Proposed Historic District For Central Harlem Gains Support

The Landmarks Preservation Commission listened to public testimony on Tuesday pertaining to a proposed historic district to be designated in Central Harlem. The sentiments expressed to the commission was in unanimous support for the designation that has constantly picked up steam since first being proposed.

The commission noted in their public presentation that the historic district would consist of 164 buildings mostly built in the 19th century. The district would consist of an area from West 130th and West 132nd Streets and will also run between Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard and Lenox Avenue. Only 12 of the buildings in the proposed district have been built after the year 2000.

Despite the majority of buildings in the district being over a century old, the majority of the buildings are fully intact and have undergone very few alterations. The commission also points out that the buildings exhibit a high level of cohesiveness despite the variety of architectural designs that exist.

There is a rich history of culture in the area also. Scott Joplin, the composer that was once known as the “King of Ragtime,” made his home at 163 West 133rd Street. There was also an assortment of actors and actresses that have lived in the area and performed at the Lafayette Theater which was torn down five years ago with an apartment building being constructed in its place. The proposed district is also where the March On Washington maintained its national headquarters.

Many of the residents and public officials that attending the public meeting were not only supportive of the proposed historic district but were also adamant about the commission taking the steps to make the district a reality in an expeditious manner.

Gale Brewer, a spokesperson for Manhattan Borough President, says that the proposed district can do much to provide protection for the heritage of Harlem.

Save Harlem Now is an advocacy group concerned with protecting Harlem against the effects of gentrification. The president of the group, Valerie Bradley, says that a fast decision is needed from the commission to safeguard the neighborhood from those who would wish to further their desire to gentrify the area.

Bradley says that the brownstones in the area are filled with the heritage and history of Harlem.

The designation is scheduled for a May 29 vote by the Landmarks Commission.