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Contextual Zoning will help prevent the invasion of outsized towers that we're already seeing adjacent to Trinity Cemetery.

Community Board 12 Manhattan
Land Use Committee
 Meeting

Wednesday, December 6, 2023
7:00 PM Eastern Time
(US and Canada)

To register for meetings via Zoom, use this link:https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_NkK0Iqc8SGi1HxgTntzZ3A

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

In response to Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine’s recent report Housing Manhattanites,” Community Board 12's Land Use Committee is reviewing rezoning options for the area west of Broadway between 155th and 165th Streets.

 

Currently, it is zoned R-8, which has no height limits and encourages the invasion of outsized towers like those we're already seeing adjacent to Trinity Cemetery on the south and planned for West 158th Street and 857 Riverside Drive.

As noted in the Borough President’s plan, rezoning this area to R8B, would provide contextual zoning in keeping with the neighborhood’s existing built environment.

 

Along with that, however, the Borough President is proposing a mixed-use rezoning for the commercial corridor between 155th and 158th Streets that would raise the allowable height for those buildings.

 

The Land Use (LU) Committee needs community input on these proposals and support for its recommendations.

 

CB12’s Land Use Committee usually meets the first Wednesday of each month at 7:00 p.m.

 

Please mark these meetings on your calendar and plan to attend as often as possible. If you can only join for part of the meeting, you can still send a message to the committee via chat, registering your opinion and support.  

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, through its African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, announced $3.8 million in grant funding to 40 sites and organizations representing African American history. 

New to this year’s list is a targeted focus on conserving Modernist structures designed by Black architects.

 

Eight historic structures will receive $1.2M to help advance long-term preservation planning. This funding is part of the Conserving Black Modernism partnership led by the Action Fund with support from the Getty Foundation. 

The preservation of Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) across the country is also a focus of this year’s grant announcement. Through the Action Fund’s HBCU Cultural Heritage Stewardship Initiative, six HBCUs will receive nearly $700,000 in funding to ensure the protection of their cultural assets. 

These often-overlooked places hold aspects of history that must be protected—and used to draw inspiration and wisdom for the benefit of all Americans. 

As our nation honors Emancipation and Juneteenth, the Action Fund asks the public to learn more about these sites, and read how they will use the funds to make certain the full American story is told.

 

FIND OUT THE 2023 GRANTEES

 

The Action Fund is the largest U.S. resource dedicated to the preservation of African American historic places. Since its inception in 2017, the Action Fund has supported 242 places through its National Grant Program and invested more than $20 million to help preserve landscapes and buildings imbued with Black life, humanity, and cultural heritage. 

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The Upper Riverside Residents Alliance congratulates Michael Henry Adams on being awarded the Columbia University Preservation Alumni's 2023 Preservation Leadership Award. 

 

Individually and as an organization, we are delighted that the Columbia University Preservation Alumni have recognized his many years of work as a preservationist and tireless advocate for Harlem's rich architectural treasures and cultural history.

 

We are grateful to him for his continued support in our efforts in northern Manhattan, particularly in the ongoing struggle to preserve 857 Riverside Drive, the only surviving structure associated with a group of abolitionists active in northern Manhattan in the decade before the Civil War.

Our History Matters.

The Abolitionist House at 857 Riverside Drive is in imminent danger of being demolished.

Please help preserve it as an educational center focused on the Abolitionist movement and the continuing fight for equality and social justice in the United States.

Now, more than ever, we must work together to ensure we understand, teach, and preserve basic rights and freedoms for all.

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How It Started:

Sometimes all it takes is a little digging.

Upper Riverside Residents Alliance & 
The Harris/Newhouse Home

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A small group of Washington Heights neighbors learned that lesson in August 2020, when we formed the Upper Riverside Residents Alliance, unified by our concern for a small wood-frame house at 857 Riverside Drive, and the news that it was about to be bulldozed.

​A developer who had purchased the house had applied for a demolition permit and won preliminary approval to replace this two-story, single-family home with a 13-story apartment tower—more than twice as high as any building nearby—jammed with 46 mini condominium units.

 

A little digging revealed that one of the project’s developers appears regularly on the Public Advocate’s Worst Landlords Watchlist, having racked up an average of nearly 500 open HPD (Department of Housing Preservation and Development) violations in 2019, and 620 in 2020.

