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We did it!
Roughly 18 months after this newspaper — OK, I — began a one-printing-press campaign against the Long Island Rail Road’s coffin-like security ring, the agency has changed tracks and ordered up the demolition of the hated granite sarcophagi.
This is good news for anyone who believes in freedom.
I’m not exaggerating. This newspaper’s crusade against these hideous barricades was not, as some railroad officials have whispered, just our excuse to use bigger headline fonts. Rather, it was a newspaper listening to its community.
From the moment that the LIRR cut the ribbon on the Atlantic Terminal, the building was one of the most heavily armored facilities in the borough — ringed by no less than 14 mammoth concrete coffins that give the beautiful new facility the look of an outpost in the Green Zone.
The appalling capitulation to the so-called “realities” of the so-called “post–9-11 world” turned architect John di Domenico’s inspirational portal into a bunker.
Train stations are supposed to be about magic and adventure, not paranoia and fear. They’re supposed to inspire Americans to explore and look beyond narrow parochialism, not encourage it.
Instead, we got a station that was a fortress. It wasn’t a landmark of civic design, but a line of civic defense, to paraphrase architectural critic Nicolai Ouroussoff.
Of course, you didn’t have to believe me, a man whose formal architectural training ended at Lego. Genuine architects came out of the wainscotting to slam what the LIRR did.
“Those coffins are unfortunate,” said designer Brendan Coburn. “[Other buildings] do this more sensitively using stone and stainless steel bollards.”
Fellow architect Hayes Slade said that di Domenico was obviously ordered back to the drawing board during construction because the bollards were so grotesquely out of step with the rest of the design.
“Our society is at an odd transitional moment regarding how we deal with considerations of potential terrorism versus safety, mobility, openness,” she said.
We may have been at a “transitional moment,” but it was one we created.
Certainly, no New Yorker needs to be reminded of the horrible damage done to our city by terrorists, but when we destroy our own civic institutions, we have no one to blame but ourselves.
And when our elected officials and the agencies they run choose to reject medievalism — whether in words, deeds or mere architecture — it’s a cause for celebration.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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