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West Side Spirit: Landmarks to Consider IRT Powerhouse

 

By Dan Rivoli

April 23, 2009

The Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a public hearing on July 14 about the landmarking of the Upper West Side powerhouse.

Local elected officials, Community Boards 4 and 6, and preservation groups have pushed for the commission to designate the former Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) Powerhouse at West 59th Street and 11th Avenue, which provided electricity for New York City’s first subway system. This is the third time the station has been considered for a landmark designation.

“We’re hoping that the third time is a charm,” said Kate Wood, executive director of Landmark West.

Wood added that the decision to hold a public hearing on the powerhouse is a positive step, given the amount of renewed interest in landmarking the building.

Landmarks Chairman Robert Tierney announced the public hearing in a letter to State Sen. Tom Duane. Duane urged Tierney last October to designate the powerhouse as a landmark to keep the Beaux-Arts style structure safe from new development.
Duane commended those who advocated for the powerhouse’s protection.

“We will need a similarly concerted and committed effort to persuade the commission at its July 14th hearing to recognize the profound historic and aesthetic significance of the powerhouse,” Duane said in a statement.

The structure is currently owned by Con Edison, which has obtained a permit to remove the building’s last remaining smokestack. In March, a spokesperson for Con Edison said the stack is deteriorating and posed a safety issue.