Via the New York Times:
A Dispute Erupts Over the Fate of a Mural
At the long-vacant northwest corner of Columbus Avenue and West 71st Street, Greg Hunt and his two partners envision a hip, sophisticated nightclub for 30- and 40-somethings.
They are well along in the approval process, embarking on a $2 million renovation of a darkened restaurant, which they hope to turn into Café Talullah. But a farmer and his oxen stand in their path.
A 40-year-old bas-relief mural of a Cuban sugar cane farm on the restaurant’s exterior has attracted the notice of some local preservationists, and they are now battling Mr. Hunt’s plan to tear it down as part of his renovation. The preservationists call the mural an important vestige of the area’s heritage, and are asking the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to make Mr. Hunt preserve the mural as part of his renovation. The storefront lies within the Upper West Side Historic District, so alterations to the exterior must be approved by the commission.
Mr. Hunt calls the mural “sappy,” historically insignificant and not in keeping with his planned décor.
“Our theme is sophisticated and casual, and he wants us to have two cows outside,” he said, referring to Michael Gotkin, the preservationist spearheading the save-the-mural campaign. Mr. Gotkin is a consultant for a local preservation group, Landmark West!
Mr. Gotkin mounted a spirited defense of the mural at a commission hearing last week, prompting a discussion among commission members. A vote on the mural’s fate was postponed.
The mural was created in 1971 for Victor’s Cafe, a renowned Cuban restaurant that thrived on the corner in the 1960s and ’70s before moving to Midtown in 1980. The mural has remained, even as Penang, a Malaysian restaurant, opened in the space in 1996, then closed several years ago.
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