Thursday, January 7, 2010

Lincoln Center

Lincoln Center has quite a few detractors. For one thing, there are those who see it as the mother of all gentrification projects. In 1954, the area where Lincoln Center now sits was designated a prime area for slum clearance. Many of the more dilapidated buildings were torn down and a lot of folks were left with no alternative but to move out of the area. As the decade wore on, the dream to create a major arts center in this neighborhood gained momentum, and in May of 1959, President Eisenhower broke ground to begin the process of constructing the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. During the 1960s, most of the institutions we associate with Lincoln Center were completed and opened. These include roughly in order: Philharmonic Hall (later Avery Fisher Hall), the Lincoln Center Fountain designed by Philip Johnson, New York State Theater, the New York City Ballet, the New York City Opera, the Vivian Beaumont Theater, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the Metropolitan Opera House, Alice Tully Hall, and finally in December of 1969 - the Julliard School for the Arts. During the 1970s, these institutions not only did well, they greatly helped the entire area to go through a major transformation. What had once been a questionable area was gradually becoming a very desirable place in which to live, and many new buildings went up in anticipation of this continued growth. And throughout the 1980s, that growth continued, reflecting New York City's resurgence as a great city, but also owing to the enormous popularity of Lincoln Center itself as one of the world's great centers for the arts. Some thought it was too big, overgrown, even garish. But most people loved it and showed their appreciation by making it one of their favorite destinations for opera, classical music, ballet, jazz, and theater.

Since those early days, Lincoln Center has continued to grow in the variety of the arts featured there. Now, thanks to Wynton Marsalis, jazz is a key part of the Lincoln Center experience. And for years, the Film Society has been a fixture. It is an amazing place and it immeasurably enhances the neighborhood in which we live. If something was lost as a result of the building of Lincoln Center, I would have to say that so much was gained with respect to culture and quality of life that those losses were ultimately worth it. All I know is I, for one, am glad to be nearby and able to take advantage of it, even when it's only ambiance or the beauty of a fountain that anyone walking by can enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Lincoln Center does two remarkable and complementary things. It provides an attraction that, in and of itself, is reason to visit NYC. It anchors the Upper West Side providing residents with cultural opportunity and attractive ambiance. Any urban planner who doesnt' think this is a win/win lives in the suburbs.
    I'm not sure how to react to this post, kvell or be jealous, maybe some of both.