a community effort to protect the historic Carnegie Hill block where the childhood home of the Marx Brothers still stands today, in New York City.
In the critically acclaimed memoir Harpo Speaks the brother, so famous for his resolute silence, paints a touching portrait of the vivid memories the Marx Brothers shared with their entire family on East 93rd Street. The block, and the Marx Brothers’ home here, made such an impact on these comic geniuses they often remarked that as they traveled throughout the world, their distinct “93rd Street accent” came along for the journey.
The unabashed love the Marx Brothers profess for their childhood home has inspired tourists from all over the world to make regular pilgrimages to 179 East 93rd Street in Carnegie Hill just to catch a glimpse, and often a photograph as souvenir, of the house that built America’s most beloved Comic Icons.
But now Marx Brothers Place, 93rd Street just east of Lexington Avenue in New York City, is under siege by developers who care nothing of our collective cultural history, much less the remarkable character of our tiny little block. These developers look neither back at history, nor forward to the future of our culture. They only see the immediate effect of maximizing the developable square footage as they smell quick profit in the air.
One by one, these developers are buying up the beautiful 19th century houses on Marx Brothers Place in the Carnegie Hill neighborhood in New York City, and demolishing these historic homes in order to make room for their modern condo complexes which fail to blend with the strong neighborhood context of our block. Not only are these proposed condo complexes out of synch with the architectural integrity of Marx Brothers Place and the Carnegie Hill neighborhood in general, these demolition projects are not even being driven by American or New York City housing demands.
Over the years, historic preservation has proven a bonanza to the Carnegie Hill neighborhood and the value of New York City real estate. Had these developers taken the time to renovate the ornate 19th century homes they bought, New Yorkers would have eagerly bid on such priceless apartments tauting historic facades with detailed cornice work not reflected in modern architecure. People that move to the Carnegie Hill neighborhood do so, in part, because we actually cherish what is old, unique and historic. The irony is that the value of real estate on Marx Brothers Place is tied directly to its proximity to the Carnegie Hill Historic District where such houses must be preserved by law.
The houses on Marx Brothers Place all have remarkable stories to tell about the American experience. It is imperative that the New York City Landmarks Commission act quickly to protect these histories for future generations.
The 93rd Street Beautification Association does not want to see this historic block in the Carnegie Hill Neighborhood vanish before our eyes. So the Association has launched this historic preservation campaign in an effort to try to Save Marx Brothers Place from the ravages rendered by the proverbial wrecking ball.
Already, two side-by-side 19th century houses have been demolished, irreparably robbing future generations of their cultural value while making way for a larger modern condo complex no one wants. Such a senseless assault on this historic block in the Carnegie Hill neighborhood has gouged a huge crater in the ground, leaving an ugly scar as a painful daily reminder of the history already lost.
Now these developers have bought the third contiguous “Sister House” and propose to knock it down, too, so as to increase their square footage even more, and multiply exponentially the profits they pursue.
Unless we protect Marx Brothers Place now, every house on this historic block in the Carnegie Hill neighborhood will eventually be leveled, a fate against which we are fighting with all our might.
To make matters worse, these historic houses also protect wildlife species habitats in the vast contiguous gardens tucked behind the entire row on Marx Brothers Place. These gardens, which for over a century have been year-round homes for a variety of birds, also serve as the seasonal resting, nesting and feeding places to a vast collection of migratory birds and insects. At a time when our world is finally waking up to the interconnectedness of the global ecosystem, we cannot afford to lose what little greenspace we have left in our residential neighborhoods in New York City.
The 93rd Street Beautification Association is working hard to keep Marx Brothers Place both ‘historic and green’. While the collection of historic homes on Marx Brothers Place includes some of the oldest houses on the Upper East Side, and represents a trove of cultural history, it is currently one block shy of the Carnegie Hill Historic District, an arbitrary line drawn on a map.
Inclusion in the Carnegie Hill Historic District would provide the kind of protection Marx Brothers Place needs to guard against further demolition. Partnering with New York City’s Historic Districts Council in this effort has proved an enormous help to the 93rd Street Beautification Association.
HDC’s support has been invaluable, and the Council’s own effort to see historic Districts expanded, so as to better protect the historic fabric of New York City, informs the 93rd Street Beautification Association’s campaign. On HDC’s Web Site (www.hdc.org) the Council explains that “Designated historic districts are almost invariably smaller than their historic neighborhoods, sometimes so much so that several blocks of intact historic buildings are left in jeopardy.” Sadly, that is the situation with historic Marx Brothers Place.
But as no rational basis exists for not having included Marx Brothers Place within the Carnegie Hill Historic District to begin with, the 93rd Street Beautification Association has submitted an RFE (Request for Evaluation) asking the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to extend the Carnegie Hill Historic District one block east so as to now include this remarkable collection of houses and gardens within the protected area.
As you can well imagine, this is a mighty effort, indeed, requiring the expert assistance of Architectural Historians, Land Use Lawyers and Preservationists.
We can do this folks! We can achieve protection for historic Marx Brothers Place in the Carnegie Hill neighborhood in New York City.
But to get there, we also need to ask for your help. So whether writing a letter; signing a petition; calling Mayor Bloomberg or your local Congressman or City Council Member; making a tax-deductible donation (by phone, online or by mail) or simply by telling your own neighbors about the 93rd Street Beautification Association’s historic preservation campaign, you can make a difference today.
In the right hand margin of this web log are the various portals through which you can enter the wonderful world of historic Marx Brothers Place. Please enjoy perusing these pages where you’ll learn more about our efforts, goals, and coalition of support. Then you, too, can decide whether you’d like to become a part of the Save Marx Brothers Place Team. We’d love to have you on board!
The more that people register their concerns about the senseless demolition going on in the few village-like neighborhoods left in New York City, the more likely the politicians will hear our voice. It’s a tough fight, to be sure. But with your help, together we can save Marx Brothers Place!
Please help us protect historic Marx Brothers Place, and thanks again for taking the time to visit our web log!
In addition to posting your comments here, at Save Marx Brothers Place, please join the conversation at our blogs: The Marx Brothers Place Report or 93rd Street Beautification Association. You can also follow us on Twitter @93rdStreet, Facebook @ Save Marx Brothers Place, YouTube @ Marx Brothers Place and on MySpace @ Marx Brothers Place. Or, simply send us a message via email at 93rdst.beautification (at) gmail.com.
We really look forward to hearing from you!
In the meantime, if you wish to make a tax-deductible contribution to help support the continued efforts to protect and preserve historic Marx Brothers Place in NYC, please simply click on this link provided by our preservation partners at Historic Districts Council. Thanks for your support!