Without the efforts of Carnegie Hill Neighbors, founded in 1970, Carnegie Hill would look far different today. Landmark protection and zoning changes have helped maintain low scale buildings and appropriate designs in our neighborhood. Imagine Madison Avenue lined with high rises; that was possible before CHN worked with the city to substantially reduce the building height limits on Madison Avenue, as well as the mid-blocks from 86th to 96th streets.
CHN President Lo van der Valk, who is also chair of CHN’s Landmarks Committee, regularly reviews major alterations proposed for landmarks and buildings in the Carnegie Hill Historic District. Such alterations require “certificates of appropriateness” issued by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). (Most applications are minor, or “of no affect,” and are simply reviewed at the LPC staff level.) Major plans are first reviewed in a public hearing by the Landmarks Committee of Community Board 8 (CB8), the full CB8 board, and subsequently in a public hearing at the LPC. Members of the both the CHN Landmarks Committee and CHN Board are involved in determining the appropriate position for CHN in most applications.
The primary mission of Carnegie Hill Neighbors has always been to preserve our architectural heritage, characterized by the stately historic buildings that give Carnegie Hill its special look. Most of the treasured mansions and 19th century row house blocks of Carnegie Hill are protected by the Landmark Preservation Commission’s designation of individual landmarks and three historic districts covering more than 50 percent of this hilly, tree-lined area.
The original Carnegie Hill Historic District (CHHD) was created in 1974, and through our efforts the district was more than tripled in 1994. The small Hardenbergh/Rhinelander Historic District was created in 1998. Most recently, CHN was successful in extending the Park Avenue Historic District from East 80th Street to East 91st Street (Park Avenue from 91st to 94th streets was already in the CHHD. Also scattered throughout Carnegie Hill are 28 individually designated landmark buildings; preeminent among them is the Andrew Carnegie mansion, now the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
Carnegie Hill Neighbors works closely with two key New York City agencies, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Board of Standards and Appeals, to ensure that only appropriate modifications are made to landmark designated buildings, contextual blocks, and rear yard spaces. CHN President Lo van der Valk presents CHN’s positions regularly at government hearings and when called upon to offer testimony in support of landmark preservation issues in the city.
The organization’s staff and expertise have been readily available to successfully assist grassroots groups and coalitions of neighbors seeking assistance in opposing inappropriate modifications or fostering improvements in their area.
Today, Carnegie Hill Neighbors is working with residents to bring landmark protection to the 1870 Church of St. Thomas More Complex (described further below).
The success of Carnegie Hill Neighbors in these and other efforts and the respect it receives from city agencies has served to encourage developers of new construction projects to heed community concerns.
Click here to read the 1974 Carnegie Hill Designation Report.