Local Residents Voice Support for Proposed Park Terrace West Historic District

Houses on West 217th Street from the proposed historic district. Image Credit: NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

Community voiced support of preservation of suburban character after neighborhood rezoning earlier this year. On November 20, 2018, the Landmarks Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the proposed designation of the Park Terrace West-West 217th Street Historic District in the Inwood section of Manhattan. The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to calendar the proposed historic district on September 25, 2018. For CityLand’s prior coverage of the Park Terrace West designation process, click here.

The proposed historic district spans over 15 houses along West 217th Street and Park Terrace West. The 15 houses within the district are all detached and semi-detached homes with a variety of suburban characteristics including detached or basement garages, front yards, and gardens rarely found in Manhattan. The proposed district will be the first historic district for Inwood.

At the public hearing, several residents and community members spoke in support of the designation. Many residents spoke about the importance of the proposed historic district in maintaining Inwood’s history and character.

Eva Avocada, a resident within the proposed district, spoke about how the homes within the historic district were the homes of families and immigrants. Cheryl Howard, a resident of the proposed district for 26 years, also spoke in support of the application. She said that what impressed her about Inwood when she first moved there was that it was a place “all New Yorkers could live” and that these houses “represent the nature of Inwood.”

David Thom, another resident from the proposed historic district and member of the Park Terrace North Block Association, spoke on behalf of ten of the affected residences in support of the application. Thom brought a letter from a granddaughter of one of the original designers of the homes in support of preserving the district and photos of families that lived in the homes during the 1940s. Thom also noted that given the recent Inwood rezoning, a historic district is necessary now more than ever to preserve the neighborhood.

Earlier this year, the City Council approved the Inwood Rezoning Plan, which changed the rezoning to increase the maximum floor area ratio from a maximum of 3.44 to 4.0. For CityLand’s prior coverage of the Inwood Rezoning, click here.

In addition to Thom, other residents and community members cited the Inwood Rezoning as both a reason to support the proposed historic district and as a justification to search for other potential landmarks and historic districts to preserve within the neighborhood. Residents were concerned that allowing bigger and denser buildings would lead to the eventual removal of smaller buildings and single-family homes from the neighborhood.

Glen Umberger of the New York Landmarks Conservancy spoke in support and said that the ten city blocks west of Broadway between Dyckman and Isham Streets would also be appropriate for a historic district due to the consistency of the architecture and character of the neighborhood. Umberger also stated that the New York Landmarks Conservancy believes several buildings and structures throughout Inwood would be appropriate for individual landmark designation.

Shahabuddeen Ally, Chair of Manhattan Community Board 12, testified that the community board voted to support the historic designation but that the Landmarks Commission should keep other parts of Inwood and Washington Heights in consideration for landmark or historic district status.

Jesse Denno of the Historic Districts Council testified in support that Inwood was “underrepresented in landmark designations” and that “this small suburban community is of a sort found nowhere else in Manhattan and quite unexpected for the borough.” Denno spoke about the history of 529 West 217th Street, one of the homes within the proposed district. According to Denno, the house was formerly the home of State Supreme Court Justice John Murtagh, and that members of the Weather Underground tried to firebomb the house in 1970 while Justice Murtagh presided over pre-trial hearings of members of the Black Panthers. Denno encouraged the Landmarks Commission to take action to preserve the large concentration of Art Deco apartment buildings across Inwood.

Landmarks will vote on the proposed Park Terrace West Historic District on December 11, 2018.


By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2018.)



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