Tribeca Trust Founder Makes New Push to Expand Historic Districts

Tribeca Trust's Lynn Ellsworth (inset) and 285 West Broadway, one of many buildings in Tribeca that she says warrant protection by expanding the neighborhood's historic districts. Photos: Tribeca Trust (building); Tribeca Trib (Ellsworth)

Sep. 30, 2013

Lynn Ellsworth is taking up a preservation fight for Tribeca that others had given up on long ago.

The economist and long-time Duane Street resident is campaigning for an expansion of Tribeca’s historic districts to include the many blocks excluded by the Landmarks Preservation Com­mis­sion (LPC) when it designated the neighborhood’s four districts more than 20 years ago.

Property owners in historic districts need permission from the LPC to demolish, construct or visibly alter their buildings. Ellsworth, who last year launched Tribeca Trust, a preservationist organization, insists that the lack of landmark protection has caused the “steady erosion” of Tribeca buildings and blocks.

“We have asked the Landmarks Pres­er­vation Commission to consider new boundaries that make Tribeca whole again,” she said.

Ellsworth is setting out on a letter- writing, petition-signing and fundraising effort in hopes of convincing the LPC to again consider expanding the historic districts. In 2002, following such a push by Community Board 1, the commission extended the Tribeca South Historic District by less than half the area that CB1 had asked them to protect.

Last month, Ellsworth appeared before the board’s Landmarks Com­mittee seeking its support. Co-chair Roger Byrom said the committee was happy to back her efforts but was skeptical about success. He recalled the committee’s hard work in making the same case leading up to the 2002 decision. “And after all that we got 12 buildings,” he said.

“I think they’re wrong from an architectural history point of view, they’re wrong from a social history point of view,” said Ellsworth, whose group has been researching some of the more historically significant buildings in the neighborhood.

Ellsworth sees hope in the coming  change of city administrations and the likely replacement of LPC chair Robert Tierney. She believes there are enough significant buildings in Tribeca outside the historic districts to warrant enlarging the districts and has felt encouraged by former LPC staff and commissioners with whom she has spoken.

“People said you can’t read the tea leaves of how this will play out,” she said, “so you may as well go out for it.”

In a statement to the Trib, the LPC said it “continues to review the trust’s submission.”