developers are flustered by a street piano -- again.

What is this, anyway? "Mayor Jeff Gahan Presents Groundhog Day?"

New Albany continues to review street piano request, by Daniel Suddeath (N and T)

Months after initially bringing the request to the Board of Public Works and Safety, local resident Hannegan Roseberry was told Tuesday that she will likely need a Certificate of Appropriateness, or COA, from the New Albany Historic Preservation Commission to proceed with installing the street piano.

Roseberry is seeking approval to have the piano placed under the awning of Jimmy’s Music Center from Labor Day through the Harvest Homecoming celebration in early October as part of a public arts project ...

 ... However, Warren Nash, president of the board of works, said a COA will be needed because the installation would be located in an historic preservation commission.

There are several tables, signs and other items placed on sidewalks throughout downtown, Roseberry said. She questioned whether those businesses were also required to obtain a COA.

Nash said he was “not sure” if all had.

“It’s not easy to enforce that or police it either,” Nash said.

Nash & Co. have had more than a month to think about it -- and the very best they can do is fabricate hooey about a Certificate of Appropriateness from the New Albany Historic Preservation Commission.

Because ...

Roseberry said later Tuesday that after speaking with a representative of the preservation commission, she was informed the body had never required a COA for an art installation.

Is there anyone on Planet Earth surprised by the preservation commission's befuddlement?

Is there anyone surprised by the Bored of Works all-purpose bewilderment?

Does the piano itself have poisonous tentacles?

Are the boarders themselves tone deaf?

Must public art in New Albany ALWAYS begin AND end with dogs playing poker?

Does the down-low Gahan team even begin to grasp how petty and vindictive it is beginning (?) to look?


w&la said...

Did the city ask the Preservation Commission for a "Certificate of Appropriateness" before they demolished the tavern at 922 Culbertson?

Ann said...

I don't think that area is in a designated historic district (where the tavern was located).

w&la said...

Exactly - my point is when it seems to suit the city, they need to "consult" the Preservation Commission.

When they want to demolish a 150 year old building that contributed to a neighborhood, they acted as if the Preservation Commission wasn't important.

Ann said...

Well, I can say this much about the tavern from personally being inside it--when I was house hunting in 1994, it was up for sale and was in terrible condition then, so bad that I would not have considered purchasing it at any price. That was 20 years prior to its demolition. Letting a building rot for 20 years + with no group attempting to save it while it was still salvageable doesn't leave me much room for sympathy when it finally gets torn down. Historic as it might be, it had become a blight. I think this one needed to come down.

w&la said...

Your comments gloss over two facts:

1) The owner lived there until he died - how could someone "attempt to save it" when it was owner occupied during those 20 years?

2) The city allowed someone to remove and keep all of the antique, custom woodwork from the building even though, according to you, it was "in such terrible condition", "rotten" and "blighted" - was the city concerned the antique woodwork would have contaminated the land fill?

It didn't sit empty for 20 years. Revisionist history on your part.

The New Albanian said...

Except that there was a plan to rehab it, as offered to the city by one of the area's busiest and most reputable contractors, and this plan was dismissed by the mayor as unsuitable either for effective photo ops or Coffey's demolition kickbacks. Facts. They should be kept straight.

Jeff Gillenwater said...

And, throughout it all, the City never specified what work if any was needed to bring it up to code or what their asking price actually was. They never listed it with an agent or made any legitimate attempt to market it. Thus, with condition and price unknown and few aware of its availability, they publicly announced there was no interest even though, as Roger mentions, a local contractor thought he already had a deal in place.

The behavior is what was and is rotten.

w&la said...

...and some "friend" of the city now has a room graced by the "rotten", "blighted" antique back bar, woodwork and trim that was "in such terrible condition"...

Jeff Gillenwater said...

And let's not forget 3rd district councilman Greg Phipps, who said anything they could put on the lot would be better than the tavern building and it was not his place to share with constituents what the City's plans for the property were.

Ann said...

Reading comprehension, w&amp:la. Never said it sat empty for 20 years--I said it rotted for 20 years. And when I went through it prior to buying my Main Street house in March 1994, it was indeed empty at that time with no occupants and was up for sale.

I have to wonder--what's the difference between the 922 tavern and the tavern at 8th and Culbertson? As I recall, when it was proposed to save the one on Culbertson, it was a behind the doors conspiracy theory (according to what was floated about online then) secretly put in place to garner funds to save it. Now there's a behind the doors conspiracy plot secretly put in place that was responsible for tearing down 922.

w&la said...

