09 October 2008

Tin Pan Alley Story Goes Wide

Well, people do care about the fate of Tin Pan Alley. At least superficially, anyway. My post yesterday, about how five buildings on W. 28th Street that once spawned some of the greatest songwriters and music in American history are now on the brink of being sold and demolished, has been picked up by the New York Post (with a vital assist from Curbed). Here's the article:

There's a blue note for Tin Pan Alley, the birthplace of American song.

Much to the dismay of tenants and preservationists, five of the buildings on West 28th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue - a block that for 60 years was the heart of the songwriting industry - have gone up for sale.

The buildings, at 47, 49, 51, 53 and 55 West 28th Street, are being sold as a group for - hold on to your hat in these cacophonous economic times - a mere $44 million.

A listing on Loopnet, a real-estate Web site, recommends that the buildings be demolished, "yielding over 111,000 square feet of prime Chelsea property."

The listing includes an architectural rendering of - what else? - a high-rise.

The buildings were listed last month, but most people only found out about it yesterday, when items appeared on the Lost City and Curbed blogs.

"It's a very, very disturbing prospect," said Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, a housing preservation group. "These buildings are incredibly significant to the development of New York City. They helped launch the careers of songwriters and musicians who are still popular today.

"The notion of Tin Pan Alley entered into our idea of New York and our idea of America. The buildings deserve to be protected."

Leland Bobbe, 59, a photographer who has lived at 51 W. 28th St. since 1975, echoed Bankoff's words.

"This makes me sick," he said. "This whole neighborhood has lost its uniqueness. It's just another symbol of what New York was and what it will no longer be."

From the 1890s to the 1950s, Tin Pan Alley was the place where music publishers and songwriters - including Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer - were concentrated.

The sale is being handled by Lois Thompson, of Coldwell Banker, who said she couldn't provide specifics because she was about to begin observing Yom Kippur.

"Catch me on Friday," she said.

Public records say the buildings are owned by Jo-Fra Properties, of Bayside, Queens.

The buildings are well-kept four-story brownstones that have stores on the first floor and apartments above. Tenants pay about $1,000 a month for 1,000 square feet. Residents at 51, 53 and 55 W. 28th St. said they hired a lawyer and had the zoning of the buildings changed from commercial to residential. Bobbe said this means the tenants can't be evicted and that the buyer will have to negotiate with them to get them to leave. They plan to ask for $1 million per apartment.

Whaddaya say, guys? Is it time to rouse the rabble and put flame under the Landmarks Commission's butt?


Christopher Browne said...

The Building you used to illustrate
is actually#45 & not part of this sale though it is the building where
George Gershwin worked at Jerome
The landlord has said he is
not selling,however it is certainly
endangered under the present no historic landmark refusal of this
city,who does not care of it's musical heritage unless people
speak loud enough to save this

Christopher Browne said...

The present landlord is fixing up
the apartments/lofts to legal code.
That's why the scaffold is there
now as the facade was in disrepair.
The tenants are protected
against eviction.
The buildings have not been sold
a husband of one the landladies placed the buildings for sale to see what they were worth,He is a

former florist in the wholesale
flower market.
The idea that just one tenant interviewed mentioned a fantasy price of a buyout of his rights for one million dollars is laughable some tenants would rather just have their
place fixed up and stay.

These tenants have already been in court to win their Interim Multiple
Dwelling status as for years even though they lived there the present
landlord did not report them as
residents,we all know why!!

# 45,#43 & #57 are different landlords not those that own the
block of buildings "known as the green buildings" by it's old facade.which is rumored to be up for sale,though true it may have been for speculation purposes.

The above addresses are also part of the history of Musical history.

The tenants have a loft law lawyer.

Yes , these buildings should be saved.

A history of this area by Toby Mostel can be had upon request
from The Municipal Arts Society
on Madison Avenue,if they so desire
of course they most likely have no comment about these buildings.

Community Board 5 Mr Jack Taylor
from the"flatiron district"fame
thought these buildings should not be designated landmarks as there
wer not many of them.
Using that mentality would have
in effect made the Eiffel tower
in France a temporary structure
as there is only of those structures, laughable but then
CB 5 likes hi-rise buildings and
bars to take over 6th avenue don't
they??? Plus many board members do
not live near these buildings including Mr Taylor who lives on East 18th street so it says in
the listing of board members.

Good Luck to the folks that wish
to save this history from the big guys.