344-Property Extension to Riverside/West End Historic District Designated

Thirty-three properties were removed from district between hearing and designation, mostly along Broadway. On June 23, 2015, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate the Riverside/West End Historic District Extension II. The original Riverside/West End Historic District was designated by Landmarks in 1989, and the first extension was designated in 2012.  The designated area stretches between 89th and 109th Streets, and is bounded by Broadway and Riverside Drive to the east and west.

Like the previously designated areas, the new extension is characterized by residential architecture developed in the 1880s through the 1920s. Rowhouses comprised much of the initial development, in a variety of styles including Queen Anne, Romanesque, and Renaissance Revival. The 20th century saw the construction of several large elevator apartment buildings, many of which were designed by prominent architects, as apartment dwelling became more acceptable to a moneyed clientele. A few institutional structures are included in the district, including churches and Public School 75.

At a 2011 hearing, designation was favored by elected officials, preservationists, and community representatives. The Real Estate Board of New York opposed the proposed historic district as too broad in scope, and asked that the boundaries be revised to excluded the buildings on the west side of Broadway.  The proposed district at that time included 377 properties, not the 338 that was previously stated.

Landmarks’ Director of Special Projects and Strategic Planning, Lisa Kersavage stated that the boundaries of the district before the commission for a vote was composed of 344 building, 33 properties had been removed to remedy a “jagged uneven boundary.” Kersavage said the Broadway streetscape was not cohesive with that of the district’s “two spines,” possessing many tenement buildings, commercial buildings and flats inconsistent with the district’s character and sense of place. Landmarks Research Department staff said the homogeneous character of the district was defined by Riverside and West End Avenues, and the side streets that knit them together.

Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan further noted that the actions would not preclude the historic district designation of the properties on Broadway at a future date.

Landmarks Counsel Mark Silberman noted that changes were not infrequently made to district boundaries during the landmarking process, as in the South Village Historic District and Ridgewood Historic District. He added that that the Landmarks Law required a hearing before amending the boundaries of a calendared district, but no second hearing was required for changes recommended by Research Department staff.  He said that, as an expert agency, Landmarks’ “decision –making was not restrictive to third-party testimony.”

Preservationist organizations strenuously opposed the alterations to the district, with Landmark West! issuing a statement arguing that numerous buildings along Broadway were of the same era as those of the rest of the district and designed by the same architects, and protested the lack of a public hearing on the changes. A statement issued by Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal said “this revised proposal should have been subject to the scrutiny of a public hearing and not unilaterally decided upon behind closed doors.”

Chair Srinivasan found the recommended changes “very respectful,” and said the designation of the extension would add “an enormous amount of protection” to the historic architecture of the Upper West Side. Commissioner Fred Bland concurred, but added that the adjoining areas along Broadway might be worth of designation in and of themselves.  Commissioner Michael Devonshire expressed misgivings about the modifications, and said he would prefer to actually visit the site before casting a vote.

Finding enough agreement among commissioners to proceed, Srinivasan called a vote on designation, which passed unanimously. The designation will not go to the City Council for approval.

LPC: Riverside-West End Historic District Extension II, Manhattan (LP-2464) (June 23, 2015).

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