Protecting Neighborhood Character
New York is a living city which grows, shifts and even moves around. Encouraging sustainable, appropriate growth and investment in the city is a principal concern of HDC and ensuring that New York’s landmarks and historic neighborhoods continue to flourish and serve as sound foundations of New York’s future is a key part of that.
New York is a city of neighborhoods, each one different but connected to each other through the lifelines of streets, subways and, most importantly, people. Because New York is a dense urban space, a person can pass through many areas each day, living in one, shopping in another and working in a third, each with their own character and distinct sense of place. The physical character of each community both informs and enriches our experience of being, even if we do not consciously notice it. Sunnyside Gardens is not Brooklyn Heights which is not Tribeca and no one could ever confuse them. This is why it’s important to pay attention to the physical changes that occur in the neighborhoods and, when possible, to guide them towards enhancing the character of the place rather than diminishing it.
Public Review Committee
HDC is the only preservation organization that attends and presents testimony at every public hearing. HDC’s Public Review committee meets weekly to review each application presented to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Every year, the LPC deliberates on over 400 proposals for building alterations, additions and new construction in historic districts. HDC’s committee views the plans before the public meeting, where the applications are formally introduced, in order to prepare testimony in favor of or against certain aspects of the proposals. The testimony is published on our website each week along with pictures of the proposals. You can read the testimony at HDC@LPC.
Follow our weekly posts at HDC@LPC to learn how HDC promotes good design in historic neighborhoods.
HDC regularly performs survey work of historic neighborhoods meriting protection, and sometimes contracts consultants to help with survey work on behalf of neighborhood groups. Over the past several years, HDC has been surveying and compiling a list of all existing libraries constructed with funds donated by Andrew Carnegie in New York City. The objective of this list will be to place these buildings on the National Register of Historic Places in order to provide a better awareness of these important public buildings as well as providing a measure of protection for them. For more information about this initiative, click here.
In 2008, HDC surveyed Addisleigh Park, a suburban neighborhood in Southeast Queens with a rich cultural and entertainment history, and it was successfully designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in February 2011. To learn more about Addisleigh Park, click here.
Recently, HDC has worked to document buildings that will be impacted by the city’s 2013 proposed East Midtown rezoning. HDC has surveyed the proposed area in order to identify historic buildings that deserve individual landmark designation. For more information about the East Midtown Rezoning, click here.
Open Space Preservation
One component of preserving neighborhood character is protecting the open spaces that provide the crucial context for historic streetscapes and the necessary voids in the city’s built environment. HDC has worked with a number of neighborhoods seeking to preserve their open space as well as built environments. HDC chose as one of our 2012 Six to Celebrate communities, the Port Morris Gantries in The Bronx. A group of neighborhood leaders, the Friends of Brook Park, seek to create a new park that incorporates the dramatic Port Morris gantries, originally a familiar element in the industrial history of community and East River waterfront commerce. To learn more about this effort, click here.
In 2012, the HDC annual preservation conference addressed a variety of issues surrounding the preservation of open space and designed landscapes, ranging from preserving historic open space such Lincoln Center to the critical role of back yards and gardens in NYC brownstone neighborhoods. To read more about the conference, click here.
A recent HDC initiative involving open space preservation is our involvement in a lawsuit against the New York University 2031 expansion plan. Preservation advocates and the local communities are strongly against the development of the site in part because it will encroach upon the open space from which the site currently benefits and which are a crucial element of Washington Square Village, a recognized historic resource.