Core Seminar in Urban Studies Spring 2020

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Architect Bill Menking lost to Covid-19

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    gregory sholette

    co-founder William ‘Bill’ Menking passes away at age 72


    Located on West 44th Street, the Millennium Premier Hotel stands in a once largely Irish and working class neighborhood formerly known as Hell’s Kitchen but re-christened with the sanitarysounding moniker ‘Clinton’ by real estate speculators in the 1980s. The Times Square from whose implied stresses it claims to offer an ‘oasis’ is no longer the porn playground of the fiscal crisis ‘70s. It has been rehabilitated: safe for families, safe for business, efficiently emptied of homeless people and sundry other uninvited. In May of 1998, however, a metal street sign appears outside the Millennium. The sign is flagged off of a lamppost, meters away from the hotel’s tastefully subdued, black marble façade. Mounted low enough for passersby to read, its text begins portentously:

    What is now the Millennium Broadway Hotel used to be the site of 4 buildings including an SRO hotel that provided badly needed housing for poor New Yorkers…Artist and architect William Menking designed the plaque to look like a busy montage of newspaper clippings. The story of the Hotel’s less than tranquil past continues in bold type:

    In 1984, New York City passed a moratorium on the alteration of hotels for the poor. Hours before the moratorium was to go into effect, developer Harry Macklowe had the 4 buildings demolished without obtaining demolition permits, and without turning off water and gas lines into the buildings. NYC officials declared, ‘It is only a matter of sheer luck that there was no gas explosion.’ Attempts to bring criminal charges against Macklowe for these actions were not successful. Macklowe built a luxury hotel on the site, then lost it to the current owners. The demolition of hotels for the poor during the 1970’s and 1980’s added to the city’s growing homeless population. While streets of the ‘new’ Times Square seem paved with gold – for many they have literally become a home.

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