- “Sorry Sir, But There’s No Answer at the Number You Requested”
The Hotel Pennsylvania is once again threatened with demolition by its owners, real estate company Vornado, which longs to replace the 22-story structure with a 67-story office tower, DNAinfo reports. The City Planning Commission will vote on the issue in three weeks, though the plan already has the “conditional” approval of the Manhattan borough president, who overrode the oppositional recommendations of the local community board and local residents.
Maybe you’re all too young, but the Glenn Miller Top 5 hit “Pennsylvania 6-5000” refers to a phone number, what we’d now refer to as “736-5000,” which was and still is the phone number of the Penn Station-area Hotel Pennsylvania (when you put a “212” in front of it). Its Cafe Rouge, now shuttered, was a stop for many major musical acts of the big band era, including The Dorsey Brothers, the Andrews Sisters, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and, of course, Glenn Miller. Besides these performers, the hotel’s famous guests include me, who once staycationed there.
Anyway, so go the pretty buildings and historical curios. I’ve been reading Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin and he puts it best:
It was a city uninterested in history. Strange things occurred precisely because there was no necessary regard for the past. The city lived in a sort of everyday present. It had no need to believe in itself as London, or an Athens, or even a signifier of the New World, like a Sydney, or a Los Angeles. No, the city couldn’t care less about where it stood. He had seen a T-shirt once that said: NEW YORK FUCKIN’ CITY. As if it were the only place that ever existed and the only one that ever would.
New York kept going forward precisely because it didn’t give a good goddamn about what it had left behind. It was like the city that Lot left, and it would dissolve if it ever began looking backward over its own shoulder…He had said to his wife many times that the past disappeared in the city. It was why there weren’t many monuments around.
Monuments like, say, the Hotel Pennsylvania.