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Irvington Residents Debate Potential Historic District

Irvington officials and architects discuss the proposed historic district. Photo Credit: Me
The proposed historic district is shown in blue. Photo Credit: Irvington Historic District Committee

IRVINGTON, N.Y. – Creating a historical district in Irvington would have numerous benefits and no drawbacks, Irvington officials say.

“A historic district can be beneficial in a number of ways,” Irvington Historic District Committee co-chair Earl Ferguson said Thursday night, “including strengthening the economy, encouraging tourism, stabilizing or increasing property values, fostering community pride and providing educational resources for appreciation of and a desire to preserve historical sites.”

Irvington officials hosted a packed house Thursday night at the Irvington Public Library to discuss a proposed historic district in downtown Irvington. The forum included a panel of professional architects to discuss how the district would be created and its effect on homeowners' properties.

The proposed district would seek to preserve the special character and historical value of the downtown area, officials said.

“Places matter,” Irvington architect and panel member Walter Sedovic said. “This place matters a great deal.”

The proposed district would be bordered by the Hudson River on the west, Barney Park to the south, Broadway to the east and Matthiessen Park on the north. It would include the Bridge Street properties, the Stanford White “Cosmopolitan” Building, the Church of St. Barnabas and the Irvington Presbyterian Church.

A historic district would be created through an application to the New York State Parks Department, which oversees historical designations. The parks department would send letters to homeowners about the proposed district. The district would be established after a review unless at least 51 percent of homeowners objected.

Irvington residents expressed concerns during the forum about potential rules and regulations a historic district would create.

“We have no interest in being involved,” Bill Thompson said. “I don't think Bridge Street would be where it is today in a historic district.”

Thompson is a co-owner of the Bridge Street Properties and the Stanford White Building. He said potential building code regulations would probably not have allowed the re-use and modification of the Lord and Burnham factory buildings that exists today.

Irvington resident Pat Ryan said she supported historic districts, but many homeowners were afraid they wouldn't be able to stop guidelines from being created once a designation occurred.

Officials disagreed, saying the creation of a historic district was separate from the issue of potential building and zoning code regulations. Those guidelines, Irvington Historic District Committee co-chair Andy Lyons said, would be discussed and debated after a district was created and would be enforced by existing entities.

Some residents said they wanted the district to help preserve the area's character. Irvington resident Ann Acheson said she would like to a moratorium on demolitions in the area.

“I think that there's part of this historic village to safeguard,” she said.

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