Preservation News from the Audubon Park Historic District: Upper Riverside Residents Alliance

Over the last year, the Upper Riverside Residents Alliance (URRA)—initially formed to prevent demolition of 857 Riverside Drive—has expanded its mission to “protecting, preserving and celebrating the architecture, culture and history of Riverside Drive and its adjacent areas in Northern Manhattan.” A recipient of grassroots preservation award from the Historic Districts Council, the organization focused most of its attention in 2021 on extending the current Audubon Park Historic District to encompass buildings on both sides of Riverside Drive between 158th and 162nd Streets, row houses on West 158th Street, and two apartment buildings facing Riverside Drive West. It is now looking to a new set of initiatives that it will announce in early 2022.

Below are excerpts from the URRA’s December newsletter.

After LPC’s Refusal to Extend the Audubon Park Historic District, the URRA Develops New Initiatives for 2022 

Earlier this month, the Upper Riverside Residents Alliance (SaveRiverside) received notice that the research department at the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) has rejected our request for extending the Audubon Park Historic District to encompass a group of buildings to its north and west. We are naturally disappointed that LPC’s research department seemingly put greater weight on architectural integrity and cohesion than on the cultural and historical significance we emphasized in our Request For Evaluation, and we remain dismayed that despite Commission Chair Sarah Carroll’s “equity initiative,” Manhattan north of 155th Street is underserved with individual designations and historic districts. However, we are continuing to explore ways to preserve and promote our neighborhood’s rich and diverse history and culture, and will announce several new initiatives in early 2022. 


Related to the item above, the threat of development on West 158th Street increased dramatically in the last few weeks. Not only did LPC refuse to protect the block with landmarking, but YIMBY reported that developer Javier Martinez has filed permits to demolish six of that block’s twelve row houses, and plans for erecting a 17-story mixed-use development that will also incorporate an adjacent vacant lot. Members of the URRA’s board have been warning about out-of-scale development on that street since 2016, and continue working with neighborhood stakeholders to find a way to thwart this building that would loom above the existing Audubon Terrace and Audubon Park Historic Districts, irrevocably and irreversibly altering the “sense of place” that LPC cited in preserving those areas. For more information on the threat to West 158th and to learn how you can help save the block, visit the URRA website


In the eighteen months since the URRA (SaveRiverside) organized as a grassroots effort to prevent destruction of 857 Riverside Drive, we have expanded our mission and advocacy to protecting, preserving, and celebrating the architecture, culture, and history throughout Washington Heights and Inwood. In the last few months, our members have worked with residents on forestalling the threatened development on West 158th Street; protested “Quisqueya Heights” as a new name for northern Manhattan; asked the Academy of Arts and Letters to revise its plans for a “metal wall” separating Audubon Terrace from the adjacent apartment buildings; and registered our objection to Community Board 12 allowing a height variance for a proposed building at 22- 38 Cumming Street / Seaman Avenue (the former Holy Trinity Church site). We encourage all of our stakeholders to let us know how we can help them in any initiatives they undertake that are in keeping with our mission and goals.