The cornice is one of the signatures of New York's architectural heritage. But they
are increasingly being ripped off to increase the convenience of building owners, degrading
the aesthetic environment that makes neighborhoods desirable places to live.
Columbia University has recently pledged not to strip any more. The current attempt to have the
neighborhood designated a historic district by the
City would go a long way to prevent such deterioration. Ideally, cornices that have already been taken off should be replaced,
since even a historically imperfect replacement cornice is usually infinitely
better than a stripped one. To see a replacement cornice, check out the two
buildings on the West side of Clarement Ave. at 119th St. or the entire block between 116th and 120th Sts. on Riverside Dr., which is being restored to its original condition building-by-building. Intact cornices
should be returned to their historically correct colors;
Columbia is starting to do this.
The building below left is McBain Hall, an undergrad dormitory on Broadway at 113th St. Columbia is working on repairing this particular building's exterior decoration. Below right is a building on Riverside Drive that has had its cornice repaired, thanks largely to Bill Scott of Columbia Insitituional Real Estate.