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New iPhone App Helps Activists Save Historic Buildings

By Leslie Albrecht | December 21, 2010 3:17pm | Updated on December 21, 2010 4:46pm

By Leslie Albrecht

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER WEST SIDE — Call it the mobile rabble rouser.

A new iPhone app walking tour of the Upper West Side not only showcases historic buildings, it tells users how to leap into action to save threatened structures.

The app, developed for Upper West Side preservation group Landmark West!, is available for free at the iTunes store.

With photos, text and fun facts, it guides users on a tour of 35 historic Upper West Side sites from the legendary Dakota apartment building to the American Museum of Natural History.

The app also looks to capitalize on the activist impulses of Upper West Siders. If a user passes a historic building that could be torn down, for example, a red bubble pops up on the screen and prods users with: "Don't just stand there, do something!"

If they tap on the bubble, they're guided to Landmark West!'s blog, where they'll find specific action steps, such as signing a petition or speaking out at a public hearing, said Landmark West! executive director Kate Wood.

The app is updated whenever Landmark West! embarks on a new advocacy campaign, so users can stay up to the minute on neighborhood preservation issues, Wood said.

The 25-year-old nonprofit Landmark West! recently led efforts to landmark West-Park Presbyterian Church on West 86th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, and organized against a plan to install bubble roofs over tennis courts in Central Park.

Landmark West! won the first round on the tennis court fight, but Wood said she expects the controversy to bubble up again. The iPhone app is one way to keep residents informed about the latest developments, she said.

"[The app] can be just looking at pretty buildings if that's what you want to do, but it gives them the opportunity beyond that to get more involved," Wood said.

"People are looking for ways that they can make the world a better place and this is a simple way to do that, to get involved with a neighborhood that you care about and you think matters."