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LPC Votes to Add More Than 300 Buildings to UWS Historic District

By Emily Frost | June 23, 2015 4:24pm | Updated on June 23, 2015 7:22pm
 The commission approved the final extension, which includes P.S. 75. 
LPC Approves Riverside-West End Historic District Extension II
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CITY HALL — The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission approved an extension to the neighborhood's historic district along West End Avenue and Riverside Drive Tuesday — a move that landmarks more than 300 additional buildings.

This extension — which landmarks all of Riverside Drive and West End Avenue from West 94th Street to West 108th Street — will also include P.S. 75.

The decision to include the school surprised local residents who had expected otherwise.

In April, LPC officials told members of the local preservationist group West End Preservation Society (WEPS) that the elementary school at West 96th Street and West End Avenue would not be covered by the extension.

To the relief of advocates and elected officials who feared the school was ripe for development if not landmarked, the commission reversed that decision Tuesday. The school sits along West End Avenue, and excluding it would disrupt the uniform nature of the street, LPC commissioners said. 

The entire Riverside-West End Historic District now runs from West 70th Street to West 108th Street and includes parts of Broadway, large sections of Riverside Drive and all of West End Avenue — more than 1,200 buildings altogether, said LPC Chairwoman Meenakshi Srinivasan.

Two previous extensions passed through LPC in 2012 and in 2013, representing years of advocacy work by WEPS, according to local residents and elected officials. 

"I'm relieved; I'm very grateful," said WEPS Executive Director Josette Amato, who added she was disappointed parts of Broadway in the West 90s and West 100s were not also included as part of Tuesday's vote. 

In October 2011, the public weighed in on the overall extension plan during a public hearing at LPC in which 50 buildings on the west side of Broadway were also included as part of the district. 

But on Tuesday, LPC researcher Lisa Keresavage explained that Broadway buildings are not included because the new buildings on the avenue "create an uneven streetscape" and represent a "lack of cohesion" on the avenue.

The decision is viewed as "a gift to developers," said neighborhood advocate Batya Lewton. 

"In recent years the cohesive appearance of the corridor has faced threats of new, inappropriate construction and development," said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal in a letter to Srinivasan urging the LPC to include the stretches of Broadway that were originally part of the proposed district. 

City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal also wrote to Srinivasan urging the LPC to include parts of Broadway and P.S. 75.

In addition to excluding all of Broadway between West 94th Street and 108th street, the LPC also did not include three tenement buildings along West 96th Street and a playground adjacent to P.S. 75 in the extension.

The decision to exclude the tenements and the playground drew loud hisses at Tuesday's hearing from residents worried that a large development could be built right next to the school. 

However, LPC researcher Lisa Keresavage said the buildings on West 96th Street between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive "do not contribute to the historic district’s sense of place." 

While the LPC did not include Broadway in the extension, commissioners voiced a desire to landmark the streets in the future. 

"This can mark a beginning for advocates and the commission to think about Broadway and to start to think about language for its designation," said LPC Commissioner Adi Shamir-Baron. 

The LPC's vote will take effect immediately, a spokeswoman said. The City Council now has 120 days to modify or disapprove the extension. If it does not act, the extension will be upheld as is, she said. 

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