Tuesday, September 7, 2010

☞ WALK: Columbia Demolishes Brownstone Block

There was a lot of news in the past year on trying to rescue the row of brownstones at 408, 410 and 412 West 115th Street (just east of Amsterdam) from demolition by Columbia University and the follow-up to the story doesn't end well. It seemed every public official and organization stepped up to plead with the university to reconsider and save the oldest residential brownstones in Morningside Heights. Preservation establishments such as the New York State Historic Preservation Office, Landmark West!, The Committee to Protect the Upper West Side, the New York Landmarks Conservancy and the Historic Districts Council all pushed for saving the buildings.

Not only were there preservationist united in the cause, city and local politicians seemed to have come together on this one also. The names among the many included Borough President Scott Stringer, State Assembly member Daniel O’Donnell, State Senator Bill Perkins, City Council Member Inez E. Dickens and Representative Charles Rangel, along with all of Community Board 9 and hundreds of signatures on signed petitions that went out.

The above current photos now show an empty lot of the finish project since demolition started on the buildings back in June. So what's planned for the site of this empty Columbia-owned parcel of land? It turns out that there's actually nothing designated for the future of this now empty lot on the residential sides street. The buildings were taken down "to prevent further deterioration." Read more in the Historic District Council article: LINK


  1. I will never get over the absolute arrogance of those with deep pockets & influence. Its amazing! Just amazing that this happened inspite of the protestations of politicians & preservationists. But where was the surrounding community? Where was the collective outrage?

    What has happened to people? Is there something in the water that prevents people from making a move? One fears for the soul of New York in general but Harlem in particular. Its becoming the manifestation of Giuliani's dream; a haven for the rich. Its so sterile here now. There isn't any underground life or demi-monde anymore. Those buildings could have been saved!

  2. wow, this is a pretty sad note to start the week on :( hope they build something cool i guess?

  3. Touche', Greg.
    Hopefully this will be the wake-up call for next time.

  4. The buildings were tenements. Not brownstones. I hope some better building type goes up though. Something with light and air.

  5. Those buildings were really not that remarkable or interesting. Just because a building is old doesn't mean it is historic or worth saving. Tons of examples of this specific architecture still exist so there was nothing particularly notable about these. Cities should evolve architecturally, of course while maintaining some aspects of the past, or else they stagnate and become uninteresting. No tears shed from me for these specific buildings. Sorry.

    1. I really resent your comments, having grown up in one of these buildings. The interiors were truly unique (people would die for an apt like that these days) and there was even a fantastic ad on the side of the building advertising these buildings. They were in fact one of the first "tall" buildings in this area. The most bitter part of my experience was the level of ugly tactics, harassment and intimidation Columbia used to get all of the tenants out. It was very stressful for everyone.

  6. I would tend to come down in support of CU's right to build what they want on their property. As others have pointed out, these buildings weren't all that special, and the city needs to grow and evolve over time.

    Just about any change will arouse some amount of resistance from folks who may or may not have a real stake in the matter. But given the amount of public opposition to this demolition, one might have hoped Columbia would at least have been able to articulate the alternative it is pursuing here.

    Ironically, it wouldn't surprise me if the community opposition actually led CU to demolish the buildings before they had intended -- perhaps even solidifying their decision not to retain them -- in order to preserve their prerogative and freedom to act in the future.

  7. The Spectator has an update on this:

  8. **a reminder that USER NAMES are needed for comments to stay permanent on current threads.