The District is threatened by the gradual erosion of its character as well as the adverse effects of large development projects. Gradual changes are typified by the removal of cornices and other decorative features, sometimes in the wake of Local Law 11 activities, weathering, improper maintenance and neglect.
Larger development projects undertaken by institutions have already changed the district’s character in several places. The disruption threatens to continue without the protection provided by historic district designation. Some instructions include
- The replacement of a row of lower apartment buildings along Morningside Drive by the overpowering slab of Columbia’s East Campus dormitory.
- Manhattan School of Music’s apartment tower on Claremont Avenue.
- Columbia’s science building, known as the Northwest Corner Building, on the corner of 120th and Broadway.
- Shapiro Hall, a Columbia dormitory on 115th St. between Broadway and Riverside.
Current Threats to the Proposed District
Columbia’s Long Term Plans for 113th St. and 115th St.
In the summer of 2010, in the face of widespread ands concerted opposition, Columbia destroyed a row of three brownstones on West 115th Street that were among the oldest residential buildings in Morningside Heights and had been declared historically significant by the New York State Office of Historic Preservation. The University has stated that it can build an overwhelming 21-story structure with 300 thousand square feet on the mid-block site where the brownstones stood. In the latest threat, in October of 2010 Columbia acquired three adjacent and soon to be vacant row houses on West 113th Street that could be replaced by a large building at variance with its surroundings.
Uncertain policies and changing leadership makes it difficult for community interests to understand the intentions of the institutions and to reasonably negotiate with them on matters of development.
The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine
In 2012, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine released plans to build two 15-story apartment buildings, consisting of approximately 400 units, along the north side of the Cathedral on 113th Street at Amsterdam Avenue. This project will have a dramatically adverse effect on the Cathedral and the neighborhood.This enormous development will cast in shadow most of the historic and magnificent church. It will also impair emergency services at the adjacent St. Luke’s Hospital, congest traffic, harm air quality and disrupt the character of the neighborhood.