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Inwood Preservation Group Takes Steps Toward Historic District

By Carla Zanoni | April 27, 2011 8:58am

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

INWOOD — A community group that recently won Inwood the distinction of being identified as a historical place of interest is seeking input from neighbors to begin the process of getting part of the neighborhood named a historic district.

The group is beginning its work after being selected one of the Historic Districts Council's "Six to Celebrate," the preservation group's program intended to help preserve historical architecture and throughout the city.

Longtime Inwood resident Pat Courtney and member of the Volunteers for Isham Park group, which applied for the program, hopes to protect Inwood's greatest treasures.

"Inwood needs to discover what it has before it is lost," Courtney wrote in an email. "Virtually no protections exist for the many historic structures and the beautiful view corridors in our area.

The group has already identified the Park Terrace section of Inwood and nearby Isham and Inwood Hill parks as one area of interest as they are sections rich in history and were created in part through a land donation from the Isham family who once lived in a mansion atop the land.

According to Courtney, Julia Isham Taylor donated the land for use as a park "to give green space to the residents of the newly developed buildings," in Inwood, which began popping up shortly after the Dyckman subway station was built in 1906.

Historical areas such as this will be documented with help by the HDC, which will assist the group to create a written history of the neighborhood.

"Even if a district is never created," Courtney said, "the process of detailed historic description of the built environment will be of benefit to the community of Inwood, Manhattan and the City of New York."

Six neighborhoods — which also include the Bowery and Morris Park in Manhattan; Bedford Stuyvesant and Gowanus in Brooklyn; and Jackson Heights in Queens — were selected from applications submitted by community organizations and were based on the "architectural and historic merit of the area, the level of threat to the neighborhood, strength and willingness of the local advocates, and potential for HDC's preservation support to be meaningful," according to the group.

Although many voiced excitement at naming part of Inwood a historical district, some said the idea may only add unnecessary hurdles for development and will force current landowners to incur new costs in caring for their possibly landmarked homes.

Courtney said she and the group recognize the potential "downsides to this sort of study," but said the benefits make it worth it.

"Those do not out weigh the loss of the history we have been entrusted with and are still privileged to see all around us," she said.

The Volunteers for Isham Park will meet on Saturday, April 30, at the Inwood Public Library at 4790 Broadway, from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. For more information contact volunteersforishampark@gmail.com.