This summer I continued an internship I had during the spring semester at LANDMARK WEST!, an award-winning advocacy organization tirelessly dedicated to the preservation of the architectural heritage of the Upper West Side. The organization’s small staff and tenacious approach to advocacy work allowed me to gain a great deal of hands-on experience researching and writing about (and even defending) the historic buildings that help to define the character of the Upper West Side.
Although LW! has helped gain designation for over 3,000 buildings in the neighborhood in its twenty-eight year history, working in the office reinforced the fact that preservation work does not end at designation. One of my main contributions was assistance with LW!’s Certificate of Appropriateness Committee, which reviews all applications for work to designated properties on the Upper West Side. LW! runs this group of volunteers, invites architects to present their projects, and then crafts testimony presented at the Landmarks Preservation Commission public hearing for those items. Throughout the summer, I worked closely with Kelly Carroll (MSHP ’12), Director of Preservation at LW!, to
develop the organization’s position on all Certificate of Appropriateness projects. Often, our comments expressed a desire to mitigate the effects of proposed interventions to historic buildings.
An additional project, concerned with raising awareness about a neglected rowhouse in the Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District, allowed me to be involved in an advocacy campaign from the very beginning. I first began researching 118 West 76th Street in the spring, and soon discovered the owner is a public official working for the Board of Elections in Brooklyn. The building has been neglected for over thirty years, and has been named the ugliest building on the Upper West Side by a neighborhood newspaper. We consulted with neighbors and legal experts on how best to approach this issue. In June, we had an article published in the Daily News, which exposed the building’s condition and ownership. LW! is continuing to work with the LPC and neighbors with the hope that the owner will sell or restore the building.
I also had the opportunity this summer to work on a variety of special projects including crafting and presenting testimony advocating for a full restoration of Grand Army Plaza (Fifth Avenue and 59th Street) at the Public Design Commission, and opposing the Midtown East Rezoning proposal at the City Planning Commission. My experience at LW! has been an exciting look into the world of preservation advocacy, and a great chance to get my feet wet in some of the real issues faced by preservation groups in the city.
Rachel Levy, HP/UP ’15