We knew from a 1937 photograph by Berenice Abbott that the house, built in the Greek Revival–Italianate style, once boasted a wraparound porch and a cupola, and we hoped it might be restored.

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Built in 1851, it was part of a little-known colony of abolitionists in northern Manhattan, then an area of woods and farmland.

 

Its first owner, Dennis Harris, was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and at the center of a well-documented fugitive slave escape when he lived in lower Manhattan.

 

After being suspended by his downtown Methodist church for anti-slavery preaching, the minister and entrepreneur moved his family, his business and his abolitionist fervor uptown.

In Washington Heights, he and his friend John Newhouse, who bought the home from Harris and lived there with his family for decades, established abolitionist churches in the area.

 

They also built and ran a sugar refinery, pier and steamboat line.

 

Harris had used his downtown refinery to smuggle escaped slaves to freedom.

Historians say the uptown refinery, steamboat and this house, too, so close to the river in a sparsely populated area, were likely used in further Underground Railroad activities.

 

In Upper Manhattan, where abolitionism is not thought to have flourished, little history — particularly little African-American history — has been recognized and preserved.

 

The house at
857 Riverside Drive
is the last surviving
remnant of this
explosive chapter
in the story
of New York.

Today, the Harris-Newhouse home is a symbol of our community — a tolerant and diverse place that remains one of the few affordable, livable, and relatively low-rise neighborhoods in Manhattan.

 

The destruction of the Harris-Newhouse home, and its replacement by a 13-story sliver tower, would be a 135-foot-high assault on our community, casting a literal and figurative shadow on the diversity that is our neighborhood’s pride.

 

It would give the green light to high-rise development all along our stretch of the Hudson River, and eradicate the memory of the brave residents who helped transform the area into the vibrant corner of the city it is today.

So we’re digging in.

 

THIS HOUSE,
THIS HISTORY,
AND THIS COMMUNITY
ARE WORTH SAVING.

We invite you to follow along with
Josette Bailey at our newest page:

THE

WORDS FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE URRA

Eric K. Washington

Manhattan's historic
Former Colored School No. 4,
at 128 West 17th Street
is the topic of Streetscapes
in The New York Times.

LINK TO ARTICLE.

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See petition for overview: 
https://chng.it/ZWn5bqh7

On February 14, 2023, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to calendar a public hearing in the coming months for Manhattan's former "Colored" School No. 4 on West 17th Street.

 

Calendaring is the first step in the designation process; how apropos that yesterday was both Valentine's Day and Frederick Douglass's birthday!

 

Thank you all for your outflow of support through letters, petition signatures, reportage and general encouragement up to this juncture.

 

The last hoorah will be the schoolhouse's official landmark designation.

 

If you'd like to watch yesterday's LPC proceeding (approx. 15 mins), here's the link:
Cue [00:00 - 17:12] – https://www.youtube.com/live/H4yg4A2i99o?feature=share.

Eric K. Washington

AUTHOR

THE MARCH OF PROGRESS HAS NOT BEEN KIND TO CULTURAL LANDMARKS RELEVANT TO PERSONS OF COLOR IN UPPER MANHATTAN.

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Sites related to abolitionists and the Underground Railroad are rare in New York, and this historically Greek Revival–Italianate house is arguably the only one known to survive north of 96t​h​ Street in Manhattan.

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TO LEARN ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE ABOLITIONIST HOUSE AND NEIGHBORHOOD,
READ THE
 PROPOSAL TO EXPAND THE Audubon Park Historic District.

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UPPER RIVERSIDE RESIDENTS ALLIANCE
(Save Riverside) is a GRASSROOTS ORGANIZATION DEDICATED TO PRESERVING OUR ARCHITECTURAL, HISTORICAL, & CULTURAL HERITAGE IN WASHINGTON HEIGHTS.

For our Introduction PDF, link to the HDC Audubon Park booklet, and team bios: ABOUT US.

Upper Riverside
Residents Alliance


OFFICERS
Josette Bailey, President
Vivian Ducat, Vice President
Matthew Spady, Treasurer
Mitch Mondello, Secretary

DIRECTORS
Joe Amodio
David Freeland
Peter Green

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