Tuesday, June 30, 2015

30th Anniversary! Help LW! pass on the torch in 2015!

June 2015

We're known for being obstinate.   
And we're known for being fighters.
This is no time to lose that reputation.

Dear Friends of LANDMARK WEST!:

…And now is no time to let your LW! membership lapse!  We need you more than ever.  If you’ve recently renewed or activated your 2015 membership (please call or email us to confirm), then you probably already understand why your involvement and support are so important.  If you haven’t renewed or become a member yet, please take two minutes and keep reading.

The quote above comes from Upper West Sider Roberta Brandes Gratz (journalist, urban critic, author,* and early LW! board member), who spoke out at a community meeting in 1983, when developers “rediscovered” the neighborhoods from 59th to 110th Street, between Central Park and Riverside Park.  Towers of unprecedented (for then) scale were planned for sites throughout the area.  “Mom & Pop” stores were pushed out.  Century-old buildings were demolished to make way for luxury housing.

Fortunately for the Upper West Side, there were Upper West Siders.  LW! was founded in 1985 and, true to our West-Sider reputation, we stood our ground… we organized… we advocated… and we succeeded in expanding such smart planning policies as zoning with contextual height limits and landmark and historic district protection that recognize the value of preserving existing neighborhood character and scale.

Thirty years ago, under the LW! banner, Upper West Siders reset the balance between preservation and development, public good and private interests, rich past and sustainable future.  Thirty years later, LW! continues to hold the line – day by day, building by building, block by block.

We won the landmark protection of over 3,000 sites, up from only 337 in 1985, securing the character and quality of our neighborhood.  We’ve set up award-winning partnerships with small businesses (our Retail Assistance Program) and schools (Keeping the Past for the Future children’s education program, which since 1999 has reached over 10,000 students and their teachers).  Through our email alerts and social media, we keep West Siders informed about issues and events that affect our lives (visit www.landmarkwest.org to get connected).  We act as the West Side’s “watchdog,” ever ready to spring from vigilance to activism (and often do so).

Those pressures from the 1980s never went away.  Developers have found ways around the laws.  Mayors and city agencies have been complicit.  The Upper West Side has changed, not always for the better. 

Now it’s 2015.  And we’re facing our biggest challenge yet.  HELP!

Just in the past six months:
  • The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC, the mayoral agency charged with identifying and protecting our landmark buildings, interiors, and parks) announced that nearly 100 sites heard by the LPC for landmark designation would be removed from consideration.  Also, after delaying its vote on the proposed Riverside-West End Avenue Historic District Extension II for nearly four years, the LPC drastically reduced the district’s boundaries, eliminating protection for much of the west side of Broadway above 89th Street.  Why?  Ask Mayor de Blasio and his appointed Landmarks Commissioners.
  • City Council members (lobbied by the Real Estate Board of New York) introduced legislation that would severely curtail the LPC’s ability to designate landmarks in the future.
  •  Mayor de Blasio announced sweeping citywide changes to zoning that would increase height limits on new buildings, with no study of how those changes would affect individual neighborhoods (like ours) that have worked for decades to try and protect character and scale.
Potential 80-story development, W. 66th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue
  • Thirteen(!) new “mega-towers” (exceeding 1,000 feet, the equivalent of 100 stories) are underway or in the planning stages – including one on West 66th Street between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue – threatening to blight our skyline and cast shadows that will stretch across Central Park, New York’s great democratic open space, designated a Scenic Landmark in 1974.  Make sure to watch Bill Moyers’ powerful PBS program, “The Long, Dark Shadows of Plutocracy.
  • New breeds of development have emerged that manipulate existing outdated, or unenforced, regulations – for example, a planned building on West 96th Street that will replace low-scale rowhouses and rise head-and-shoulders above its neighbors.
These issues and more are on LW’s Preservation Watch List, proof that there is still much work to be done to save the Upper West Side…by Upper West Siders and for Upper West Siders.

That’s where you come in.  It is only because of individual donors LIKE YOU that LW! is able to continue holding the line.  For thirty years, our work has produced a better neighborhood – a better city – but all of that could be erased in short order.  We need you to keep us strong.  Please renew your LW! (tax-deductible) membership today for as little as $25 (a mid-year special!). 

Thank you, as always, for your generosity and activism.  We look forward to hearing from you.


Arlene Simon                                              Kate Wood
Founder & President (1985-2015)                 President

P.S.      Membership has its benefits, such as discounts on walking tours, lectures and workshops.  Please make sure we have your email address to notify you about upcoming events!

*Roberta Brandes Gratz is the award-winning author of many books, including The Battle For Gotham: New York in the Shadow of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs and most recently WE'RE STILL HERE YA BASTARDS: How the People of New Orleans Rebuilt Their City.

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