Nightingale on Sixth Avenue
Listen my children, and you shall hear a midnight tale of those we revere.
• • Once upon a time, there was a noble judicial complex clustered around the knees of Jefferson Market Court in Greenwich Village. Over time, some of the buildings were demolished until there was only one standing: the (former) courthouse.
• • Gradually, the courthouse fell into disuse and decrepitude. The New York Public Library wanted to raze this 19th-century marvel and erect a perfectly soulless book-garage in its place on Sixth Avenue and West Ninth Street.
• • Led by preservationist Margot Gayle, the neighborhood rallied to protect its heritage. After several years of blather, the courthouse rose from the heap like a phoenix, reborn as a branch library. All was calm for quite a spell.
• • Over the last few years, however, when this aged landmark began showing alarming signs of disrepair, the vultures returned. These unspeakable beasts closed their eyes to the damage that all could see on the facade. Instead they skulked around, raising money for an INTERIOR jazzing up that would magic the reference room - - poof! - - into a Teen Lounge complete with murals and music videos. A female vulture had just returned to Manhattan from Los Angeles, locust-land-of-no-readers, where she had been spreading the Black-Mass-of-the-Teen-Lounge throughout the West Coast. [Well, no need to reveal names - - but hers rhymes with OOZIN'.]
• • Money that the schemer raised - - without doing a "Needs Assessment" in the community - - amounted to $2.1 million. And that ain't birdseed.
• • Inside Vulture Headquarters, a nasty beak [whose surname rhymes with JERK] cheered her on. His baton waved the Black-Mass-of-the-Teen-Lounge in the direction of lower Sixth Avenue. But the contagion did not catch.
• • Again the Villagers marshalled their forces. Well-respected adults got petitions signed, posted flyers, penned articles, called the community to speak-outs. A vaccine for the vultures' Black-Death-to-the-Readership was being concocted. Yes, these things take time.
• • Today a carrier pigeon brings news. Two revered landmark-look-outs reported on their good efforts. State Senator Tom Duane and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced: "We found that we can transfer the funds, although some money has already been invested in the preliminary design for INTERIOR work. We will be able to use these designs later when the EXTERIOR modifications have been completed. . . . We felt the decision of how to use taxpayer dollars allocated to Jefferson Market Library - - whether to modernize the INTERIOR or preserve the EXTERIOR - - should be a decision the community participates in [emphasis added]. . . ."
• • Good government is at work in Greenwich Village, thanks to Mr. Duane and Ms. Quinn, who are mindful of the needs of an outspoken landmark-loving neighborhood.
• • From sullen earth, the lark sings hymns at heaven's gate.
• • And in the clocktower, a nightingale prepares for morning.
• • Jefferson Market • Keith Gunderson • 2001 •
New York Public Library