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Bowery Historic Designation Advances at State Level

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We’ve just received word that a proposal to designate the Bowery as a historic district, which preservationists see as an important tool for guiding future development, has been approved at the state level.

The New York State Review Board, meeting in Buffalo today, approved a joint application from the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors to include the Bowery in the State Register of Historic Places, the first step in advancing the nomination to the National Register, reports Kerri Culhane, one of the organizers of the proposal.

“I’m sort of speechless right now, because it’s taken us so long to get to this step,” said a thrilled Culhane, who got the word by phone this afternoon.

Victor Papa, president of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, said:

I am elated to learn the decision of the New York State Review Board today, that the Bowery is now listed in the State Register of Historic Places, and now advances to the National Register of Historic Places. It’s hard to believe that a case had to be made for the significance of one of our most historically significant and architecturally diverse streetscapes, and all of the folklore that surrounds it. It is now undeniably clear that Bowery plays a central role in the canon of American history.

The two groups had sought the designation as part of a plan to offer protection to the against development pressures in recent years, especially on the east side. Here’s a summation of their argument, from a prepared statement earlier today:

Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and Bowery Alliance of Neighbors (BAN) sought National Register recognition of the Bowery to highlight the rich history of New York’s most architecturally diverse and historically significant streetscape. Both sponsoring groups are concerned with the the rampant overdevelopment of the Bowery that has occurred since 2000, in both scale and quantity, and the resultant displacement and disenfranchisement, as lower income residents are pushed out in favor of “luxury” hotel and condo developments. The new buildings on the Bowery typically do not serve the long-time residents and usinesses of the street, and in fact result too often in displacement. Though the Bowery contains architectural exemplars of every decade since 1780, more than 10% of buildings on the Bowery are now representative of the past decade alone, and the vast majority of new units are now high-end hotel and market-rate condos or rentals. The Bowery Historic District spotlights the Bowery’s architectural and cultural merit to lend moral authority to the argument for better and more thoughtful planning, zoning and contextual infill on the Bowery.

The full text of the 171-page nomination is online.

Today’s news represents a powerful morale boost for preservationists, who suffered a setback last month when the city overturned the Landmark Preservation Commission’s protection of 135 Bowery.


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