The Real Deal New York

This month in real estate history

A look back at some of New York City's biggest real estate stories
By Adam Pincus | January 01, 2014 07:00AM

1962: City rejects plan to remake parts of West Village

Jane Jacobs in 1961

Jane Jacobs in 1961

Legendary redevelopment foe Jane Jacobs led a group of neighborhood activists to convince the city to reject a plan to demolish and rebuild much of the western portion of Greenwich Village, 52 years ago this month.

The City Planning Commission voted to formally abandon the proposal to remake a 14-block area bounded by West 11th Street, Hudson, Christopher, Washington, Morton and West streets. About 600 families lived there, alongside commercial uses.

At the same time, the city body cleared its designation of the portion of the West Village as “blighted.” The designation was used to justify the urban redevelopment project, which would have demolished some low-rise buildings, rehabilitated some and replaced others with middle-income apartment buildings.

Jacobs, chairman of the Committee to Save the West Village, was considered a major voice in preventing the project. Her group rallied neighborhood residents and businesses against the plan.

Mayor Robert Wagner, who initially advocated for the proposal, ultimately changed his mind in the face of the vocal opposition. At the time of the vote, he urged that the project be abandoned.

1930: Depression puts breaks on construction plans

The city reported 83 years ago this month that apartment building plans for 1930 declined dramatically from the prior year, illustrating that the Great Depression was putting the brakes on the once-heady residential construction market.

Developers filed plans to build 583 apartment buildings with a total of 27,012 units in 1930, figures from the city’s Bureau of Buildings showed. That compared with 1929, when builders submitted applications to construct more than 62,676 new apartment units in the five boroughs. The level fell again in 1931 to 25,105 units for all of New York City, and nearly came to a standstill in 1932, when plans for just 2,572 units were filed for the entire city.

The number of units began creeping back up in subsequent years. The New York Times reported that overall construction in 1936 jumped 45 percent over the prior year.

1902: Schwab buys Riverside parcel for historic home

Charles Schwab's mansion, "Riverside"

Charles Schwab’s mansion, “Riverside”

Steel magnate Charles Schwab bought the first parcels that ultimately made up an entire city block between Riverside Drive and West End Avenue on the Upper West Side 112 years ago this month. There, he constructed what is considered the grandest mansion ever built in Manhattan.

It was a contrarian move for Schwab, then head of United States Steel, to select the Upper West Side as the location to build his 75-room dream home, designed in an amalgam of French Château styles and featuring grand views of the Hudson River. At the time, most of the rich were constructing mansions along Fifth Avenue, on the east side of Central Park.

Schwab signed contracts in 1901 to buy the parcels between Riverside Drive, West End Avenue and 73rd and 74th streets from the New York Orphan Asylum. He took title to the first parcel in January 1902 and the rest later that year. He completed the mansion known as Riverside in 1906 at a cost of $6 million.

Despite its grandeur, the home stood for little more than 40 years. During the Depression, Schwab asked Mayor Fiorello La Guardia if the city would buy it for the mayoral residence, but was rebuffed. Schwab died in 1939, and the structure was sold to Prudential Insurance in 1947. The following year, it was demolished and replaced by the 658-unit Schwab House, at 11 Riverside Drive, completed in 1950.