From My NYC Window, Gazing Down on Magnificent Lincoln Center

New York, N.Y. Since it opened in 1959 as the first complex art facility in the United States, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on Manhattan’s Upper West Side has offered a plethora of cultural events and activities.

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My home is in front of this Lincoln Center. I live in a building that was built 37 years ago, and I gaze down 24 floors from my living room to Lincoln Center’s plaza. In the past, as an international entrepreneur, I would go to various events such as Japanese kabuki and exhibitions at each of Lincoln Center’s venues several times a week!

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Lincoln Center currently handles many different types of art. A total of eleven organizations are active in the area, including the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, and City Opera.

Today it’s a place known as an art hub, but it used to be a very poor and dangerous slum, a “gang’s base,” called “West Side Story” depicting the confrontation and sorrow of Puerto Rican gangs and black gangs. There is a musical. The stage is exactly this place.

West Side Story (1957) was written by my friend Leonard Bernstein who was a composer, conductor, and pianist. See my piece entitled Memories of Leonard Bernstein.

Just in front of the Lincoln Center, we can go in a minute, so many artists dropped by. A German pianist and conductor, Christoph Eschenbach, also came well. At that time there was a Steinway piano made by Hamburg, so we all practiced here.

Every year, I say that the best view of Lincoln Center from my apartment and the angle view, I have been taking photos for the program cover for many years from the windows of my apartment. And each time I give you a bouquet of big red roses.


Lincoln Center Promenade from Diller Scofidio on Vimeo.

The money to make this huge complex was given out by the Rockefeller family. Because of this plan, all the poor were driven out of the area and moved to a newly created project (a low-income housing) near the back of the Lincoln Center. Until then, there were only wealthier people on the East Side, so it was a major reform at that time to make the City of Art on the Upper West.

We moved to the present location nearly twenty years after the Lincoln Center was built; before Lincoln Center was built it was a dangerous place to walk with no redeeming features.

The grand opening ceremony of the Lincoln Center was spectacularly held on May 14, 1959 — sixty years ago. It was a concert of New York Phil (conducted by Bernstein). President Kennedy and Mrs. Jacqueline also attended, and it was reported by the media that Bernstein kissed her cheek and that “it was ridiculous.

Lincoln Center, New York.

Of course we also participated. It was already a glittering start. The role of the couple was to escort the Nelson Rockefeller, then Governor of New York State.

However, when the lid was opened, the sound was minimal, and the audience could not hear the sound of the stage at all, especially the stringed instruments.

During that break, when I dropped the program to the floor, the sound echoed into the hall like a storm. It is too famous that the famous conductor George Cell said in an interview, “Deconstruct it tomorrow.” The hall was closed soon after that, and the re-doing of the sound was repeated many times, but it is still a poor sounding hole even if it takes a long time and a huge expense.

If you know the past about this area, it will change so far and the future will continue well. With high-class apartments and restaurants, art lovers gather at nearly 20,000 people at night. From now on, I think that it will be developed as a base to produce many arts.

Originally published as Vol. 55 in Weekly Biz, January 22, 2019; translated by Jim Luce.

See: Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura Column in Japan’s Weekly Biz

(ニューヨークビズ!)

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The Editors
The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation (www.lucefoundation.org). There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.

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