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21st February

First Published in The New York Sun, February 21, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

Because most of the houses were built in the 1920s, many in the area’s growing Orthodox Jewish community who purchase move there have undertaken additions or renovations in order to accommodate the needs of their growing families.The landmarking proposal has divided the Riverdale community, often pitting neighbor against neighbor.

“I don’t understand why the Fieldston Property Owners Association cannot self-regulate any proposed renovations to the homes here,” Rabbi Weiss said. “It would seem that this is preferable to submitting these requests to the city.”
Because the streets in the area are private, all homeowners join the FPOA, which controls the streets, including access, egress, and parking. One of the arguments against landmarking is that those seeking to visit what will become a governmentrecognized historic landmark will

As the City Planning Commission prepares to consider a plan to create a historic district that would, in effect, make every house in Riverdale’s Fieldston section a landmark, the neighborhood’s most prominent religious leader has declared that he opposes the proposal.

The senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Rabbi Avi Weiss, declared that the net result of the proposed landmarking will be harmful to the area’s Orthodox Jewish community. If the Planning Commission approves the project on Wednesday, it will then go before the City Council.

If the Fieldston Historic District is approved, homeowners will need to apply to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission in order to make any changes to the exterior of their homes, major or minor.
not be able to park their cars on the private streets of Fieldston.

Others have questioned whether the area rises to the level of a historic district, going so far as to question the talents of the architect who developed the community and designed a quarter of the homes there, Dwight James Baum.

Rabbi Weiss is not willing to ascribe anti-Semitic motivations to those who are backing the proposed historic district. “But the result is the same,” he said.“It will hurt the Orthodox community in a disproportionate way, regardless of the motivation. I can’t look into the souls of those supporting this, but I know what the result will be.”

Others have taken a harder line, suggesting that many of the landmarks and zoning decisions in Riverdale in recent years have consistently seemed to impact negatively on the area’s Orthodox Jews.

© 2006 The New York Sun, One, SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

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