Mention “the Bronx” to an outsider and what comes to mind is
decay, corruption and crime.
It’s fitting, then, that the old Bronx Courthouse incorporates equal measures of all three.
Decay is all around 159th Street and Third.
So it’s a wonderful thing that developer Henry Weinstein is pouring in millions to save this Beaux Arts masterpiece from ruin.
Crime is actually the reason for this building.
From 1914 when it was completed until 1977 when it took its last breath, innocent people were brought here to be tried, proven guilty and convicted.
I got lucky the other day.
Mr. Weinstein offered me a tour and we started up on the roof.
The view of Manhattan is terrific.
But corruption runs through this building’s veins.
It began in 1903 when Louis F. Haffen, the first Bronx Borough president, awarded the design commission to Michael G. Garvin, an architect he had worked with before.
But Garvin’s first designs were anemic, and the New York Art Commission rejected them.
In danger of losing his commission for what was to be a very prestigious building, Garvin hired another architect, Oscar Florianus Bluemner, to collaborate with him.
He promised him half of everything, and Bluemner was a real artist.
The building we have today was enthusiastically approved,
but then Garvin reneged on his deal.
Bluemner was outraged and sued.
The trial testimony revealed so much corruption that
Borough President Haffen was forced to resign.
Bluemner “won”, but received only one-fourth of what he was promised.
He was so disappointed he turned to painting
and would never work in architecture again.