Six to Celebrate annually identifies six historic NYC neighborhoods that merit preservation. These will be priorities for HDC’s advocacy and consultation over a yearlong period.
Arthur Avenue, The Bronx
Arthur Avenue, the long-time home of The Bronx’s Little Italy, has been a haven for Italian-Americans, Italophiles and curious tourists seeking an authentic shopping and dining experience for generations. In a city that is constantly evolving, its family-run businesses offer consistency, quality and a connection to the past on a storied and historic street. To capture the essence of this place, the Belmont Business Improvement District will undertake a series of oral histories with key constituents and develop an official tour of the area. These place-making initiatives will serve to enhance the public’s experience of and appreciation for Arthur Avenue, as well as ensure that its history is not forgotten. The group also seeks to investigate zoning tools to protect the character and scale of the neighborhood.
This community in western Queens boasts many charming, yet unprotected, residential, commercial and religious structures, as well as a number of historic burial grounds that are at risk of damage due to poor stewardship and lack of awareness. The Elmhurst History and Cemeteries Preservation Society, Inc., a newly-formed and first-of-its-kind civic organization in Elmhurst, is working to document the neighborhood’s treasures and pursue appropriate preservation tools to ensure their survival. In addition, the group is working to foster local pride in Elmhurst’s heritage through robust public programming, including walking tours and signage.
Lower West Side, Manhattan
Prior to the construction of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and the World Trade Center, the area from roughly Liberty Street to Battery Place west of Broadway was host to a vibrant immigrant neighborhood called the Lower West Side. Initially populated by Irish and German immigrants, it later became a Middle Eastern enclave (known as the “Syrian Quarter” or “Little Syria”) and was subsequently home to a large Slavic population. The area’s major redevelopment in the mid-20th century nearly wiped the neighborhood off the map, but several buildings still exist to tell the story, and the Friends of the Lower West Side is determined to make sure this history is not lost. The group will appeal to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to protect a small area of significance, as well as expand its oral history program, publish a written history and offer walking tours to raise awareness.
Prospect Heights Apartment House District, Brooklyn
Constructed on a lost fragment of the original footprint of Prospect Park, now in southern Prospect Heights, is a concentration of 82 apartment buildings dating from 1909-1929. This development, boasting a cohesive design vocabulary and scale, was promoted by the Prospect Park Commissioners to attract high quality construction to complement the nearby Park, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Brooklyn Public Library. The buildings, representative of a period in Brooklyn history when building patterns shifted to accommodate a rising middle class, remain exemplary for their architectural integrity and as housing stock for a diverse population. The Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council and the Cultural Row Block Association on Eastern Parkway are working to garner local support and submit a proposal for historic district status from the LPC.
Westchester Square, The Bronx
Westchester Square, now a major transportation hub in the northeast Bronx, was once home to a critical location in the birth of our nation. Hidden in plain sight, sites such as Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church and the Westchester Creek were crucial to American victory in the Revolutionary War. Other sites such as the Huntington Library and above-ground subway station serve as vestiges of the early 20th century innovation and architectural character that continue to anchor the neighborhood today. The Westchester Square Business Improvement District is working to rebrand the area with a focus on its rich history. This public awareness campaign will involve formally documenting its history and commemorating important events through the installation of plaques in and around the Square.
Cultural Landmarks, Citywide
Working in partnership with the New York Preservation Archive Project and the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, HDC will undertake a campaign to shine a light on sites of cultural significance throughout the five boroughs. In recent years, the LPC has designated several landmarks based largely on their cultural impact and has expressed that such designations are a priority for the agency. Through the formation of a diverse coalition of stakeholders, HDC hopes to broaden the conversation about preservation tools for culturally significant sites and to create an action plan for their proper stewardship.
Support for Six to Celebrate is provided in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Additional support is provided by New York City Council Members Margaret Chin, Daniel Garodnick, Vincent Gentile, Corey Johnson, Ben Kallos, Peter Koo and Stephen Levin.