Public Gets Final Hearing on Massive Upper West Side Historic District

By Leslie Albrecht on October 24, 2011 6:24pm 

The pastor of First Baptist Church at West 79th Street and Broadway doesn't want the building to be included in a new historic district.
The pastor of First Baptist Church at West 79th Street and Broadway doesn't want the building to be included in a new historic district.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

UPPER WEST SIDE — The public gets a final chance Tuesday to weigh in on a proposed historic district extension that would landmark more than 800 buildings on the Upper West Side.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission holds its third and final hearing on whether to create a massive historic district along West End Avenue from West 70th Street to 109th street, including side streets, parts of Broadway and Riverside Drive.

Preservationists who want to safeguard the Upper West Side's historic architecture have pushed for the new district for years. But real estate industry leaders and some individual building owners have spoken out against the mass landmarking, because they say it would put too many restrictions on what property owners can do to their buildings.

Parts of West End Avenue are already landmarked; the proposed district would extend the boundaries of other existing historic districts on the Upper West Side.

The owners of a 19th century building on West 72nd Street where the writer Dorothy Parker lived as a child recently said they want to be left out of the proposed historic district, because they want to tear down the building and replace it with a 12-story apartment buiding.

The West End Preservation Society and Landmark West! are asking preservation supporters to fill the hearing, which is scheduled for approximately 2:30 p.m., though the time is flexible.

State Sen. Tom Duane, who represents parts of the Upper West Side, said in a statement released Monday that he supports the proposed historic district because it "captures a relatively short but significant window of time" in late 19th century and early 20th century architecture.

"Unfortunately, the voracious New York real estate market, if left unchecked, poses a serious threat to this cohesive span of historic architecture," Duane said in the statement.

Josette Amato, a spokeswoman for the West End Preservation Society, said the proposed historic district has won support from both the public and the LPC itself.

The commission even suggested adding more blocks to proposed historic district, Amato said. Originally, preservationists asked the LPC to consider only West End Avenue, but the commission suggested adding side streets, the west side of Broadway and Riverside Drive, Amato said.

"I’m under the assumption that they think this is a good idea, or they wouldn't have come back with triple the area that we requested," Amato said. "So far there’s been a ton of support and not an overwhelming amount of opposition.”

The LPC probably won't vote on the proposed historic district extension until next year, Amato said. After that, the City Council has the power to modify or reject the proposed historic district.

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