I must have hit a raw nerve, Ann. I apologize.

Please understand, I didn't say you said it "sat empty for years." I said that.

The revisionist history I referred to concerned your statement that "no group attempted to save it while it was still salvageable." That's simply not true.

Ann said...

w&la No raw nerve here. It's a matter of opinion as to whether it was salvageable. In my opinion, despite the possible existence of some interior architectural features, that does not make a structure salvageable. I think that the houses being built on the site now are far better for the neighborhood and its revitalization than what stood there prior. A local contractor *thought* he might be able to save it, but without a definite plan, concrete financing and a timeframe for completion I would have voted for it to go, had it been my decision.

w&la said...

And that's exactly the problem - NO discussion, NO input, just cronies illegally dividing "the spoils" - taking items of value illegally and then bulldozing the rest.

I'll make you a wager - I'll bet you $ 1,000 the person(s) who took the back bar and hand-cut architectural trim from that building won't come forward and admit they did it, let alone show the current whereabouts of the items taken - because it was illegal, plain and simple. Those items were taken and the value of those items were stolen from the citizens of New Albany. We all paid to have the building razed.

Someone in the loop allowed it to happen. The building had no value? Come on - just value enough to steal?

Jeff Gillenwater said...

I'll simply repeat: At no point in the (lack of) discussion did the City ever cite any specific structural problems to justify demolition. A random but unrealistic "repair" number, $300,000, was thrown out but never attached to any actual work needed to bring the building to code (if it wasn't).

Ann's right about one thing, though: Both the situation with this building and the 8th Street one were indeed settled behind closed doors via insider cronyism. This blog and some people in this thread criticized both processes as a result. Others, though, don't mind the cronyism when the results suit their personal preferences. That's a continual source of derision and shame for our little town.

Ann said...

It is completely unrealistic to think that issues like this one warrant public input in each instance. Would you be happy living next to it while someone tries to rehab it? Maybe they work on it for a month, then they run out of money and it sits for awhile. Would you be all, 'Hey, it's historic, take as much time as you need?' Let me tell you, I have more than one historic property rehab under my belt, and I certainly would not expect a neighborhood to put up with a blighted structure of mine for the period of time this building sat and decayed. Do you know if neighbors complained? Perhaps many of them did. We're only hearing from the few who disagreed with the demo.

As far as people illegally taking materials from the building, that's a pretty serious allegation. Do you have proof? Did you see it and know it was a theft? Or did you simply hear that it happened? Do you know that they took the items illegally? It is pretty standard procedure for salvageable items to be taken from a structure slated for demolition.

The New Albanian said...

I spoke with the developer in question. He's well known. He inspected the building and found the bones to be just fine. He thought he had a deal in place, then for the reasons previously noted -- a new building to hang a plaque attesting to the eternal contributions of the all-knowing current mayor -- this same mayor pulled the rug out. When announced, the city attributed the decision to a minion (the building commissioner) so Gahan would have plausible deniability. However, the people with whom I've spoken laugh at the notion of it being Brewer's ultimate decision. There are two, maybe three houses within an infield grounder of 922 that are in sad shape, but no concerted effort has been made to demolish them. It would be interesting to play this out in a parallel universe, where the neighborhood involved isn't S Ellen Jones, but ... say ... Silver Hills or Main Street along "mansion row." The 922 Culbertson story is sickening and repellent, and serves as ample metaphor to the banal corruption we tolerate on a daily basis from city officials. Spin it any way you like, Ann -- but there it is.

Ann said...

I've not 'spun' it any way--I've merely stated my opinion of this matter. Because it does not agree with your point of view doesn't make it a 'spin'. You, of all people, must realize that stating you 'spoke with the developer in question' or citing 'the people with whom I've spoken' cannot be considered as factual, since these persons are all unnamed and anonymous. While I know that you are not the sort of person to manufacture truths, I also know you wouldn't accept such vague information from anyone else.

The bottom line to me is this: it was an historic structure. It was allowed to fall into grievous disrepair by its owner, and that owner was never required to bring it into compliance. To the best of my knowledge, no individual or group stepped forward to save it until the time to do so had passed, based on the criteria of the parties in charge of deciding its fate. Multiple people dropped the ball, and it's a shame because it did have historic value. But making the leap from those basic facts to political corruption does not make sense to me.

Jeff Gillenwater said...

