Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Calling All Ansonia Buffs: Zabar Thesis Now Available Online

LANDMARK WEST! is proud to announce that LW! Board Member Lori Zabar’s much-requested master’s thesis on W. E. D. Stokes, the original developer of the Ansonia, is now available for purchase through ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. And for a limited time only, you can get this excellent resource for your library and at the same time support ongoing preservation efforts on the Upper West Side. Lori will donate to LANDMARK WEST! any proceeds she receives from ProQuest during the first year of sales. So, please, order your copy today!

To order an unbound copy of the thesis, go to, click on Maps & Building Data and then click on the Ansonia (Individual Landmark #15) where you will find the link to the publisher. Once you are on the ProQuest site, click on “Order a Copy” and then, click on “Dissertation Express.” The order number is 1436503. If for some reason the link to ProQuest is not accessible on your computer or you would like to know the options available in bound publication formats, then call 1-800-521-3042 to order by telephone or email Please be aware, as the thesis is printed by ProQuest on demand from a microfilmed master, some of the illustrations are fuzzy.

The following is a summary of the book:

William Earl Dodge Stokes: Developer of Residential Real Estate on Manhattan’s Upper West Side including the Ansonia Apartment-Hotel

William Earl Dodge Stokes (1852-1926), through his flamboyant career as a real estate developer, influenced the architectural form and urban design of Manhattan’s upper west side. This thesis traces Stokes’s activities, beginning in the 1880s, including the construction of dozens of single-family rowhouses, several tenements, and his magnum opus, the Ansonia Apartment-Hotel, completed in 1904, all built in the neighborhood of 72nd to 87th Streets between Broadway and Riverside Drive. During the last quarter of the 19th century, Stokes, in concert with other developers, transformed the west side from virtual countryside to sophisticated cityscape. The keystone of Stokes’s career was the sumptuous Beaux-arts Style Ansonia, publicized as the “most perfect” and largest apartment-hotel in the world. Although Stokes listed himself as “Architect-in-Chief,” the French architect Paul E. M. Duboy (1857-1907) drafted the plans. Stokes’s development of the legendary Ansonia, boasting the most up-to-date services and amenities, is described in detail.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Shearith Israel Postponed -- Again

Preservation Push-Back Against Condo Plan: Public Meeting on Congregation Shearith Israel Proposal Held Off Until September

Back in June -- nearly 3 months after submitting its application to develop a luxury condo building/community house at 8 West 70th Street to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) -- Congregation Shearith Israel seemed suddenly eager to get on Community Board 7's (CB7's) summertime calendar. A public meeting scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, June 20, was postponed at the last minute when LANDMARK WEST! directed CB7's attention to a June 15 letter from BSA itemizing 48 (48!) objections to Shearith Israel's application, leading to the inevitable conclusion that the application was incomplete.

Shearith Israel has made no discernable progress towards revising their application (BSA's letter requested a complete submission within 60 days, which translates to August 15...the clock is ticking). So, when the item appeared again on Wednesday, July 18 agenda of CB7's Land Use Committee, community members were quick to respond, reiterate our concerns about Shearith Israel's failure to submit a complete application and, again, succeed in getting a postponement -- this time until September at the earliest, dashing any hopes Shearith Israel may have held out for a quiet July or August vote. Click here to read a letter from Mark Lebow, the attorney representing community interests, to CB7 including a copy of BSA's 48 as-yet-unaddressed objections plus a memo by architectural consultant Simon Bertrang raising additional issues on the legitimacy of the application.

What goes down must come up...we'll alert you when (not if) Shearith Israel's plans finally come to the surface! Please stay tuned.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Help Defend the Cathedral of St. John the Divine


As the grounds of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine are cleared to make way for massive new development, the Morningside Heights Historic District Committee (our colleagues to the north of 110th Street) continues to lead the fight for sensitive preservation of this world-class monument.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission opted out of the process by declining to include the Cathedral close in its designation of the site as a landmark in 2003 (prompting the New York City Council to reject the designation in its entirety, leaving the whole site unprotected). But that isn't the end of the story. Just a few months ago, the New York State Office of Parks stepped up and declared that the "proposed Residential Tower would have an Adverse Impact upon the nationally significant Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Close." The new tower would be "incompatible in scale" and "inconsistent with the character of the historic buildings and the high quality of design, materials, and workmanship that they represent."

What you can do today:

Join the Morningside Heights Historic District Committee and other preservationists citywide in the Campaign to Save The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and its historic Close. Bookmark the website and go to to sign the online petition calling on the National Trust for Historic Preservation (America's nationwide preservation advocacy force) to intervene.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Seneca Village Walking Tour

Please join LANDMARK WEST! and friends for

Reconstructing Seneca Village

“Manhattan’s First Significant African American Community

A Walking Tour with Cynthia Copeland, Nan Rothschild and Diana Wall

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 (rain or shine)

6:00 PM to 8:00 PM


Meet at 6pm sharp at the Mariner's Gate, southside of 85th Street and Central Park West. There will be a reception following the tour hosted by Halstead Properties, 408 Columbus Avenue, corner of 79th Street.

To make sure we start on time, tickets must be purchased in advance. Please send a check for $25 to LANDMARK WEST!, 45 West 67th Street, New York, NY 10023 no later than Friday, July 20. For information, you may also email us at Space is limited.


Unbeknownst to many who frequent Central Park, an African American community called Seneca Village once existed in the Park between 82nd and 89th streets. The fascinating story of how African Americans came to acquire property in the area as early as 1825 will be told by accomplished urban archaeologists. Our guides will take us back in time to help us imagine how Seneca Village functioned, how it looked and how it evolved from undeveloped property to a vital multi-ethnic community of 264 people by 1855. We will be able to picture, in our minds’ eye, the homes, churches, cemeteries and the school that served the community before the Village was razed in 1856 to make way for the construction of Central Park.


Cynthia Copeland, curator at the New York Historical Society, Nan Rothschild, Director of Museum Studies at Columbia and Diana Wall, Professor of Anthropology at City College, have worked together to determine the feasibility of conducting an archaeological dig of an area in Central Park that was once Seneca Village.