Upper Park Avenue Designated a Historic District

By Lindsay Armstrong on April 29, 2014 5:38pm 

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 The 12-block area from 79th to 91st Streets is part of a larger plan to landmark the avenue.
Upper Park Avenue Designated a Landmark District
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UPPER EAST SIDE — The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated a 12-block stretch of the Upper East Side as the Park Avenue Historic District Tuesday after a push from local preservationists to protect the area. 

The 64-building area — bounded by East 79th Street to the south and East 91st Street to the north — marks the second phase of a plan to secure landmark designation for Park Avenue from East 62nd to 96th streets, according to preservation group Friends of the Upper East Side.

The blocks from 62nd to 79th streets are already protected as a part of the Upper East Side Historic District, while a small section from 91st to 94th streets is is a part of the Carnegie Hill Historic District.

“I’m very happy with the decision to designate the streets on Park between 79th and 86th Street,” said Michelle Birnbaum, president and founder of the group Historic Park Avenue. “We’ve worked a long time and are thrilled with the result.”

Upper Park Avenue, like lower Park Avenue, is defined by mid-rise residential buildings constructed during the 1910s and '20s.  Many of the buildings were designed by major architects including J.E.R. Carpenter and Rosario Candela, famous for shaping some of the Upper West and Upper East Side’s most iconic avenues.

In a statement following the designation, the LPC noted Park Avenue's width and landscaped medians that give it "a unique appearance and character, contributing to its lasting identity as a prominent residential address."

The area also includes two turn-of-the-century church complexes known for their architectural beauty. St. Ignatius Loyola, at Park Avenue and 84th Street, was built in 1898 and declared an individual landmark in 1969. Park Avenue Christian Church at Park Avenue and 85th Street was constructed in 1911 and modeled after La Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

Local activists started to work on getting the area designated in 2010, arguing that the northern stretch of Park Avenue had the same historical, cultural and architectural significance as the section that had already been landmarked.

While activists were happy with the Landmark Commission’s overall decision, they were disappointed in some of the exceptions that the commission ultimately carved out of the proposed district.

The LPC declined to landmark the stretch between 94th to 96th streets because the buildings on those blocks are of a different style and period than the rest of the district. In addition, the LPC allowed the former parish house of the Park Avenue Christian Church, which was partially torn down and replaced in 1963, to be designated without a specific style. This could leave the site open to development.

“We very much regret that part of Park Avenue Christian Church has not been included with a style,” said Tara Kelly of the Friends of the Upper East Side. “Any building determined to not have a style can be greatly altered or even demolished.”

Extell Development purchased the parish house from the church last year with plans to create a large residential building on the site, The Real Deal reported last year. A “no-style” designation may make it easier for Extell to demolish the building.   

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