The Success of 72nd Street
"Nothing on the Upper West Side slipped as dramatically as 72nd Street, from a prestigious parkway of private houses in the 1880s to little shop fronts and commercial buildings in the 1920s...but in recent years the block has taken on a honky-tonk air."
- Christopher Gray, The New York Times, 8/10/97
As a result of LW's Retail Assistance Program, 72nd Street is honky-tonk no more!
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about the success of RAP.
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The History of 72nd Street.
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In 1997, LANDMARK WEST! launched its Retail Assistance Program (RAP) pilot project on West 72nd Street between Columbus and Broadway/Amsterdam Avenues. Today, the block is no longer the hodge-podge of mutilated storefronts, obnoxious signs, piles of garbage and broken sidewalks that characterized the street back in the 1990s. These signs of a retail district caught in a downward spiral have been reversed.
Today pedestrians stroll from shop to shop with far fewer unpleasant distractions. Street clutter has been minimized. Now the primary focus is West 72nd Street's wonderful collage of 19th and early 20th-century architecture, revealed from beneath layers of façade accretions. New sidewalks, street lighting and signs reinforce the neighborhood's historic character, helping to sustain local businesses without sacrificing aesthetics.
Was it magic that wrought this transformation? No. It took the perseverance of a team of local residents, property owners, merchants, elected officials and city agencies all working towards a single goal - to support local businesses by improving the appearance of this pre-eminent urban "Main Street". And, because nothing in New York City ever stands still, the rejuvenation and maintenance process is ongoing.
Can RAP's success be replicated in other New York City neighborhoods where commercial streets languish, whether due to the absence of a strong economic base, lack of capital investment or a series of bad design choices over time? We believe the answer is an emphatic "Yes!" Many commercial neighborhoods can benefit when their main street is returned to its historic roots. Reclaiming a street's architecture and promoting good streetscape design are important steps towards commercial rejuvenation. Bring together creative, committed people with big ideas; some basic knowledge of NYC policy and politics; a strong does of can do - and the journey can begin!
Our Results at a Glance:
Since 1997, RAP has secured $1,050,000 in city capital budget funds for:
New "landmark gray" sidewalks and granite curbs
New tree pits and streets trees
Historic Bishop's Crook lampposts, replacing cobra-head lampposts and doubling the number of lights on the street
6 "muni-meters", replacing 51 parking meters
In addition, RAP worked with merchants and building owners to:
Remove 18 obtrusive sidewalk canopies
Remove 13 exterior security gates
Remove dozens of illegal and inappropriate signs
Install new, attractive signs and retractable awnings
Restore building façades
Rethink storefront designs and window displays