Upper Riverside Residents Alliance: Introduction Book

The URRA Introduction Book is now available as a PDF:


Historic Districts Council: Audubon Park

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The beginnings of the community now known as Audubon Park date back to 1841, when John James Audubon purchased fourteen acres and built a large mansion along the Hudson River shortly after publishing his famous work, Birds of America.

You may view this booklet by the Historic Districts Council here.


From the presidency of Save Chelsea in her former neighborhood, to the presidency of the Upper Riverside Residents Alliance/Save Riverside, native New Yorker Lesley Doyel has discovered that she’s an incurable preservationist.


Growing up during the 1950s and 1960s in the oldest house in the Chelsea Historic District, Lesley developed a deep love of history, but also witnessed the demolition of many historic structures, including the original Pennsylvania Station, in the days before the existence of the NYC Landmarks Law passed in 1965.

Upstate, Lesley is President of the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society and is Co-Chair of the recently formed Historic Preservation Committee, both in Copake, NY.


Lesley is proud of her involvement in numerous preservation efforts, including the designation of Tin Pan Alley (2020), and the Hopper Gibbons House UGRR Site (2009), the later in many ways foreshadowing her current involvement in the effort to save the 1851 abolitionist house at 857 Riverside Drive.

Graduating in 1976 from NYU with a degree in art history, Lesley’s long career as a teacher actually began in Washington Heights in the Education Department of the Cloisters Museum.


Further experience as an educator included many years at Parsons School of Design as Coordinator of the Integrated Art History Curriculum, work for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Dahesh and Skyscraper Museums.


Lesley now teaches a class for kids from second to fifth grades called Hands On History at PS11 in Chelsea. In addition to exploring local neighborhood history, the class emphasizes the importance of historic preservation through landmark protections and adaptive reuse.

Since 2014, Lesley and her family have lived in the Audubon Park neighborhood of Washington Heights, N.Y.C. 


Josette Bailey was born in the village of Harlem on March 12th 1954 to attorneys Joseph Arthur Bailey, and Helen Alexandra Gordon Bailey. She is the oldest of three children, and the only girl. Her family lived in both Manhattan, and the Bronx, moving every so often to satisfy both her father’s wanderlust, and her mother’s desire never to leave New York City.

Her parents had a law office near the Apollo Theater in the 1960-1970’s and Josette recalls watching the street action of West 125th Street, and listening to the iconic soundtrack of Motown emanating from the theater.

The family moved to 630 West 158th Street (one of the houses included in Save West 158th Street) and lived there for more than fifty years.

She has seen many incarnations of the Audubon Park Historic District from genteel, to cracked out, to gentrified.

She attended both public, and private schools, and is a proud alumna of the Nightingale Bamford School, and provincially attached Native New Yorker.


Josette attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY where she majored in English Literature.


She earned a Masters degree from the Gallatin School at NYU in Inter-disciplinary Studies.

Josette has worked in theater as both an actor and playwright.

She was a religious educator for the Unitarian Universalists, at the Fourth Universalist Society and worked as a program administrator for the YMCA of Greater New York, amongst the many other jobs that she has held.

Josette is currently a student at the Harlem Family Institute, studying to become a NY State licensed psychoanalyst. She is acutely aware of the pathology of the American personality, and the failed nature of the American dream. She knows that many people, if not all of us, are in pain, and is angry that much of the pain of Native people, Black Americans, and other people of color is aggravated, and intensified by the on-going systemic nature of racism, and oppression, which is endemic to this society.

She observes that the failure to landmark historically, and culturally significant communities in Northern Manhattan is but another iteration of that peculiar American disease – a disease that constantly manifests as a failure to recognize the historic contributions, and the beauty of place of certain communities.

She asks, and invites all people who find the URRA website, and reads its contents to join us in the fight to save 857 Riverside Drive and West 158th Street.


The son of an architect and librarian, both passionate about history, Matthew Spady was exposed to architectural preservation from an early age. His first hands-on experience was restoring a house on Richmond, Virginia’s Church Hill in 1972, where he came under the influence of that city’s famed preservationist Elizabeth Scott Bocock.

He collaborated on the Audubon Park Historic District designation, co-writing the request for evaluation and developing a virtual walking tour, www.AudubonParkNY.com, to raise awareness about the neighborhood. He is currently working with neighborhood preservationists to expand the Audubon Park Historic District and save 857 Riverside Drive, a house dating to 1851 with strong ties to a group of Abolitionists working in northern Manhattan in the mid-nineteenth century.


In September 2020, Fordham University Press (Empire Editions) published his history: The Neighborhood Manhattan Forgot: Audubon Park and the Families Who Shaped It.

He holds degrees in English and Music from the College of William and Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the College-Conservatory of Music of the University of Cincinnati.


Joseph V. Amodio is a veteran journalist and television writer who has covered a range of subjects — from entertainment and culture to health and medicine — for The New York Times Magazine, Newsday, Men’s Health, Details, Glamour,
Ladies’ Home Journal, Barrons.com
and CNN.com,
 among others.

