East Harlem’s First Historic District

Landmarks East Harlem has been working for 8 years on designating an area around the East River Plaza to be designated a Historic District.

With the support of the Municipal Art Society’s (MAS) Livable Neighborhoods program and SHPO, LEH organized public information meetings for property owners to explain the implications of State and National Register listing and to highlight that listing does not place burdens on property owners. In fact, listing on the State and National Registers of Historic Places can make property owners eligible for federal and state Historic Tax Credits for improvements in their properties. The vast majority of property owners in the proposed district supported its listing, allowing SHPO to bring the nomination to the New York State Board for Historic Preservation for approval.

To be listed on the State and National Register, a district must possess a significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of sites, buildings, structures, or objects united historically or aesthetically by a plan or physical development. The National Park Service (NPS) works in conjunction with the NY State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to determine eligibility. These criteria are similar to those for historic districts designated by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The difference is that listing on the State and National Registers is honorary and does not impose any burdens on property owners. LPC designation, on the other hand, does require property owners to meet LPC standards when making additions or renovations and does not allow property owners to demolish their buildings except under rare circumstances.

Landmarks East Harlem is currently looking at two more areas in East Harlem.

The East-Central Harlem Historic District is fairly defined and ready for nomination this year.

The East Harlem South district is much more amorphous and subject to a closer survey to further define what should be designated.

To learn more, see the Landmarks East Harlem website.

The Curve

This is a great photo from 1895 showing 110th Street and Frederick Douglass Blvd. You can see that the train has come down from Morningside Heights on 110th Street and is about to turn up FDB.

Note the early scaffolding of the cathedral of St. John The Devine, under the tracks (an arched, inverted “u” shape). To the right is St. Lukes Hospital and Columbia University.