Carnegie Hill Historic District Extension Arrives on CB8 Plate

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Susan Kathryn Hefti, who reports exquisitely on historic preservation topics for the CFR, wears more hats than Norma Shearer in a 1930s MGM production. In addition to being a playwright, freelance writer, and, we learned recently, a garden designer, she co-chairs the 93rd Street Beautification Association, which has led efforts to have her stretch of East 93rd Street renamed Marx Brothers Placein honor of the legendary clan of comics who lived in her building. Tied to this is an equally admirable plan: for the Carnegie Hill Historic District to be extended one block — to include Marx Brothers Place — so the endless over-development of her street came finally come to an end.

Longtime CFR readers know we support these causes. So it was great to learn yesterday that the 93rd Street Beautification Association will present its Request for Evaluation to Community Board 8’s Landmarks Committee on Mon., July 19, 6:30pm, at the Hexter Lounge of the Hunter College School of Social Work (129 E. 79th St.).

What follows below is part of an email Hefti sent out to her constituents and supporters.

First, we say congratulations! Second, we say keep at it! This is prime civic leadership.

Read below for details.

As many of you know, as part of our effort to make sure the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) finally calendars the 93rd Street Beautification Association’s RFE – asking the city to extend the Carnegie Hill Historic District (CHHD) one block east so as to include the incomparable collection of historic structures on Marx Brothers Place – we participated in a strategy session last year with Council Member Dan Garodnick who represents this beloved block.

Also taking part in that strategy meeting were Executive Director, Historic Districts Council (HDC), Simeon Bankoff; Preservation Associate, HDC, Nadhezda Williams and Carnegie Hill expert and preservationist Bronson Binger.

Given the fact that in addition to the world famous childhood home of the Marx Brothers, 93rd Street boasts a row of brownstones that are older than any of the brownstones already in the CHHD and as compared to the block to its immediate east — a block which is within the historic district’s boundaries – quantitatively includes far more historically significant building stock, our RFE appeared to be “a no brainer” — to quote one preservationist who toured the block.

And with the full support of Historic Districts Council; New York Landmarks Conservancy; Place Matters; Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer; Assemblyman Micah Kellner; Assemblyman Jonathan Bing; State Senator Jose Serrano; Council Member Jessica Lappin and countless other community leaders and preservationists, there seemed to be little else to do but enlighten the LPC to the fact it should calendar our RFE for a public hearing, plain and simple.

But before getting to that step, CM Garodnick felt it was important to first have the formal support of CB8. Since our RFE already has the support of our community leaders, elected officials and block residents (i.e., the support of the “community”), CB8’s support seemed to us to be redundant. Nontheless, we had asked for CM Garodnick’s advice as to how best to get our RFE calendared for a public hearing at the LPC, so we deferred to his good judgment about first taking the time to go before CB8’s Landmarks Committee.

Then began the CB8 shuffle: Our RFE — which was submitted to CB8 in September 2008, the same day it was submitted to the LPC — was put on CB8’s Landmarks Committee schedule, then taken off the schedule, rescheduled, bounced and rescheduled again and again and again for months on end.

At one point, our RFE was scheduled to be heard, then suddenly bounced off CB8’s calendar because (we were told) Lo Van der Valk wanted to present the RFE for the collection of brownstones just one block north at 94th & Lex on the very same evening. This particular rescheduling seemed rather odd to us as that would have been a most opportune moment for CB8’s Landmarks Committee to finally hear our RFE which CB8 has been sitting on for nearly 2 years. But one would have to ask Lo Van der Valk and CB8’s Landmarks Committee to find out exactly why they chose to separate out the 93rd Street Beautification Association’s pending RFE from that evening’s presentation.

In any event, after being put over from one calendar to the next – month after month after month – the 93rd Beautification Association is finally scheduled to present its RFE to CB8’s Landmarks Committee, which is Co-Chaired by David Liston and Jane Parshall, on Monday evening, July 19 at 6:30pm in the Hexter Lounge at the Hunter College School of Social Work – 129 East 79th Street NYC.

And we hope to see you all there!

For more information about the 93rd Street Beautification Association or Marx Brothers Place, please contact us at 93rdst.beautification@gmail.com or 212.969.8138…