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Nobody Asked Me, But... No. 90

Governor Cuomo's March of Folly; Origin of Memorial Day;
Hotel History: Fisher Island Hotel & Resort; Quote of the Month

 
By Stanley Turkel, CMHS, ISHC
June 4, 2012

1.  Governor Cuomo's March of Folly

Twenty-one of the largest trade show companies in the United States have expressed strong opposition to demolishing the Javits Center.  These organizations insist that they will not patronize Cuomo's proposed 3.8 million square foot convention center at the Aqueduct raceway in Ozone Park, Queens.  It is too far away from Manhattan's theaters, museums, concert halls, shopping and hotels.  The automobile traffic on the highways is already overcrowded and bumper ̶ to bumper.  Just imagine the dreadful gridlock if thousands more vehicles were on the surrounding highways.
 
Furthermore, when the ongoing $463 million renovation to the Javits Center is completed, Javits will be ready for a new expansion project which can be implemented at no cost.  Just sell the air rights over the Center to the developer of a new (and needed) convention center hotel.
 
If the historian Barbara Tuchman were still alive, she would already have the makings of another chapter for "The March of Folly".*  In the first chapter, Tuchman writes:

To qualify as folly for this inquiry, the policy adopted must meet (these) criteria: 
1) it must have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight....
2) a feasible alternative course of action must have been available....

Wooden-headedness, the source of self-deception, is a factor that plays a remarkably large role in government.  It consists in assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs.  It is acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts.

Governor Cuomo: your recurring pursuit of a giant 3.8 million square foot convention center in Queens is contrary to the needs of the City of New York.  You can avoid this gross error and give us instead a rational and clear ̶ sighted decision to enlarge and enhance the Javits Center.

*Barbara W. Tuchman, "The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam", Alfred A. Knopf; New York, 1984

2.  Origin of Memorial Day

How many are aware that as "Decoration Day," it began in 1865 after the deadly U.S. Civil War? As historian David W. Blight* writes:

The first Decoration Day, as this event came to be recognized in some circles in the North, involved an estimated 10,000 people, most of them former slaves.  During April, twenty ̶ eight black men from one of the  local churches built a suitable enclosure for the burial ground at the race course.... (in Charleston, South Carolina).  At 9AM on May 1, the procession to this special cemetery began as 3000 black schoolchildren (newly enrolled in freedmen's schools) marched around the racecourse, each with an armload of roses and singing "John Brown's Body". The children were followed by 300 black women representing the Patriotic Association, a group organized to distribute clothing and other goods among the freedpeople.  The women carried baskets of flowers, wreaths and crosses to the burial ground.  The Mutual Aid Society, a benevolent association of black men, next marched in cadence around the track and into the cemetery, followed by a procession of white and black citizens.  All dropped their spring blossoms on the graves in a scene recorded by a newspaper correspondent: "When all had left, the holy mounds ̶ the tops, the sides, and the spaces between them ̶ were one mass of flowers, not a speck of earth could be seen; and as the breeze wafted the sweet perfumes from them, outside and beyond.. there were few eyes among those who new the meaning of the ceremony that were not dim with tears of joy."

Decoration Day became Memorial Day in 1869 when General John A. Logan, commander ̶ in ̶ chief of the Grand Army of the Republic called on all Union veterans to conduct ceremonies and decorate the graves of their dead comrades.

*David W. Blight, "Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory, and the American Civil War", University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, 2002

3.  Hotel History: Fisher Island Hotel & Resort

Fisher Island is located in Biscayne Bay, 3 miles off shore of mainland South Florida.  No road or causeway connects to the island which is accessible only by private boat or ferry.
 
The island was created in 1905, when the federal government sliced off the southern tip of Miami Beach to create a shipping channel from Biscayne Bay to the Atlantic Ocean.  Some years later, Dana A. Dorsey, the remarkable African American millionaire, bought the 216 ̶ acre island in a futile attempt to create a beach resort for African Americans who were forbidden to use all public beaches.  Carl Graham Fisher bought the island from Dorsey in 1919 and then in 1925 traded 7 ̶ acres to William K. Vanderbilt II for a 250 ̶ foot luxury yacht.  By 1936, Vanderbilt increased his land holdings on the island to 13 ̶ acres and built a $1.5 million Mediterranean ̶ style mansion, gracious guest houses, tennis courts and swimming pools.
 
From 1945 to 1971, the island was owned by a series of investors including Edward Moore (U.S. Steel), Gar Wood (the Speed Boat King), and Charles (Bebe) Rebozo (friend of President Richard Nixon).  After various changes in ownership, the island was vacant for 15 years until the Fisher Island Club development began in the 1980s.

In 2010, Fisher Island had the highest per capita income of any place in the United States.  The original Vanderbilt mansion serves as the centerpiece of the resort along with courtyard villas and beautiful cottages.  In 2007, a $60 million project produced a new golf course and renovations of the marina.  In 2008, construction began on the Beach Club.  At the center of this fabulous island resort is the incomparable Fisher Island Club.

4.  Quote of the Month

"Any city may have one period of magnificence, like Boston or New Orleans or San Francisco, but it takes a real one like New York to keep renewing itself until the past is perennially forgotten."
                                                                                  A.J. Liebling

Reviews of My New Book:  "Built to Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York"

*"passionate and informative"
 The New York Times

*"It's a terrific book"
Fred Schwartz, President, AAHOA

*"You have done an amazing job... your research into the history.... of these properties embellishes the topic immensely"
Stephen Rushmore, President, HVS International

*"I must say here that it has been a sincere privilege to review "Built to Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York"... I found it a fascinating read and it should be for anyone interested in history, building design and hospitality..."
John Hogan, CHE, CHA, CMHS, Ph.D.

To order the book, visit www.centuryoldhotelsinnewyork.com

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Contact: 

Stanley Turkel, MHS, ISHC
917-628-8549
stanturkel@aol.com
www.stanleyturkel.com


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