Threatened East River Park Buildings Recognized for Architectural Distinction

Posted on: July 16th, 2020 at 5:05 am by

Comfort Station

The following guest post was written by Deborah Wye, a member of the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative board of directors.

Two East River Park Art Deco gems were recently deemed eligible for the State and National Registers of Historic Places by the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

Both the Track House near East 6th Street and the Tennis Center Comfort Station between Rivington and Delancey Streets were recognized for their historical significance.

Based on research and an application submitted this past winter by the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative (LESPI), the determination means that the SHPO must review any plans to alter the buildings, including current intentions to demolish them under the East Side Coastal Resiliency project.

Track field house

The buildings were constructed in 1938 for the opening of East River Park, which was planned in conjunction with the new East River Drive. They were designed by Aymar Embury II, the lead architect for Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, during a period of massive construction in New York funded by the New Deal. In fact, the style of these buildings is sometimes called “WPA Moderne,” in reference to that era’s Works Project Administration. Embury was also responsible for the architectural design of many NYC bridges, pools, and other Depression era structures.

Photo: Parks Department

Each building displays remarkable craftsmanship, with colorful terra cotta details that refer back to the maritime and shipbuilding history of this waterfront area. State and National Register eligibility does not prevent demolition, however. Instead, the SHPO works with the project’s design team to mitigate the damage to the historic resources in any way deemed possible. With very few examples of Art Deco architecture on the Lower East Side, preservationists believe it is particularly important that they remain for future generations of Park goers.

All current photos used by permission from Lower East Side Preservation Initiative.

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