His work has been syndicated across the globe.

He has also written scripts for various true-crime docudrama series airing on Netflix, Discovery, A&E, NatGeo and other networks, and has served as a communications consultant at the Library of Congress.

His interest in preservation began with the effort to save 857 Riverside, the Washington Heights home with ties to the Underground Railroad and a little-known abolitionist community in Upper Manhattan.


His request for evaluation written for the NYC Landmarks Commission, generated a feature story in The New York Times and a series of press conferences covered by ABC, NBC, CBS, WNYC and other media outlets.


Peter Green is an experienced and award-winning editor, reporter and newsroom manager well versed in news tech and with a fine eye for telling stories about numbers and using numbers to tell stories.


He has been a foreign correspondent for the International Herald Tribune and spent eight years at Bloomberg News.


He has won awards for investigative reporting about tax evasion and for covering hurricanes at Bloomberg, and for editing features and investigations at Crain’s New York Business.


He is skilled at mentoring reporters and helping them tease out the best storylines from their tips and reporting, and ensuring those stories tell a smart tale worth reading, while preserving the writer's voice.


Peter is bilingual in French and fluent in Czech.


Vivian Ducat is a rarity known as a Native New Yorker, having grown up on 72nd and Riverside Drive when there were rail yards at the base of her street before Donald Trump’s Riverside South development became a reality. She is the child of German-speaking Jewish WWII refugees, some of whom settled in Washington Heights in the 1930’s and ‘40’s an area that at the time was referred to as Frankfurt on the Hudson.


Vivian has been a member and then a public member of Community Board 12’s Land Use Committee for about the last 15 years, and co-chair of a neighborhood group in Lower Washington Heights, the Riverside Oval Association. Her efforts together with Matthew Spady to preserve the row houses on 158th Street were honored by the Historic District Council with a Six to Celebrate designation.


Vivian has a master’s from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation as well as an A.B. from Harvard in archaeology. During her long career in broadcast and museum-oriented documentary filmmaking, she has worked on many projects about history, including a number that have dealt with New York City.


Peter Nicholas (Nick) Fritsch was born in New York City.

He graduated with a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1979.


Nick is a representational painter, and photographer who has also been involved with video production and post-production.

For over 25 years he ran the independent world and classical music label Lyrichord Discs, at which he designed the graphics for hundreds of CD releases, advertisements, catalogs and brochures.

He is currently webmaster and board member of the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society in Copake Falls, NY.


David Freeland is the author of Automats, Taxi Dances and Vaudeville: Excavating Manhattan’s Lost Places of Leisure; Ladies of Soul, and the recently published book, American Hotel: The Waldorf-Astoria and the Making of a Century. [Book Talk]

As an historian and journalist, David has written for The Wall Street Journal, AM New York, Time Out New York, New York History, American Songwriter, and other publications.

He appeared in episodes of NBC TV’s “Who Do You Think You Are” and NYC Media’s “Secrets of New York.” 

David lives in Washington Heights, where he leads walking tours and gives lectures on the culture and history of New York City.


He was instrumental in the long-term effort to preserve five historic buildings associated with Tin Pan Alley on West 28th, which were designated by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in December of 2019.


Mitch Mondello worked 11 years in corporate communications at Martha Stewart Living, where, while crafting Martha’s personal presentations he learned the importance of beautiful imagery and poetic language in presentation storytelling.

He also has 20 years of magazine print production as well as years of branding experience.

Appreciation for small historic homes and places began in childhood with East Rockaway’s Grist Mill Museum. He has visited historic homes (and antiquarian book shops) in Argentina, Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sweden, and
The Netherlands.


Mitch is Founder of Typoquarian.com, where he shares his passion for antiquarian books, prints, historical periodicals, heraldic seals, and typography.


He has resided in Audubon Park Historic District since 1990.


Nora Fritsch has designed and managed the official websites for the Park Avenue Youth Theatre, Save Chelsea and the Buttonwood Foundation, and currently, the website for the organization Tin Pan Alley NYC. As a web designer she creates the look, layout, and features of the organization’s website, reflecting the organization’s brand and values.  In addition to portraits, headshots and theatrical photography, Nora utilizes her photographic, video and editing skills to create content for these websites and related social media.


In 2021 she filmed and edited an hour-long documentary, Tin Pan Alley’s Black and Jewish Music Culture; From New York City to America’s Songbook, featuring noted author and historian, John T. Reddick.


Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jStHr3gnw8


Nora has worked as a production and administrative staff member providing technical and creative support for The Park Avenue Youth Theater.


She is a graduate of The City University of New York at Lehman College with a B.A. in Theatre.


She has a background in youth theater and has worked and volunteered as an educator for over 10 years. She was involved in the development of a local history focused curriculum called Hands On History, which is still taught at her former elementary school, PS 11 in Chelsea. 


She draws from her experience as a member and later as costume assistant with CUNY’s Creative Arts Team Youth Theater (CAT), her work for the NYC City Council, and as a founding board member of the Lehman Legacy Playhouse. 

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