Wednesday, March 2, 2016

maybe this is the moment

"Save Grand Central" read a button worn in 1975 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and others on NYC's Municipal Art Society (MAS) committee to stop planned destruction of Grand Central Station.

Mrs. Onassis's public statement:  "If we don't care about our past we can't have very much hope for our future. 

We've all heard that it's too late, or that it has to happen, that it's inevitable. 

But I don't think that's true. 

Because I think if there is a great effort, even if it's the eleventh hour, then you can succeed and I know that's what we'll do."

--------------------------- [excerpt, Cassidy book] ---------------- Her words, which she had written herself, were sparse.  She knew from her political experiences that if she delivered a forty-five-minute speech it would lose its effectiveness and she would have a greater chance of being misquoted.  Deliver a sound bite just right and the press had to use it.  They had nothing else. ------------------ [end, excerpt]

Her letter to New York's Mayor Abe Beame

was handwritten:

Dear Mayor Beame

I write to you about Grand Central Station, with the prayer that you will see fit to have the City of New York appeal Judge Saypol's decision.

Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud moments, until there is nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children?  If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future?

Americans care about their past, but for short term gain they ignore it and tear down everything that matters.

Maybe, with our bicentennial approaching, this is the moment to take a stand, to reverse the tide, so that we won't all end up in a uniform world of steel and glass boxes.

Old buildings were made better than we will ever be able to afford to make them again.  They can have new and useful lives, from the largest to the smallest.  They can serve the community and bring people together.

Everyone, from every strata of our city, is wounded by what is happening -- but feel powerless -- hopeless that their petitions will have any effect.

I think of the time President Kennedy was faced with the destruction of Lafayette Square, opposite the White House.  That historic 19th century square was about to be demolished to make way for a huge Eisenhower-approved Government Office Building.  All contracts had been signed.  At the last minute he cancelled them -- and as he did so, he said, "This is the act I may be most remembered for."

Dear Mayor Beame -- your life has been devoted to this city.  Now you serve her in the highest capacity.  You are her people's last hope -- all their last hopes lie with you.

It would be so noble if you were to go down in history as the man who was brave enough to stem the tide, brave enough to stand up against the greed that would devour New York bit by bit.  People now, and people not yet born will be grateful to you and honor your name.

With my admiration and respect

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Former MAS president Kent L. Barwick

said, "She had a visceral sense of architecture and style and politics....She called me on the phone and said, 'Can I help?'"