“West End Avenue”- the very words conjure an image of charm and character in New York City. They reflect not just an architectural style but a sense of place and neighborhood, an address with its own special cachet, recognized famously in the Rodgers & Hart song, “Way Out West (On West End Avenue)”.
Even today, with some irresponsible and unattractive development marring certain corners, West End Avenue still retains the feel of that 1937 song. It remains the longest virtually unbroken spine of pre-war architecture in Manhattan.
But nothing that is unprotected is long left in peace. From 2005-7 buildings were lost at West End and 70th St and four buildings were lost at 86th St for development.
In July of 2007, upon learning that four more brownstones on West End Avenue: 508 & 510 WEA (between 84-85th Streets) and the vacant 732 & 734 WEA (between 95-96th Streets) were facing demolition, a small group of concerned neighbors joined forces and West End Preservation Society (WEPS) was born.
With our small band growing exponentially in its first few months, our grassroots movement transformed into a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and began accepting contributions to the cause of protecting and preserving our neighborhood so that we could have a voice in its future.
WEPS met with and continues to work with every Elected Official representing our historic districts, along with Manhattan Community Board 7, and received their wholehearted support in our quest for designation (2008 letter to Mayor from the Electeds).
We received support in our mission from long established activist and fellow preservation organizations such as Coalition For A Livable West Side, Historic Districts Council, Landmark West!, The New York Landmarks Conservancy and West Siders For Responsible Development.
To attain our preservation goal, WEPS spearheaded the movement to designate the length of the Avenue, from 70th-107th Sts., as a Historic District. WEPS retained Professor Andrew S. Dolkart of Columbia University, universally recognized as the premier preservation specialist for New York City, to conduct a study of West End Avenue. WEST END AVENUE SURVEY was completed in the spring of 2009. This phenomenal work includes a history of development on West End Avenue, an analysis of the character of West End Avenue and its buildings, and an investigation of each individual building on the Avenue with photographs.
In March of 2009, we submitted this report to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) with our Request For Evaluation, our letter to Chair Robert Tierney and copies of the signatures we collected from our petitions. Our purpose was to request the LPC to calendar West End Avenue for designation.
WEPS also retained an expert legal team comprised of Darryl Vernon and Stuart Klein.
Darryl Vernon, of Vernon & Ginsburg, LLC, is a prominent tenant lawyer. He was essential in protecting the statutory tenancies of several residents facing eviction in the threatened brownstones.
Stuart Klein, an expert in zoning law, was retained for oversight of the new building plans.
This was the beginning of our long quest to see West End Avenue designated. West End Preservation Society continues its work, today. We are compromised of people who are passionate about where they live, passionate about the vitality and vibrancy of life on the Upper West Side. Nothing more is required.
Whether we chose West End or West End chose us, we are proud to call this Avenue home.