O'Donnell Statement on Mayor de Blasio Backpedaling on Campaign Promise

After 20 years of fighting for a Morningside Heights Historic District, Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell is tired of waiting. O'Donnell has tirelessly advocated for Morningside Heights to be protected by a comprehensive historic district — first as Chair of Housing & Land Use for Community Board 9 Manhattan, and subsequently as the Assembly Member for the 69th Assembly District. During all this time, however, no positive response has come out of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. While running for Public Advocate in 2009, Bill de Blasio promised that if elected he would personally see to it that the area be protected as a historic district. O'Donnell believed that the fight toward achieving the designation was finally near its end. Six years later, a historic district for Morningside Heights is nowhere in sight. In a letter written to the Mayor, Assembly Member O'Donnell states:

The need for a comprehensive historic district from Riverside Park to Morningside Park has never been as imperative as it is now. In the last few years, I have seen an enormous amount of unchecked development north of 96th Street, including the massive, non-contextual developments on Broadway and 100th Street, and the most recent construction of a modern building immediately adjacent to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

The urgency for historic designation, however, should not come as a surprise. In 2010, you yourself wrote a letter as Public Advocate to the then LPC Chair, Robert Tierny, supporting my proposal for a historic district, stating that it was an "essential protection from the high degree of development pressure the area currently faces." Five years later, the pressure has only exponentially increased.

When you were running for Public Advocate in 2009, you made a commitment that if elected, you would see to it that the Morningside Historic District would come to fruition. I am asking that now, as Mayor, you continue to uphold this commitment. Unfortunately, too often the needs of this community are ignored. I cannot help but speculate that in this instance, the historic district is being stalled to allow for more large, luxury developments.

When O'Donnell was asked why he thought de Blasio would go back on his own promise, O'Donnell shared:

Perhaps under the heap of campaign promises he made while running for Mayor, his promise to the Morningside Heights community as Public Advocate has gotten lost. I hope that as Mayor he does not consider unfulfilled commitments from his previous role as simply expired. I can assure you that from the community's point of view, de Blasio is still being held accountable.