Friday, September 17, 2010

☞ MEET: Landmarks Reviews Morningside District

Monday, September 20th, 6:00 PM at Riverside Church, Room 10-T (entrance located at 91 Claremont Avenue). Assembly Member Daniel O'donnell's office has been sending out notices about the big meeting with the Landmarks Preservation Commission this coming Monday on the proposed Morningside Heights Historic District. LPC has recently extended historic neighborhoods in Brooklyn, the West Village and the Upper West Side so it's about time they focus more on the neighborhoods above 110th Street.

Monday's meeting will have LPC provide information to homeowners and is one of several initial steps on possibly getting the district set up based on feedback. These meetings will also influence the size of the district which could include more than the above map if there is enough interest (double click map to enlarge). The formal request for the designation started back in 1996 and it looks like things might be happening sooner than later. Read more in last year's New York Times: LINK . This one is also important for Central Harlem since the extended Mount Morris Park Historic District has been on the table for years and LPC seems to be making their rounds this year.


  1. Color me skeptical, but to me this just smacks of an effort to hem in Columbia and to hold down the local supply of housing for the (short-sighted) benefit of incumbent property owners.

    Why don't we "landmark" the entire city? It would be difficult to argue that there isn't enough historical significance to be found on just about every corner.

    Presumably that will be the endpoint of this inexorably creeping process. I can't say I'm looking forward to being entombed in a giant, open-air (and non-smoking) museum of 19th-20th century urban life.

  2. Columbia long ago realized that their Morningside Campus was hemmed in by reality not by a historic district. How else do you explain the fact that absent a historic district the bulk of their expansion is occurring in Manhattanville and Upper Manhattan not Morningside Heights.

    To equate the architecture of Grant's Tomb, Riverside Church, The Cathedral of St. John the Divine to name a few of the world class landmarks in Morningside Height with what can be found "on just about every corner" is just silly as is the notion that you'll be entombed in "19th- 20th century urban life" given all of the current development in Harlem and Manhattanville that Harlem Bespoke documents so well.

  3. Brad, don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying Morningside Heights (which I love) is not worthy of the designation. My issue is more with the concept of a landmark "district" itself, and their potentially inexorable spread across the city.

    For instance, I would fully support the landmarking of the great sites you mention -- however I'm guessing that's already been done. What I'm not so sure about is "landmarking" large swathes of Manhattan. We're talking about the core of the most dense and vital urban center in the nation. It's not Colonial Williamsburg.

    As for Columbia, the "reality" that hems them in is acquisition cost, given the premium they end up paying for most any property along their periphery. Jumping up to Mahattanville made sense for a lot of reasons, but acquisition cost is certainly the main one.

    It seems to me that a wide-ranging historic district serves as just another point of leverage to benefit incumbent property owners at the expense of any developer that might otherwise wish to invest in the neighborhood (not only Columbia).

    I agree that right now there is quite a bit of development going on elsewhere in Harlem. However, I'm not sure what (if anything) actually stands in the way of the whole area being "landmarked," river to river. It's certainly historic. No doubt there would be a significant level of political support for such a decision as well.

    Maybe that's not about to happen overnight, but what assurance does anyone have that we are not on an incremental glide path to reach the same endpoint?