The West End Preservation Society could only save two of the buildings it had hoped for, but an entire neighborhood has been preserved in the process.
Back in 2007, a clutch of concerned citizens living on West End Avenue were dismayed to learn that two pairs of brownstones were bound for the wrecking ball, to be replaced by the sliver buildings much in vogue in Manhattan’s narrow upper reaches over the past decade. The houses at 732 and 734 West End Avenue are currently being demolished, but 508 and 510 West End Avenue survive, and likely will for some time thanks to the efforts of the society. The LPC is now preparing to finalize plans for a new, expansive historic district—lobbied for by the preservation group—running the length of West End Avenue from 70th Street to 109th Street. The result will be two-miles of almost uniterrupted pre-war grandeur.
The commission recently sent out letters to affected property owners notifying them of a September 15 informational meeting at P.S. 75 (located in the district-to-be at 735 West End Avenue). Such meetings are typically a precursor to “calendaring” a project, when it officially enters public review, a step that is now expected by October or November. Commission spokeswoman Elisabeth de Bourbon said a final map of the proposed district will be released at next month’s meeting, and it will include 745 new buildings—large by most historic district standards, though the Upper West Side already boasts some 2,035 landmarked buildings.
Technically, the commission will not be creating one new district but expanding five that line West End Avenue. Though the result will be one contiguous stretch of landmarks, de Bourbon said the idea was to group them in a way that would honor the individual character of each district, “its history and its rhythms.” By expanding the existing districts, the commission will also protect more buildings on the side streets, further what many consider one of the most pristine stretches of pre-war architecture in the city.