Citing racist history, banned NYC developer tries to block landmarking of his Tin Pan Alley buildings

Preservationists claim Yair Levy is distorting history

Apr.April 30, 2019 09:30 AM
Yair Levy and 47-55 West 28th Street (Credit: Wikipedia)

Yair Levy and 47-55 West 28th Street (Credit: Wikipedia)

Tin Pan Alley, a stretch of West 28th Street that was once the center of America’s popular music industry, is being considered for a landmark designation, and one landlord is fighting back in an unorthodox way.

Representatives of banned developer Yair Levy claim that racist music produced on the block around the turn of the 20th century make it unsuitable for landmark designation, the New York Post reported.

“Who wants to be known as the buildings that brought [racist] songs to America?” Ken Fisher, who represents a trust controlled by Levy’s family, told the Post. “It’s not a coincidence that most of the Confederate statues went up just as these songs became popular.”

To bolster the landlord’s case, Fisher commissioned a 39-page report from historian Andrew Alpern (author of “Luxury Apartment Houses of Manhattan: An Illustrated History”) to highlight the neighborhood’s ties to racist music from the post-Civil War era.

In addition to classics such as “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and “God Bless America”, Tin Pan Alley was also the source of songs with titles like “N—-r, N—-r Never Die” and “All C–ns Look Alike To Me.”

But preservationists claim the report is a distortion of history, and ignores the presence of African American and Jewish songwriters in the area who played a major role in the development of American music.

“He’s hired a contract historian who has written a dubious report that relies on second- hand information to dispute the historical importance of the district,” Simeon Bankoff, the executive director of the Historic Districts Council, said.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is scheduled to hold its first hearing Tuesday, and has up to a year to issue a decision.

Levy, who received a lifetime ban from selling condos and co-ops in 2011, picked up the five row houses between 47 and 55 West 28th Street in 2014. [NYP] — Kevin Sun

Related Articles

Absent federal assistance, landlords and real estate developers are at the mercy of their lenders. (Credit: iStock)

Landlords locked out of $350B Paycheck Protection Program

(Illustration by Daniel Castro Maia)

Why real estate is still tangled up with the mob

Paul Massey’s B6 Real Estate hit with layoffs

Paul Massey’s B6 Real Estate hit with layoffs

Judge Janet DiFiore and Judge Rowan Wilson (Credit: iStock, New York State Courts)

High court decision has tenants stewing, landlords oohing

Sharif El-Gamal (Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage)

WATCH: Developer Sharif El-Gamal has Covid-19. But he’s one of the lucky ones

Knotel CEO Amol Sarva 

Another huge round of layoffs for Knotel

Miki Naftali, Steven Witkoff and Ryan Freedman

TRD Talks: How developers are contending with coronavirus

Governor Andrew Cuomo (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images; iStock)

Cuomo’s foreclosure, mortgage moratorium has no teeth