Testimony of the Real Estate Board of New York, Inc. On the Proposed Mount Morris Park Historic Districts Extension

The Real Estate Board of New York, Inc. (REBNY) is a broadly based trade association of over 16,000 owners, developers, brokers, managers and real estate professionals active throughout New York City. We support the proposed Mount Morris Park Historic District Extension, as it clearly includes properties that are consistent, both in style and development history, and because of these factors has caused to create a distinct section of the city. These properties are a genuine extension of the original Mount Morris Park Historic District that was designated in 1971, and contains the distinctiveness of the original historic district.

The Mount Morris Park Historic District is primarily comprised of beautiful 3-4-story masonry row houses. The proposed Extension consists of 276 largely intact properties that match the built character of the existing Historic District with Queen Anne, neo-Grec, and Romanesque Revival style row houses from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

However, we identified six buildings on the perimeter whose inclusion is questionable, since they appear to be of a different style and development period from the other properties in the district. 161-165 Lenox Avenue and 157-158 West 119th Street are buildings of much lesser quality and appear to bear little resemblance to the high quality of the other buildings in the District or proposed Extension, except perhaps for their scale. Additionally, the large apartment building at 2 West 120th Street appears to be inconsistent with the low-scale midblock buildings within the existing historic district. The inclusion of these buildings in the Extension would simply not to add to the distinct character of the District.

This is an instance where the issuance of a designation report prior to the public hearing would help everyone better understand the reasoning behind the inclusion of certain buildings, particularly the ones we have raised questions about. However, these buildings represent such a small portion of the district that there inclusion is inconsequential, except to the property owners who will now be governed by landmark regulations.

Relatedly, we hope that the designation report will address the rationale for including these buildings. A number of buildings in this proposed district are undergoing renovation which from a visual inspections appear to be consistent with the architectural character of the property. We hope that LPC will provide clear and explicit written guidance to property owners on what types of improvements will be permitted on properties in this district.

Mount Morris Park is one of Harlem’s most beautiful neighborhoods, and REBNY supports the preservation of beautiful and distinguished buildings that collectively create a distinct section of the city for future generations of New Yorkers.

We want to commend the Landmarks Commission and staff for their thoughtful approach in determining the boundaries, and for its quick work in scheduling a public hearing quickly after calendaring. Thank you.