The Central Harlem West 130th-132nd Street Historic District Has Its Public Hearing

Crowds outside the (lost) Lafayette Theatre in Harlem at the opening of “Macbeth” produced by the Federal Negro Theatre, 1936. From the NYPL Digital Collections.

LANDMARK WEST! joined our neighbors from Harlem today to rally for the designation of the Central Harlem West 130th-132nd Street Historic District. Our statement, which can be read here, expressed our solidarity with our Harlem colleagues in calling for the proposed historic district to be designated. The hearing was attended by a wide array of community leaders, representatives for elected officials, members of venerated Harlem institution the New Amsterdam Musical Association, and members of the preservation community.

Statements in support came from block associations, from members of the community, from Athena Moore, the Director of the Manhattan Borough President’s Northern Manhattan Office (whose statement can be read here), as well as from representatives of Community Board 10 and from a representative of State Senator Brian Benjamin. Former Commissioner Roberta Washington also lent her voice to the call to designate. District Leader of the 70th Assembly District Cordell Cleare made some particularly salient points about how overdue this designation–and the wider designation of Harlem architecture–has been. Addressing this, District Leader Cleare quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s enduring use of the phrase

“Justice too long delayed is justice denied”

in her urge for the LPC to treat Harlem with the same protections that Greenwich Village and the Upper East and West Sides have been given.

A particularly poignant moment came when veteran preservationist Christabel Gough, speaking about the Commission’s dangerous habit of carving out lots of historic districts to the detriment of their overall character, played the everlasting jazz classic “All Of Me“. Though it was hard to hear on a tiny phone speaker, the group, inspired, broke into snatches of song, with those poignant words which speak so strongly to preservation’s duty to a historic district’s unity of character, not just its individual architectural details:

“All of me/ Why not take all of me? […] You took the part that once was my heart/ So why not take all of me?”

The Commission announced that the proposal for the designation of the Central Harlem West 130th-132nd Street Historic District will be brought to vote on May 29th. Check back with LANDMARK WEST! and with Save Harlem Now for updates on that vote.

Below: E. Simm’s 1932 Illustrated Map of Harlem Nightlife, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

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