Friday, January 19, 2007

Gehry jousts with protester, says FCR kept him on a leash

Starchitect Frank Gehry was present for yesterday’s press conference regarding the Barclay Center, and mingled with guests and reporters, but did not speak from the podium or at the brief press conference. But afterward he walked out to the museum's front entrance rather than into the back parking lot.

Lucy Koteen, a protester who'd gone inside the doors to warm up, approached Gehry.

She'd challenged Gehry before. At a meeting held in November 2005 by the American Institute of Architects, she said, she reminded Gehry that she’d sent him several letters.

"What happened?" Gehry had asked her at the time, according to Koteen's report. (I wasn't at that event or yesterday's encounter.)

"Nothing," Koteen replied. "You never answered me."

"Do you hate me?" Gehry responded.

(Gehry is sensitive to criticism. Last January, he told an audience, even before any criticism was sent his way, “We’re trying, I am trying, and you’ll still hate what I do, anyway.")

Yesterday, reminding Gehry of this, Koteen said he responded, "You're the one who didn't like me."

Ego trip?

She replied: "It is not really about you--that shows a lot of ego, just like what you said about Miss Brooklyn being your 'ego trip.' This is about us protecting our homes and businesses from being taken."

“He told me that we were all going to love it when it is built," Koteen said. "I told him that the shadows would kill all our gardens and that the traffic there is already horrible and there is no solution for it. He said, ‘They protested me with candlelight vigils in Spain over Bilbao and now they want to kiss me when I go there.’"

(Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is a huge hit, but a cursory check of the clips suggests the protest was more over funds for local culture rather than over a development seen as oversize.)

Meeting with locals?

Koteen asked Gehry why he wouldn’t meet with community members take a tour, as he’d been invited to do.

"They wouldn't let me,” Gehry responded, referring to his client, Forest City Ratner. “And I live in California."

"How can they stop you from meeting with us?" Koteen asked. (Last January, Gehry had said he'd meet with locals "as soon as the guys let me.")

Contextual development?

Gehry shrugged and offered an unoriginal gambit, suggesting that project opponents seek stasis. "So what do you want there, nothing?" he asked.

"Nobody ever said that,” Koteen responded. “We want development that fits in with the historic brownstones that surround the area. We want contextual development. Why don't you take off 30 stories?”

Gehry, pulled away by a handler, left without answering.

(Gehry's Miss Brooklyn, once some 60 stories, now would be about 50 stories. Many people protesting Atlantic Yards did support a high-rise plan from Extell that included buildings up to 28 stories.)

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