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Grand Concourse gets landmark status

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The Champs Elysees of the Bronx is now, officially, a landmark.

On Tuesday, October 25 a mile-long stretch of Grand Concourse from East 153rd Street to East 167th Street was designated as a historic district by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Committee.

The historical district designation means that the area represents one or more periods or style of architecture typical of one or more era in the city’s history.

In the case of Grand Concourse, it contains the largest concentration of Art Deco-style residential buildings in the United States. Most of the stretch’s buildings were built during the 1920s and 1930s. The only other part of the country with a comparable number of Art Deco buildings is Miami Beach, which contains mostly hotels.

“My office has long been a supporter of this designation, and I am thrilled that this has finally been achieved. The Grand Concourse features one of the great repositories of art deco buildings in the United States, and this designation will help to preserve this heritage in Bronx County for generations to come,” Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said in a statement.

The designation also means building owners will need the approval of the Landmarks Preservation Committee to make any changes to the properties, outside of regular repairs and maintenance.

The push to get Grand Concourse recognized as a historic district has been going on for about ten years, according to Bronx historian Lloyd Ultan. It was originally advocated by area residents and former borough president Adolfo Carrion took up the cause during his final days in office in early 2009.

“Historical­ly, the Grand Concourse, from the 1920s to the early 1960s was considered to be the premier boulevard in the Bronx,” said Ultan who testified in favor of the designation at a public hearing last year. “Moreover, it had a social and economic significance for the people living there. It was a symbol of economic and social success. It was the equivalent of Fifth and Park avenues in Manhattan and I’m not exaggerati­ng.”

Grand Concourse was designed in the late 1800s and opened in 1909. It was designed by a European civil engineer named Louis A. Risse, who Ultan said “definitely” had the Champs Elysees in mind when he conceived it.

The street is 182 feet wide north of 161st Street.

“He saw with the eyes of the future and foresaw that you would

Bill Weisbrod can be reached via e-mail at bweisbrod@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394. Follow him on Twitter @bweisbrod

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CNG: Community Newspaper Group