District extension in Upper West Side considered

Proposed Riverside-West End extension. Image: Courtesy of LPC.

First of three proposed historic district extensions in area met with mix of support and opposition. On March 22, 2011, Landmarks heard testimony on the proposed Riverside-West End Historic District Extension I in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The extension would encompass 190 properties to the south of the original Riverside-West End Historic District designated in 1989. The proposed district would extend from West 87th to West 79th Streets and include Broadway, West End Avenue, and Riverside Drive. In November 2010 Landmarks calendared the proposed district along with the Riverside-West End Historic District Extension II and the West End-Collegiate Historic District Extension. The three districts would bring more than 700 new properties on Manhattan’s West Side under Landmarks’ jurisdiction.

The West End section of the Upper West Side was developed in three distinct waves between the 1880s and the late 1920s. The first wave, following the opening of the Ninth Avenue elevated rail line in 1879, consisted primarily of three- and four-story rowhouses in a variety of styles, including Queen Anne, neo-Grec, and Renaissance Revival. Following the opening of the Broadway subway line in 1904, property values increased, making rowhouse development impractical. Developers began constructing large apartment buildings that catered to affluent tenants. Middleclass residents migrated to the area during the economic downturn after the First World War, which spurred the construction of taller apartment buildings with smaller units and setbacks that conformed to the 1916 zoning resolution.

At a hearing, local Council Member Gale A. Brewer testified that West End Avenue was one of the City’s most physically unified and distinctive residential blocks and argued that the entire West End Avenue corridor and the west side of Broadway should also be protected. Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer and representatives for Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler, and State Senators Tom Duane, Adriano Espaillat, and Bill Perkins also testified in support. In addition, more than a dozen local residents, and representatives from the Historic Districts Council, Landmark West!, and the West End Preservation Society testified in favor.

The Real Estate Board of New York argued that the extension would be unfair to property owners. Noting that Landmarks created the original Riverside-West End Historic District more than twenty years ago, Slattery claimed that “suddenly” deciding that the additional blocks merited protection highlighted “how arbitrary the process is.” Greenberg Traurig attorney Deirdre Carson, representing Sackman Enterprises, also spoke in opposition. Carson noted that her client planned to develop a site at 508 and 510 West End Avenue, and said the proposal was an “unwarranted indulgence of the anti-development wishes of neighboring property owners.” Representatives of St. Agnes High School at 555 West End Avenue and the First Baptist Church at 265 West 79th Street asked Landmarks to carve their properties out of the extension.

Landmarks did not set a date to vote on the proposed district.

LPC: Riverside-West End Historic District Extension I, Manhattan (LP-2463) (March 22, 2011).

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