On Tuesday, hundreds of buildings became protected when the Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Riverside-West End Historic District Extension II. Basically, every building between West 94th Street and West 108th Street between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue has been added. That’s 344 new buildings, bringing the combined number of protected buildings to 1,255.
“Both corridors have a remarkably homogeneous character and are lined by large apartment buildings creating a strong street wall, with some small clusters of row houses and mansions dating the area’s earlier periods of development. The side streets knit together the two great avenues, and are lined with architecturally significant row houses, mansions, and other residential buildings,” the LPC said. “With the exception of some neighborhood oriented institutional buildings (including schools and religious structures), the proposed historic district is almost exclusively residential.”
Originally, the extension would have added 377 buildings, including many along Broadway. Quite a few people showed up to Tuesday’s LPC session to protest what they called “carveouts” in the designation made without public input. Tuesday’s session was a public meeting, where no public testimony is allowed (unlike a public hearing where public testimony is allowed). Mark Silberman, general counsel to the LPC, said that the commission is an “expert” body and allowed to make these amendments to its designations.
One building of particular contention was P.S. 75, at 735 West End Avenue, which had been nixed from the designation, but was restored to it, though it will be listed as a “no style” building.
The commissioners, John Gustafsson first among them, discussed the situation with the Broadway buildings and the consensus seemed to be that the buildings of Broadway should be considered at some time, and their lack of inclusion wouldn’t stop the designation of the extension.
“We’re very excited to add 344 buildings to the number of sites under the Commission’s protection. The Riverside-West End Historic District has a distinct sense of place that derives from its cohesive residential character, and this designation reaffirms the agency’s commitment to this area of the city,” said LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan.
“HDC remains in opposition to the decision to cut properties out of the Historic District, and the way in which it was executed. The Commissioners’ language about a future Broadway Historic District adds little solace. If the buildings were once thought to be meritorious, and still continue to be, why cut them out to create a separate district in the future?” the Historic Districts Council said in a statement. “That being said, HDC is thankful there is a new historic district to celebrate today. The protection of [additional] buildings on the Upper West Side will help to preserve the character of this historic part of Manhattan. Many people worked very hard for many years to make this district come to fruition. HDC would like to congratulate the coalition of advocates who worked on this campaign and especially to our colleagues at the West End Preservation Society for their leadership and perseverance. “
“That these decisions were made behind closed doors is unsettling – that the final map was not made available to those experts voting on it until the flash of a slide in a power-point is unconscionable. After a self congratulatory victory lap, pronouncing the process and resultant district as respectful, thoughtful, rigorous, fair and mindful of initial requests, Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan called for a vote of designation,” Landmark West! said in a statement. “With the only alternative of denying designation, the modified district passed unanimously, becoming the twelfth Historic District within the Community Board.”
The commission responded to Landmark West! with the following statement: “The Commission has previously made adjustments to the boundaries of historic districts at the time it votes, based on recommendations and a presentation by the Research Department staff. These districts include the Gansevoort, Addisleigh Park, East Village, South Village Central Ridgewood and Park Avenue Historic Districts. This action is consistent with how the Commission has modified boundaries in the past. The Commissioners all received written materials with recommendations from the LPC Research Department on May 29, 2015, which thoroughly explained the recommended revised boundaries and included a map of those boundaries. The Commissioners also received a detailed presentation from the LPC research department on Tuesday prior to the vote. In addition, Commission staff briefed the group that requested this designation (West End Preservation Society) of these recommendations in April 2015.”