West End Ave Historic District Extension Unanimously Approved
UPPER WEST SIDE — The Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to approve an expansion of the West End Avenue Historic District Tuesday, bringing tears to the eyes of preservationists and supporters who have fought for five years to make it a reality.
West End Preservation Society Vice President Erika Petersen cried with happiness after the commission approved the bid to expand the district's coverage area, landmarking more than 800 additional buildings. The society worked for five years to get the proposal before the commission. It will now go before the City Council, which has 120 days to make its decision.
"It just makes me so happy to have had a hand in preserving this neighborhood," said Petersen, who was one of many supporters who turned out Tuesday to the LPC office on the ninth floor of City Hall.
Initially, the Preservation Society had proposed landmarking West End Avenue between 70th and 107th streets, but the LPC came back to them with a larger proposal that included side streets and parts of Broadway and Riverside Drive.
LPC Chairman Robert Tierney acknowledged that not everyone in the community supports the decision.
The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) previously expressed its disapproval of the plan, saying that landmarking the district would ensnare the Upper West Side in red tape and make small changes and updates difficult for owners. Many construction changes would have to go through the LPC for approval if the landmarked district is approved.
Tierney defended the decision, however, saying the move would still allow for development.
"This extension is not a freezing operation," he said, adding that the community can continue to move forward but in a way that preserves history and the aesthetic integrity of the district.
Officials with REBNY did not respond to requests for comment.
Peterson hailed the work of architect Andrew Dolkart in surveying the area, compiling his findings into a 260-page document that was then presented to the commission.
"Bob Tierney has really established a legacy for himself with this decision," said Peterson. "It's a crowning achievement."
Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal added her voice to the chorus of praise for the decision.
"This vote moves us one step closer to expanding the district, which includes many important pre-war buildings whose beauty and charm must be protected," she said.
Councilwoman Gale Brewer said she was "ecstatic" about the news and that the work the LPC did in researching the area's history as well as the efforts of the community were exemplary.
"We want to make sure that there’s enough staff at the LPC so if people want to install air conditioners or make changes that they can do it," Brewer said, adding that she had renovated her home and office on the Upper West Side, both of which are landmarked, without too much trouble.
"[Renovating according to historic regulations] is not an unbearable cost."