"..based on the criteria of the parties in charge of deciding its fate."

What were those criteria?

The New Albanian said...

"But making the leap from those basic facts to political corruption does not make sense to me."

I've never claimed to be a professional journalist, although in the absence of ones locally who might have dug a bit more deeply into this, I spoke with several people. What I do know as an amateur is if someone asks me not to reveal their identity for fear of retaliation from the mayor's team, then that's what I do. It is a pattern repeated often, in areas apart from 922 Culbertson.

Heaven forbid someone has the "wrong" candidate's sign in his yard, then ask for help with a slumlord property. I'd mention who told me this, but ... you know. He's already been retaliated against, so why stir it up even more? In the early days of the blog, when people would cite fear of retaliation in seeking to withhold their identities, I scoffed at it. After 11 years of paying attention, it no longer strikes me that way.

Ann, maybe it would make more sense to you if the blinders came off.

Again, I ponder: It would be interesting to play this out in a parallel universe, where the neighborhood involved isn't S Ellen Jones, but ... say ... Silver Hills or Main Street along "mansion row." I've got to think we wouldn't be having the same discussion. We could just throw millions at it, and be done, as with Spring Street Hill or the disastrous beautification project.

w&la said...

My point is this: the public was told the structure was not worthy of renovation and needed to be demolished according to some undisclosed criteria. There were architectural elements in the structure that were deemed of higher value and removed. The public was never involved - the public was not invited to make a bid for the architectural elements deemed worthy of "salvage".

Did money change hands? Who knows. Were favors granted for the architectural elements? Who knows. The lack of transparency in the process is troubling.

If the transaction was above board and proper, let the parties who cut the deal and the parties who removed and took the property come forward and explain how it was proper to select items, remove them and thereby benefit from the "necessary" demolition - all without remunerating the city and the citizens who paid the cost of demolition.

If the items were of enough value to carefully remove and take before demolition, they should have been paid for and the transaction recorded and reported.

Ann said...

I'm surprised that you think I'm wearing blinders. I've always been a realist, and part of that is realizing we'll never agree on many topics and actions related to this administration, past ones or future ones. I also think that when people don't get the result they seek, they are too quick to claim corruption or retaliation as the reason. Why is it that only the projects that are controversial, or in your opinion are disastrous, are highlighted here? Has the Gahan administration done nothing of merit? To me, that is wearing blinders. I can look around and see the problems that need to be addressed, but I can also see the successes.

Jeff Gillenwater said...

I continue to be amused when people who try to defend this process as wholly above board can't answer very basic questions pertaining to the proposed sale or the sudden, still unexplained determination that the building was a public safety hazard and had to come down.

If I were trying to convince someone or prove the good faith under which all this supposedly occurred, I'd point to the known asking price, the City imposed stipulations put on the building's rehab and reuse, and show people where that information was publicly advertised in seeking potential buyers. Likewise, in terms of demolition, I'd point to the specific structural problems that were the source of danger, showing how they could/would have led to collapse or some such.

Trouble is, that information doesn't exist. When the administration claimed it had done all they could to try to find a buyer, they'd never really even marketed the property outside a handful of handpicked people. And when they declared it a safety hazard, they did so after some among that handful had determined the building structurally sound and couldn't cite a single danger.

The bottom line is that those who have defended this process either a) don't know anything themselves or b) are just continuing the stonewalling in an effort to keep up appearances.

Worth noting, too, is that the worth of the building wasn't just as a historical remnant of the past but as an asset - a public asset at the time - in future redevelopment, the sort that one or two of several matching, faux historic houses don't replace. That worth was brought up at the time and never addressed.

Jeff Gillenwater said...

As I said elsewhere, some of us think the process matters. The process is where and how we determine if revitalization/improvement is happening or not, if we are functional or dysfunctional. Others just want what they want and don't really care how we get it. That's the difference. That's the split that still plagues us.

w&la said...

Are the new houses duplexes? It looks like they could be. Rental from the start?

Perhaps one of the reasons for demolition: it would have been too hard to renovate the tavern into multiple rental units.

Jeff Gillenwater said...

Per real estate listings (because that's what you do when actually trying to sell a property), they're single family units for sale at $130K.

Jeff Gillenwater said...

And just for further record, those real estate listings reveal that the Gahan administration has turned over a portion of the NSP home sales around the Culbertson site to Pat Harrison, the same slumlord who organized against rental inspections, comparing them to Nazism.