Vote Yes on Manhattan's West End Historic Districts
NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
West End Preservation Society
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On Nov 16, 2010, the Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously voted to place the proposed West End Avenue Study Area on its calendar for public hearings. I thank Chairman Tierney and the LPC for creating the WEA study area and, for the reasons below, now urge the LPC to vote in favor of all three proposed historic districts in their entirety. In addition to its critical preservation work, the LPC's protection increases the value of property both in and around designated areas and neighborhoods.
West End Avenue is lined primarily with Pre-War apartment buildings of unified height; most are approximately twelve to fifteen stories. These buildings were erected in the 1910's and 1920's by a small group of acclaimed architects specializing in apartment-house construction in that era. Historic townhouses that predate the construction of 1910 1920 are spread intermittently between some of these unified apartment buildings. As described in a recent New York Times article discussing the movement to preserve the avenue, "since the 1920's, West End has presented the same sleepy procession of ornamented brick and limestone 15-story apartment buildings, with an occasional townhouse from the 1890's."- Alex Mindlin "A Bid to Shield a Row of Sturdy Soldiers" NY Times May 18, 2008.
Even when West End Avenue was first being developed, the Avenue seemed unique. In 1888, an organization called the West End Association declared that "West End Avenue, alone of all city avenues, has a chance of remaining a site of private residences exclusively and permanently." - Robert Stern, Thomas Mellins and David Fishman "New York 1880- Architecture and Urbanism in the Gilded Age" Monacelli Press, New York 1999 p. 759.
The cross streets intersecting West End Avenue between Riverside Drive and Broadway deserve similar protection and historic district status. For example, West 86th Street with its graceful and majestic buildings, including the Gilbert Brownstones, shares the unique uniformity of aesthetics, architectural history and cultural character of the buildings identified by Columbia University Professor Andrew Dolkart in his impressive survey of West End Avenue.
In a 2008 letter to Mayor Bloomberg, the nine elected officials representing the proposed historic district expressed support for an extended West End Avenue Historic District, stating that this "cohesive appearance" has faced increased demolition and new construction that would result in an "uneven aesthetic." Indeed, two brownstones have already been demolished on West End Avenue and 96th Street, and two more at 86th Street. Additionally, two more are at risk between 84th and 85th St, 508 and 510 WEA. As well, a number of buildings on West 86th Street are desperately in need of protection by historic district designation, including the century old C.P.H. Gilbert Brownstones located at 272278 West 86th Street and a townhouse located at 330 West 86th Street.
For these reasons, I support the landmark designation of the three proposed West End Avenue historic districts. I urge the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission to find West End Avenue and the neighboring cross streets worthy of a landmark preservation designation as a Historic District.