February 22, 2018
Historic Districts Council
Statement on Proposed Inwood Rezoning
Manhattan Community Board 12 Public Hearing
The Historic Districts Council is the citywide advocate for New York’s historic neighborhoods. We work with over 500 community-based groups citywide and in 2011, we selected Inwood as one of our priority neighborhoods for our Six to Celebrate program. This program spotlights six different neighborhoods each year and our professional staff works closely with the communities to achieve their various community preservation goals. That year, with our assistance, the Volunteers for Isham Park, a local community group, completed a comprehensive survey of the neighborhood to document its built environment. This survey was subsequently shared with both the LPC and the Economic Development Corporation(EDC). Since then, we have monitored change in the area and have advocated for the preservation of the Packard Showroom, a 1926 auto showroom designed by the auto industry architect Albert Kahn; and this past year supported the Volunteers for Isham Park’s Request for Evaluation to the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) for an Inwood Historic District. We remain fully committed to this effort, and remind the EDC that historic preservation is an integral part of any comprehensive planning process.
As the Inwood Rezoning Proposal carefully acknowledges, the built character of Inwood remains largely intact from when it was first developed. This development occurred in a short period of time; the building boom in this area began with the arrival of the IRT subway in 1906 and lasted until the early 1930s after the IND Broadway line opened in 1932. The neighborhood is typified by a mix of primarily residential buildings of uniform heights, varying from tenements to middle class apartment buildings of different styles reflecting the respective styles of their period. There is a particularly distinctive collection of Art Deco apartment buildings, noted for being the highest concentration of this style outside of Miami Beach.
Despite this high level of neighborhood integrity, Inwood only has two designated landmarks: the Cloisters and the Dyckman House, neither of which particularly represent the current neighborhood. The blocks west of Tenth Avenue, as the Zoning Proposal correctly acknowledges, have a strong sense of place because of their historic streetscapes with uniform street walls. While this Proposal seeks to keep certain areas of the neighborhood intact via contextual zoning, the strongest land use tool to disincentivize the demolition of existing fabric is to create an historic district. Inwood has several meritorious blocks that are more than deserving of landmark status, and we are disappointed that landmarking was starkly absent from the Proposal, aside from consulting with the LPC for potential archaeologically sensitive areas.
HDC has been attending and participating in other city rezoning areas alongside the LPC, notably in Gowanus and Bushwick, Brooklyn, as the agency has stated it is interested in “areas of change [rezoning]”, a directive which is also recommended by the City Council’s 2016 Report, “Landmarks for the Future: Learning from 50 Years of Preservation”. There is no reason why Inwood should not be considered in a similar fashion and it is prudent preservation practice to survey and protect the extant historic resources in the earliest possible states of the planning process.