To the Editor:
Well, after several letters of “support” for the McMobil project, still not one has attempted to put forth a rational argument for erecting That Specific Building on That Specific Site. That’s of course because there is no rational way to support construction of any building so out of scale with its surroundings.
And “scale” is not “aesthetics.” If you create a toy train layout in HO scale, you can’t use an N scale engine — it won’t fit. All the trees, animals, people and buildings in your layout must also be HO scale or they won’t fit. Your landscape would look mighty strange with N scale buildings in an HO scale environment, regardless of “aesthetic” choices such as color. The same is true for a scale model airplane or dollhouse. That’s one of the reasons why Colleen Moore’s Dollhouse is such a marvel — everything is in scale, from the tiny candlesticks and oriental carpet patterns to the light bulbs.
All of us use our sense of scale in our daily lives. You use it to choose the furniture for your home. You might long to have a canopy bed, but you probably would not try to stuff a king-size, four-poster canopy bed into an eight-by-10 bedroom with an eight-foot ceiling. One also tries to have all the chairs, tables, lamps, pictures, sofas and rugs in scale with the size of the room. The same is true outdoors. Nature has a scale — little three-inch plants don’t often have huge, peony-sized flowers.
Cityscapes should have a unifying scale as well. New buildings should fit their site and be in proportion to those near them “to knit up holes and tatters in a city neighborhood so that the mending is all but invisible,” as per Jane Jacobs.
So please quit using the “retail, residents, jobs, affordable rentals, parking” mantra as excuses, since any building on that site likely should/would include those features. Instead, support the idea of a “hold” on the McMobil plans, so that we as a community can discuss a comprehensive, public, community-directed process for establishing an overall, specific development plan for 53rd Street. If we care about the future of Hyde Park, we should not blandly accept this piecemeal, parcel-by-parcel, developer-oriented scattershot approach, which has resulted in trying to convince us that an out-of-scale behemoth is necessary to solve 53rd Street’s problems.