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URRA RFE SUBMITTED TO LANDMARKS PRESERVATION COMMISSION

Here is a synopsis:

After months of research and writing, the Upper Riverside Residents Alliance submitted a Request for Evaluation to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in July 2021, asking for an expansion of the Audubon Park Historic District, which is one of very few landmarked districts in Upper Manhattan and one of the smallest in all of New York City.

 

Our proposed expansion will enhance the current district of 19 buildings by adding 41 more, including row houses, apartment buildings, and 857 Riverside Drive, the oldest, continuously occupied wood-frame structure in Upper Manhattan, which sits at the architectural and cultural heart of the neighborhood, and has ties to abolitionism and the Underground Railroad.

 

The original district, which stretches along Riverside Drive from West 155th to 158th Street, is in many ways a mirror-image of the proposed extension area, which would include a portion of West 158th Street, and Riverside from 158th to 162nd Streets. As our report to the Landmarks Commission explains, the current historic district is like half of a book, and only tells half the story—architecturally, culturally and historically—of this fascinating neighborhood, as it developed from rural farmland to suburb to the bustling and vibrant community that exists on these blocks today.

 

The report, written by URRA members Matthew Spady and Joseph V. Amodio, includes compelling details about both the architectural development of the area, and its remarkable and long history of diversity and racial inclusivity, starting with a little-known abolitionist colony that thrived in the area in the years preceding the Civil War; continuing through the early 20th century, when the neighborhood drew a surprisingly diverse cluster of homeowners; to the 1960s and ‘70s, when a group of African-American families helped revive and restore a group of homes here.

 

Notable residents of the extension area range from Underground Railroad member Dennis Harris and abolitionist ally John Newhouse, to David N. Dinkins, New York’s first African-American mayor. The neighborhood has also been home to Colombia-born female advertising pioneer Aminta Gomes Casseres, legendary Czech-born operetta composer Rudolf Friml, Australian-born concert pianist (and future Juilliard dean) Edward Hutcheson, physicist and Manhattan Project leader Kenneth Bainbridge, jazz great Ron Carter, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer Nedra Talley Ross (of the 1960s group the Ronettes), comedy superstars Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, and current local legend Maria Luna, the first person of Dominican extraction to serve as a Democratic district leader.

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